Eee-a-fiaddla-iokudl - or something to that effect. You know... that volcano that stopped all air traffic back in the day.
For that reason, far from ruining the Icelandic tourism industry, Eyjafjallajökull instantly became one of the country’s biggest attractions. People are simply fascinated by it.
But Eyjafjallajökull is one of Iceland’s smaller glaciers and the volcano underneath it is not unusually tall, wide, deep or active. But that doesn’t really matter, because it grabbed headlines twice in 2010 for very good reason and remains an awe inspiring place to visit to this day. A true incarnation of Iceland’s moniker: the Land of Fire and Ice.
First it pleased everybody with a so-called ‘tourist eruption’ at Fimmvörðuháls in March 2010 – a rare and cherished opportunity to see a relatively ‘safe’ eruption happening up close, just a hike away from the main road. This didn’t last long though and shortly after it came to an end, the main show started up – closing airspace across Europe for over a week and generally being the biggest disruption to world transport since WWII. This was because the explosive eruption through glacial ice and water caused the lava to fracture as it cooled into extremely fine dust – the sort of dust that blows thousands of kilometres with the wind and therefore causes flight cancellations.
By comparison, Iceland’s biggest eruption in half a century took place in spring 2011 at the country’s most active volcano, Grímsvötn, underneath Vatnajökull, Europe’s biggest glacier by volume. And yet there’s a good chance you didn’t even hear about that eruption.
We’re not trying to badmouth Eyjafjallajökull here, or put you off going there. In fact these facts only serve to illustrate how remarkable what happened in 2010 really was. Just pop into the Þorvaldseyri Eyjafjallajökull visitor centre to find out why, thanks to its extensive exhibition and photo display; the eruption really comes to life. And, just as importantly, so does the ordeal local residents and farm animals went through at the time, and the flurry of help and support which came soon after.
Lots of companies offer Eyjafjallajökull tours, mostly hiking, super jeep, snowmobile or helicopter tours – and travelling on glaciers always, always, always requires help from an experienced guide. Going up there alone is just a crazy idea at any time of year.
If you want to feel the majesty of Eyjafjallajökull without breaking a sweat, then you can always stay a night or three within its powerful gaze, for example in the villages of Hella and Hvolsvöllur, or at the four star Hótel Rangá country resort.