Krafla is a volcanic area in the northeast of Iceland, and one of Iceland’s largest lava lover lures. Craters, cones, pools and geothermal heat – Krafla has it all.
Krafla is basically a 10 kilometre wide caldera which contains Askja and Víti volcanoes – the latter containing a small azure-coloured geothermal pool and the former containing Iceland’s deepest lake. Both are inland in the Highlands and only accessible in the height of summer.
But the Krafla area starts close to Lake Mývatn and only a few minutes’ drive from Reykjahlíð village. At this convenient nearest point, accessible in any car, you will find the remains of the lengthy mid-80s eruption. This means a large, relatively flat area to explore and the opportunity to get up close and personal to spiky lava, hot pools, bubbling mud, 'eggy' sulphur smells and the expansive power station in the area.
The project looks to harness the power of “super critical” water in energy generation and this involves drilling down to the lava where large quantities of water can quickly be heated to over 400°C. The project aims to drill around 4 km below the surface – but at Krafla the scientists and engineers hit lava at just 2,500 metres. That’s shallow!
Krafla is a sensitive site and is easily damaged by people walking around and exploring. That is the reason the site is so well marked with footpaths and trails. These, combined with the good car park and bathroom facilities make Krafla a good place to go hiking with children and people with somewhat reduced mobility. The paths may be suitable for wheelchairs in good weather, although they can get soft and muddy in wet conditions.
Krafla is the best place to see first-hand where Iceland comes from. The whole country used to look like this at one point – as in fact did almost every country if you look far enough back into prehistory. It makes a good contrast with places like the Reykjanes peninsula down south, which features the same sort of landscape, except a few thousand years older. The difference is at once both stark and surprisingly little.
One thing is for sure: we all owe our lives to volcanoes and given long enough, Krafla will develop into remarkably fertile soil. But none of us will be alive to see that…