Viti in Askja

 

Iceland is well known for its countless beautiful sights that are easily accessible along the Ring Road. The Ring Road circles all around Iceland, leaving the highlands which is the central region of the country mostly untouched. In fact, there’s barely any development in the highlands, which makes it the perfect place to explore some of the most unspoiled landscapes you’ll ever see. There you’ll find the beautiful Víti volcano, which contains a 60m deep geothermal lake .

Viti, meaning ‘hell’ in Icelandic, is a volcanic crater that has filled with milky blue water at temperatures fluctuating between 20-60°C. The Askja volcano ravaged and molded the surrounding landscape when it erupted, making it one of the most dramatic places in Iceland. Iceland is a volcanic island on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rift zone, and the country’s volcanic base contributes to its geothermal activity. This activity underneath the Earth’s surface makes Iceland richer in hot springs and high-temperature activity than any other country in the world. This otherwise cold country has about 250 geothermal areas producing 800 hot springs with an average water temperature of around 75°C / 167°F.

Directions

The terrain requires a 4×4 vehicle. Do not attempt this with a small car or even a small 4×4 as the two river crossings require a decent clearance. The terrain is quite taxing for a novice who is new to the area, it because of this reason that a guided tour is advised. Tour guides are familiar with the terrain and will ensure that you get to the pool safely. For the more adventurous types who wish to explore the beauty of Iceland themselves, the easiest route to get there would be to take the Ring Road (Road 1) past Akureyri and Myvatn and getting off on Road 901. From the 901, you’ll turn right into the F905, which is where you’ll start the real driving adventure. After 21 kilometers, you’ll take the F910 until the end – an additional 62 kilometers. You’ll encounter your first river crossing around 5 kilometers after you enter the F910, with the second one following just a few minutes after. There is a total of three water crossings on this route, but the first river that one you will see is quite shallow and easy to pass, so it is not even marked on maps as a river crossing. You are advised to exercise caution though, as you’ll have a few road-forks with other F roads along the way. Stay on the F910 the entire time until you reach the shelter and camp site at the end of the road. It is also very important to note is that you will encounter two bridges with fences. It’s possible they might be closed obviously for security reasons yet unlocked. Do not be discouraged by this. Just get off, open it, cross the bridge, and shut the fence again. Upon arrival at the shelter, it is highly prudent to consult about the current weather conditions I would recommend asking a ranger or a shelter staff. Once you are aware of the level of difficulty, you drive for another 20 minutes along F894 until you reach the parking area at the end of the road. From there, your hike to Viti will start.

The hike to Víti takes about 45 minutes each way along a mostly flat volcanic valley. Due to the volcanic composition of the area, it was used during training for the Apollo program in the 60’s to prepare astronauts for the lunar missions. You’ll be able to witness the dark expanse as it turns into mountains of different shades of brown. Depending on when you go, it is very likely there will be layers of snow still covering most of the hike (even during mid-summer). Depending on the ranger’s advice, you could go down the crater to bathe in its waters. As expected, there are no lifeguards at the lake, so take care when bathing there. Stay close to the shore and always within easy reach.

This trip can be done as part of your overall ring road trip around Iceland. The region is only accessible for a few months of the year, mostly from May to September. Sometimes the F Roads open a bit later or close a bit earlier in the season depending on the weather and road conditions. I recommend checking the road.is site to see the current road condition and whether it is open or not. Due to the unpredictable nature of Iceland’s weather it I would not recommend going to Askja if the conditions are severe as it could be dangerous not only during the drive but also during the hike. Since you’ll only be able to access Askja during the summer months, you can head there at any time of the day. If you head there late in the day you will see the moon rising and the sun setting with its rays reflecting on that magnificent blue lake.

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