Climbed for the first time by two naturalists in 1750, Hekla had been the topic of many speculations ever since the year 874; but what Europeans believed was one of the two gateways to hell turned out to be Iceland’s most active volcano. Hiking Hekla is one of the most popular things to do in Iceland, thanks to magnificent views of the Fjallbak Mountains and Vatnajökull glacier.
Hekla has the shape of an overturned boat. Its tip is covered in craters and its flanks are blanketed by thick layers of lava flow and ash from previous eruptions. In fact, Hekla has produced one of the largest volumes of lava in the world over the last millennium, at around 8 cubic kilometers. Hekla is 1491-meters high and is the most active part of a much larger volcanic drift. Because of its age, size and frequent eruptions, Hekla has covered a rather large portion of Iceland in powdered dust which, nowadays, is used to date eruptions of other volcanoes.
Hekla Volcano is located in southwestern Iceland, roughly 120 kilometers from Reykjavik. The visitor center in Leirubakki (accessible via routes 1 and 26) houses a hotel, a restaurant, and a multimedia exhibition the history of Iceland and Hekla’s sometimes tragic influence on human development in the region. It is open year-round from 10AM to 9PM. There are also several day trips leaving from Reykjavik. The hike to the top of Hekla and back takes roughly 8 hours.