The Laki craters were formed in one of the world's largest mixed eruptions in recorded history. Now referred to as the Fires of the River Skaftá, this continuous series of eruptions emitted a vast quantity of lava and substantial amounts of volcanic ash from a fissure stretching 25 km across the area west of the ice cap.
The first eruption began on 8 June 1783 at the south-west end of the fissure. Lava flowed across the flat land destroying a large number of farms, stopping just outside the small town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur on 20 July. The north-east part of the fissure then erupted. From 29 July until well into October, lava flowed along the course of the River Hverfisfljót and across the countryside on both banks. Although volcanic activity then began to subside, the eruption was not finally over until February 1784.
The largest crater in the row is a small tuff mountain called Laki, which stands in the middle of the fissure. The total area of the resulting lava field is 565 km² and the estimated volume of volcanic material is over 12 km³.
Access to the area
The road to the Laki craters (F 206) leaves the main road (1) by the farm Hunkubakkar, just south of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
All roads in the western part of the national park are mountain tracks, only navigable for vehicles with fourwheel-drive; some only for large jeeps. Some sections of road are rocky and full of potholes, and loose gravel is common. It is sometimes necessary to ford (drive through) mountain streams or even glacial rivers which can become suddenly swollen, making them difficult, or even impossible, to cross.The area is open to visitors all year round, but it is dependent on the weather when the roads are opened. Usually they are open from early June, through to the autumn. Driving is only allowed on the roads which are marked on the accompanying map. All other roads or tracks are closed to the public. Here, as elsewhere, driving off-road is totally banned by law.
No year-round services lie within the western part of the Vatnajökull National Park. There is an office at Kirkjubæjarklaustur (tel. 470 0400) and a visitor centre is planned.
During the summer, park rangers are present to manage the area and provide information. The rangers arrive when the mountain roads are first opened in the beginning of June, and they leave at the beginning of September. In peak season (10th July – 15th August) the park rangers are available every day in the car parks at Laki (11:00–15:00). The telephone number for the rangers in Laki craters is 842 4378.
There are campsites and hut accommodation at Blágil (Skaftárhreppur District, tel. 487 4840), with toilet (WC) facilities. Toilets (WC) are also available at the car parks for Laki and Tjarnargígur.
At Laki a new Visitor Trail tells the story of the catastrophic Skaftá Fires eruption in 1783-4, and informs the visitor about the natural environment of the Lakagígar craters. The Trail, which is about 500 metres in length, passes through one of the craters. The start of the Visitor Trail is marked by an information sign, where the visitor can pick up a guide leaflet. At numbered posts along the route, the visitor pauses to read a brief story or text in the leaflet about a natural phenomenon nearby.
The aim of the Visitor Trail is to enhance the visitor's experience of the place, and to give a stronger sense of the natural environment. Similar Visitor Trails are being made at Ásbyrgi, the Brúarjökull glacier and Skaftafell. The project is sponsored by the Friends of Vatnajökull.
|Ranger station||Location (GPS coordinates)
|Blágil / Lakagígar
||N65° 16,400 W21° 27,540