Laki

Lakagígar (Laki craters) is a series of craters that were formed in one of the world's largest mixed eruptions in recorded history. Now referred to as the Fires of the River Skaftá (or Laki eruption), 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 eruption began on 8th of 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 20th of July. The north-east part of the fissure then erupted. From 29th of 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.

Mosses

Nowhere else in Iceland are mosses as prominent as in the highlands southwest of Vatnajökull ice cap. Mosses have virtually no roots and absorb rainwater and nutrients through their small leaves. They therefore have an advantage over flowering plants where precipitation is high and the ground is poor in nutrients. Walking on moss can kill it, and then it does not re-grow in the same place. Please assist us to protect the area by only walking on the marked and posted paths around the Laki crater row. 

How to get there

The road to the Laki craters (F 206) leaves the main road (road nr. 1) by the farm Hunkubakkar, just south of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Distance is about 50 km, but traveling time should be estimated about 2 hrs, one way.

All roads in the western part of the national park are mountain tracks, only navigable for vehicles with four-wheel-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) streams and rivers which can become suddenly swollen, making them difficult, or even impossible, to cross. 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. For further information please contact Skaftárstofa our visitor center at Kirkjubæjarklaustur (klaustur at vjp.is).

Services

During 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.  The park rangers are available every day in the car parks at Laki (11:00–15:00) and during the peak season (10th July – 15th August) there is also a ranger at the car park at Tjarnargígur. The telephone number for the rangers in Laki craters is 842 4358. 

There is a campground and hut accommodation at Blágil (klaustur at vjp.is), with toilet (WC) facilities. Toilets (WC) are also available at the car parks for Laki and Tjarnargígur.

Click the map on the right to see where the campground and hut in Blágil are located.

Blágil ranger station:

GPS coordinates: N65° 16,400   W21° 27,540
Mobile telephone: +354 8424358

Visitor trail

At Laki a  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 meters 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 at Ásbyrgi, the Brúarjökull glacier and Skaftafell. The project is sponsored by the Friends of Vatnajökull.  

Visitor Trail guide leaflet (English) here [pdf 360 kb].