Iceland is a highly volcanically active country due to its location on the mid-Atlantic Ridge at a divergent tectonic plate boundary. There are 30 active volcanic systems on the island. At least 13 of these volcanoes have erupted since 900 CE when the first humans settled in Iceland. In the past 500 years, Icelandic volcanic eruptions have contributed to one-third of the world’s total lava output.
The Five Highest Volcanoes In Iceland
Located in south-east Iceland, the Öræfajökull volcano is Iceland’s highest and largest active volcano. It is 2,119 m tall and is covered completely in ice. The volcano and its surrounding area are located within the limits of the Vatnajökull National Park. Its tallest peak is named Hvannadalshnúkur and it is located on the summit crater’s northwestern rim. Two major eruptions of the Öræfajökull has been recorded in historical times, in 1362 and 1728. Most recently, increased earthquake activity in the area in 2017 and 2018 raised the alarm for a possible eruption.
With an elevation of 2005 m above sea level, Bárðarbunga is Iceland’s second tallest volcano. It is a stratovolcano covered by the Vatnajökull ice cap and is part of the Vatnajökull National Park. The caldera of this volcano has a surface area of about 80 square km and a depth of 700 m. The remote location of the Bárðarbunga makes it one of the least studied and least known volcanoes in Iceland. Major eruptions of the Bárðarbunga have been recorded every 250 to 600 years.
The Kverkfjöll is a mountain ridge located on the Vatnajökull glacier’s north-eastern border. It hosts the third highest volcano in Iceland, Mount Skarphédinstindur, that has an elevation of 1920 m above sea level. It is an ideal destination for adventurers seeking to explore a mountainous terrain, glacier, and volcanic caves.
Hofsjökull is the name of both a glacier and the volcano underneath the glacier. Hofsjökull glacier is Iceland’s third largest of its kind while the Hofsjökull volcano is the fourth tallest volcano in the country. It is located in the western part of the Highlands of Iceland. The subglacial shield volcano has a caldera and is 1782 m tall.
The Esjufjöll volcano located in the southeastern part of the Vatnajökull glacier is Iceland’s fifth tallest volcano. Most of the Esjufjöll including its caldera is covered by ice. Magma movements have been detected at the volcano as recently as 2010.
The Deadliest Volcanic Eruption In Iceland
The Skaftáreldar disaster of 1783-1784 was the most fatal volcanic eruption in Icelandic history. The eruption took place in the craters of Laki located southwest of Vatnajökull glacier. It wiped out nearly one-quarter of the country’s population. Most deaths were due to indirect causes of the eruption. Climate change, livestock illnesses, and the release of poisonous gases and ash were the biggest killers.