Iceland’s most infamous volcano, the near-unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull, put itself on the map in 2010, blowing its glacier cap and grounding thousands of planes in Europe. This still active – and truly dangerous – volcano should also be known for the trail to the top, which is one of the best day hikes in the world. This four-mile trek is one of the most beautiful day hikes in the country, and worth the risk of getting blasted off the mountain.
We suggest hiring a guide for the eight-hour round-trip excursion. The trail to the 5,466-foot summit is not always obvious, and navigating the glacier requires roping up for safety. We called on Trek Iceland, whose co-founder and lead guide Atli Pálsson trained in New Zealand and serves as president of the Icelandic Alpine Club.
After a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik, we parked at a farm on the south side of Eyjafjallajökull. The path was steep from practically the first step. We quickly rose above sea level, earning expansive views of the coastline and the craggy Vestmannaeyjar Islands. After we picked our way through otherworldly lava rock formations, we hit the glacier line, strapped on crampons to negotiate the snowfield, and crunched slowly to the top. The crater was still smoking – technically steaming, Pálsson pointed out – from snow and rain mixing with the molten lava more than 125 miles below. “You know what’s funny?” he said as we peered inside. “Before the eruption, my friends and I used to camp in this exact spot.”
More Information: Price starts at $300, includes Reykjavik transfer, crampons, harness, ice axe, and rope; www.trek.is.