Hofsjökull Glacier: Iceland’s Icy Heart Unveiled

Iceland is called the land of fire and ice due to its unique landscape. That’s right–our country is covered with both fiery hot volcanos as well as icy glaciers. But did you know that sometimes a glacier can be located directly over a volcano? It might seem strange that fire and ice can be so closely connected, but it is true. Keep reading to learn about one of Iceland’s unique glacier-volcanoes–the mighty Hofsjökull Glacier.

What volcano is under a glacier in Iceland?

There are actually many volcanoes located underneath Icelandic glaciers. One of the most famous volcano-glaciers is Eyjafjallajökull. This volcano erupted in 2010 and was notorious for disrupting air travel around the world. Katla is another glacier-volcano that is located in south Iceland. Katla’s mighty ice cap covers an active volcano that is closely monitored.

Hofsjökull Glacier is yet another glacier-volcano in Iceland. In fact, Hofsjöjull’s underground volcano is the largest active volcano in Iceland. This subglacial volcano is a shield type volcano with a caldera. A shield type volcano is low and characterized by having relatively non-explosive eruptions.

When glacier-volcanoes erupt, there is a chance of significant flooding. The extreme heat from the red hot lava can actually melt the icy slopes of the glacier. The resulting water has nowhere to go but down. Unfortunately, it is not possible to control the direction of the flooding which puts villages and farms at risk.

Despite the risks inherent in any volcanic eruption, there is no need to worry. Iceland is known for substantial volcanic activity, which has prompted the establishment of robust monitoring systems throughout the nation. The Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Icelandic Civil Protection Agency regularly monitor seismic activity, gas emissions and alterations in surface deformation. These changes can be early indicators of potential volcanic eruptions. As a result, we always have some indication that a volcanic eruption is at hand.

When did Hofsjökull Glacier last erupt?

Even though Hofsjökull glacier-volcano is the largest active volcano in Iceland, it has not erupted for many years. In fact, Hofjökull has not erupted for over 12,000 years! Though the volcano is still considered to be active, there is not much likelihood that Hofsjökull will erupt in the near future. However, scientists and geologists still actively monitor the volcano, just in case.

Where is Hofsjökull Glacier located?

Hofsjökull Glacier is located near the very center of Iceland. What’s more, it can be found in between Iceland’s two largest glaciers: Vantnojökull and Langjökull. Furthermore, Hofjökull is in the western portion of the Icelandic highlands and just north of the unique mountain range Kerlingarfjöll.

How big is Hofsjökull Glacier?

Hofsjökull Glacier is actually Iceland’s third-largest glacier after Vantanjökull and Langjökull. Its huge ice cap appears almost circular and is 925 ㎢ (357 ㎡) and nearly 40 km (24 mi) in diameter. Furthermore, Hofsjökull Glacier is approximately 1,765 m (5,791 ft) high.

Is Hofsjökull Glacier the source of any Icelandic rivers?

Yes, Hofsjökull Glacier is actually the source of several rivers including Iceland’s longest river–the Þjórsá River. The Þjórsá River continues all the way down from Hofsjökull to the beautiful Þjórsárdalur Valley which is filled with many lovely sights such as Háifoss waterfall and Gjáin valley. River rafting, canoeing and kayaking tours also take place in the Þjórsá River. Hofsjökull Glacier is also the source of the Blanda River.

Several large hydropower plants have been built along the Þjórsá River and Blanda River. These plants use flowing water to generate electricity. Because Iceland is home to many glaciers and glacial rivers, hydropower is one of Iceland’s primary energy sources. In fact, about 73% of Iceland’s electricity is produced by hydropower plants across the country.

Are there any geothermal areas near Hofsjökull Glacier?

Just south of Hofjökull Glacier you will find the truly incredible Kerlingarfjöll mountain range. This area is known for being filled with geothermal activity as well as excellent hiking trails. The mountains range in size from 800 to 1500 meters (2625 to 4921 feet). What’s more, these mountains are made of a volcanic rock called rhyolite. The unique qualities of the rhyolite means that these mountains are a distinctive rust color.

If you decide to visit Kerlingarfjöll, you must pay a visit to the Hveradalir Valley. This area is a prime location for geothermal activity. As you explore, you will see hot springs, small geysers and bubbling mud pots. Clouds of steam waft between the dust-colored rhyolite mountains, creating an epic setting for photography. Kerlingafjöll and Hveradalir are truly off the beaten path and a wonderful stop for true adventurers.

Can you hike on Hofsjökull Glacier?

Technically, it is possible to hike on Hofsjökull Glacier. However, you should never visit the glacier without a licensed guide. Glaciers can be quite dangerous and a guide will ensure your safety. Furthermore, Hofsjökull Glacier is very remote. It is necessary to drive a super jeep to access the glacier.

Can you go on super jeep tours of Hofsjökull Glacier?

There are plenty of enjoyable activities available near Hofsjökull Glacier. The area around Hofsjökull is quite remote and inaccessible, so a super jeep and an experienced guide are a must. Your guide will take you on an epic adventure into the remote Icelandic highlands near Hofsjökull. You will traverse the most rugged routes in a mighty super jeep, stopping for short hikes along the way.

Are there ice caves on Hofsjökull Glacier?

During the winter months, incredible ice caves can form on Hofsjökull Glacier. It is quite common for ice caves to form at the edges of glaciers. This can be due to geothermal activity as well as meltwater flow moving beneath the ice. Inside these ice caves you will see jagged ice stalagmites and other unique formations made entirely of ice.

If you want to visit an ice cave on Hofsjökull Glacier, you will need to book a tour with an expert guide. Ice caves can be extremely dangerous and it is important to only visit caves that have been thoroughly explored and secured for visitors.

Can you go snowmobiling in the area near Hofsjökull Glacier?

Yes, snowmobiling is a great way to explore the area near Hofsjökull Glacier. It is not as common to snowmobile directly on Hofsjökull but there are several epic snowmobiling tours on the nearby Langjökull Glacier. On a clear day, you will be able to see amazing views of Hofsjökull Glacier, Eiríksjökull Glacierand the majestic Kerlingafjöll Mountains.

Amazing Tours presents a variety of thrilling snowmobiling adventures on Langjökull Glacier. What’s more, they offer convenient tour packages with direct pickups from Reykjavík. For example, you can join in the Golden Circle and Snowmobile Adventure from Reykjavík or the Glacier Snowmobiling and Ice Cave Tour from Reykjavík. These combo tours deliver the best of both worlds, allowing you to experience two distinct Icelandic adventures in a single day.

It is also possible to meet directly at the Amazing Tours Basecamp which is located near Geysir. To opt for this choice, you’ll want to book the Golden Circle for the Glacier Snowmobiling and Ice Cave Tour from Geysir. Enjoy a wonderful day exploring the Golden Circle’s many sights as well as hopping on a snowmobile and zooming across Langjökull Glacier.