Hekla, Iceland's Most Active Volcano

Magazine Hekla, Iceland's Most Active Volcano

Hekla. A silent beast of Iceland, awaiting the perfect (most would say imperfect) moment to emerge through the surface in a violent burst of fiery lava. Historically nicknamed “Gateway to Hell” by medieval Europeans, Hekla is Iceland’s most active volcano. It has erupted about 20 times in the last 1,140 years, creating layers upon layers of ash and lava that cover the Southern part of Iceland. This volcanic giant stands 4,892 feet/1491 m tall and is classified as a stratovolcano, characteristic of powerful, explosive eruptions, as well as quiet, molasses-like surges. Hekla, Icelandic for short-hooded cloak, is believed to have acquired its name due to the constant cloud layer that hovers above the volcano. Some Icelanders describe the volcano to have a slope that resembles an overturned boat.

Since the last eruption in 2000, it has only been a matter of time since Hekla would unleash its fury. Experts from the University of Iceland believe that Hekla is due to go off “soon,” given signs of a rising accumulation of magma that is causing the ground to swell around the northern part of the volcano.  Volcano-watchers have anticipated an eruption since 2006, when signs of these magma deposits began to make themselves evident.

Prior to the turn of 1100th century, Icelandic volcanoes were relatively dormant. However, once the wrath of Hekla emerged in 1104, fear was elicited from citizens all around. People believed Hekla was a gateway to the underworld, and that the projectile fragments it released were doomed spirits. The whistles of the scorching fragments piercing through the cool air were thought to be screams of pain from the helpless souls below. Hekla was also associated with witches, trolls, and black magic.

Despite the majority of Hekla’s stories being dark and demonic, there are some legends that shine a positive light on this Icelandic entity.Hekla volcano Hekla was thought to protect the island from a magician who turned himself into a whale so that he could swim to the island and cast his spell on the people of Iceland. But, he was scared away once he learned the island would spit fireballs at him. Today, volcanic eruptions are well understood and Hekla has become a place where tourists go to take in the breathtaking view that is surrounded by wild horses and vibrant, green pastures. Some actually travel to Iceland to witness the natural phenomenon take place - from a safe distance, of course.

If you want to visit Hekla, there are many tours that include a stop here, from jeep tours to climbing and hiking tours. If you are looking for accommodation near Hekla - if you dare - consider Icelandair Hotel Fludir or Icelandair Hotel Vik, which opens in June of 2014.

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