You know the one! The towering glacier-capped strato volcano Eyjafjallajokull is probably the most famous volcano in the world today.

Eyjafjallajokull is the volcano with the name that no one outside Iceland can pronounce. Have you tried it? Can you say “Eyjafjallajokull” three times really fast? There aren’t many non-Icelanders who can, but all the more respect to those who can, right?

Eyjafjallajokull is a volcano completely covered by an ice cap. Eyjafjallajokull is one of the smaller ice caps of Iceland. The ice cap covers an area of about 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), and it has many outlet glaciers. The main outlet glaciers are to the north: Gigjokull that flows into Lonid, and Steinholtsjokull which flows into Steinholtslon. The mountain itself stands 1.651 metres (5.417 ft) at its highest point. It has a crater 3–4 kilometres (1.9–2.5 mi) in diameter that opens to the north.

The volcano has erupted relatively frequently since the last glacial period, most recently in 2010.

The eruption that stopped the world

On March 20 2010, Eyjafjallajokull began spewing molten lava in an uninhabited area in South Iceland, after being dormant for 180 years. On April 14th 2010, after a brief intermission, the volcano erupted again from the top crater. The renewed eruption caused massive flooding, and 800 people had to evacuate. This eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometers up in the atmosphere.  The ash plume led to air traffic disruption in North-West Europe. The disruption lasted for six days and stranded thousands of travelers.

It happened again in May, resulting in the closure of airspace over many parts of Europe. The eruption also created electrical storms, which are very rare in Iceland. On May 23rd, the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Commission declared the eruption to have stopped. The volcano continued to have several earthquakes daily, with volcanologists watching the mountain closely. As of August 2010, Eyjafjallajökull was dormant.

Today, you can see the aftermath of the volcanic eruption in Thorsmork’s Glacier Valley, the wilderness oasis just behind the volcano. Perhaps you would like to go on a snowmobile tour on the ice cap and see the crater, which also offers you a great view of southern part of Iceland. We fully recommend it, and don’t worry —  it’s completely safe!

What type of volcano is Eyjafjallajokull?

Eyjafjallajokull is a strato volcano, the most common tupe. It is a conical volcano built by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and volcanic ash.  Because of the glacier on top, Eyjafjallajokull’s eruptions are explosive and contain much ash.

A large magma chamber under the mountain feeds Eyjafjallajokull. The chamber gets its magma from the nearby Mid-Atlantic ridge. Actually, the volcano is a part of a chain of volcanoes that stretch across Iceland, including Hekla, Katla and Grimsvotn.  In fact, geologists believe that Eyjafjallajokull and Katla are related.

Eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull have usually been followed by eruptions of Katla, which is a far larger and more powerful volcano. As former president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, said referring to Katla: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Are there more volcanoes in Iceland?

Yes, there are over 130 active volcanoes in Iceland, and you can see them and the effect they’ve had on the land almost everywhere. Not far from Eyjafjallajokull volcano is a very nice museum dedicated to the volcanoes in Iceland, called the LAVA Center.

Eyjafjallajokull and the South Shore of Iceland

Eyjafjallajokull and neighboring Myrdalsjokull dominate the landscape in South-Iceland, and on a clear day you can see them from far away.  Therefore, we recommend that you make a stop at the tourist viewpoints along the road and admire the volcanoes from afar.

How do you pronounce Eyjafjallajökull? What’s Eyjafjallajokull’s meaning?

There are many words in Icelandic that sound strange and alien to native English speakers. The word “Eyjafjallajokull” didn’t exactly roll off news reporters’ tongues when the volcano erupted in 2010.

The word is a compound of three different words.  “Eyja” means “islands” and refers to the Vestmannaeyjar Islands just off Iceland‘s coast. “Fjalla” means “mountains.” “Jokull” means “glacier.” So the compound itself means “The Glacier on Island Mountains”, which is rather transparent, don’t you think?

You can try it for yourself; it isn’t so hard to pronounce if you just follow this simple guide.

How to get to Eyjafjallajokull?

Driving along the South Shore brings you close to the volcano. The volcanic mountain range is visible as soon as you drive east on Road 1 from Reykjavik and you cross the Hellisheidi heath.