The Laki craters in the highlands of Iceland are one of the top sights on a road trip through Iceland. The craters, which were formed during a volcanic eruption in the 18th century, should not be missed on an Iceland trip. And no matter if you go to the Laki craters on an organized tour or like us on your own with an off-road rental car, they are definitely worth a trip.
What you can expect in Laki, how to get to the volcano craters with your own rental car and what you should consider on your road trip, we tell you now.
The Lakagigar Crater in the highlands of Iceland
The Lakagigar craters or Laki craters are named after Laki Mountain, which is located in the middle of the row of craters. The craters themselves were formed during one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. The eruption started on June 8, 1783 and continued until February 1784, forming a new volcano every few weeks in the row of Laki volcanoes and spewing lava.
When the eruptions reached Mount Laki the force from within the earth was not strong enough to penetrate the mountain itself. Thus, the eruptions continued only on the other side of the mountain, creating the 25 km long series of Laki volcanoes.
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The spewed lava from the Laki eruption covered an area of 565 km2. Ash and toxic gases from the volcano had devastating effects on all of Iceland. 20% of the inhabitants at that time died as a result and 75% of the living creatures on the island. The climate and people of the entire northern hemisphere were also affected by the eruption.
Nowadays you can only imagine the severity of the eruption, but the historical background and the beautiful landscape in the highlands of Iceland make this day trip to the Laki craters a top highlight of any Iceland road trip.
The drive to the Laki craters
To get to the Laki you have to turn off the Ring Road 1 about 45 minutes east of Vik onto the F-Road F206. The turn is not to be missed at all and also leads past the famous canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur. Please note that this road is an F-Road and therefore not allowed to be driven with a normal rental car, even if the road looks relatively harmless.
The F206 leads to the mountain Laki and there you have to drive south again via the F207 around the craters until you meet the F206. The road is therefore a circular route and cannot be driven any other way.
The first kilometers on the F206 are still relatively easy to drive. It is a gravel road, but passable without major restrictions. The surroundings are very impressive and it goes up and down on the road further in the direction of Laki. Soon comes the first ford to cross. We knew that there were still some waiting for us, but we did not know how deep they would be.
The only thing we knew was that the route should actually be doable with our Dacia Duster.
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The first ford was also very easy and even fun to drive through. The second larger ford was already a different caliber. Here, however, the optimal way was marked out with flags in the water, so that one could not really do anything wrong. The fording of the small river was then also very easy, and I got used so slowly to the crossing of rivers in Iceland.
Some sections of the slope could be mastered well with 70-80 km/h, others, however, only with 30, depending on how winding the route and stony the ground is.
After just under 1.5 hours of fast-paced driving, we had completed the bumpy slopes (at normal speed, the drive can take 2 – 2.5 hours) and arrived at Mount Laki. On site was a small ranger station with proper toilet, but unfortunately no ranger who greeted us and explained the area. But we had also only shortly after 9 o’clock. But since we were not the only ones in the meantime, we started the hike up the almost 800 meter high mountain.
Hiking at the Laki Craters
At the Laki craters you can do some nice hikes. First of all, of course, the hike up the mountain Laki itself.
The trail is not very strenuous, although it is steep going up and so we were up in no time (less than 30 minutes). The view from the top was beautiful thanks to the perfect weather and you could admire very well the row of craters of the Laki volcanoes, which looked like strung on a string.
The hike to the Laki mountain is actually a circular hike, which is a total of 4 km long and can be walked in 1- 1,5 h. During our visit, part of the path was unfortunately closed, because the route was affected by falling rocks over the winter. So we had to go down the same way again.
After we descended from the mountain again, we walked another small loop trail (“Visitor Trail”), which is located at the foot of the mountain. This one is only 500 meters long and can be hiked in half an hour. Here you not only walk through a pretty crazy looking landscape of cooled lava, you even get taught a lot about the history and nature.
At the beginning of the trail you can take a small brochure in which a lot of information about the history of the volcanic eruption and the landscape around you. On the way there are signs that refer to the texts in the brochure. The path should not be missed, because here you really walk directly through the lava field and can put yourself through the information texts even better in the time of the eruption.
Roundtrip at the crater lake Tjarnargigur
Only a few minutes drive after leaving the crater you will pass the parking lot of Tjarnargigur crater on the F207. This is one of the craters from the eruption of the Laki volcanoes in 1783. The volcano is filled with turquoise blue water and looks very good in the otherwise very barren and colorless environment.
From the parking lot, a well-maintained path leads to the crater lake in less than 10 minutes. From there the path continues through an impressive landscape of cooled lava and green shining moss past many rocks to another nameless crater and then as a circular route back to the parking lot. For the 4.5 km it takes about 1.5 h.
We had unfortunately not so much time and looked we only the crater lake and parts of the impressive lava landscape and then drove the F207 further south.
The return journey via the F207
After returning to the parking lot, we stopped briefly at the ranger station, which was now occupied (daily between 11 am and 5 pm) and let the ranger tell us some interesting things about the eruption and the surrounding landscape. Then we drove back towards RIngstraße via the F207, because the whole route to and from Laki is built as a one-way road. The slopes are so narrow that at least on the F207 never 2 cars would fit side by side.
The return trip on the F207, which later joins the F206 again, was really wonderful and for us one of the most beautiful roads in Iceland.
The stretch of the F-207 became more and more exciting and soon we passed the most adventurous ford of our trip so far. We had already seen some Youtube videos where people have sunk their off-road vehicles in this river, which is why we already had some respect for this river crossing. Also, nothing was marked out here and it was not obvious how deep the water would be here.
But I followed the well-known tips for fording a river in Iceland and drove slowly but steadily through the floods and arrived safely at the other end.
After we reached the F206 again we had to cross some less bad fords and could still enjoy the fabulous landscape until we finally arrived back on the ring road and could drive to our accommodation in Vik*. The excursion into the highlands to the Laki craters was really one of the highlights of our Iceland round trip.
With which car to the Laki crater
The most important question for all trips to the highlands is which car to use, because only on the ring road of Iceland you can be sure that even the smallest rental car will be enough. Whereby also on the ring road you can expect a gravel road.
If you want to drive gravel roads or even like us into the highlands of Iceland, then the right choice of a rental car is extremely important!
When researching the right car for Iceland, we always had the trips to the highlands in mind as well. The road trip to the Laki craters is one of the few routes that can be mastered with a normal four-wheel drive car. That means it is not necessary to book a tour with a super jeep.
Is a Dacia Duster enough for the journey to Laki Crater?
We drove the route with a Dacia Duster and had absolutely no problems. The Dacia Duster is one of the smallest SUVs you can rent in Iceland and with comparable cars like the Suzuki Jimny or the Kia Sportage, the Toyota Rav4 or the Subaru Forester you should have no problems on the way to the Laki craters.
Please note, however, that this only applies to the track itself. The fords, i.e. the crossing of rivers, is a completely different matter. A ford that was flat and passable in the morning can be a raging river in the evening. So always check beforehand on road.is and always be careful when crossing rivers.
Braucht man einen richtigen Geländewagen?
Of course, it is always better to have a proper off-road vehicle for the highlands (what is the difference between a proper off-road vehicle and an SUV, we have summarized on our rental car information page), because then you can be sure that even the deepest fords and the jerkiest gravel road are no problem.
Of course, there are also rivers in Iceland that you should not cross on your own, even with a real off-road vehicle like a Landrover.
For the journey to the Laki crater you don’t need an expensive off-road vehicle, a simple SUV like the Dacia Duster is sufficient. A normal rental car with two-wheel drive and without off-road capability is completely out of place here.
Planning the trip to Laki Crater – What to consider?
Apart from choosing the right rental car, you should keep in mind that you should probably be on the road the whole day. The pure driving time of the outward journey to the craters was with us only 1.5 hours (normally are rather 2-2.5 hours) but nevertheless we were from the turn of the ring road until we were back again nearly 12 hours on the way. So you should take enough food and water with you and charge your batteries of your cell phones and drone.
Also, you should not spend the night too far from the turn off the ring road (if you are not anyway with tent, roof tent or campervan on the road). On our Iceland tour, we stayed in the nearby town of Vik before and after the Laki excursion.
Accommodation tip for your trip to Laki
If you want to take some time off your trip to the Laki, you can of course choose your overnight stay in such a way that you don’t have to drive so much once you have returned to the ring road. For this purpose we recommend two hotels, one of which is located directly at the turnoff from the F206 to the ring road 1 and one about 45 minutes further in Vik. We ourselves stayed in Vik, because the prices are much lower there and you also have a supermarket and a gas station directly there.
Hotel directly at the F206
Here you can recover from your trip, even before you turn back to the ring road. You can get a nice double room with shared or private bathroom in a wonderful area from 150€.
Hotel recommendation in nearby Vik
We drove about 45 minutes further to Vik and found this wonderful little hotel that has recently been modernized. You’re virtually within walking distance of the famous basalt columns at Black Beach Reynisfjara here. There is free breakfast in the form of coffee, cookies and cereals and you pay here only about 50 euros per night.
Campsite at the Laki Crater
If you are traveling with a campervan, motorhome or rental car with a roof tent, you can of course also go to the campsite, which is located not far from the Laki craters. The campsite Blagil Skaftarhreppur is located not far from the turnoff from the F207 to the F206 and offers 18 sleeping bag places and places for camping, there is a place for cooking, toilets and the campsite is open all year round.
The best time to go to Laki Crater
The trip to Laki Crater is possible only in summer, as the roads are not passable in winter (and spring and autumn) due to snow. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say in advance when exactly the F206 and F207 to Laki Crater are passable, but from late June to late August the road should be passable. Before your trip you should always check road.is to make sure that the road is safe to drive on.
Are drones allowed at Laki Crater?
Since the Laki Crater is located in the large Vatnajökull National Park, everywhere here is a no-drone zone. Flying a drone (such as the DJI Mini 2) is therefore unfortunately prohibited. It does say on the national park’s website that you can get permission to fly, but it’s rather unlikely that you’ll get that permission as a normal tourist.
Can’t you still let your drones fly?
During our visit, we were almost alone and therefore used our drone* to take beautiful aerial photos. Of course, we made sure not to disturb anyone in our vicinity. But since no ranger was on site when we arrived and there was little else going on, we had no problems flying our DJI Mavic Air.
Do you have any questions about the trip on your own to the Laki Crater? Or have you had other experiences? Write us a comment!