askja oskjuvatn viti

How to visit Askja

Be prepared for your Askja venture responsibly. It’s neither an easy drive nor the short one. Bring enough food and water, tank enough fuel and plan your journey in advance. Study guidelines for driving F-roads and crossing rivers carefully.

How to get to Askja

There are actually several different roads leading to and from Askja. We drove 2 out of 3 main ones. The most treacherous one is supposed to be F88 from the north, which is said to have a quite deep river. We haven’t tried that one due to this very same reason so I cannot say whether it was really that big or not, but we did try the other ones. The easiest route according to guides was supposed to be the combination of F905 and F910 which we wanted to take on our way to Askja.

Don’t want to go on your own? Take an epic Askja tour!

modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið road, the first gravel road you’re gonna encounter when coming from Egilsstaðir direction

On our way back, my plan had two versions. First one, in case we didn’t have enough time, was coming back using the same roads and finding the first campsite nearby. However, my major version of the plan was seeing the Studlagil canyon on our way back, i.e. using the roads F910, F905, detour to the right without number called Austurleid (by the lake Thrihyrningsvatn), a short piece of F907 and then to the left via Jokuldalsvegur. I wasn’t able to find any info anywhere over the internet about this road that’s why I wrote a few lines about it here.

Modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið junction with F905

Junction on Möðrudalsleið road with F905 coming from Egilsstaðir towards Askja

Weather was unbelievably nice, the sun was shining, the sky was completely clear and there was not even the slightest blow of wind. If this is not the weather to go for Askja then it never is. We’d firstly driven a while on the ring road, then turned left shortly for the road without any number on Google maps with a fancy name Möðrudalsleið. I guess the more the name of the road resembles some killing machine the rougher the actual road is, but that’s just what we’d observed. Möðrudalsleið is a quite good gravel road (compared to many other F-roads) so I was able to drive really fast.

Before you go: study the F-roads and choose the high quality insurance!

F905

f905 to askja

F905 to Askja on an exceptionally beautiful sunny summer day

After driving some two-thirds of the road, we turned left to F905, where a real adventure began. By “a real adventure” I don’t mean anything dangerous (at least with our dream weather it definitely wasn’t), just endless out of this world landscapes as if you were on another planet. F905 and the ones following (together with reaching Landmannalaugar from the south) were the most beautiful roads we drove and are definitely highlights of our entire Icelandic trip.

Different types of surface alternate between each other, each one the more beautiful than the one before. Gravel, clay, rocks, sand, sulphur – anything you can imagine, all of this surrounded by unforgettable views of the volcanic hills around. I don’t remember any river on F905 (maybe only some small ponds, which shouldn’t cause you any trouble at all).

F910

f905 askja gate

Gated bridge at F905 road towards Askja. Just open the gate when crossing the bridge and close it afterwards.

After spending some time on F905, the road turns into F910, which is very similar in its character to F905, just, once again a bit different. There are a few parts of the road where you’re going to drive literally on huge volcanic rocks and you have to drive really carefully not to damage your car – this is where a good 4×4 with high ground clearance happens to be useful. The most important part of an Icelandic F-road which you should pay attention to (as I wrote here) is the regular rivers and their existence on your road.

There are two medium-sized rivers on F910. When we’d reached the first river, there was already a 4×4 car waiting in front of the river, I think Toyota Landcruiser. It seemed like a driver wanted to see someone else to cross first. I stepped out of the car and inspected the river. This one was not very wide and I was able to observe where the best part to cross it is, even by visual inspection. Depth of the river was fair, some 40-60cm at the deepest point so should you have an appropriate 4×4 car for medium-sized rivers and take precautionary steps not to sink your car.

F910 askja

F910 towards Askja

Since we’d already gained some experience with river crossings on our way to Landmannalaugar, we were more confident here in Askja. After my river inspection, the Toyota driver approached me and asked: “Is this your first time as well?” I just smiled and thought “man I know how you feel, we’ve been there some 2 days ago” and said that we have some experience already from Landmannalaugar. She asked us whether we may cross first so that she can see us, and so we did. I just adhered to all river crossing rules and the crossing went smoothly. After the ford, I waited to see whether Toyota was able to ford the river as well and yes, they were.

f910 austurleid askja

F910, or Austurleið, the continuation of road F905 towards Askja

The second river emerges very shortly thereafter. The depth looked to be about the same, i.e. 40-60cm at the deepest point. Just this time the river was considerably wider and the road on the other bank of the river was not in front of us but skewed to the left. So, we guessed, we had to steer to the left when crossing. The shallowest part seemed to be on the right side, so we forded there, realizing the river is a bit deeper than we’d thought, i.e. on the upper side of our estimated range (some 60cm the deepest point). Nevertheless, we were already in the river so we didn’t stop and our Duster was able to make it to the other bank without any trouble.

Dreki mountain huts

Next, we arrived at the junction of F88 and F910, where, by turning left, we continued via F910 and soon reached Dreki mountain huts – the only place where you may actually stay overnight in Askja area. There’s a free public toilet as well. Finally, we reached the Askja area – but where to go now?

The main area – Askja, Viti, Oskjuvatn

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way (from Vikarborgir)
Time spent at: >1 hour
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced (depends if you want to climb Viti)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
askja map

Useful map of Askja and Öskjuvatn area

A detailed map of the area to be found here.

A short glossary may be useful at this place. You may hike all of these and more:

  • Askja = name of the entire area.
  • Viti = volcanic crater you are probably aiming for as we were, with blue picturesque geothermal water.
  • Oskjuvatn = big lake just next to Viti, with no geothermal water (Google calls Oskjuvatn “Lake Askja”).

F894 – Öskjuvatnsvegur

vikraborgir parking askja

Vikraborgir car park, the closest point available on your route towards Askja/Víti crater

Once you arrive at Dreki huts, you may already leave your car here and go for 8km hike towards Viti and Öskjuvatn and you will definitely enjoy the beautiful mountain area even more. What we did, was to drive as close to the actual geothermal Víti lake as possible and spend most of our time there.

To do that, you have to take the F894 road, i.e. slight turn right coming from F910 direction, standing in Dreki huts spot. The road is really rough and rocky, with volcanic stones and rocks about everywhere. At the end of the road, you will reach the car park with another toilet booth, called the Vikraborgir car park. This is where you have to leave your car.

Askja

askja oskjuvatn viti

Amazingly beautiful Askja (the whole area), Víti (the crater lake) and Öskjuvatn (the bigger lake nearby) all in one picture

From the car park, it takes some 20-30 minutes of walking the well-marked path with yellow sticks to reach the place everybody admires in the pictures – i.e. Víti crater. The sun still shined, the sky was still clear and the wind was still mild – what a wonderful day! And Viti crater looked even better than in the photos! Fairy-tale-like blue water with moon-like surrounding landscapes. This was the highlight of our trip. From this spot you may either:

  1. Just admire the beauty of Viti crater and monumental Oskjuvatn lake next to it, or
  2. Hike around the area, or
  3. As we chose (or as my girlfriend persuaded me), hike down the Viti crater and swim in the green/blue geothermal water.
askja crater hiking trail

Hiking trail down to Askja crater (Víti)

This was one of the two moments during our journey when I was a bit scared (first one when hiking up the Blahnjukur peak in Landmannalugar, climbing the steep clay slippery path). Here again, the descent was steep and the ground was covered with slippery clay, which means you’re unable to control any fall of yours, in case it happens.

Nevertheless, it’s a short descent and not too dangerous, so in good weather you should be able to make it. Once down in the caldera, you may enjoy swimming in the water with a temperature around 25°C, which is definitely not a hot spring but it’s definitely warmer than air (at the time of our visit around 10-15°C). Once in a lifetime experience.

swimming in askja crater

Me swimming in 25°C sulphuric water of Víti crater in Askja

The way back is the same – i.e. 20-30minutes walk to the car park, taking F894 to Dreki huts, from there F910 and from there you may decide between 3 main options – F88 or F905 or detour to Stuðlagil Canyon, as we did.

oskjuvatn lake askja

Öskjuvatn lake in Askja area, next to famous Víti crater

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