Askja: the extraordinary ascent to the Víti crater
This is probably the most beautiful ascent in the eastern highlands! A fantastic landscape, almost surrealist, where you can see the contrast of the surprising colours of the still-smoking milky waters of the Víti crater and the splendid Öskjuvatn lake with its dark blue waters in the background.
1How to access the Askja caldera
But this place is deserved because it is not easy to access and only accessible in summer (see conditions on www.road.is). Located in the heart of the highlands, 100km from route number 1 by the F88 track or 120km from the dam on the F910, you will have to travel miles of tracks in the middle of a desolate desert to reach the small Víti crater. But this trip to the end of the world is definitely worth the detour!
We reached Askja via the F910 after a 7h crossing from the beginning of the 910 road. This track is absolutely grandiose and crosses incredible landscapes which follow one another and are not alike. But how long is it?! Conversely, the F88 track is much shorter (about 2-3h) but rather monotonous and therefore less interesting. It is therefore recommended that you use the F910 and the F88, provided you have a vehicle high enough to cross the ford on the Linda (about 60-70 cm when we passed). Otherwise, a return via the F910 and then the F905 is always possible.
Once we arrive at the campsite at the foot of Askja, we have to take a little altitude in the direction of the crater Víti on the F894 for another 8km. The trail ends in a dead-end street with a parking lot equipped with dry toilets. This is where the trail begins.
It is also possible to start the ascent from the campsite, but the hike is much longer.
2En route to Víti Crater and Öskjuvatn Lake
The trail is marked by stakes that must be followed. We climb slightly without difficulty, except for a few passages on snows sometimes very wet. Be careful not to get your feet in the water at the end of the day, because the snow quickly turns into a small lake. In this case, simply bypass the affected areas. On a small promontory, a sign gives interesting indications on the formation of volcanoes. Then the trail continues on a rather flat stretch, until it reaches the final climb (easy), but which can be slippery in case of rain.
3The discovery of the Víti crater and Öskjuvatn lake: contrasting colours!
It is only at the very last moment that the lakes are revealed! And what a surprise! Such lakes are not expected to be found in such a hostile setting. The Víti crater is quite small, but the colour of its milky waters makes it incredible. Just behind it is the huge Öskjuvatn lake with its deep blue waters. Moreover the lake is one of the deepest in Iceland with 220m below the surface of the water. If you are lucky enough to come here in good weather, you can see the snow-covered mountains reflected like a mirror, creating a magical backdrop.
Trails run along the site to offer beautiful views. It is thus possible to walk along the Víti crater and then move towards the end to get closer to Öskjuvatn Lake. It is also possible to bathe in the Víti crater! Sensations and memories guaranteed, but it will be necessary to go down to the hollow of the crater whose slopes are very steep and slippery, and to go up again afterwards, but the unusual bathing is well worth the effort. For the most daring, don't forget to plunge your head into the water, because it is possible to hear the earth breathe!
The return to the car park is done by the same way. Please note that a free guided tour in English was offered every day at 1 p. m. when we went there (July 2016). The only shadow on the board is that there can be a lot of people when the tour buses come to drop off their passengers.
Please note that the 4x4 is essential to get there because there are several fords to cross. If you do not have a 4x4, you can take part in one of the many bus excursions organised from Mývatn.