Katla Geopark

The South

In 2011 Iceland formed its first ‘geopark’ to protect a region of great geological importance, promote local culture and sustainable development, and educate visitors. The Katla Geopark extends from Hvolsvöllur northeast to the great Vatnajökull and down to the volcanic black-sand beaches. It includes its namesake Katla volcano, the infamous Eyjafjallajökull and the torched earth at Lakagígar. All told, that's about 9% of Iceland. There is no park office, but the geopark website has information.

Of all the volcanoes in Iceland, it is thought that Katla may cause the most trouble to Icelanders over the next few years. This highly active 30km-long volcano, buried deep under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, has erupted roughly twice per century in the past. Since the last eruption was in 1918, it’s now several decades overdue.

It’s expected that when Katla does blow, days of ash fall, tephra clouds and lightning strikes will follow the initial explosion, with flash floods caused by the sudden melting of glacial ice. The geological record shows that past eruptions have created tidal waves, which have boomeranged off the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago and deluged the area where the town of Vík stands today.

Local residents receive regular evacuation training for the day when Katla erupts. In the event of an eruption, all mobile phones within range of a tower (including yours) will receive a warning. After the alert, farmers must hang a notice on their front doors to show that they have evacuated, before unplugging their electric fences, opening cattle sheds so that their animals can flee to higher ground, and heading for one of the evacuation centres in Hvolsvöllur, Vík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

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