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Volcanic crater in Reykjanes from the helicopter window

Volcano Helicopter Tour in Iceland

On Friday, I thought I was going for a normal day at the office but at 9:45, a colleague asked the team whether anyone would be up for going for a helicopter ride in 15 minutes, due to short notice cancellations. „Nah, I‘m in the middle of something…” were the first reactions she got but after short discussions, me and another colleague volunteered, and then we ran out to catch the helicopter. We took off from Reykjavík Airport with Norðurflug, heading over to Reykjanes and seeing the lava and craters from the different eruptions of the past three or four years.

Volcanic crater in Reykjanes.
Volcanic crater in Reykjanes from the helicopter window. Photo: Sigrún Pálsdóttir

It was the first time I go with a helicopter, and it was a great experience to get a bird’s-eye view from the windows over the lava fields of Reykjanes with the relatively new black lava formations from the eruptions of the past three or four years, forming patterns on the moss beds covering lava fields from the past hundreds of years.

Volcanic crater in Reykjanes from the helicopter window
Volcanic crater in Reykjanes from the helicopter window. Photo: Sigrún Pálsdóttir

We got a hint of “seasickness” when the pilot flipped the chopper to around 90 degrees to fly sideways over three craters, to get the most optimal view of them. I also found it nice to see the city from this angle, different from flying in a plane where you are travelling faster and do not have time to notice the various details that you can see from the chopper. The pilot made sure to balance our weight, I was the heaviest of the three of us in the back seat and therefore placed in the middle. That meant my photos are mostly showing parts of the inside of the helicopter while the others by the windows were able to get clearer pictures without door frames, handles etc. Therefore, I borrowed some of the photos for this post from my colleague.

"Frozen" lava waterfall in Reykjanes
“Frozen” lava waterfall in Reykjanes. Photo: Sigrún Pálsdóttir

We could see how vast area the lava from recent years has covered, forming what looked like a black but frozen waterfall in one place, sliding down a mountain side. The latest eruption just finished recently, and, in a few spots, we saw steam rising up from the young lava fields.

Helicopter Tours in Iceland

There are various options to choose from for helicopter tours in Iceland, apart from volcano tours, you could choose a geothermal theme, waterfalls & valleys, hot springs, and glaciers.

This geothermal tour over Hengill volcano covers Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir powerplants, that provide electricity for the capital area. There is a short stop between steam columns for a closer look at bubbling hot springs. On the route back to Reykjavík, you will see the continental rift line at Þingvellir National Park and how the country is being pulled in two parts.

Álftanes from the helicopter window
Álftanes from the helicopter window. Photo: Sigrún Pálsdóttir

The Geothermal Hot Springs tour takes off from Reykjavík and heads over to the geothermal area around Hengill volcano. The Hengill area expands over an area of 100 km2 and connects to three volcanic systems. It consists of old lava fields, hot springs and fumaroles, colorful mountains, geothermal power plants, and craters. The helicopter will land in the middle of all this, a remote location away from crowds, where you can see incredible color variations caused by gases rising from the earth.

Seltjarnarnes from the helicopter
Seltjarnarnes, downtown Reykjavík, Faxaflói bay and the mountains Akrafjall and Esja from the helicopter. Photo: Guðmundur F. Magnússon

In the Waterfalls and Glacier Landing tour, you will be taken to Hvalfjörður to view one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, Glymur, 198 meters tall and hidden in a narrow canyon at the bottom of the fjord. Hovering over the waterfall will give you a good view of the mossy canyons and giant waterfall. I hiked up to this waterfall many years ago and that way from the cliff edge at the top, you can only see the top of Glymur. From Glymur, you will be taken to Langjökull glacier for a landing on its ice cap. There you can breath in the cool and fresh glacial air while enjoying the incredible mountain views all around.

If you have ever daydreamed about being able to fly and see as far and high as a bird, a helicopter tour is probably the closest thing you can find and in Iceland, you will see a variety of landscapes that have been constantly changing through the ages with volcanic eruptions, waterflows, earthquakes and weathering.

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