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Exploring Kerid Crater in Iceland

Kerid crater lake and caldera in Iceland

In a land shaped by fire and ice, you'll find many remnants of volcanoes in Iceland. One of these magnificent natural attractions is the Kerid crater, a volcanic crater lake in southeast Iceland. It's close to the three main highlights on the unforgettable Golden Circle route, so it's easy to add this stop to your driving agenda for the day.

We’ll cover how to get to Kerid crater as well as the geology behind how this stunning landmark came to be. Visiting a volcanic crater in Iceland to experience the explosive power of Mother Nature is a must-do on your road trip itinerary.

Kerid crater Iceland: History and geology

The approximately 3,000-year-old Kerid volcanic crater is, geologically speaking, one of the younger volcanic calderas found in Iceland. Much of Iceland's major volcanic activity happened 6,000 to 7,000 years ago.

These older eruption sites and calderas have darkened to volcanic black, but that's not the case here. The iron deposits in the soil are still relatively new, and they give the terrain its distinct reddish color. The red volcanic rock is typical here and in places like Landmannalaugar, seen in the region's colorful rhyolite mountains

This area in South Iceland is part of the western volcanic zone of the island. You'll find lots of volcanoes, black sand volcanic beaches, and barren, desolate landscapes and lava fields in this territory. Iceland has its very own North Atlantic Ring of Fire thanks to the plate boundaries that cut through the island. Because this area is a hotbed for volcanic activity, you'll find that a lot of the other landscapes in the area have red (rather than black) volcanic rock.

The vibrant crimson of the terrain set against the dark turquoise color of the water of the lake and surrounding emerald moss is part of what makes a visit to the Kerid crater in Iceland crater so special. Be sure to pack your camera.

How the crater was formed

Many volcanic craters and calderas (cauldron-like depressions) are created when a volcano blows its top. The remaining hole becomes a recipient for water and a crater lake is born. Geologists and volcanologists have theorized that  Kerid crater lake was formed in a slightly more complex way.

Geological studies of rocks in the region failed to confirm this type of massive, violent explosion. Another hypothesis proposed by earth scientists is that although Kerið did experience a powerful eruption, it wasn't the kind that blows the roof off. According to the new theory, a volcanic eruption caused the cone-shaped volcano to empty its magma reserve.

Kerid crater lava flows caused its collapse

With its magma chamber completely depleted, the cone was now a shell that could no longer stand up under its own weight. After collapsing in on itself, it became the bottom of the crater. It nows rests at the same level as the water table, so you'll always find water at the bottom. This has turned into the beautiful volcanic crater lake that we know today. 

The crater itself is very impressive. It spans 170 meters (558 feet) across and has a total circumference of 270 meters (886 feet). It also descends 55 meters (180 feet) from the crater’s edge down to the lake.

Kerid crater lake

A visit to this scenic lake inside a volcanic crater is one of the best things to do in Iceland. One of the first things that strikes visitors to many of Iceland's crater lakes is the vivid aquamarine color of the water. Some are brighter than others, but they all have this distinctive hue. The reason behind it is quite simple. 

The same minerals in the soil that give the surrounding rocks their color also get into the pristine water. It sort of dyes the lake naturally. You'll see this with many volcanic bodies of water around the island, including at the Silfra fissure.

Kerid lake has a depth of between 7 and 14 meters (23 to 46 feet). This changes depending on factors like time of year and how much rainfall Iceland has received that season.

Golden Circle Full-day Tour with Kerid Crater

The crater is located in southern Iceland in the Grímsnes territory. You can actually explore the dramatic landscape of Iceland's volcano near Reykjavík!

Once you've made your way to Thingvellir National Park , Haukadalur valley’s geysers and geothermal hot springs, and Gullfoss “golden” waterfall, it's time to head back to Reykjanes peninsula.

You can either go back to Reykjavik the way you came, or take a detour along the southern highway. This scenic route takes you to other off the beaten path destinations on the Golden Circle like Skálholt and Sólheimar Ecovillage. One of the last stops before hitting the road to drive home is Kerid crater lake.

Setting your own pace, schedule and itinerary is a huge advantage of getting an Iceland car rental. It gives you the freedom to explore as much or as little of the Golden Circle route as you want. 

Woman driving to Kerid crater in Iceland car rental

How to get to Kerid crater

So where is Kerid crater, exactly? If you look on an Iceland map, Kerið Is southeast of Thingvallavatn lake. You reach it by taking Highway 35; This is not an F-road so you can travel on it at any time of year. Most travelers will be driving the 45-minute journey from Gullfoss to Kerid crater. The massive waterfall is the last of The Big Three on the area's famous tourist circuit, so it marks the returning point for many. 

If you're coming from a different part of the Circle, it takes around 40 minutes to drive from either Thingvellir or Haukadalur. You'll be coming from different directions, but this gives you a few different options to return from your day trip from Reykjavík.

Once you pull off of the main road, it's a short drive to the Kerið car park. After you find a spot for your vehicle, it's a short walk to the crater. 

Kerid crater entrance fee

The crater is located on private land, so there is a Kerið entrance fee. The landowners charge visitors 400 ISK (around $3 or 2€) to access the site and walk around. This money goes toward the protection and preservation of the crater, since it's not a government-owned landmark. Please remember to show respect, take your garbage with you, and leave the land in the same if not better shape than you found it.

You can reach the site by foot and once you get there, you’ll find a steep crater with little to no vegetation. There is one side that has a more gentle slope and a bit of moss, which you can walk down easily. I absolutely do not recommend trying to swim in the lake. Unlike Askja caldera, the water here is not geothermally heated. This means it will be even colder, so let’s stick to swimming in the Blue Lagoon. 

After you leave, it will take you just under an hour to get back to Reykjavík. Keep following Road 35, and it will eventually lead you to Route 1, the Ring Road. 

Kerid crater: A stunning Iceland crater lake and caldera

Just a quick note. The Icelandic word Kerið is often anglicized to Kerid or Kerith. You might see these variations or even see it sometimes spelled as Kerio crater or Kerio, Iceland. What they are all referring to is the Kerið crater.

Along with the dazzling Northern Lights and mammoth glaciers, Iceland's unpredictable volcanoes are part of what gives this beautiful Nordic Island its character. Although visiting a volcano as it erupts is neither feasible nor realistic, witnessing the aftermath up close is the next best thing. You'll be in awe of Mother Nature and feel tiny while standing next to the ruins of a great volcano. Kerid, Iceland is a place that you should visit, especially if you only have time to explore South Iceland during your trip.



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