Hotspot volcanoes

Which islands have the most impressive active volcanoes?

Both islands are known for their active volcanoes and for those who fascinate them, it is a difficult choice to decide which are the best.

Iceland and the Hawaiian Islands could not be more contrasted. While the Hawaiian Islands are tropical, Iceland is subarctic. While the natives of the Hawaiian Islands are Polynesians, the Icelanders are descendants of the Norwegian Vikings. But one thing they have in common is that they are home to some of the most active and spectacular volcanoes in the world. Both locations are located above active hot spots. There are many excursions to various volcanoes, but for both island groups, but it is also very easy to just rent a car and explore both destinations on your own. Keep in mind that Hawaii is generally much more expensive than the continental United States, and Iceland is also infamously expensive.


Iceland and its volcanoes

Iceland is home to many impressive volcanoes and many of them are active. Indeed, Iceland is located above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge with its divergent tectonic plates – in addition to being located above a hot spot. In the past 11 or 12 thousand years, about 30 volcanoes have erupted.

  • Highest volcano: 6,923 feet – Hvannadalshnúkur
  • Fun fact: Iceland Eldgja is responsible for the largest lava eruption in human history

While Hawaii is the land of the tropics and fiery volcanoes, Iceland is the true land of ice and fire (but sadly lacks ice zombies, dragons, knights and wilds although it luckily lacks disappointing endings). The landscape was shaped by these fiery conduits from the depths. Icelandic volcanoes are crowned on the island by glaciers and snow. Iceland is considered a true paradise for volcanologists.

Related: 20 Photos Highlighting Why Iceland Is One of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Like Hawaii, Iceland is a geologically young land and many of its volcanoes are active today.

Some of Iceland’s active volcanoes include:

  • Hekla
  • Eldgja
  • Herðubreið
  • Eldfell
  • Laki
  • Eyjafjallajökull
  • Grimsvötn

In 1783-1784, Laki erupted and triggered a major famine on the isolated island, resulting in famine killing around a quarter of the Icelandic population. Life in Iceland has always been difficult and vulnerable before truly modern times.

Iceland is more than volcanoes, it is a wonderland that includes many active geysers.

  • Fun fact: An Icelandic geyser is called “Geysir” – Where does the English word come from?

Of the hundreds of Icelandic volcanic systems around the island, around 30 remain active today.

In recent years, Iceland has experienced a number of devastating eruptions. One of these was the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010. It was the volcano’s first eruption in nearly 200 years. It has forced more than 600 people to flee their homes, and plumes of volcanic ash spat into the atmosphere have disrupted air travel across Europe.

  • Visa requirement: Iceland is visa free

It is very easy to travel in Iceland and almost everyone speaks English there. Most tours are self-guided tours. If you want to see a different view of volcanoes, consider taking a scenic flight or climbing volcanoes with a mountaineering guide.

Hawaii and its volcanoes

Like other volcanic hot spots, without volcanoes, Hawaii would not exist. All of the islands in the archipelago exist because of this magma hot spot deep below the ocean floor. This Hawaiian hotspot is stationary but the crust is not and so, over time, the earth’s crust rolls over it. There is a long line of extinct volcanoes that have long disappeared in the sea after passing over the hotspot. Midway Atoll is one example. In fact, the Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamounts stretch for 3,700 miles and almost reaches Alaska.

  • Highest volcano: 13,796 feet – Mauna Kea

Today, the most active landmass of Hawaii’s eight main islands is on the Big Island.

Big Island’s active volcanoes:

  • Mauna Loa
  • Kilauea
  • Hualalai
  • Loihi (A little offshore)

Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is an active shield volcano that has erupted for approximately 700,000 years and emerged from the sea approximately 400,000 years ago. Its slopes gradually rise and it reaches some 13,100 feet above sea level. Only the submerged volcano Tamu Massif is said to be larger than this beast of Hawaii. Mauna Loa eruptions tend to be non-explosive and the last eruption was in 1984. It is expected to remain active for another 500,000 to 1 million years before gradually moving past the hotspot and then to turn off.

Related: The Hawaiian Islands To Visit In 2020 That Are Not Oahu

  • Visa requirement: Part of the United States, international travelers will need a US visa or ESTA visa waiver
  • Mauna Loa: The second largest active volcano in the world

Kīlauea volcano

In May 2018, Kilauea erupted for months and made national headlines. Sometimes the lava germs would vomit more than thirty meters into the sky. The lava then formed molten rivers and tumbled down the mountain, destroying any property in its path. That year it was considered the most dangerous volcano in the United States and this eruption created a new black sand beach. These constant eruptions allow the Hawaiian Islands to exist, grow and resist erosion in the sea.

In short, if you are interested in volcanoes then you should visit both islands. They are beautiful islands filled with active volcanoes, but they are both very different from each other. In one place you are in a tropical paradise with volcanic landscapes, while in Iceland you are in a wonderland of ice and fire. Iceland also has more active volcanoes (not to mention that in winter you can see the Northern Lights there).

Next: An Iceland Travel Guide: 10 Things To Know When Planning Your Trip

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