Hekla is located in the southern part of Iceland near Landmannalaugar, about halfway between Reykjavik on the southwestern corner of the country and the Vatnajökull – a huge glacier on the southeastern corner. Hekla is a 1,491 meter (or 4,892 feet) high stratavolcano, part of a 40 kilometer (25 mile) long volcanic ridge, and it is one of the best known and most active volcanos in the world. The word Hekla means “the hooded” because its peak is frequently capped by clouds. In the Middle Ages, Europeans feared the volcano and called it the entrance or “Gateway to Hell.” Indeed, it is said that the phrases “what the heck” and “go to heck” originated from this volcanic zone.
Nowadays, visitors are drawn to Hekla to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area and for the hiking. There is a trail most of the way up the mountain leading to the summit and the first half is marked with posts. The remainder of the trail goes along a broad ridge, about half of which is covered with snow. The walker will pass three craters and some instances of steaming sulphur. The area to the base of the trail is not served by buses, so visitors will need to hire a car or truck to get around.
Hekla is very often covered with snow when it is not erupting, and it is now a popular area for seismic study where experts look at factors like strain, deformation, tilt, and other movement. The first recorded eruption at Hekla occurred in 1104 and there have been between twenty and thirty sizable eruptions since then, with the last one having occurred in 2000. Earthquakes in the vicinity of the volcano are usually around magnitude three when the volcano is erupting and under magnitude two when it is dormant.