Renowned as ‘the land of fire and ice’, Iceland is home to 130 volcanic mountains and the people here live with the knowledge that many of them are active and could erupt at any time. The LAVA Centre in Hvolsvöllur, on Iceland’s south coast, sits in close proximity to three of the island’s most notorious volcanoes, Hekla, Eyjafjallajӧkull and Katla.
Inside, the centre does a remarkable job of explaining why Iceland has so many volcanoes, and how they work. Visiting early on in your trip to Iceland offers an engaging backstory to the landscapes you’ll encounter and an understanding of their power and history.
The LAVA Centre is a modern educational facility examining Iceland’s volcanoes and the island’s history of earthquakes. Based in the Katla Geopark, it uses the surrounding terrain to bring life to the science behind the island’s unusual geological position.
It takes about two hours to make your way through the exhibition and its interactive displays, which offer an engaging array of insights and activities that bring the subject to life.
Each room is dedicated to a different element of the volcanic system. Exhibits include a timeline of Iceland’s volcanic activity, video interviews with local residents on living in the shadow of a volcano, and virtual reality experiences of the earthquakes that occur prior to an eruption. You’ll also learn about the elaborate monitoring systems in place to survey earthquake zones and warn of any impending volcanic activity.
As you progress through the exhibition, you’ll come to the lava room, where you can find out about the different types of lava you might see across the island and their effect on the topography of the region. You can touch and feel pieces of lava and see a digital impression of flowing lava as well as footage of various volcanic eruptions.
A separate room shows a rolling 12-minute screening of the Eyjafjallajӧkull eruption in 2010 and the devastating effect it had on local people and their livestock.
After your tour, we recommend heading up to the rooftop terrace for a panoramic view of the mountains and the three surrounding volcanoes: Hekla, Eyjafjallajӧkull and Katla. Having toured the exhibition, seeing the proximity and scale of the volcanoes gives a greater understanding of Icelandic life and the constant risks locals live with.