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63°44'34.8"N 18°10'23.4"W



Protection of the geological heritage and unique vegetation is prioritised at Eldraun

The vast Eldhraun Lava field in southeast Iceland was created in one of the greatest volcanic activity in human history making it one of its kind in the world. The main characteristic is the thick moss covering the lava, giving it a unique texture, which changes colours by the daylight and seasonally. The lava is very difficult to access and very sensitive to any kind of human impact, taking the moss decades to recover, if ever at all.

The southern coastal road in Iceland crosses ASCENT site Eldhraun, predominantly by tourists visiting Jökulsárlón; one of Iceland’s most popular tourist site, a little further east of Eldhraun. The majority of international tourists stop at Eldhraun, along a few isolated sites in the lava close to the main road for a couple of minutes. Therefore, Eldhraun is characterised by viewpoints rather than a system of paths, whereby the tourist experience comes from looking at the overall landscape from a distance rather than at a micro scale.

Skaftárhreppur is vast in size, the third biggest municipalities in Iceland, covering almost 7,000 sq km with fewer than 500 inhabitants. This poses a major task in managing 1 million tourists crossing through Eldhraun on their way to Jökulsárlón.  The main challenges for Eldraun are protecting the moss there by not actually touching or walking on, whilst providing the opportunity to enjoy and experience its uniqueness.

Safety issues are mainly due to passengers stopping along the main road to admire the view and take photos. Good cooperation with road authorities has proven imperative.

Positive Benefit

Although Eldhraun is different from other ASCENT project sites it is highly relevant and is benefitting positively from the project, by addressing the complex design factor, in discovering  the best ways to build sustainable footpaths and viewpoints in the lava field and conserving the sacred moss. In addition engagement with key stakeholders including the road administration and the economically important tourist sector underpins the approach. Most importantly, focus is on a nature first policy where the protection of the geological heritage and its vegetation uniqueness is priority number one at Eldraun.



Did you know?

The vast Eldhraun Lava field in southeast Iceland was created in one of the greatest volcanic activity in human history . The eruption lasted 8 months from 1783 and ´84. Following came a period lasting until 1785 called Móðuharðindin  (mist Hardships), which had catastrophic consequences for local residents and the Icelandic population due to cooling of the environment caused by fine material that blew up in the air. It is estimated that the Icelandic population dropped by 50,000 – 60,000 due to crop failure and animal death causing a general plague. It is claimed that the event had a great impact on climate in Europe causing the same disasters; even so that it might have triggered the French revolution. Remember Marie-Antoinette “Let them eat cake”.

Mr. Örn Þór Halldórsson

Ascent Project Partner



The ASCENT project is an excellent opportunity to learn from others. For Eldhraun the project allows for further cooperation and information flow as the challenges here are big.

— Jóna Björk Jónsdóttir

Assistant Head National Park Ranger at Vatnajökull National Park

The ASCENT project is a great approach to mutual learning and sharing skills in maintaining and building sustainable paths. This project is essential; fuelling interest, promoting cooperation and knowledge sharing that lasts far beyond the project boundaries.

— Hörður Bjarni

Project Manager at Katla Geopark

ASCENT Partner Sites