The Rauðibotn crater is located in the Fjalllabak region, more precisely in Hólmsárlón. This small oasis is a real gem lost in the highlands, a crater of contrasts with red and fluorescent green in the volcanic deserts, with the two huge glaciers, Torfajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, looming around you.
The Hólmsá River and its small waterfalls that surround the crater make the place even more magical.
Raudibotn's fluorescent green moss
Rauðibotn is part of the Eldgjá volcanic crater chain which extends from the Mýrdalsjökull to the Vatnajökull glaciers.
A terrible eruption in 934 produced a lava field that covered a staggering 800 square kilometers with molten rock, with catastrophic global meteorological consequences that caused famine throughout Europe.
This is visible on the landscape. Approaching the Rauðibotn region, one is struck by the scars of the event, but also the colors and contrasts.
The name Rauðibotn literally means “red background” in reference to the red crater flanks. The small lake inside the crater is surrounded by a ring of beautiful fluorescent green.
The view from Raudibotn on the Maelifell
Beyond the crater itself, the surrounding views are incredible, with unforgettable views of the Mælifell and the Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.
Rauðibotn is completely isolated in the wilderness south of Fjallabak, and you need to understand this place is very difficult to get to.
You won't find many tourists here as it is far from road number 1 and you can't get here without a fully off-road 4x4 vehicle.
With the right kind of transport, there are 3 paths to reach the Rauðibotn region:
This trail is absolutely sumptuous coming from Mælifell in the West, probably one of the most beautiful in Iceland. On the other hand, it's not the easiest route. In fact, you have to cross the Hólmsá and its meanders just before (1 km) reaching the junction that goes up to Rauðibotn, and this is no easy task.
While the river can be as shallow as 40 cm, it very frequently rises to 50 or even 80 cm in depth. In other words, impossible to cross with an unprepared 4x4.
Having tried them all, this is the simplest itinerary posing no particular difficulties. Starting from Vik and road number 1 to the South, take the F209 then the F210 heading North. While the road may be bumpy, in fact very much so, it does not involve fords or technical passages. A couple of kilometers after crossing the F233, the unmarked trail runs North towards Rauðibotn before crossing the famous Hólmsá ford.
The F233 can be used by visitors coming from the North, coming from Landmannalaugar. This trail has a major ford crossing, comparable to the F210 from the West.
Whatever route you take, the trail north to the Rauðibotn car park is short (1 km) and poses no difficulties. The car park is not indicated, but it's pretty obvious when you reach the end of the road (see photo).
The famous “parking” of Rauðibotn in 2021
From here you're basically on your own! There is no marked trail or the slightest indication to find the crater, but the itinerary is quite simple. Just follow in the footsteps of those that came before, the beaten track on the ground will help to find your way around. From the car park go towards the hill and head north for about one kilometer.
From here, you can enjoy an incredible view of Mælifell and the Sandurs, and one could stay for hours taking in this breathtaking panorama.
You can see a few small waterfalls on the edge of the Hólmsá on the map below, and how the trail then splits into two paths: climb to the top of the crater on the right or continue straight and reach the edge of Lake Rauðibotn. We strongly recommend going around the crater from the top and then going back down.
You shoule definitely take the time to go around the crater, and don't hesitate to go further up the trail to get the best views. In good weather, the colors of the region are out of this world.
It only takes 1.5 hours to complete the 5 km loop that connects the car park to the Rauðibotn crater.
The red flanks of Rauðibotn are streaked with moss and in nice weather the contrasts are truly vivid and awe-inspiring.
For the bravest, you can keep hiking along the Hólmsá to Lake Hólmsárlón or to reach the Strútslaug hot spring behind the Mælifell.
Aerial view photo credit: Thanayu Jongwattanasilkul @Dreamstime