Geology Rocks! Basalt Columns in Iceland

Basalt Columns at Hofsos, Iceland

Iceland is a minefield of explosive energy, and because of this beautiful shapes and patterns are formed across the landscape.

As basaltic lava cools over an extended period of time, beautiful geometric forms emerge; incredible columns of hexagonal basalt rock that often form cliffs that stretch as high as the eye can see. These wondrous formations can be found all around the world, but Iceland is one of the best places for it without a doubt.

Vik, beach, Iceland
Vik, South Iceland

Black beach Iceland
In some areas the formations are so vast and jaw-droppingly beautiful they look as though they don’t belong on our planet, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, as they reveal the tell-tale signs of the earth’s moments over thousands of years ago.

It’s incredible to think that after such a violent eruption of lava, almost perfectly symmetrical ‘sculptures’ are born. So much order in the chaos! This is due to the way basaltic lava cools; basaltic lava is hotter and flows faster than other forms of lava, and as it cools it forms seemingly perfect hexagonal forms. This process is known as columnar jointing.

Generally, these basaltic columns are found near sources of water, most commonly along coastlines or in the middle of rivers and streams just like the one I stumbled across in Hofsos in North Iceland en route to the pretty fishing town of Siglufjordur.

Balsalt columns in Hofsos, Iceland

It’s shocking how I’d never heard of Hosfos before and a quick Google search reveals most of you probably haven’t either since there’s little written about the basalt columns there. Not even in the Lonely Planet! If these were in another country it would be on the radar much more, but I’m convinced we haven’t because Iceland is packed with so many incredible sites like Dettifoss, Geysir area, Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss, Hverir and so many other unique places that it just gets massively overlooked in the popularity contest.

Hofsos, Iceland, Basalt

Backing my claim is Giant’s Causeway, everyone has heard of it and tourists flock to Ireland every year to marvel at these stunning basalt columns jutting out of the sea, even though I have a feeling Hofsos covers a much larger surface area.

The most famous example of basalt columns is Svartifoss, also known as ‘Black Fall’ tucked away in Skaftafell in Vatnajokull National Park. But its striking appearance isn’t the only thing Svartifoss is notable for; when the architect of Hallgrimskirkja Church, Reykjavik’s most iconic landmark, credited the waterfall as the inspiration behind his iconic creation it strengthened its popularity as one of Iceland’s most loved waterfalls.

Hallgrimskirkja Church

Hallsgrimskirkja Church and Svartifoss waterfall
Can you see the similarity?

Another place which showcases balsalt columns is the area surrounding Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Click to see more of Iceland’s most majestic waterfalls.

Dettifoss waterfall, Iceland

It’s difficult not to fall in love with something that inspires others so much. They are nature’s skyscrapers if you like, sculpted by the hands of Mother Nature herself.

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Where to find Basalt Columns in Iceland

Have you seen basalt columns before? If so, where?

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'Geology Rocks! Basalt Columns in Iceland' have 5 comments

  1. September 24, 2015 @ 9:48 am Van (@snowintromso)

    Your pictures look so beautiful! I’d love to go back to Iceland to see all this!


    • September 24, 2015 @ 7:42 pm Shing Yoong

      Thanks Van! The North of Iceland is amazing with some really bizarre landscapes so I hope you make it there in the near future!


  2. September 6, 2016 @ 8:23 am Exploring Vik & Dyrhólaey: Black Sand Beaches, Cliffs & Puffins | Best Travelers

    […] columns. The columns on the side of the Reynisfjall mountain were formed millions of years ago as seawater met basaltic lava &, as the lava cooled, these soaring columns & a beautiful cave w…. Sadly, the area has become famous in recent years due to a number of drownings & […]


  3. February 13, 2017 @ 4:39 pm Iceland's South Coast - Exploring with Arctic Tours - Exploring Kiwis

    […] stark contrast to the sand to be swept away by the outgoing tide.  Bordering the beach, incredible basalt columns puncture the sky, beckoning visitors to take a closer […]


  4. September 3, 2017 @ 7:04 am Michelle

    Thanks for the info! I linked to your page on our Iceland starter trip. Would love to see these basalt columns.


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