Saxhóll Stairway

Photo Credit Icon Landslag

Saxhóll Stairway

  • Icon for path Path

The short hike up Saxhóll crater provides a view down into the crater itself, but also a great view over the lava fields, the sea and to Snæfellsjökull glacier. An award-winning metal stair protects the fragile landscape and guides visitors quickly up the volcanic crater.

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Graphic map, large.Graphic map, detail.Architecture illustration.

Sensitive landscape

Saxhóll, or small-Saxhóll, is a 40m high ovalshaped crater in the national park Snæfellsjökull, situated right by the ring road around Snæfellsnes peninsula. For a long time it was believed that the path to the center of the earth lay down through the crater on the summit of Snæfellsjökull glacier. It is popular to hike up the crater and the footpath was beginning to deform and widen, which disturbed the sensitive landscape and posed a danger for hikers who slipped on loose ground or slippery dirt. The land is vulnerable and heavy tourist traffic can form noticeable wounds, especially in areas where the lava has a thin or no vegetation cover. There are traces of countless trails that run around the area and it is important to limit the traffic of tourists to selected routes so that the disturbance ceases and the wounds can heal.

Award-winning metal stair

A 160 m long, low-set metal stair was created which follows the path’s course to the top and consists of two arches which meet in a resting platform in the middle, where a harder core of lava is underneath and the surface is more grown. An excavator of the smallest kind was used to level the path, but the slope varies from one section to another. The stair is made up of modules three meters long and 1.5 meters wide that hold seven treads each between solid stringers with open risers. The units join together "like a necklace on the slope" and required no other foundations than the rigid steel plates that are fastened into the slag. Therefore, the structure can be removed without leaving permanent traces. The untreated steel quickly rusted and assimilated into the shades of the crater and the vegetation around. The top of the crater was exposed to damages by tourist traffic and now a viewing platform is now being built on top of the crater by the same designer as the stair.

Volcano hill, orange staircase, detail view from profile.

Photo Credit Icon Þórdís Ólöf Sigurjónsdóttir

Key facts

  • Location

    Saxhóll Crater, Snæfellsjökull National Park, West Iceland

  • GPS points

    N64°51' 5.607" W23°55' 36.348"

  • Protection Framework

    National Park

  • Project Owner

    The Environment Agency of Iceland

  • Designer

    Landslag landscape Architects

  • Year of construction


  • Materials

    Rusted steel

  • Grants

    Grants 29,800,000 ISK in 2019-2021 from the National Plan

  • Awards

    Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize 2018