Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland eruption

Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland eruption

Last update: 2 September 2021

Volcano eruption on Reykjanes Peninsula

The greatest show on Earth is happening in Iceland right now. After months of speculation and more than a year of intense rumbling it finally happened. Reykjanes kicked into action, and coughed up a new volcano in Geldingadalur, a secluded valley below Fagradalsfjall on 19 March 2021.

Mindblowing & magnificent

What followed is a series of breathtaking events so incredible it has blown the minds of many people in Iceland and around the world. This volcano is truly magnificent. It’s just too epic for words; constantly changing, evolving and re-inventing itself. Multiple craters appeared, erupting simultaneously in April, until one of them took over and turned into a giant lava geyser in May. Yes, that’s right: it behaved like an actual geyser, shooting fountains of lava hundreds of metres high in the air! Then it started gushing out cascading lava waterfalls in June. In the meantime, it’s turning into a real shield volcano. It’s one of the most versatile eruptions the world has ever witnessed.

Fagradalsfjall – the mountain of the beautiful valley.
How very appropriate.

Fagradalsfjall fissures and crater row, Reykjanes, Iceland
Fagradalsfjall fissures and crater row on 13 April 2021.

How to get to Geldingadalur and Fagradalsfjall

In this article I will take you through the ongoing dynamic developments, show you how to get to the Fagradalsfjall eruption site and provide some essential & useful recourses for your trip. You can find maps, videos and of course beautiful pictures of baby craters 😉

Never before has a volcanic eruption in Iceland been in such an accessible place. Fagradalsfjall is only 8 kilometres from the town of Grindavík, on the south coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. It takes about 1,5 hours to hike to Geldingadalur from the nearest road, the 427 Suðurstrandarvegur east of Grindavík.

The hiking route keeps changing due to advancing lava flows, new craters and safety measures. I continue to update this article as the excitement unfolds. It evolves with the volcano, so most likely there will be something new going on when you check back in.

Do you want to visit the Fagradalsfjall volcano? What information are you looking for when planning a trip? Let me know in the comments below!

Crater and lava river, Fagradalsfjall, Iceland

Fagradalsfjall volcano update

The eruption is not only extremely beautiful, it causes a bit of a headache and nuisance as well sometimes…

Route A cut off by lava flows

On 13 June the main hiking Route A became virtually inaccessible. Sooner than expected, Geldingadalur overflowed. A sudden lava flow burst over the rim to the south and tumbled down a third sliding slope into Nátthagi Valley, cutting of the track almost by its root. It went over the path just above the steep hill up, at a point where the crater is still out of sight. Although there were spectacular views of the lava rushing down into Nátthagi from several directions! The first flow ran over on 22 May, and the second came in on 5 June, when the two lava barriers at the end of the Nameless Valley finally gave in.

Perhaps the volcano was getting a bit worried about too many people getting too close. Or it just wanted some privacy 😉

Fagradalsfjall volcano livestream
Lava flows over the western barrier into Nátthagi Valley on 5 June 2021. Photo: RÚV.

Lava flowing towards the ocean

At the end of June the lava flow that plunged into Nátthagi Valley was only about 1 kilometre from the Suðurstrandarvegur road between Grindavík and Þorlákshöfn. From there it’s just another 500 metres to the sea. Expectations are that it may reach the road in 20 to 90 days. If the eruption keeps going and the lava can’t be stopped, it could be flowing into the ocean before the end of summer, like Kilauea did on the Big Island of Hawaii. That would be quite a spectacle, even though a blocked road is a bit cumbersome… So another lava barrier was hastily put in place at the narrow entrance of Nátthagi Valley.

The volcano itself is blissfully ignorant of all this and keeps gushing with great enthusiasm.


The harmonic volcanic tremor of Fagradalsfjall.

Dancing to a new rhythm

In July it changed its mind and direction again, and started flowing north towards Meradalir instead. The lava flow in Nátthagi Valley came to a temporary halt. So the road is saved – for now.

Currently the volcano is dancing to a steady rhythm and is erupting in shifts of about 12 to 18 hours on and off.

New craters at Fagradalsfjall, Iceland
The fast growing craters # 5, 6 and 7, that eventually merge into The Big One.

The birth of the newest Iceland volcano

The Fagradalsfjall volcano was born in Geldingadalur on the evening of Friday 19 March 2021. In the darkness, an ominous red glow in the sky became visible from Reykjavik, about 55 kilometres away. The next morning, daylight revealed a ‘beautiful little eruption’, a tiny crater joyfully spreading its lava in steady streams ❤️

Geldingadalur volcano, Reyjkjanes, Iceland
A 3D model screenprint of the newly erupted volcano. Map: Spaceport 3D.

Volcano madness ensues

And people around Reykjavík and all over Iceland went crazy. Thousands flocked to the eruption site every day, trying to find the best way to get to the area. There were kilometres of cars lining up on the road to Grindavík, randomly parking on the roadside and causing huge traffic jams. On some days, the line of cars even extended beyond the turn-off to the Blue Lagoon. People had to hike more than 15 kilometres to even get to the start of the track.

The hiking path towards Geldingadalur was busier than the Laugavegur in high season on any given day!

Festival atmosphere

Hundreds of people sat down on the slopes around the valley, to watch the greatest show on Earth. The atmosphere was similar to Þjóðhátíð in Herjólfsdalur on Vestmannaeyjar. Some people even brought guitars and sang brekkusöngur on the slopes of Geldingadalur. Others were trying to fry eggs and bacon or pizzas, or roast marshmallows on the hot lava rocks.

Hiking route to the volcano

In the meantime, a rough hiking track has been marked by the local rescue teams. There was little to no infrastructure in the area, but there are ambitious plans going on to improve access, facilities and parking places. Instead of closing off the area and prohibit entry, they make sure people can follow the safest route to the volcano. Icelanders do not run away from a good eruption; they run towards it! 😉 They facilitate it and get things done.

Geldingadalur and Fagradalsfjall volcano map

Updated on 28 June 2021

Even when this eruption comes to an end, the area will be a huge attraction for people to visit. This is the current hiking route to Fagradalsfjall from the parking areas along Suðurstrandarvegur, 8 kilometres east of Grindavík. The purple outline is the fast-spreading lava field, the danger zone is shown in red.

Further on in this article you will find more details & practical stuff about the hike to Geldingadalur and the Fagradalsfjall volcano.

Fagradalsfjall eruption hiking route and danger zone
Fagradalsfjall hiking route and danger zone. Photo: Almannavarnir (Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management).

Rumbling on Reykjanes

It had been rumbling around the Reykjanes Peninsula since the end of 2019, with swarms of earthquakes in the area throughout the year. In January and February 2020 it already looked like an eruption was about to happen in Mount Þorbjörn, just behind the Blue Lagoon. Magmatic intrusion caused an uplift of about 10 cm around the mountain. Crisis meetings were held in the nearby town of Grindavík and evacuation plans were discussed.

Reykjanes volcanic tremor and earthquakes
Intense earthquakes around Fagradalsfjall in January 2020. Magma started rising up from the Earth’s mantle and looking for a way out…

Volcanic tremor is imminent

At the end of February 2021, excitement was building and volcanic tremor became imminent. More than 50.000 earthquakes were recorded and cracks appeared in the roads near Grindavík. People escaped from the town, because they just couldn’t sleep due to the constant earthquakes and rumbling.

A perfect eruption

Then the volcano decided to erupt in the most convenient location: inside an isolated bathtub-shaped valley, on an uninhabited mountain plateau surrounded by several peaks and dotted with more bowls and valleys. Even though it’s in the area between Reykjavík and Keflavík international airport, there is no threat to infrastructure or towns, as of yet. It will take quite some time before all these tubs are filled with lava. If they run over, it will most likely flow towards the ocean to the south.

Previous predictions were more worrysome. After Þorbjörn settled down, Mount Keilir was the next likely candidate for an eruption, and lava was expected to flow over the main airport road, into the Blue Lagoon, or towards Grindavík.

Baby crater, Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
Birth of the future lava geyser.

Fagradalsfjall – Iceland’s baby volcano

Scientists initially didn’t expect that the Fagradalsfjall eruption in Geldingadalur would last very long. Perhaps only a few days or weeks. But this stubborn little volcano has a mind of its own, and keeps surprising everyone. And it’s growing more and more spectacular each day inside its own secluded valley. There have been so many changes and new episodes you can barely keep up with it!

A chain of volcanic events and fissures is at the bottom of this article.

The growing volcano is delighting millions of people around the world, thanks to the livestream from the webcams set up by RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Everyone and their drone wants to be part of it and take a piece of the action.

Geldingadalur volcano livestream
One happy little volcano. Or actually, two!
Mesmerizing livestream of a new volcano being born. Photo: RÚV.

The drone-melting volcano

Streams of mindblowing lava pictures and spectacular drone videos were coming out of Iceland and flooding all over YouTube. Countless drones have already been sacrificed to the volcano and melted in its fiery pits, in futile attempts to fly close over the craters and look straight into the eye of the eruption.

Even a poor unfortunate webcam on the slopes of Fagradalsfjall went down under the relentless advancing lava flow. A second MBL webcam succumbed to the lava on 18 May.

Bjorn Steinbekk must be the king of molten drones. Thanks to him and many others, we can enjoy some spectacular first row & close-up views of the creation process of Earth itself.

The volcano is probably getting annoyed by all these drones buzzing around its head, trying to peek into its craters and inner sanctuary. So it just devours them with fiery tongues like a lava chameleon 🔥 I wonder how many molten drones it has spit out by now…

The Night of 8 Erupting Volcanoes

13 April 2021

After two weeks I couldn’t take it any longer. I was as restless as the ground beneath Reykjanes, and well & truly hit by the Volcano Virus. I just had to go and see the thing. This would be an unprecedented chance to see an erupting volcano that close. So went on a mad dash to Iceland, booked a last-minute flight, submitted myself to various covid tests and a strict 5-day quarantine, and got out just in time for my birthday.

The birthday craters

And it turned out to be the most spectacular show so far. I was treated to not just one, but 4 new birthday candles that appeared on the eruption site that day. It was the only day when all 8 craters were erupting simultaneously.

I’ve seen a couple of spectaculair things, but standing next to a line of 8 erupting volcanoes was a whole new level of the mind being blown. This was completely Off The Scale. A volcano geek’s wildest dream come true 😉

The crater that will take over the show and become a giant lava geyser. It looked so cute & innocent the day it was born… Including tiny volcano sounds 😉

Raging madhouse

It was a raging madhouse, one great big lava fountain festival. Hallucinating orange rivers were streaming in all directions, lava ponds bubbling up all over the place, and fast-flowing lava falls pouring out of various craters.

Erupting craters and lava streams everywhere in Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
Erupting craters and lava streams everywhere!

Overflowing craters, Fagradalsfjall, Iceland
Collapsing craters and lava sliding slopes.

Fagradalsfjall north crater and lava river, Reykjanes, Iceland
The north crater sends off a mighty river of molten rock.

Gushing and tinkling sounds of lava

It was incredible to stand there and be surrounded by it all, seeing geological processes happening on an epic scale before my own eyes. Hearing the mesmerizing sounds of gushing lava coughed up from multiple fiery pits, and the intricate crushing and tinkling of lava streams and rivers.

The flowing lava sounds a lot like piles of breaking glass rolling forth!

Geldingadalur overflows

I went to the Fagradalsfjall eruption site again the next day, and two more times during that week. On 17 April, lava flowed over the last part of the hiking track (Route A), and closed off access to the ‘helicopter hill’ where the rescue team and scientists are based. In the following days, the other craters subsided one by one. On my last visit on 19 April, one of the original twin craters was only belching up fumes. The other one stopped erupting a day later.

Lava flows into Meradalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
Lava streaming into Meradalur.

The Fagradalshraun lava field and volcanic geyser, Reykjanes, Iceland
The Fagradalshraun lava field and volcanic geyser at the beginning of May. The second valley to the right is quickly filling up! Photo: mbl.is / Kristinn Magnússon.

Hiking routes to the Fagradalsfjall eruption site

The hike to the volcano

The walking track to the viewpoints in Geldingadalur is about 3,5 kilometres one-way. Route A was closed off by several lava flows in June, but Route B is still open. Meanwhile, a Route C has also been established. It goes into Nátthagi Valley and up to Langihryggur on the east side of the valley.

These pictures were taken on Route A when the track was still open (and quite rough) in April.

Hiking track to Fagradalsfjall, Reykjanes, Iceland
The volcano track from the car park towards Fagradalsfjall.

Steep hill up towards Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
The steep hill up on Route A, when it was still a bit rough.

Track improvements (and rearrangements)

Route A
The hiking route was changed a couple of times due to new lava flows and developments. The initial rough track was greatly improved in May. Route A became a comfortable wide gravel path and much easier to walk. It gradually went up along the hillside and bypassed the steep sliding slope on the original track.

Unfortunately, people could only enjoy it for about a month. Most of Route A was cut off by the advancing lava flow on 13 June – see the updated Geldingadalur and Fagradalsfjall volcano map further up in this article. You can still take the first part of Route A up to where another lava barrier has been put up. Then you turn left up a steep hill and follow the edge of the plateau towards the Route B viewpoint.

Route B
Route B goes to the original volcano lookout point over Geldingadalur. But it’s a lot rougher and steeper than the recently smoothed Route A. The end of Route B is much closer to the crater than Route C. If there is a lot of activity you can have great views of lava flows into Geldingadalur, although you can’t see inside the crater from there.

It takes about 1 to 1,5 hours from the car park if you take it easy. The first 2 kilometres are on flat terrain, although it’s a little rocky in some parts. The last part of Route B involves a bit of scrambling up a steep hill, with ropes attached on the upper section. Then you reach the Fagradalsfjall plateau, which is relatively flat again, but with big rocks scattered throughout.

Langihryggur and Stórihrutur

Route C
The new Route C has become the most popular Fagradalsfjall hike. It goes up to the Langihryggur ridge on the east side of Nátthagi Valley. The first hill is the steepest part; it gets easier after that. When you’re about halfway up, the crater becomes visible in all its intimidating glory. Be aware that the path up to Langihryggur is very exposed on all sides. When it’s calm, it’s a great hike, with spectacular views all around. But when it’s windy, it can be horrendous… When it’s foggy, chances are you can’t see the crater at all, as the top often gets shrouded in low clouds.

Stórihrutur extension
Stórihrutur rises up at the end of Langihryggur. It’s the tallest mountain in the valley and provides even more spectacular views towards Meradalur. You can see the entire lava field, which has filled several valleys, nooks and crannies by now.

Hiking distance (return): Route B: 7 kilometres. Route C: 8 kilometres.
Elevation: about 300 metres.

Nameless Valley, nafnlausa dal, Geldingadalur, Iceland
The ‘Nameless Valley’ (nafnlausa dal). This is now competely filled up with lava…
Stórihrutur is the big mountain on the right.

Important information about weather and safety conditions

Ocasionally the eruption site is closed in case of horrendous weather, blizzards coming in, or too much gas pollution around the track in combination with an unfavourable wind direction. In the first weeks of the eruption, rescue teams had to work day and night to scoop up people around the valley, who were lost, tired and cold. Nowadays the rescue team is usually present from 12 o’clock noon to midnight.

Before you set off, check Safe Travel – they added a special eruption page. Blika has a handy overview of weather-, wind-, precipation- and gas pollution conditions (in Icelandic). More details about the gas pollution forecasts are on Veður, the Icelandic Met Office weather site.

Lava flowing over the hiking track in the Nameless Valley, Reykjanes, Iceland
Lava flowing over the hiking track into the Nameless Valley and Meradalur on the other side.

Best time to see the volcano and lava flows

Although you can see spectacular sights any time of the day, the best time to visit is during the magical twilight hours before sunset, when the lava starts glowing and illuminating the sky in the soft evening light of the midnight sun. This is of course also the busiest time on the eruption site.

Crater lighthouses, Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland

How to get to the Fagradalsfjall hiking route

As with many places in Iceland, driving a car is by far the easiest way to get anywhere. There is no direct bus or shuttle from Keflavík Airport to Grindavík. But there are some options:

  • Strætó public bus from Keflavík Airport or from Reykjavík to Grindavík. The bus usually goes once every 1 or 2 hours, and you need to change either in Keflavík town centre (Reykjanesbær) or at the turn-off to the Blue Lagoon (bus 55 and 88).
  • A variety of guided tours from Reykjavík or the Reykjanes area.

Rescue team base, hiking track, Fagradalsfjall, Iceland
The rescue team base at the start of the hiking route.

Fagradalsfjall parking areas near Grindavík

The start of the track is easy to find. Coming from Grindavík, you’ll see the rescue team’s base to the left of the road. The parking area for Route A and B is on the other side of a small lava field to the right, but you have to drive about a kilometre further down to get to the access road on the right. The access road to this parking area is a rough track. It’s doable with a normal car, but you have to drive very carefully (and slow!)

Meanwhile, a new parking area for Route C has been established across the road on the left.

Even a fish & chips truck has arrived on the scene. Although it may not always be open when you most want it to be, before or after the hike… Meanwhile, the rescue teams have also added some toilet booths and a food & drinks kiosk, where you can buy some much needed snacks.

Lights down the hill on the way down from Fagradalsfjall. Reykjanes, Iceland
Lights down the hill (and a drone flying overhead).

Fagradalsfjall eruption glow in the sky, Reykjanes, Iceland
Eruption glow in the sky.

Fagradalsfjall and Reykjanes volcanoes map

This handy interactive map shows the Fagradalsfjall area, as well as several geological hotspots and hidden treasures around Reykjanes. You can also zoom in for more details.

Chain of volcanic events in Geldingadalur

First episode – The twin volcano

19 March to 4 April 2021

The eruption started off in a single crater with two tiny cones on the side. A few days later, the main crater partly collapsed, while one of the secondary cones dramatically increased during the first week. The smallest cone proved to be a fierce little one, and has almost grown as big as the main crater. By the end of March they were happily erupting side by side.

The old and the new craters, Geldingadalur, Iceland
The old and the new craters. The original twin volcano is on the left.

Second episode – A chain of new craters

5 to 13 April 2021

A whole line of new craters explode onto the scene every 2 or 3 days, culminating in the spectacular Night of 8 Erupting Volcanoes on 13 April.

How many craters and fissures are in Geldingadalur and when did they start?

  • 19 March: Fissure #1 kicks off the eruption in the confined bowl of Geldingadalur. The crater sits on a little hill inside the valley, gradually filling it up with lava flows.
  • 5 April: Fissure #2 appears on a ridge north of Geldingadalur. It quickly develops into a ‘mini-Holuhraun’ with a vigorously boiling elongated crater. This crater emits very scenic lava patterns and sends spectacular rivers of lava down a steep gorge into Meradalur, the valley below.
  • 7 April: Fissure #3 opens up between the two craters. It connects the separate lava fields from the first and second craters and forms into a tall lighthouse beacon.
  • 10 April: Fissure #4 pops up between the second and third crater and adds more lava to the flow into Meradalur.
  • 13 April: The Fissure Fountain Festival! Fissures #5, #6 and #7 join the show closely together between the first and third crater, while fissure #8 appears between the third and fourth crater. The whole area between the first crater to the south and the second crater to the north is filled with a straight line of eight erupting volcanoes.

Fagradalsfjall craters and hiking routes
Fagradalsfjall craters and hiking routes. Map: RÜV.

Lava inferno at Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
The lava inferno at Geldingadalur on 13 April 2021.

Third episode – Demise of the old craters

14 to 26 April 2021

Crater #2, the northernmost one, is the first one to go out. It had been very active from the start, but emptied its boiling crater lake in a great river of molten rock down to Meradalur as a final goodbye on 13 April. The other craters stop erupting one by one. By 20 April, only one of the new craters remains active.

Meanwhile, lava has flown over part of the hiking track Route A. The triplets #5, #6 and #7 grow fast and finally merge into one great firepit. It’s already bigger than the original twin craters, and is now referred to as Crater #5.

The triplets merging into one crater, Geldingadalur, Fagradalsfjall volcano, Iceland
The triplets merging into one, 19 April 2021.

Fourth episode – The giant lava fountain!

27 April to 1 June 2021

There is no end to the surprising twists & turns in this epic volcano saga. Scientists and other volcano enthusiasts are stunned, confused and awestruck when Crater #5 turns into an actual lava geyser. It starts producing huge fountains of over 300 metres tall, erupting on and off every 5 to 10 minutes. It quickly fills up the second valley to the east of Geldingadalur and sends big lava flows down another sliding slope into Meradalur. The helicopter hill with the rescue team and measurement stations becomes an isolated island in the lava sea.

On 2 May, the flow from Crater #5 merges with the earlier lava from Crater #2 in Meradalur. The fountains took a day off on 8 May, but kicked into action again shortly after. It just keeps gushing and gushing!

My birthday craters took over the show and turned into a giant lava geyser. The April 13 crater rules them all 😉

Fifth episode – Lava flows into Nátthagi Valley

(and towards the road!)

22 May 2021 & ongoing

The lava flow reaches the edge of the second valley, known as the ‘Nameless Valley’ (nafnlausa dal), right up to where the hiking track comes in. Construction workers frantically built two lava defence barriers on the southern end of the valley, to divert the relentless flow and stop it from tumbling down into Nátthagi Valley. Once it gets there, it will eventually flow over Suðurstrandarvegur road a few kilometres further on.

The barrier only lasted for a week. A huge lava avalange comes crashing down the sliding slope into Nátthagi Valley on 22 May. Engineers are exploring options to protect the road from the advancing lava. The second barrier next to the hiking track couldn’t handle the increased flow anymore and finally gave in on 5 June. Spectacular streams of lava rush down another slope into Nátthagi, adding more to the flow that already went down the eastern side.

Beware of the Lava Monster. It will devour anything that comes in its way. Including multiple drones, webcams, and silly tourists that dare to thread on it while its sleeping… 😉 It shows no mercy.

The Silver Crater

At the beginning of June, the fountains subsided. Then the volcano starts pouring out big cascades of lava. It keeps coming up with surprises and transforms into a shiny silver crater. Cooled bits of lava around it form a glassy crust, reflecting a silvery glow.

Perhaps it will be spitting out diamonds next! 😉

Fagradalsfjall volcano livestream
The cup runneth over. The horn of plenty. It just keeps gushing & giving… Photo: MBL.

Sixt episode – The bowl runs over

(and cuts off more and more parts of Route A)

4 June 2021 & ongoing

The crater becomes a massive bowl of roiling & boiling fire, gushing out huge cascading waterfalls of lava like a fiery version of Dynjandi. It has grown over 200 metres tall and rises above many of the surrounding hills in Geldingadalur. On 4 June, lava flows over the ridge behind the main viewing hill right across from the volcano, making it yet another island in the lava sea. A sudden flow from Geldingadalur bursts over the rim to the south and tumbles down a third sliding slope into Nátthagi Valley, cutting of the track almost by its root.

The increasing lava field is now only a kilometre from the Suðurstrandarvegur road, and about a further 500 metres from the sea. Ocean entry of lava flows is imminent…

Evolution of the volcano

This excellent compilation by Hermann Helguson shows how the Fagradalsfjall volcano and its many craters evolved from the very start of the eruption until the beginning of June. A beauiful documentation from the first tiny craters to the giant lava gushing geyser bowl, featuring fantastic views and beautiful lava flow patterns.

Volcano newscasts

This report from Reykjavík Grapevine shows close-up views of the lava flow in Nátthagi. Their volcano newscasts are brilliant. Very informative, with detailed explanations and stunning (drone) footage. The reporter’s enthusiasm is contagious, and he knows what he is talking about. I’m a big fan.

I created a playlist with all these volcano newscasts on my YouTube channel, so you have them all nicely grouped together.

Future predictions of the Fagradalsfjall eruption

What will it think of next?

Scientists are predicting that the Reykjanes eruption could last longer than initially expected. It might go on for many months, or even years to come. Fagradalsfjall is a very unusual volcano; its behaviour keeps surprising everyone and is completely diferent from any other volcanoes. Normally, an eruption is more powerful at the beginning and gradually becomes less. This one does quite the opposite.

Wilderness Coffee at Fagradalsfjall, Reykjanes, Iceland
Wilderness Coffee with a view to 8 erupting volcanoes.

No signs of slowing down

The intensity has grown dramatically since the lava geysers at the beginning of May. The lava flowing out of the crater has increased by 70% and the eruption is twice as powerful as it has been for most of the time so far. It’s very unusual for an eruption to be still growing stronger after nearly 3 months. And earth scientists in Iceland see no signs that it’s slowing down any time soon.

It could become a shield volcano

According to early data, this is the oldest lava that has bubbled up to the surface in Iceland for 7000 years. The fountains are fed by ancient magma rising straight up from the mantle. It may even become a dyngja, a shield volcano, like the massive Mauna Loa on Hawaii; the queen of all shield volcanoes. Which means it could go on for years, or even decades. In recent history, the Krafla fires near Mývatn went on for 9 years between 1975 and 1984.

Shield volcano in the making, Geldingadalur, Iceland
A dyngja in the making….

The eruption site is now officially named Fagradalshraun – the beautiful valley lava. The crater itself has yet to be named. It’s still commonly referred to as Crater #5 or Fagradalsfjall volcano.

Volcanic eruptions in Iceland in the past decade

Fagradalsfjall volcano is the first eruption in Iceland since the remote Bárðarbunga came up with huge fire fountains in 2014. It’s in an area that hasn’t erupted for 800 years. The last time was during the infamous Reykjanes Fires in the 13th century, when the Eldvörp-Svartsengi volcanoes produced ominous lava flows on the western part of the peninsula.

Now that the beast has woken, Reykjanes might be in for a new Episode of Fires. Local scientists think that up to 20 new volcanoes could appear out of the fissures all over the peninsula during this renewed period of activity, that could go on and off for the next decades or even centuries…

Reykjanes volcanic systems, Iceland
Map of the Reykjanes volcanic systems. Photo: Iceland GeoSurvey (ISOR).

Average number of eruptions in Iceland

On average a volcanic eruption happens in Iceland every 4 years or so. Its unique location, on top of a hot spot and the Mid-Atlantic rift zone, makes the ground restless underneath its shallow crust. In the last decade, there have been 4 volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

  • 2010: Fimmvörðuháls, from 20 March to 13 April, followed by
  • 2010: Eyjafjallajökull, from 14 April to 23 May
  • 2011: Grimsvotn, from 21 to 28 May
  • 2014: Holuhraun (Bárðarbunga), from 31 August 2014 to 27 February 2015

Foggy lava field, Geldingadalur, Iceland

Secret strategy

Iceland seems to have a secret strategy: in times of crisis they throw in a volcanic eruption to boost the economy. This proved to be very succesful when they engaged Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. Last year, the Suðurnes region had the highest unemployment rates of Iceland, mainly due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This volcano will bring a much-needed increase to the region’s economy, now that Reykjanes is the hottest place in the country.

Which one will be next?

There has been much speculation over the past years on which one would be next. Grímsvötn, the most frequently erupting volcano? The unpredictable Hekla, who may explode at any given moment with very little warning? An unexpected new island rising from the sea near Vestmannaeyjar, like Surtsey did in 1964?

Or the scariest beast of them all, the ‘long overdue’ Katla volcano, who has been rumbling for years and sets off mighty eruptions and giant jökullhlaups when it goes. Katla’s magma tubes are connected deep underground to Eyjafjallajökull, and said to be triggered usually within a decade or less after Eyjafjallajökull went off…

Volcano eruption and northern lights, Grindavik, Iceland
Two spectacles in one: a volcanic eruption and northern lights! 😀

The youngest volcano in Iceland

In the end, the giants and usual suspects were all beaten by this extraordinary new eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It started almost to the day that Fimmvörðuháls kicked off last decades’ eruptions on 20 March 2010.

And Eldfell on Vestmannaeyjar is no longer Iceland’s youngest volcano.

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

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Iceland volcano eruption livestream

Mesmerizing views of the gushing crater, from the RÚV webcam on Langihryggur. Although sometmes it only shows fog or raindrops sliding down the lens, when Langihryggur is surrounded by clouds or volcanic smoke…

Covid travel restrictions Iceland

In these uncertain times, things can change quickly. Procedures are constantly evaluated and updated. For the current situation regarding Covid-19 related travel advice and restrictions in Iceland, see Covid.is (in English).

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More to explore & discover

Reykjanes – Hidden treasures beyond the barren landscape

The walking track to Helgafell – The twin volcano

Island hopping on the Aeolian Islands – A volcanic archipelago

Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth

Mountains & Volcanoes – 7 Epic mountains and volcanoes

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