After more than a year of intense rumbling, the greatest show on Earth started in Iceland. Reykjanes kicked into action and coughed up a new volcano in Geldingadalur, a secluded valley below Fagradalsfjall on 19 March 2021. In this extensive article you can read all about the extraordinary Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland – and how to get there!
The new volcano on Reykjanes Peninsula 🌋
The Fagradalsfjall eruption ignited a chain of events so incredible it has blown the minds of many people in Iceland and around the world. During its 6-months period of activity, the volcano was constantly changing, evolving and re-inventing itself. Fagradalsfjall is one of the most versatile eruptions the world has ever witnessed.
Mindblowing & magnificent
Multiple craters appeared, erupting simultaneously in April 2021, until one of them took over and turned into a giant lava geyser. Yes – that’s no joke: for a month it actually behaved like a geyser, shooting fountains of lava hundreds of metres high in the air! Then it boiled over and gushed out cascading lava waterfalls from June onwards.
Fagradalsfjall – the mountain of the beautiful valley. How very appropriate.
Fagradalsfjall fissures and crater row on 13 April 2021.
2024 Grindavík state of emergency and eruption
Update 10 February 2024: Three short but intense eruptions have happened within 2 months in the Svartsengi volcanic system just north of Grindavík. Sadly, these were not harmless eruptions in an isolated valley like the ones at Fagradalsfjall in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Weeks of intense earthquake swarms and land uplift preceeded the eruptions. On 10 November 2023 a 15 kilometre long magma tunnel formed beneath the Grindavík area, and the entire town was evacuated. It remains uncertain if and when residents can return. RÚV English and Veður (the Icelandic Met Office) give frequent updates on the current situation.
The first eruption started on 18 December 2023 near the Sundhnúkagígar craters. The fissure was 4 kilometres long, but it quickly reduced and the eruption ended on 21 December. The second one was on 14 January 2024 and closer to Grindavík. It lasted for just two days, but the lava flow cut off the main road to Grindavík (Road 43). Three houses were destroyed when a second small fissure erupted on the northern edge of the town. The third eruption came on 8 February 2024, again at the Sundhnúkagígar craters. Another lava flow went over Road 43, right at the turnoff to the Blue Lagoon. It was finished within 24 hours, making it the shortest eruption in Icelandic history.
The Sundhnúkagígar eruption on 8 February 2024. Photo: Icelandic Met Office.
Lava barriers to protect against future eruptions
After the earthquakes and subsequent evacuation in November 2023, the Icelandic authorities didn’t waste time to build a lava barrier around the Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon. Another lava defense barrier is being constructed around Grindavík. It withstood its baptism by fire on 14 January 2024 and proved to be very effective in diverting the lava flow from the main fissure.
Volcanic unrest and land uplift continues in the Svartsengi area north of Grindavík. This could lead to yet another eruption in the coming weeks. The map below shows the Sundhnúkagígar lava field from December 2023, the new lava fields from January and February 2024 and the current danger zone (updated on 15 February 2024).
Volcanic danger zone around Grindavík as per 15 February 2024. Source: Icelandic Met Office. For current road conditions and closures on Reykjanes Peninsula, see Road.is.
@ This article is about the first Fagradalsfjall eruption in 2021.
Getting to Geldingadalur and Fagradalsfjall
In this article I will take you through the 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 an overview of the different hiking routes as per 2024. And of course pictures of beautiful baby craters. ❤️
Never before has a volcanic eruption in Iceland been in such an accessible place. The Fagradalsfjall area is only 8 kilometres from Grindavík, on the south coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. Yet there has been no destruction of houses because of its location inside a valley surrounded by mountains. Volcanoes on Reykjanes are effusive, without big ash clouds like Eyjafjallajökull. They tend to ooze from the ground and produce spectacular lava flows and fountains.
The most beautiful volcano in the world
Fagradalsfjall was by far the most popular trip in Iceland in 2021. More than 300.000 people have visited the eruption site and climbed up its rocky slopes, to worship the most beautiful volcano in the world. I have been following the excitement since the day it was born and visited it during various episodes of activity.
@ Details & practical information about the hike to Fagradalsfjall are further down in this article – including the updated 2024 hiking routes.
Sunrise on Fagradalsfjall volcano, August 2021.
Fagradalsfjall volcano update
Is Fagradalsfjall still erupting?
The volcano gave its last dramatic lava shows between 11 and 18 September 2021. On its 6-month birthday, it finally decided to take a break and retreated into a prolonged winter sleep on 19 September. After three months without fireworks, the Fagradalsfjall eruption was officially declared over on 18 December 2021.
The saga continues!
However, Reykjanes keeps on rumbling at irregular intervals… In 2022 and 2023 the Fagradalsfjall saga continued with new eruptions at Meradalir and Litli-Hrútur in the same area. They both lasted for a few weeks.
But even when there’s no actively erupting volcano, the surrounding area with its extensive steaming lava fields and the colourful crater itself is an incredible sight to see.
Crater #5, the future lava geyser on the day it was born.
Birth of the newest volcano in Iceland
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.
Oh my god, it’s beautiful! 😍 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 into the area. Kilometres of cars were 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.
Geldingadalur 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 a festival like Þjóðhátíð in Herjólfsdalur on Vestmannaeyjar. Some people even brought guitars and sang brekkusöngur on the slopes of Geldingadalur to serenade the volcano. Others were trying to fry eggs and bacon or pizzas, or roast marshmallows on the hot lava rocks.
The hiking track towards Geldingadalur was busier than the Laugavegur in high season on any given day!
Lights down the hill (and a drone flying overhead).
Icelanders and their volcanoes… 😉
Hiking route to the volcano
There was little to no infrastructure near the eruption site, but plans to improve access, facilities and parking places were quickly carried out. Within four days after the eruption began, a rough hiking track had already been marked by the local rescue teams. Instead of closing off the area, the authorities made sure people could follow the safest route to enjoy the volcano.
Icelanders do not run away from a good eruption – they run towards it! They facilitate it and get things done.
The hiking route kept changing during the summer of 2021 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 there might be something new going on when you check back in!
The ‘Nameless Valley’ (nafnlausa dal) on the upper part of the Route A hiking track in April 2021. This poor valley is now competely filled up with lava…
Rumbling on Reykjanes
It had been rumbling around the Reykjanes Peninsula since the end of 2019, with swarms of earthquakes throughout the year. Already in January 2020 it looked like an eruption was about to happen in Mount Þorbjörn, just behind the Blue Lagoon. Crisis meetings were held in the nearby town of Grindavík and evacuation plans were discussed.
Volcanic tremor is imminent
At the end of February 2021, tension was building up 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. Magma was rising up from the mantle of the Earth and looking for a way out…
Volcanic tremor and earthquakes going crazy in the weeks before the eruption in March 2021.
Mount Þorbjörn near Grindavík, with steam rising from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant.
A perfect eruption
Then the volcano decided to erupt in the most convenient location: inside the isolated bathtub-shaped valley of Geldingadalur. Even though it’s in the area between Reykjavík and Keflavík international airport, there was no direct threat to surrounding towns or infrastructure. The volcano is on an uninhabited plateau surrounded by mountain peaks and dotted with several more bowls and valleys. It takes quite some time before all those bowls are filled with lava. If they run over, the lava would 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. Lava was expected to flow over the main airport road, into the Blue Lagoon, or towards Grindavík.
One happy little volcano. Or actually, two!
Mesmerizing livestream of a new volcano being born. Screenprint: RÚV livestream.
Fagradalsfjall – Iceland’s baby volcano
Initially scientists didn’t expect that the Geldingadalur eruption would last very long; perhaps only a few days or weeks. But this stubborn little volcano has a mind of its own. It kept surprising everyone, and was growing more and more spectacular each day inside its own secluded valley. During its 6 months of activity, there have been so many changes and new episodes you could barely keep up with it!
The growing volcano delighted millions of people around the world, thanks to the livestream from webcams set up by RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Everyone and their drone wanted to be part of it and take a piece of the action.
@ You can read more about the chain of volcanic events and fissures below the hiking information in this article.
Volcanic lighthouses in Geldingadalur.
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 were sacrificed to the volcano and melted in its fiery pits, in futile attempts to fly close over the craters and look straight into their erupting hearts. The volcano must have gotten annoyed by all those drones buzzing around its head and trying to peek into its inner sanctuary. So it just devoured them with fiery tongues like a lava chameleon. Fagradalsfjall quickly became notorious as the drone graveyard of Iceland!
I wonder how many molten drones it spat out by now…
Even a poor unfortunate webcam on the slopes of Fagradalsfjall went down under the relentless lava flow. A second webcam from MBL succumbed to the advancing lava a month later. But thanks to those drone pilots and live webcams, people around the world could enjoy some spectacular first row & close-up views of the creation process of Earth itself.
A compilation video of 8 erupting craters on the day the shield volcano-producing crater kicked into life.
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. It would be an unprecedented chance to see an erupting volcano this close. So I 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
That day 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 of the Fagradalsfjall volcano were erupting simultaneously.
I’ve seen a couple of spectaculair things in my life, 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.
I felt like a kid in a playground whose birthday presents had come all at once. It was a volcano geek’s wildest dream come true! 😀
Natural high! & birthday candles @ Geldingadalur.
The crater that will take over the show and become a giant lava geyser. It looked so cute & innocent on the day it was born… Including tiny volcano sounds!
Geldingadalur was one great big lava fountain festival. It was a raging madhouse! Hallucinating rivers of orange molten rocks were streaming in all directions, lava ponds bubbling up all over the place, and fast-flowing lava falls pouring out of various craters. It made smooth ropy pahoehoe flows right before my eyes – just like Kilauea on Hawaii.
I was overwhelmed with feelings of natural high and happiness to get this incredible show on my birthday. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
I actually witnessed the birth of a shield volcano.
Erupting craters and lava streams everywhere!
Collapsing craters and lava sliding slopes.
The north crater sends off a mighty river of molten rock.
Soul of the Earth
Seeing an erupting volcano is like looking into the very soul of the Earth, sparkling with the joyous energy of life. ‘People have wept before it’ – a remarkable quote about the moment they saw the Fagradalsfjall volcano for the first time. That’s how beautiful, intense and soul-touching it is.
The sound of the lava flow
It was mind-blowing to stand there and be surrounded by it all. Seeing geological processes happening on an epic scale before my own eyes. Hearing the mesmerizing sound of gushing lava coughed up from multiple fiery pits. At the same time I was surprised by the delicate sound of the lava flows, softly crushing and tinkling as they slowly moved forward.
The flowing lava sounds a lot like piles of gently breaking glass rolling forth.
The next day I went to the Fagradalsfjall eruption site again, and was stunned to see how much the birthday craters had grown overnight. Little fire cracker #5 had doubled in size, and craters #6 and #7 were already merging.
Bad weather and howling winds prevented access to Geldingadalur for two days after that. But then it cleared up and I came back two more times during that week in April 2021.
Lava flowed over the end section of the hiking track (Route A) on 17 April. It closed off the access to the so-called ‘helicopter hill’, where the rescue team and scientists were based. In the following days, the other craters subsided one by one. During 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.
The fast growing craters #5, #6 and #7, that eventually merge into The Big One.
Lava tumbling into the deep Meradalir valley behind Fagradalsfjall on 19 April 2021.
A river of lava flowing beneath the helicopter hill.
One crater to rule them all
Then the activity shifted, and started to concentrate around Crater #5 – the One Crater to rule them all. It was absolutely mesmerizing to watch the ongoing developments on the webcam livestreams from RÚV, MBL and Vísir, especially when the epic lava geyser episode kicked into action in May 2021.
I couldn’t stay away from it. So I came back several times more and hiked all the routes in different periods in 2021. I explored Routes B and C in June, hiked around the entire lava field in July, and spent a truly magical night at the flowing volcano on Stóri-Hrútur and Langihryggur in August.
Fagradalsfjall has even triggered me to buy a drone (yes, I succumbed to the drone hype too!)
Flying a drone towards the active crater! It came back to tell the story… 😉
Fagradalsfjall crater close-up in August 2021, taken with my drone.
The Fagradalshraun lava field and volcanic geyser at the beginning of May 2021. The ‘nameless’ valley to the right filled up within 3 weeks! Photo: mbl.is.
The original Route A became virtually inaccessible in June 2021. The geyser activity crancked up the lava production and Geldingadalur overflowed – sooner than expected. Gónhóll, the spectacular viewpoint hill right in front of the volcano, was cut off by lava flows on 5 June. The next hill behind it followed on 13 June. Streams of lava tumbled down a steep sliding slope into Nátthagi Valley, cutting off the track almost by its root.
Noooo…! This happened just a few days before I could finally go back to Fagradalsfjall. I was so excited to see it up close again… But from then on, the volcano could only be admired from a distance. Perhaps it just wanted some privacy…
Lava flowing towards the ocean?
At the end of June 2021, the lava flow that plunged into Nátthagi was only 1 kilometre away from the Suðurstrandarvegur Road 427 between Grindavík and Þorlákshöfn. At that time, it was expected to reach the road within 3 months. Ocean entry seemed imminent and lava might be flowing into the sea by the end of summer. Even though a blocked road is a bit cumbersome, that would have been quite a spectacle! It didn’t happen in the end, and Suðurstrandarvegur still remains lava-free.
Meanwhile, the volcano itself was blissfully ignorant of all this and kept gushing with great enthusiasm.
Spectacular lava flows into Nátthagi Valley on 5 June 2021. Screenprint: RÚV livestream.
The volcano track towards Fagradalsfjall, when it was still a bit rough in April 2021.
Hiking routes to Fagradalsfjall volcano
Location of the eruption site
The Fagradalsfjall area is 8 kilometres east of Grindavík, on the south coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. There are three new parking fields by the nearest road, the 427 Suðurstrandarvegur.
From the car parks it takes about 1,5 to 2 hours to hike to the viewpoints of Geldingadalur, west of the crater (Route A and B – 3,5 kilometres) or Langihryggur, east of the crater (Route C – 4 kilometres). The end of the lava flow in Nátthagi Valley is only a 10 to 20 minute walk from the main P2 car park. Route C goes into Nátthagi and up to Langihryggur on the east side of the valley.
The end of the lava flow in Nátthagi Valley.
Track improvements (and rearrangements)
Route A: Geldingadalur – 7 km return
The hiking routes have changed a couple of times due to new lava flows and developments. Route A was greatly improved in May 2021. It became a comfortable wide gravel path and gradually went up along the hillside, bypassing the steep slope on the original track. Unfortunately, people could only enjoy it for about a month. Most of the old Route A was cut off by the advancing lava flows in June 2021.
New Route A: Meradalir – 12 km return
When Meradalir erupted to the scene in August 2022, Route A was updated & extended again and replaced the more difficult Route B as the main hiking route to Geldingadalur. It takes about 1,5 to 2 hours to hike all the way to the Meradalir viewpoint at the end of Geldingadalur.
The hill at the start of Route A, before the hiking track was improved.
Hiking track towards Route B, going up the steep slope on the right.
Route B: Geldingadalur – 7 km return
Route B goes up to the original volcano lookout over Geldingadalur. It’s much rougher and steeper than Route C, but the viewpoints on Route B are closer to the crater. On days with a lot of activity there were awesome views of lava flows into Geldingadalur, although you can’t see inside the crater from there.
The hike on Route B takes about 1 to 1,5 hours from the car park (P1 on the map), if you take it easy. The first 2 kilometres are on flat terrain that is a little rocky in some places. The middle section of Route B involves a bit of scrambling up a very steep hill, with ropes attached on the upper part. Then you reach the Fagradalsfjall plateau at the altitude of 275 metres. This is relatively flat again, but with big rocks scattered throughout.
Route B is officially no longer in use after the new Route A was established in August 2022.
Crater view from the end of Route B in June 2021… It was worth it!
The RÚV webcam at Geldingadalur in April 2021. The original twin craters are on the right. The little fire crackers next to it have now formed the massive crater you see in the picture above…!
Langihryggur and Stóri-Hrútur
Route C: Langihryggur – 8 km return
Route C has become the most popular Fagradalsfjall volcano hike. It goes up to the Langihryggur ridge (altitude 296 metres), on the east side of Nátthagi Valley. The first hill is the steepest part, but 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 that you can’t see the crater at all, as the top of Langihryggur often gets shrouded in low hanging clouds.
Stóri-Hrútur extension – 10 km return
Stóri-Hrútur rises up at the end of Langihryggur and is about 1 kilometre further on. At 352 metres, this is the tallest mountain in the valley. Stóri-Hrútur provides even more spectacular views towards Meradalir. You can see the entire lava field, which has filled several valleys, nooks and crannies by now.
Route C towards Langihryggur, the mountain ridge on the right. Stóri-Hrútur is the triangular mountain pointing up in the background.
Route E: Litli-Hrútur – 18 km return
The new Route E was added when Litli-Hrútur arrived to the scene in July 2023. It follows an existing gravel mountain bike route below Langihryggur. Even though it’s relatively flat, it’s classified as a difficult & exhausting hike. Especially the last 2 or 3 kilometres is rough terrain over a field of mossy rocks. From the P2 parking area near Nátthagi Valley it takes about 3 to 4 hours (one-way!) to hike to the Litli-Hrútur viewpoints.
Nátthagi Valley from above the lava barrier at Langihryggur, September 2021.
Fagradalsfjall hike summary
Hiking distances (return)
Meradalir – Route A: 12 kilometres.
Geldingadalur – Route A and B: 7 kilometres.
Langihryggur – Route C: 8 kilometres.
Stóri-Hrútur – Route C extension: 10 kilometres.
Litli-Hrútur – Route E: 18 kilometres.
Altitude: 275 to 352 metres above sea level.
Time: About 3 to 5 hours return. Route E to Litli-Hrútur takes 6 to 8 hours return.
Difficulty: Challenging. Rough terrain with steep sections and big rocks scattered throughout.
Nátthagi Valley and the lava flow sliding slope from Geldingadalur.
Fagradalsfjall volcanoes map
These are the hiking routes to Fagradalsfjall from the parking areas along Suðurstrandarvegur, 8 kilometres east of Grindavík. The purple outlines are the fast-spreading lava fields, the danger zone is shown in red. The map also shows the mountain bike route to Litli-Hrútur, which has now become Route E.
Note: The 8- and 9 kilometre points on the east side are no longer accessible due to the lava flows from Litli-Hrútur. It connects with the rest of the lava field at Meradalahliðar, so the shortcut (‘stytting’) behind Meradalahnúkar is also cut off.
The handy interactive map below shows the Fagradalsfjall area and the current hiking routes to the volcanoes. You can zoom in for more details and click on the icons to see pictures of the locations.
Fagradalsfjall hiking route, lava fields and danger zone. Map: Almannavarnir (Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management).
Weather and safety conditions
Before you set off, check Safe Travel – they have added a special Reykjanes eruption page. It will also tell you if the Fagradalsfjall eruption site and hiking tracks are open. Currently you can only reach Fagradalsfjall from the east via Suðurstrandarvegur (Road 427), due to the lava flow over the main road to Grindavík (Road 43) in January 2024.
More details about the weather and gas pollution forecasts are on Veður, the Icelandic Met Office weather site. Umhverfisstofnun (the Environment Agency) also has a page with air quality measurements and guidelines for visiting volcanic sites.
Volcanic gas monitoring in Geldingadalur.
Hiking track over the mountain pass in snowy weather on the old Route A.
Lava river pouring out of Crater #3.
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 volcano is erupting, the lava glow illuminates the sky in the soft evening light of the midnight sun.
This is of course also the busiest time on the eruption site. The time around sunrise in the early morning is a lot less busy, and equally spectacular.
Be aware that the amount of daylight in Iceland is significantly less between November and February. In December and January there’s only 4 to 6 hours of light between sunrise and sunset!
Volcanic glow in the sky.
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:
- A variety of guided tours from Reykjavík or the Reykjanes area.
- Volcano bus transfers – only when there’s an active eruption going on! Shuttle buses to the start of the hiking routes were offered by Gray Line, Magic Iceland Travel and Reykjavík Excursions during the Litli-Hrútur eruption in 2023.
- 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).
- Note: Bus route 88 is not available as long as the road to Grindavík remains closed.
Reykjanes bus stop with a view… 😉
The rescue team base at the start of the hiking route in April 2021.
Fagradalsfjall parking areas
Due to the current situation in Grindavík, you can only reach Fagradalsfjall from the east via Suðurstrandarvegur (Road 427). Coming from Hafnarfjörður, take Road 42 towards Krýsuvík and Lake Kleifarvatn. At the end of the road, turn right onto Suðurstrandarvegur. After about 14 kilometres you’ll see the turn-off for the P2 car park on the right.
P2: A new parking area for Route C has been established in a large field closer to the start of the track. This is now the main parking lot, also for the new Route E.
P3: About 1,5 kilometres further down the road on the left is the second parking area (P3) with access to Nátthagi Valley and Langihryggur.
P1: Another kilometre down the road you’ll see the turn-off for P1 on the right. This was the rescue team’s base during the first months of the eruption. It has now been converted into a parking area for Route A and B.
Street food at the eruption site
Even a fish & chips truck has arrived on the scene during the eruptions. Most likely they have closed by now for winter sleep and the end of the eruption. But they might return next summer, when people come to explore the new lava fields (and the addtional Meradalir and Litli-Hrútur volcanoes!) in 2024 and beyond…
Lava inferno at Geldingadalur on 13 April 2021.
Fagradalsfjall chain of volcanic events
First episode – The twin volcano
19 March to 4 April 2021
The eruption started off in Geldingadalur with a single crater and two tiny cones on its side. The smallest cone was a fierce little one, and grew almost as big as the main crater. By the end of March they were happily erupting side by side.
Second episode – A chain of new craters
5 to 13 April 2021
A whole line of new craters exploded onto the scene every 2 or 3 days, culminating in the spectacular Night of 8 Erupting Volcanoes on 13 April 2021.
How many fissures & craters 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, and gradually fills it up with lava flows.
- 5 April: Fissure #2 appears on a ridge north of Geldingadalur and quickly develops into a ‘mini-Holuhraun’, with a vigorously boiling elongated crater. It emits very scenic lava patterns and sends spectacular rivers of lava down a steep gorge into Meradalir, the valley below.
- 7 April: Fissure #3 opens up between the two craters. It connects the separate lava fields from the first and second crater 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 Meradalir.
- 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 in the south and the second crater in the north is filled with a straight line of eight erupting volcanoes.
Wilderness Coffee with a view to 8 erupting volcanoes.
Third episode – Demise of the old craters
14 to 26 April 2021
Crater #2, the northernmost one, was the first to go out. It had been very active from the start, but emptied its entire boiling crater lake in a mighty river of molten rock into Meradalir as a final goodbye on 13 April. The other craters stopped erupting one by one. By 20 April, only one of the new craters remained active. Triplets #5, #6 and #7 were growing fast and finally merged into one great firepit – the One Crater to rule them all.
It quickly became bigger than the original twin craters, and is now referred to as Crater #5.
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 volcano enthusiasts were all stunned, confused and awestruck when Crater #5 turned into an actual lava geyser. It produced huge fountains over 300 metres tall, erupting on and off every 5 to 10 minutes. The lava geyser quickly filled up the second valley to the east of Geldingadalur, known as the ‘Nameless Valley’, and sent big flows down the sliding slope into Meradalir. The helicopter hill with the rescue team and measurement stations became an ‘óbrennishólmi’ – an isolated island surrounded by lava.
On 2 May the lava flow from Crater #5 merged with the earlier flow from Crater #2 in Meradalir. The fountains took a day off on 8 May, but kicked into action again shortly after.
It just kept gushing and gushing!
My birthday craters took over the show and turned into a giant lava geyser… 😳
Fifth episode – Lava flows into Nátthagi Valley
(and towards the road!)
22 May to 13 June 2021
The Fagradalsfjall eruption was not only extremely beautiful, it also caused a bit of a headache and nuisance sometimes…
The lava flows reached the edge of the Nameless Valley, right up to where the Route A hiking track comes in. Two lava defence barriers were quickly built on the southern end of the valley, to divert the relentless flow and stop it from tumbling down into Nátthagi Valley, the next valley below. Once it gets there, it could eventually flow over Suðurstrandarvegur road a few kilometres further on.
The barrier only lasted for a week. A huge lava avalange came crashing down the sliding slope into Nátthagi Valley on 22 May. 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 rushed down another slope into Nátthagi, adding more to the flow that already went down the eastern side.
The Silver Crater
The geyser fountains subsided at the beginning of June. But the volcano kept coming up with more surprises, and started pouring out big cascades of lava instead. For a few weeks it even transformed into a shiny silver crater. Cooled bits of lava formed a glassy crust around the crater, reflecting a distinct silvery glow.
Perhaps it will be spitting out diamonds next! 😉
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 cup runneth over. The horn of plenty. It just kept gushing & giving… Screenprint: MBL livestream.
Sixth episode – The bowl runs over
(and cuts off more and more parts of Route A)
4 June to 3 July 2021
The main crater, which appeared on 13 April, is no longer an innocent baby. It turned into a massive bowl of roiling & boiling fire, spewing forth cascading waterfalls of lava like a fiery version of Dynjandi. It has grown over 200 metres tall and now rises above many of the surrounding hills in Geldingadalur.
On 4 June, lava flowed over the ridge behind the Gónhóll viewpoint hill in front of the volcano, and made it yet another island in the lava sea. A sudden flow from Geldingadalur tumbled down a third sliding slope into Nátthagi Valley on 13 June, cutting off Route A almost by its root. It triggered the construction of two more lava barriers up on the slopes near Geldingadalur. The relentless lava flows came within a kilometre from the Suðurstrandarvegur road. From there it’s just 500 metres further to the sea. So another barrier was hastily put in place at the narrow entrance of Nátthagi Valley at the end of June.
Twin craters buried in Geldingadalur lava lake
Meanwhile, those poor little twin craters that started the eruption in March were completely drowned in the lava flows from The Big One, only 3 months after their birthday. They were huge compared to the other baby craters in April…
Rest in peace beneath the lava, happy twin volcano of Geldingadalur.
The old and the new craters. The original twin volcano is on the left.
Seventh episode – Dancing to a new rhythm
4 July to 2 September 2021
In July the volcano changed its mind and direction again, and started flowing north towards Meradalir instead. The lava in Nátthagi Valley came to a temporary halt. So the road is saved – for now.
The eruption cycle became less frequent, with longer breaks inbetween. Until the beginning of September the volcano was dancing to a steady rhythm and erupting in shifts of about 12 to 18 hours on and off. Obviously it needed a bit of a summer break… 😉
The harmonic volcanic tremor of Fagradalsfjall in August 2021.
View into Nátthagi Valley from the lava barrier on Route A.
Eighth episode – The final show
(and preparing for winter sleep)
11 to 18 September 2021
The steady algorithm of Fagradalsfjall came to sudden halt on 2 September 2021. The volcano went quiet for 9 days, the longest period in its existence so far. Then it came back for the grand finale and gave its last dramatic lava shows between 11 and 18 September. It took a plug out the bottom of the crater and emptied its entire content into Geldingadalur, stretching the upper lava barriers to their limit.
It literally gave it all…
On its 6-month birthday, Fagradalsfjall finally decided to take a break. It retreated into a prolonged winter sleep on 19 September 2021. Although it’s still active, there hasn’t been any lava coming out of the crater since that day. It tried to erupt several times after, but couldn’t make it to the surface anymore.
Lava flows in Meradalir from above, on a magical night at the volcano in August 2021.
I was sad to see the epic activity of Fagradalsfjall coming to an end… I suffered from volcano-withdrawal symptoms after such an amazing 6 months!
The friendly flowing volcano of Fagradalsfjall has delighted so many people around the world, by spreading joyful rays of lava in the darkness at the end of a harsh winter, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. ❤️
Goodnight, sweet princess of fire. Until you rise again like a phoenix from the ashes…
Even though it’s gone to sleep, it is still beautiful… Screenprint: MBL livestream.
@ On the same day that Fagradalsfjall subsided, the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma cracked open a new crater and roared into life on 19 September 2021. But this was no friendly flowing volcano like the gentle Fagradalsfjall…!
Foggy flaming volcanoes in Geldingadalur.
Future predictions of the Fagradalsfjall eruption
What will it think of next?
Fagradalsfjall is a very unusual volcano; it’s behaviour keeps surprising everyone and is completely different from any other volcano. An eruption is normally more powerful at the beginning and then gradually becomes less. This one did quite the opposite.
It could become a shield volcano
Scientists think that Fagradalsfjall might go on and off for many years to come. It could even become a dyngja – a shield volcano, like the massive Mauna Loa on Hawaii; the queen of all shield volcanoes. Fagradalsfjall produced the oldest lava that has bubbled up to the surface in Iceland since 6000 years. The fountains were fed by ancient magma rising straight from the mantle of the Earth.
Name of the volcano, craters and lava fields
The Fagradalsfjall lava field 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. One of the best suggestions for the new volcano is Geldingadalsfjall. This would be quite an accurate name for the mountain that rose out of Geldingadalur.
Or perhaps: Fagra-Geldingadalsfjall, to emphasize its utter beauty. 😉
Geldingadalur-Fagradalsfjall: A dyngja in the making…
A new episode of Reykjanes Fires?
Fagradalsfjall is the first volcanic eruption in Iceland since the remote Bárðarbunga came up with huge fountains of fire in 2014. Reykjanes Peninsula 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. Fagradalsfjall itself has been dormant for 6000 years.
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. The eruptions on Reykjanes might go on for many years, decades or even centuries to come.
In recent history, the Krafla Fires near Mývatn went on for 9 years between 1975 and 1984.
The next one arrived less than a year later! Meradalir volcano wanted its own valley…
The volcanic systems on Reykjanes Peninsula. Map: ÍSOR (Iceland Geosurvey).
Fagradalsfjall Fires – the saga continues
The area around Fagradalsfjall keeps on rumbling. After the volcano subsided, several earthquake swarms have occurred. A year after the birth of the great fire geyser crater, a new bout of intensified earthquakes kicked in on 13 April 2022. It had the whole south coast of Reykjanes peninsula rumbling in various places, shifting back and forth between Gunnuhver in the west to Brennisteinsfjöll in the east.
Meradalir eruption 2022
And then, on 3 August 2022, the Fagradalsfjall saga finally went into its next chapter. A new volcano erupted in Meradalir, the deep valley behind the original crater, at the edge of the lava field that was already there. The 2022 eruption lasted only 19 days and ended on 21 August 2022.
Litli-Hrútur eruption 2023
The next one arrived less than a year later. On 10 July 2023 the third Fagradalsfjall eruption in 3 years time started near Litli-Hrútur, again a little further to the northeast of the previous craters. It unleashed massive rivers of lava flowing all the way to Meradalir and eventually connected with the 2022 and 2021 lava fields. Litli-Hrútur was active for 27 days and finished its business on 5 August 2023.
The era of the Fagradalsfjall Fires has officially started!
And there seems to be a pattern developing here. Each new eruption started about 10,5 months after the previous one ended. So perhaps the next one could occur around the Summer Solstice in June 2024…?
Fagradalsfjall lava field map 2023
This map shows the current size and outline of the Fagradalsfjall and Litli-Hrútur lava fields. Source: Icelandic Met Office (Veðurstofa Íslands).
@ This is (by far!) the most popular blog article of 2021, and a reader’s favourite every year since.
Two nature spectacles in one: a volcanic eruption and northern lights! 😀
Volcanic eruptions in Iceland in the past decade
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
Erupting volcanoes and lava flow shapes.
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, which 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, which 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…
The youngest volcano in Iceland
In the end, the giants and usual suspects were all beaten by the extraordinary new Fagradalsfjall volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It started almost to the day that Fimmvörðuháls kicked off last decades’ eruptions on 20 March 2010.
The crater of Fagradalsfjall now sits like a crown on the shield that surrounds it, formed by its many lava flows. And Eldfell on Vestmannaeyjar is no longer Iceland’s youngest volcano.
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 2021. A great overview from the first tiny craters to the giant lava gushing geyser bowl, featuring fantastic views and beautiful lava flow patterns.
Reykjavík Grapevine had an excellent series of volcano newscasts during the eruption. They are very informative, with detailed explanations and stunning drone footage. Their reporter Valur Grettisson is brilliant. He knows what he is talking about, and does it with contagious enthusiasm. I’m a big fan. I created a playlist with the Reykjavík Grapevine volcano newscasts on my YouTube channel, so you have them all nicely grouped together.
Fagradalsfjall and the south coast of Reykjanes during the eruption in June 2021.
Iceland seems to have a secret strategy: in times of crisis it throws in a volcanic eruption to boost the economy. This proved to be very succesful when it engaged Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.
The Reykjanes and Suðurnes region had the highest unemployment rates of Iceland in 2020, mainly due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fagradalsfjall brought a much-needed increase to the region’s economy, now that Reykjanes is the hottest place in the country!
@ Have you been to the Fagradalsfjall eruption? Or the new Meradalir and Litli-Hrútur volcanoes? Let me know your experiences in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you! Your questions, comments and suggestions can also be helpful for other readers. Thank you for sharing.
Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
Lava rocks at Fagradalsfjall.
More to explore & discover
Candles on mountains – An enchanting ritual of fire
La Palma – Cumbre Vieja Volcano Route
Reykjanes – Hidden treasures beyond the barren landscape
Island hopping on the Aeolian Islands – A volcanic archipelago
Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth
© All photos and content on this website are my own, and subject to copyright (unless credited otherwise). Please contact me if you want to use a photo or quote a text from one of my articles. You’re welcome to share a link to my blog articles and photos on social media, with a tag and mention to Wilderness Coffee & Natural High.
Iceland volcano livestream
RÚV switched off their Fagradalsfjall livestream camera in November 2021. MBL still had a webcam on Langihryggur operating on and off for a while longer. Sometimes it only showed fog or raindrops sliding down the lens, when Langihryggur was surrounded by clouds or volcanic smoke. Or the webcam was snowed upon during winter…
Unfortunately, the MBL webcam hasn’t been available either since February 2022. But it still managed to capture some beautiful images of an aurora breaking through the fog!
Last update: 20 February 2024
First published: 13 May 2021