Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland volcano

Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland volcano

After months of speculation and more than a year of intense rumbling, the greatest show on Earth took off 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!

Volcano eruption on Reykjanes Peninsula 🌋

The eruption was followed by a series of breathtaking events so incredible it has blown the minds of many people in Iceland and around the world. 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: 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, 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 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 GrindavĂ­k, on the south coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. It takes about 1,5 to 2 hours to hike to Geldingadalur from the nearest road, the 427 SuĂ°urstrandarvegur east of GrindavĂ­k.

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. In this story you can see why. I have been following the excitement since the day it was born and visited it during various episodes of activity.

Sunrise on Fagradalsfjall volcano, Reykjanes, Iceland
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 – for now. It retreated into a prolonged winter sleep on 19 September. Although it’s still active, there hasn’t been any lava coming out of the crater.

Dormant winter sleep…? Or perhaps not!

After three months without fireworks, the eruption was officially declared over on 18 December 2021. However, Reykjanes keeps on rumbling at irregular intervals
 In 2022 and 2023 the Fagradalsfjall saga continued with new eruptions in the same area, both lasting for a few weeks. But even when the volcano is not actively erupting, the surrounding area with its extensive steaming lava fields and the colourful crater itself is an incredible sight to see.

Baby crater, Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
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.

Geldingadalur volcano, Reyjkjanes, Iceland
Oh my god, it’s beautiful! 😍 A 3D model screenprint of the newly erupted volcano.
Map: Spaceport 3D.

Volcano madness ensues

And people around ReykjavĂ­k 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 GrindavĂ­k, 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!

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

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 ÞjóðhĂĄtĂ­Ă° in HerjĂłlfsdalur 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.

Icelanders and their volcanoes… 😉

Hiking route to the volcano

Within four days after the eruption began, a rough hiking track had already been marked by the local rescue teams. There was little to no infrastructure in the area, but ambitious plans to improve access, facilities and parking places were quickly carried out. Instead of closing off the area, the authorities made sure people can 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.

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

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

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. During January and February 2020 it already looked like an eruption was about to happen in Mount Þorbjörn, just behind the Blue Lagoon.

Magma intrusion caused an uplift of about 10 centimetres around the mountain. Crisis meetings were held in the nearby town of GrindavĂ­k and evacuation plans were discussed.

Volcanic tremor is imminent

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

Volcanic tremor and earthquakes going crazy in the weeks before the eruption in March 2021. Magma was rising up from the mantle of the Earth and looking for a way out…

A perfect eruption

Then the volcano decided to erupt in the most convenient location: inside the isolated bathtub-shaped valley of Geldingadalur. It’s on an uninhabited mountain plateau surrounded by several peaks and dotted with more bowls and valleys. Even though it’s in the area between ReykjavĂ­k and KeflavĂ­k international airport, there was no direct threat to infrastructure or towns. It would take quite some time before all those tubs 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 GrindavĂ­k.

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

Fagradalsfjall – Iceland’s baby volcano

Scientists initially didn’t expect that the 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 kept surprising everyone. It was growing more and more spectacular each day inside its own secluded valley. There have been so many changes and new episodes you could barely keep up with it!

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

The growing volcano delighted 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 wanted to be part of it and take a piece of the action.

Crater lighthouses, Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
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 the eye of the eruption. The volcano probably got annoyed by all the drones buzzing around its head, trying to peek into its inner sanctuary. So it just devoured them with fiery tongues like a lava chameleon. đŸ”„

I wonder how many molten drones it has spit out by now…

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

Natural high, Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland.
Natural high! @ Fagradalsfjall.

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.

Raging madhouse

It was a raging madhouse, one great big lava fountain festival. Hallucinating rivers of orange molten rocks were streaming in all directions, lava ponds bubbling up all over the place, and fast-flowing waterfalls of lava pouring out of various craters. It was making smooth ropy pahoehoe flows right before my eyes, like Kilauea on Hawaii. I felt like a kid in a playground whose presents had come all at once.

I was so overwhelmed with feelings of natural high and happiness to get this incredible show on my birthday. It is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring things I have ever seen.

I actually witnessed the birth of a shield volcano.

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.

The sound of the lava flow

A remarkable quote from the experiences of others, about the moment they saw the volcano for the first time: ‘People have wept before it’. That’s how beautiful, intense and soul-touching it is.

It was mindblowing 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. I was surprised by the delicate sound of the lava flows, softly crushing and tinkling as they slowly move forward.

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

Geldingadalur overflows

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 the week I was there.

On 17 April, lava flowed over the end section of the hiking track (Route A). It closed off the access to the ‘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 that week 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 the deep Meradalir valley on 19 April 2021.

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 various live streams from RÚV and MBL.

I couldn’t stay away from it. So I came back several times more and hiked all the routes in different periods. I explored Routes B and C in June, hiked around the entire lava field in August, and spent a truly magical night at the flowing volcano on StĂłri-HrĂștur and Langihryggur.

Fagradalsfjall crater drone close-up, Reykjanes, Iceland
Fagradalsfjall crater close-up in August 2021. Taken with my drone!

The volcano even triggered me to buy a drone (yes, I succumbed to the drone hype too 😉 ) … More details & pictures will come in a separate article.

The Fagradalshraun lava field and volcanic geyser, Reykjanes, Iceland
The Fagradalshraun lava field and volcanic geyser at the beginning of May. The ‘nameless’ second valley to the right filled up within 3 weeks! Photo: mbl.is.

Hiking routes to the Fagradalsfjall eruption site

Location of the volcano

Fagradalsfjall is located 8 kilometres east of GrindavĂ­k, on the south coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. There are three parking areas by the nearest road, the 427 SuĂ°urstrandarvegur.

It takes about 1,5 to 2 hours to hike to the viewpoints of Geldingadalur, west of the crater (Route B – 3,5 kilometres) or Langihryggur, east of the crater (Route C – 4 kilometres). The end of the lava flow in NĂĄtthagi Valley is only a 10 to 20 minute walk from the P2 carpark. Route C goes into NĂĄtthagi and up to Langihryggur on the east side of the valley. Route A was closed off by several more lava flows in June 2021, but Route B is still open.

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.

Track improvements (and rearrangements)

Route A: 3,5 km one-way

The hiking routes have 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 Fagradalsfjall volcano map further on in this article. You can still take the first part of Route A up to where the lava barriers have been constructed. Then you turn left onto a steep hill up, and follow the edge of the plateau towards the Route B viewpoint.

Steep hill up towards Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
The steep hill up on Route A, before the hiking track was improved.

Route B: 3,5 km one-way

Route B goes up to the original volcano lookout point over Geldingadalur. But it’s a lot rougher and steeper than the new Route C. The end of Route B is much closer to the crater than the viewpoints on Route C. On days with a lot of activity there were great 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.

Fagradalsfjall crater view from Route B.
Crater view from the end of Route B in June 2021… It’s worth it!

Langihryggur and StĂłri-HrĂștur

Route C: 4 km one-way

The new Route C has become the most popular Fagradalsfjall hike. It goes up to the Langihryggur ridge (296 metres), on the east side of NĂĄtthagi 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 that you can’t see the crater at all, as the top of Langihryggur often gets shrouded in low hanging clouds.

NĂĄtthagi Valley from above the lava barrier, Reykjanes, Iceland
NĂĄtthagi Valley from above the lava barrier near Langihryggur, September 2021.

StĂłri-HrĂștur extension: 5 km one-way

StĂłri-HrĂștur rises up at the end of Langihryggur and is about 1 km further on from Langihryggur. At 357 metres, this is the tallest mountain in the valley and 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 E: Litli-HrĂștur: 9 km one-way

Route E was added when Litli-HrĂștur arrived to the scene in 2023. It follows an existing gravel mountain bike route below Langihryggur and is classified as a difficult & exhausting hike over rough terrain. From the P2 parking area near NĂĄtthagi Valley it takes about 3 to 4 hours (one-way!) to hike to the Litli-HrĂștur viewpoints.

Hiking distances (return)
Route A (Meradalir): 12 kilometres.
Route B (Geldingadalur): 7 kilometres.
Route C (Langihryggur): 8 kilometres.
StĂłri-HrĂștur: 10 kilometres.
Route E (Litli-HrĂștur): 18 kilometres.

Altitude: Around 300 metres above sea level.

Nameless Valley, nafnlausa dal, Geldingadalur, Iceland
The ‘Nameless Valley’ (nafnlausa dal) on the upper part of Route A in April 2021. This poor valley is now competely filled up with lava… StĂłri-HrĂștur is the big mountain on the right.

Fagradalsfjall volcano map

Updated on 15 August 2022

These are the current hiking routes to Fagradalsfjall from the parking areas along SuĂ°urstrandarvegur, 8 kilometres east of GrindavĂ­k. The purple outline is the fast-spreading lava field, the danger zone is shown in red.

(*) On 3 August 2022 the Fagradalsfjall saga continued when the next volcano erupted in Meradalir, the deep valley behind the original crater!

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

Route A cut off by lava flows

The main hiking route A became virtually inaccessible on 13 June 2021. Sooner than expected, Geldingadalur overflowed. Streams of lava tumbled down a third sliding slope into NĂĄtthagi Valley, cutting off the track almost by its root. The lava flowed over the path just above the steep hill up, where the crater is still a long way out of sight. 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 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. Screenprint: RÚV livestream.

Lava flowing towards the ocean

At the end of June the lava flow that plunged into NĂĄtthagi Valley was only about 1 kilometre from the SuĂ°urstrandarvegur Road 427 between GrindavĂ­k and ÞorlĂĄkshöfn. Initial expectations were that it may reach the road in 20 to 90 days, and lava could be flowing into the ocean by the end of summer. That would have been quite a spectacle, even though a blocked road is a bit cumbersome…

The volcano itself was blissfully ignorant of all this and kept gushing with great enthusiasm.

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

Weather and safety conditions

The eruption site is ocasionally closed in case of horrendous weather, blizzards coming in, or too much gas pollution around the track in combination with unfavourable wind directions. 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. During the active stage of the volcano the rescue team was usually present from 12 o’clock noon to midnight.

Before you set off, check Safe Travel. They added a special eruption page (now replaced by a general hiking safety page). More details about the weather and gas pollution forecasts are on VeĂ°ur, the Icelandic Met Office weather site.

Crater and lava river, Fagradalsfjall, Iceland
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.

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 KeflavĂ­k Airport to GrindavĂ­k. But there are some options:

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

Rescue team base, hiking track, Fagradalsfjall, Iceland
The rescue team base at the start of the hiking route in April 2021.

Fagradalsfjall parking areas near GrindavĂ­k

The start of the tracks is easy to find. Coming from GrindavĂ­k, take Road 427 towards ÞorlĂĄkshöfn. After about 7 kilometres you’ll see the first car park on the left of the road at the bottom of the hill.

P1: This was the rescue team’s base during the first months of the eruption. It has now been converted into parking area P1, with access to Route A and B.
P3: About a kilometre further down the road on the right is the second parking area (P3) for NĂĄtthagi Valley and Langihryggur.
P2: A new parking area for Route C has also been established in a large field closer to the start of the track. Another 2 kilometres down the road you’ll see the turn-off for P2 on the left. This is now the main parking lot.

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

Street food at the eruption site

Even a fish & chips truck arrived on the scene during the eruption. Although it may not always be open when you most want it to be, before or after the hike
 The rescue teams also added toilet booths and a food & drinks kiosk, where you can buy some much needed snacks. Most likely they have closed by now for winter sleep and the end of the eruption. But they might return in the summer, when people come to explore the new lava fields (and the addtional Meradalir volcano!) in 2023.

Fagradalsfjall volcanoes map

This handy interactive map shows the Fagradalsfjall area and the current hiking routes to the volcanoes. You can also zoom in for more details and click on the icons to see pictures of the locations.

Fagradalsfjall Fires 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 the side of it. A few days later, the main crater partly collapsed, while one of the secondary cones dramatically increased in size. The smallest cone proved to be 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.

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 exploded 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 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 to the south and the second crater to the north is filled with a straight line of eight erupting volcanoes.

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, was the first one to go out. It had been very active from the start, but emptied its entire boiling crater lake in a great 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. The 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 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 volcano enthusiasts were 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 another sliding slope into Meradalir. The helicopter hill with the rescue team and measurement stations became an ĂłbrennishĂłlmi – an isolated island in the lava sea.

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… 😼 The April 13 crater rules them all.

Fifth episode – Lava flows into NĂĄtthagi 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. 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 NĂĄtthagi Valley. Once it gets there, it could eventually flow over SuĂ°urstrandarvegur road a few kilometres further on.

The barrier only lasted for a week. A huge lava avalange came crashing down the sliding slope into NĂĄtthagi Valley on 22 May. Engineers explored several 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 rushed down another slope into NĂĄtthagi, adding more to the flow that already went down the eastern side.

Lava monster, Geldingadalur, Iceland
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

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 while it even transformed into a shiny silver crater. Cooled bits of lava around it formed a glassy crust, which reflected a distinct silvery glow.

Perhaps it will be spitting out diamonds next! 😉

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

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 viewing 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 NĂĄtthagi Valley on 13 June, cutting off Route A almost by its root.

The relentless lava flows are only a kilometre from the SuĂ°urstrandarvegur road, and about a further 500 metres from the sea. Ocean entry seemed imminent… So another barrier was hastily put in place at the narrow entrance of NĂĄtthagi Valley at the end of June.

Twin craters buried in the Geldingadalur lava lake

Meanwhile, those poor little twin craters that started the eruption in March completely drowned in the lava flow from The Big One, just 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 end of the lava flow in NĂĄtthagi Valley, Reykjanes, Iceland
The end of the lava flow in NĂĄtthagi Valley.

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 flow in NĂĄtthagi 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. It needed a bit of a summer break… 😉

Fagradalsfjall harmonic tremor graph
The harmonic volcanic tremor of Fagradalsfjall in August 2021.

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. 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 of 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, the volcano 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 Meradalur from above, Reykjanes, Iceland
Lava flows in Meradalir from above, on a magical night at the volcano in August 2021.

Volcano-withdrawal symptoms

I’m a bit sad that the activity is over, for now… I suffer 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.

Fagradalsfjall dormant crater
Even though it’s dormant, it is still beautiful… Photo: MBL.

This is an interesting article about how every volcano has its own unique ‘personality’ (and warning signs that an eruption is imminent).

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 is no friendly flowing volcano like the gentle Fagradalsfjall…!

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 great overview from the first tiny craters to the giant lava gushing geyser bowl, featuring fantastic views and beautiful lava flow patterns.

Volcano newscasts

ReykjavĂ­k Grapevine had an excellent series of volcano newscasts during the eruption. 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 the ReykjavĂ­k Grapevine 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 predict that the eruptions on Reykjanes could last longer than expected. They 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 different from any other volcano. An eruption is usually more powerful at the beginning and gradually becomes less. This one did quite the opposite.

It could become a shield volcano

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 up straight from the mantle of the Earth. It may even become a dyngja; a shield volcano, like the massive Mauna Loa on Hawaii; the queen of all shield volcanoes. In recent history, the Krafla fires near MĂœvatn went on for 9 years between 1975 and 1984.

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

Name of the Fagradalsfjall volcano, lava fields and craters

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. One of the best suggestions for the new volcano is Geldingadalsfjall. It would be an accurate name for the mountain that rose out of Geldingadalur.

Or perhaps: Fagra-Geldingadalsfjall, to emphasize its utter beauty. 🙂

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

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: FimmvörĂ°uhĂĄls, 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 (BĂĄrĂ°arbunga), from 31 August 2014 to 27 February 2015

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

Secret strategy

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 SuĂ°urnes region had the highest unemployment rates of Iceland in 2020, mainly due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This volcano brought 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, 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, 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…

Foggy flaming volcanoes, Geldingadalur, Iceland
Foggy volcanoes in Geldingadalur.

Fagradalsfjall, 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 FimmvörĂ°uhĂĄls 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.

Flying a drone towards the active crater at Fagradalsfjall, Iceland.
Flying a drone towards the active crater! It came back to tell the story… 😉

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

New episode of Reykjanes Fires

Fagradalsfjall volcano is the first eruption in Iceland since the remote BĂĄrĂ°arbunga came up with huge fountains of fire 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. It could go on and off for the next decades or even centuries.

This is (by far!) the most popular blog article and reader’s favourite of 2021.

Drone view of Meradalir volcano, Fagradalsfjall Fires, Iceland.
The next one arrived less than a year later! Meradalir volcano wanted its own valley… 😉

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. The 2022 eruption lasted only 19 days and ended on 21 August 2022.

Litli-HrĂștur 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-HrĂștur, again a little further to the north-east of the previous craters. Litli-HrĂștur was active for 27 days and finished its business on 5 August 2023.

The era of the Fagradalsfjall Fires has officially started!

Fagradalsfjall eruption map 2023

This map shows the current size and outline of the Fagradalsfjall and Litli-HrĂștur lava fields. Source: Icelandic Met Office (VeĂ°urstofa Íslands).

Fagradalsfjall and Litli-HrĂștur lava fields, Reykjanes, Iceland.
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

Have you been to the Fagradalsfjall eruption? Or the new Meradalir volcano? Let me know your experiences or questions in the comment box at the bottom of this page. Your input can also be valuable for other readers. Thank you for sharing. 💚

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Last update: 24 September 2023
First published: 13 May 2021

© All photo’s and content on this blog are my own, and subject to copyright (unless credited otherwise). Please contact me if you would like to use a picture or quote a piece of text from one of my articles. You’re welcome to share a link to my blog articles and pictures on social media, with a tag or mention to Wilderness Coffee & Natural High.

Iceland volcano eruption livestream

RÚV switched off their Fagradalsfjall livestream camera in November 2021. MBL still had an overview 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!

More to explore & discover

La Palma – Cumbre Vieja Volcano Route

Reykjanes – Hidden treasures beyond the barren landscape

Candles on mountains – An enchanting ritual of fire

Island hopping on the Aeolian Islands – A volcanic archipelago

Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth

3 thoughts on “Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland volcano

  1. Thanks for this great overview! I really enjoyed it and it felt a little bit like being present 🙂

  2. I received this question by email from Matthew from the USA: ‘Dear Wilderness Coffee & Natural High, So grateful for your website and reporting on the volcano evolution. I’m a nurse from America and will be visiting Iceland in the next few weeks for a much needed break. I’m also a frequent wilderness adventurer. I noticed in your writing that the access changes when the lava flows over the trails. Would you please share a update on access roads for closest visiting of the volcanic activity? Hope you keep writing and sharing your passion for the wilderness with the world. Thank you. Warmly, Matthew.’

    1. Here’s the reply I sent, so others with similar questions can read this too: 🙂 – ‘Hello Matthew, thank you for your lovely comment! I wrote this article to share my passion & endless fascination, and to help fellow volcano enthusiasts who want to visit this extraordinary place. I’m happy to see that it has been helpful to you.

      Route C into NĂĄtthagi Valley and up on Langihryggur ridge is currently the most popular hiking track. It gives you a nice overview of the extensive lava flows and the best view of the crater. Route B gets you a bit closer to the volcano, but it’s also more difficult and the view is towards the back of the crater. Route A has been closed off by the lava flows in June.

      I hope you had an awesome trip to Iceland, and got to see the Fagradalsfjall volcano in all its fire-spitting glory!’

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