Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland eruption

Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland eruption

Last update: 21 March 2022

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. Here you can read all about the extraordinary Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in Iceland – and how to get there!

Volcano eruption on Reykjanes Peninsula ūüĆč

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 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, until one of them took over and turned into a giant lava geyser. Yes, that’s right; it behaved like an actual 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 extensive 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 ‚̧ԳŹ

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

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 the rocky slopes, to worship the most beautiful volcano in the world. In the meantime, Fagradalsfjall has turned into a real shield volcano.

Sunrise on Fagradalsfjall volcano, Reykjanes, Iceland
Sunrise on Fagradalsfjall volcano.

Fagradalsfjall volcano update

Is Fagradalsfjall still erupting?

The volcano gave its last dramatic lava shows between 11 and 18 September. On its 6-month birthday, it finally decided to take a break – for now. 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.

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. Only three days later, on 21 December, a new and intensified earthquake swarm started around Fagradalsfjall. Reykjanes is preparing again for an imminent eruption…

Even when the eruption has come to an end, the surrounding area with its extensive steaming lava fields and the colourful crater itself is still an incredible sight to see. In my opinion, Fagradalsfjall rules supreme as the sweetest and most beautiful volcano in the world. In this story you can see why ūüôā

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

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

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 ‚̧ԳŹ

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

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!

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 √ěj√≥√įh√°t√≠√į in Herj√≥lfsdalur on Vestmannaeyjar. Some people even brought guitars and sang brekkus√∂ngur on the slopes of Geldingadalur as a serenade to the volcano. Others were trying to fry eggs and bacon or pizzas, or roast marshmallows on the hot lava rocks.

Icelanders and their volcanoes… ūüėČ

Hiking route to the volcano

Within four days after the eruption began, a rough hiking track had 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 carried out. Instead of closing off the area and prohibit entry, the authorities 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.

The hiking route kept changing over the summer 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.

Geldingadalur and Fagradalsfjall volcano map

Updated on 19 November 2021

These are the current hiking routes to Fagradalsfjall from the parking areas along Su√įurstrandarvegur, 8 kilometres east of Grindav√≠k. 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 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. Already in January and February 2020 it looked like an eruption was about to happen in Mount √ěorbj√∂rn, 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.

Intense earthquakes around Grindavík in January 2020.

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 Grindav√≠k. People escaped from the town, because they just couldn’t sleep due to the constant earthquakes and rumbling.

Earthquakes going crazy and volcanic tremor in the weeks before the eruption in March 2021. Magma started rising up from the Earth’s mantle and looking for a way out…

Crater lighthouses, Geldingadalur, Reykjanes, Iceland
Volcanic lighthouses in Geldingadalur.

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 Reykjav√≠k and Keflav√≠k 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 √ěorbj√∂rn 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 Grindav√≠k.

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 kept surprising everyone. And 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 RUŐĀV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Everyone and their drone wanted 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: R√öV.

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 was probably getting annoyed by all these drones buzzing around its head, trying to peek into its inner sanctuary. So it just devoured them with fiery tongues like a lava chameleon ūüĒ•

I wonder how many molten drones the volcano 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 MBL webcam succumbed to the lava on 18 May.

But thanks to those drone pilots and live webcams, we can 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 ūüĆč

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 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

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‚Äôs wildest dream come true ūüėÄ

Natural high! @ Fagradalsfjall.

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 ūüėČ

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 waterfalls of lava pouring out of various craters. It made smooth ropy pahoehoe flows right before my eyes, like Kilauea on Hawaii.

I was overwhelmed with happiness and feelings of natural high to get this incredible show for my birthday! It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve 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

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 intricate crushing and tinkling sounds of the lava streams as they slowly move forward.

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 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 the next 2 days. But then it cleared up and I went two more times during the week I was there.

On 17 April, lava flowed over the last part of the hiking track (Route A), and closed off access to the ‚Äėhelicopter hill‚Äô 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 Meradalur 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 R√öV and MBL.

I couldn’t stay away from it. So I came back several times 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 St√≥rihrutur and Langihryggur.

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

The volcano even triggered me to buy a drone (yes, I succumbed to the drone hype too ūüėČ ) 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 second valley to the right filled up within 3 weeks! Photo: mbl.is / Kristinn Magn√ļsson.

Hiking routes to the Fagradalsfjall eruption site

Location of the volcano

Fagradalsfjall is located 8 kilometres east of Grindav√≠k, on the south coast of Reykjanes Peninsula. There are three parking areas by the nearest road, the 427 Su√įurstrandarvegur.

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 N√°tthagi Valley is only a 10 to 20 minute walk from the P2 carpark. Route C goes into N√°tthagi and up to Langihryggur on the east side of the valley. Route A was closed off by several lava flows in June, 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

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 Geldingadalur and Fagradalsfjall volcano map earlier on in this article. You can still take the first part of Route A up to where another lava barrier has 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, when it was still a bit rough.

Route B

Route B goes up to the original volcano lookout point over Geldingadalur. But it‚Äôs 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 you can have 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, 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 at about 275 metres. This is relatively flat again, but with big rocks scattered throughout.

N√°tthagi Valley from above the lava barrier, Reykjanes, Iceland
N√°tthagi Valley from above the lava barrier near Langihryggur.

Langihryggur and Stórihrutur

Route C

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 N√°tthagi 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. At 357 metres, this is 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: Around 300 metres above sea level.

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.

Route A cut off by lava flows

On 13 June the main hiking Route A became virtually inaccessible. Sooner than expected, Geldingadalur overflowed. Lava flows tumbled down a third sliding slope into N√°tthagi Valley, cutting off 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 a long way out of sight. But there were spectacular views of the lava rushing down into N√°tthagi 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 ūüėČ

Fagradalsfjall volcano livestream
Lava flows over the western barrier into N√°tthagi Valley on 5 June 2021. Photo: R√öV.

Lava flowing towards the ocean

At the end of June the lava flow that plunged into N√°tthagi Valley was only about 1 kilometre from the Su√įurstrandarvegur Road 427 between Grindav√≠k and √ěorl√°ksh√∂fn. Initial expectations were that it may reach the road in 20 to 90 days. By the end of summer lava could be flowing into the ocean, like Kilauea did on the Big Island of Hawaii. 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 Meradalur on the other side.

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 worked 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. Blika has a handy overview of weather-, wind-, precipation- and gas pollution conditions (in Icelandic). More details about the gas pollution forecasts are on Ve√įur, 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. 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.

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:

  • Str√¶t√≥ public bus from Keflav√≠k Airport or from Reykjav√≠k to Grindav√≠k. The bus usually goes once every 1 or 2 hours, and you need to change either in Keflav√≠k town centre (Reykjanesb√¶r) or at the turn-off to the Blue Lagoon (bus 55 and 88).
  • A variety of guided tours from Reykjav√≠k or the Reykjanes area.

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

Fagradalsfjall parking areas near Grindavík

The start of the tracks is easy to find. Coming from Grindav√≠k, take Road 427 towards √ěorl√°ksh√∂fn. After about 7 kilometres you‚Äôll 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 is the second parking area (P3) for N√°tthagi 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. 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 has arrived on the scene. 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 next summer when people come to explore the new lava fields in 2022.

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 click on the icons to see pictures and 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 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 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: R√öV.

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 boiling crater lake in a great river of molten rock down to Meradalur 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. 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 and sent big flows down another sliding slope into Meradalur. The helicopter hill with the rescue team and measurement stations became an óbrennishólmi Рan isolated island in the lava sea.

On 2 May, the flow from Crater #5 merged 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 ūüėČ

Fifth episode – Lava flows into N√°tthagi Valley

(and towards the road!)

22 May to 1 July 2021

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

The lava flow reached 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 N√°tthagi Valley. Once it gets there, it could eventually flow over Su√įurstrandarvegur road a few kilometres further on.

The barrier only lasted for a week. A huge lava avalange came crashing down the sliding slope into N√°tthagi 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 N√°tthagi, 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… ūüėČ It shows no mercy.

The Silver Crater

At the beginning of June, the fountains subsided and the volcano started pouring out big cascades of lava. It kept coming up with surprises and transformed into a shiny silver crater. Cooled bits of lava around it formed a glassy crust reflecting a silvery glow.

Perhaps it will be spitting out diamonds next! ūüėČ

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

Sixth episode – The bowl runs over

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

4 June to 2 September 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 rises above many of the surrounding hills in Geldingadalur. On 4 June, lava flows over the ridge behind the viewing hill right across from the volcano, making it yet another island in the lava sea. A sudden flow from Geldingadalur tumbled down a third sliding slope into N√°tthagi Valley on 13 June, cutting off the track almost by its root.

The relentless lava flows are only a kilometre from the Su√įurstrandarvegur road, and about a further 500 metres from the sea. Ocean entry of the increasing lava flow seemed imminent. So another barrier was hastily put in place at the narrow entrance of N√°tthagi Valley at the end of June.

The end of the lava flow in N√°tthagi Valley, Reykjanes, Iceland
The end of the lava flow in N√°tthagi Valley…

Twin craters buried in the Geldingadalur lava lake

Meanwhile, those poor little twin craters that started the eruption in March are completely drowned in the lava flow from The Big One, just 3 months after their birthday. They were huge compared to the other craters in April…

Rest in peace beneath the lava, happy twin volcano of Geldingadalur.

Dancing to a new rhythm

In July the volcano changed its mind and direction again, and started flowing north towards Meradalur instead. The lava flow in N√°tthagi Valley came to a temporary halt. So the road is saved – for now.

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.

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

Seventh 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 with a giant rumble and gave its last dramatic lava shows between 11 and 18 September. It took a plug out at the bottom of the crater and emptied the entire content into Geldingadalur, stretching the upper lava barriers to their limit. It literally gave it all.

On its 6-month birthday, it 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. 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 Meradalur from above, on a magical night at the volcano in August.

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 Geldingadalur has delighted so many people by spreading joyful rays of lava in the darkness at the end of a harsh winter ‚̧ԳŹ

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

Reykjav√≠k Grapevine shows close-up views of the lava flow in N√°tthagi. 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 the Reykjavík 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 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. An eruption is usually more powerful at the beginning and gradually becomes less. This one did quite the opposite.

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

No signs of slowing down during the summer

The intensity grew dramatically since the lava geysers at the beginning of May. The amount of lava flowing out of the crater increased by 70% and the eruption became twice as powerful as before. It’s very rare for an eruption to be still growing stronger after nearly 3 months. And earth scientists in Iceland saw no signs that it’s slowing down any time soon.

It could become a shield volcano

Fagradalsfjall produced the oldest lava that has bubbled up to the surface in Iceland for 7000 years. The fountains were 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. In recent history, the Krafla fires near M√Ĺvatn went on for 9 years between 1975 and 1984.

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 ūüôā

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

Volcanic eruptions in Iceland in the past decade

Fagradalsfjall volcano is the first eruption in Iceland since the remote B√°r√įarbunga 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 Eldv√∂rp-Svartsengi volcanoes produced ominous lava flows on the western part of the peninsula.

New episode of Reykjanes Fires

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.

The area around Fagradalsfjall continues to rumble. After the volcano subsided, another earthquake swarm started on 27 September 2021 near Keilir, 5 kilometres north of the eruption site. And on 21 December 2021 a new bout of intensified earthquakes kicked in near the crater, with very similar patterns as the pre-eruption swarm in February 2021…

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: Fimmv√∂r√įuh√°ls, from 20 March to 13 April, followed by
  • 2010: Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, from 14 April to 23 May
  • 2011: Grimsvotn, from 21 to 28 May
  • 2014: Holuhraun (B√°r√įarbunga), 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! ūüėÄ

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 Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. Last year, the Su√įurnes 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, 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 j√∂kullhlaups when it goes. Katla’s magma tubes are connected deep underground to Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, and said to be triggered usually within a decade or less after Eyjafjallaj√∂kull went off…

Foggy flaming volcanoes, Geldingadalur, Iceland

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 Fimmv√∂r√įuh√°ls 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.

(c) Nancy Claus ‚Äď Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

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

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

Do you have a question or a comment? Please share them in the comment box at the bottom of this page. Other readers can also benefit from your feedback and the extra information in my reply. Thank you for sharing ūüíö

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Iceland volcano eruption livestream

R√öV switched off their livestream camera in November 2021. MBL still has an overview webcam on Langihryggur operating on and off. Although sometimes it only shows fog or raindrops sliding down the lens, when Langihryggur is surrounded by clouds or volcanic smoke. Or the webcam might be snowed upon during winter…

Unfortunately, the MBL webcam hasn’t been available since February 2022. But it still managed to capture some beautiful images of an aurora breaking through the fog!

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).

© All photo’s on this blog are my own, and subject to copyright (unless credited otherwise). Please contact me if you would like to use a particular picture you’ve seen in one of my articles. You’re welcome to share a link to my blog articles and pictures on social media.

More to explore & discover

La Palma – Cumbre Vieja volcano route

Reykjanes – Hidden treasures beyond the barren landscape

The walking track to Helgafell ‚Äď The twin volcano

Island hopping on the Aeolian Islands ‚Äď A volcanic archipelago

Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth

3 thoughts on “Fagradalsfjall – The spectacular Iceland eruption

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

  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‚Äôm a nurse from America and will be visiting Iceland in the next few weeks for a much needed break. I‚Äôm 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 ūüôā ‘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 N√°tthagi 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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