Travel Update


Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption in Iceland: Your Guide

By: Max
Last Updated: 04/10/2021

One of Iceland’s latest natural marvels, the Fagradalsfjall volcano, has hotfooted its way to the top of many people’s lists of must-see destinations in the country. Why not add it to your own Iceland bucket list for an unforgettable trip?

If you missed out on Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which started famously spewing ash into the atmosphere in 2010, you now have the chance to witness a fresh eruption first-hand.

As you may remember, Eyjafjallajökull caused some disruption as well as a great deal of excitement. This time though, the eruption site is easily and safely accessible, as well as a lot more magnificent. 

You may even catch a glimpse of the spectacle from your plane as you descend into Keflavík Airport, or on your transfer to Reykjavík!

When did the eruption in Iceland start?

The volcano sprang into action on 19 March 2021, when seething lava breached the surface of the Earth. This followed a series of intense earthquakes near the town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula.

At first scientists weren’t sure where the lava was going to burst out. In fact since the eruption began, the fissures (openings in the ground) have evolved several times and moved from one spot to another.

Because the eruption is constantly changing, it makes for an exciting stop on your Iceland trip. If you’re planning a longer stay, you may even want to squeeze in multiple visits!

What is the Icelandic eruption called?

The volcanic fissures are located next to a peak known as Fagradalsfjall or “Beautiful Valley Mountain”. These rifts in the ground have been throwing out plumes of lava since the spring of 2021 and have filled the nearest valley, Geldingadalir or “Valley of the Wethers”, to the brim.

Newly solidified lava lines the Nátthagi valley © Rüdiger Sopp
The Nátthagi valley © Rüdiger Sopp

Since the eruption started, more than a million cubic metres of lava has flowed over into 2 more valleys, Nátthagi and Meradalir. The lava now completely lines the Nátthagi valley (pictured above) and is gradually filling it up. 

This vast stretch of newly formed rock lies only a short hike away from the eruption site’s main car park. Once you arrive, you can witness mystifying columns of steam rising from the jet-black, jagged lava. 

Is it worth going to see the eruption at Fagradalsfjall?

Definitely! The eruption site offers you a unique opportunity to see a steaming-hot, freshly formed lava field up close. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see molten lava fountains with your own eyes.

Please note: As the eruption is still underway, touching or walking on solidified lava is extremely dangerous and you should not attempt to do so. Make sure you enjoy the spectacle from a safe and comfortable way away.

Volcanic activity changes from day to day and week to week. Local authorities may sometimes close the site when they think it’s best to keep away, so bear this in mind when planning your trip. You can stay up-to-date on the Iceland Safe Travel website.

Having said that, it’s considered safe to visit the eruption site when it’s open. Just stick to the hiking trails and enjoy this natural wonder from a distance.

This lava flow map produced by the University of Iceland shows you the extent of the lava field and the location of the trails.

One thing to bear in mind is that if you have a condition that affects your breathing – such as asthma – you may not wish to visit the eruption site. This is due to the potentially irritating sulphur gases given off by the volcano.

Pollution levels do vary though. Check out the Icelandic Met Office’s gas dispersion forecast when planning your visit.

Are there hiking trails to the eruption site?

Yes, there are marked trails leading from the main car park to the foot of the lava field. Trails also lead up the nearby ridge, Langihryggur. There you can get a birds-eye view of the Nátthagi valley and the caldera (the hole in the peak of the volcano that the molten lava erupts from).

The gravel path to the Nátthagi lava field is suitable for a wide range of abilities. It’s a good idea to wear hiking boots, even for this part of the trail. 

For the best view from atop the ridge, hiking boots are a must though. This steep section of the trail is only recommended for those with a good level of fitness.

When is the best time to visit the Icelandic volcano?

Although the volcanic eruption has been underway since March 2021, no one knows how long it is set to last. Activity levels at the eruption site vary from day to day and with short notice. So how do you know the best time to go? Well, there’s no time like the present!

We recommend keeping a close eye on both the weather forecast and livestream of the eruption from RÚV, the Icelandic national broadcaster. Although the solidified lava field is itself a majestic, awe-inspiring sight, if liquid lava is what you’re after, you’ll have to be prepared to set off to the site on short notice.

Molten lava erupting from the Fagradalsfjall caldera © Rüdiger Sopp
Molten lava spews out of Fagradalsfjall © Rüdiger Sopp

The eruption is a natural phenomenon like the northern lights and forecasting the level of activity on a given day is not possible. Therefore when planning your volcano visit, it helps to be open-minded and flexible.

How do you get to the volcanic eruption?

Fagradalsfjall is around a 1-hour drive from Reykjavík and around a 10-minute drive from nearby Grindavík on the south coast. It’s also not far from the famous Blue Lagoon.

We recommend going by car to give you the maximum flexibility to visit the volcano at its most active. Driving will also allow you enough time to hike the whole trail if you wish and enjoy the spectacle at your own pace.

Parking near the eruption site

There are several car parks near the start of the trail, all accessible by the 427 road that runs along the south side of the Reykjanes peninsula

It’s worth noting that the car park nearest the trail can fill up quickly, so be prepared to park on the other side of the road if viewing conditions are looking good that day. Sometimes the car parks can be quite muddy too, so take care when choosing a space.

You can get directions to the car parks on Google Maps.

What should I pack when I visit the Iceland volcano?

Good hiking boots are of course recommended. As on any hike in Iceland, weather conditions can change quickly and drastically, so bring a waterproof jacket. It’s best to dress in layers for warmth, but also so you can cool down if you work up a sweat on the way.

As the hike can take several hours, it’s a solid idea to bring a water bottle. If you plan to climb the Langihryggur ridge, bring a snack or small picnic to eat at the top as you enjoy the show. 

Lastly, you’ll want to bring a decent camera. Whilst the lava flow can be captured by smartphone camera, an SLR with a zoom lens will offer you the best shots. This is because the ridge is quite far from the caldera.

With that in mind, you might also want to bring a pair of binoculars for a close-up view of the caldera.

So to recap, your volcano trip packing list should include:

  • Good hiking boots
  • Walking poles, if you feel you need them
  • Waterproof jacket and light layers
  • Water bottle
  • Snack or small picnic
  • SLR camera
  • Pair of binoculars

Can you help me plan my visit to the Fagradalsfjall eruption?

Of course! Learn more about the Fagradallsfjall eruption on our Iceland volcano eruption 2021 page, where you’ll find frequently asked questions and the latest updates.

Ready to start planning your Iceland volcano trip? Nordic Visitor can help you put together the perfect itinerary – so you can experience the eruption and many more of Iceland’s natural wonders.

Your local travel consultant will take care of everything for you, from customising your self-drive tour to reserving all your accommodation, local transport and activities. All you need to do is book your flight and enjoy your trip!

And at every step of the way, you can contact us with any question, no matter how small. You even get access to our 24/7 helpline once you arrive in Iceland.

For up-to-date travel advice from our local consultants and expert help planning your perfect Iceland itinerary, drop us a line.


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Post by: Max

After a stint studying and working in Iceland, Max made his nest in Scotland. Whilst he’s left Iceland, the country hasn’t quite left him. When he’s not writing about his favourite places or visiting them, you’ll find him in the kitchen, at the pool or on a skateboard.

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