Iceland Volcano Eruption – Your Guide to Fagradalsfjall

May 19th, 2021

Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois

6 min read

If you’re intrigued by the 2021 Iceland volcano eruption, you’re in the right place. Come learn everything you need to know about Fagradalsfjall, the hottest new attraction on the island.

This eruption comes as another example of why Iceland is nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice. The fiery lava fountains, which can be seen from Reykjavík, demonstrate the true power of nature on display here.

Whether you’re looking for a volcano update or want to come visit Iceland’s newest natural wonder, continue reading. You’ll find more about Fagradalsfjall and how to visit it, as well as other top volcanic attractions in Iceland.

About the Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption

In early 2021, Iceland was rocked by an extremely high number of earthquakes. This heightened volcanic activity predicted a potential eruption on the island, and it finally happened on 19 March 2021.

Late in the night, the sky lit up near the capital after Fagradalsfjall erupted, creating Iceland’s newest volcano.

Where is Fagradalsfjall?

Fagradalsfjall is located in the Geldingadalur valley in Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula. This region lies just south of the capital, Reykjavík, and is home to Keflavík International Airport and the famous Blue Lagoon.

It is around 50 minutes’ drive from Iceland’s capital and 30 minutes from the airport. Its nearby location means it is more accessible than other volcanic sites. For locals and visitors alike, this has become a new attraction.

How was Fagradalsfjall formed?

Although reminiscent of the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, which caused disruption across Europe, this one is of a different nature.

Fagradalsfjall is a fissure eruption. Instead of eruptive rock and ash clouds, it started as a crack in the Earth’s crust. This provided a way for magma to slowly seep out from the deep pockets located under Iceland (also named the Iceland plume or hotspot).

These fissures and its spurting lava created one larger crater from which the lava flows into molten rivers. In turn this created a new lava field that surrounds the volcano now.

Why is the eruption happening here?

Iceland is located along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge tectonic plate boundary, where the North American and Eurasian plates meet. Fissures and volcanic activity are caused by the slow pulling apart of the two tectonic plates.  

This eruption gives an insight into the active geology and volcanic systems of Iceland. They are not only responsible for the hottest new attraction in the country, but for spouting geysers, warming hot springs, and all the geothermal energy Icelanders use.

How long will the eruption last?

There are no clear answers to this question. It may subside soon or may last for a while longer. If you’re planning to come visit in a few months or next year, it may well still be active, but no one knows for sure.

Some scientists have said that this is a reawakening of the region, where there have been no eruptions in 800-900 years. It may mark the beginning of a new period of eruptions that will dot the country with more active volcanoes.

Visiting Fagradalsfjall

Because of its location and activity, Fagradalsfjall is very visitor friendly. Just look on Instagram for all the photos of Icelanders in front of the volcano. It’s now a must-see site for any Icelandic bucket list!

Access to the Geldingadalur valley is, however, a bit less straightforward. This is due to no roads leading directly to the site. You’ll have to park your car on the closest road and hike the rest of the way.

The car park for the volcanic site sits about 10 minutes from Grindavík. Turn right off the 427 road to reach Geldingardalur Volcano Parking, which you can find on Google Maps.

The hike to Fagradalsfjall is around 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) each way. This should total around 3 hours for the return trip if you have a good level of fitness. The rugged terrain may be a challenge, but you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent feat of nature.

Please also be aware of the famous Icelandic weather. Keep up to date with the daily weather forecast before embarking on this endeavor. And make sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

Is it safe to visit?

The volcano and its stark lava field have been compared to Mordor and otherworldly landscapes. But fear not, the area is not home to any evil. In fact, it is being monitored by scientists, and visitors are allowed.

You can, and should, keep up to date with local advice before heading to the site. For example, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management could close the site if it’s windy and there’s an increased threat of toxic gas emissions.

For this reason, it’s advised that if you have a respiratory condition, you shouldn’t visit.

During your hike try to keep the wind at your back and stay on higher grounds. Stay a safe distance from the fissure and from the lava flow. 

Take your precautions and enjoy the fiery side of Iceland!

Other highlights of the Reykjanes peninsula

Whether you’ve just landed or wish to visit the volcano from Reykjavík, you could make a day of it in the Reykjanes peninsula. Dive into the culture and landscape of Iceland’s southwestern tip.

You could go visit the small fishing town of Grindavík and the 100-year-old Reykjanes Lighthouse. Crossing the Bridge Between Continents is another way to experience the crack of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Or treat yourself to a relaxing spa experience after your hike up to Fagradalsfjall. Enjoy the soothing geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon and its world-famous facilities.

Other volcanic attractions in Iceland

It’s needless to say that the Land of Fire and Ice has a variety of volcanic highlights to enjoy.

You could come admire the high peaks and volcanoes dotted around the island, forming a truly incredible landscape. But where should you go exactly? We’ve compiled a list of the top volcanic areas and locations you could visit:

1. Þingvellir National Park

We’ve talked a lot about the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Another way to witness this tear in the Earth’s crust is at Þingvellir National Park. This is a cultural and geological wonder of Iceland and the world.

Here you can see the effects of the tectonic plate movements on the Icelandic landscape. It was also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural significance. This is where the first parliament of Iceland, the AlÞing, was founded in the 10th century.

Cliffs and deep fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

2. Vík í Mýrdal

Travel along the south coast and you’ll admire the infamous Eyjafjallajökull as well as the ice caps of the region. It is a sight to behold!

Then you’ll want to stop by the quaint village of Vík í Mýrdal and go for a walk on the nearby black sand beach.

Black sand beaches are distinct because of their volcanic origins. Ashes and other volcanic residue are deposited into the sea around the island. They then get eroded into the black sand that creates the stark and defining landscape of Iceland’s coast.

Troll Toes on Black beach Reynisfjara

3. Laki fissure

Along Iceland’s south coast, we recommend exploring Laki, or Lakagígar. It is a volcanic fissure of 27 kilometers (16 miles) created in 1783. At the same time, you can visit the breathtaking surroundings as it is part of the Vatnajökull National Park.

4. Volcanic craters in North Iceland

Touring the Ring Road? You’ll want to go admire the large craters and calderas of the otherworldly Lake Mývatn area. This region is renowned for its unusual terrain and geothermal activity.

The first one of note is the Krafla caldera. It has a diameter of 10 kilometers (6 miles) so it is vast! You could also visit the Hverfell volcanic crater located nearby. With a diameter of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles), it is one of the biggest tephra craters in Europe.

5. Westman Islands

Journey to Heimaey, a volcanic island that’s part of the Westman archipelago. It is located just off the south coast and has a rich cultural and seismic history. Come witness the lava fields that engulfed some of the houses on the island during the eruption of 1973.

Hike to the top of Mount Eldfell, discover the stunning elephant rock formation, and sail around the islands. You may even catch sight of whales, seals, and puffins.

Heimaey town aerial view from Eldfell volcano. Westman Islands in Iceland

6. Þríhnúkagígur volcano

The ultimate excursion has to be going deep inside a volcano, right? Well, it’s possible at the dormant Þríhnúkagígur.

After a moderate hike to reach the crater, you’ll descend 120 meters (400 feet) to the bottom via a cable lift. This way you can truly enjoy an insider look of what lies beneath the surface.

Walking up Þríhnúkagígur is a big part of the experience as you’ll be rewarded by stunning scenery all around.

Inside a the volcano in Iceland

Bonus: Perlan

This is one of Reykjavík’s top attractions. The Perlan allows you to experience the natural wonders of Iceland from the safety and warmth of a museum, volcanoes included.

Here you could walk through the city’s first and only ice cave, a detailed replica of the inside of a glacier. Learn about and take in the dangers and beauty of volcanoes. And witness the famous Northern Lights at Iceland’s only planetarium.

Planning your Iceland volcano vacation

There are many ways to explore Iceland and its volcanic attractions. You could opt for a road trip, a city break, a camping adventure, or a private tour.

Why not let a local organize the adventure for you? Book with Iceland Tours and you’ll benefit from itineraries made with our travel consultants’ insider knowledge. You can expect tried-and-tested routes and accommodations, trusted suppliers, and plenty of advice.

They’ll suggest volcanic excursions to add to your tour and you’ll be supported every step of the way. This includes access to our 24/7 helpline.

When you’re ready to plan your volcanic adventure, please contact our travel consultants or browse our Iceland vacation packages

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Written by:

Camila Contreras-Langlois