Iceland Volcano Eruption – Your Guide to Fagradalsfjall

6 minute read

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By Adina Lazar

18 May 2023

Fagradalsfjall volcano, Iceland

If you’re intrigued by the Iceland volcano eruptions of 2023, 2022, and 2021, you’re in the right place. Come and learn everything you need to know about Fagradalsfjall and Litli-Hrútur, the latest attraction on the island.

These eruptions showed perfectly why Iceland is nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice. The fiery lava fountains, which could be seen as far away as Reykjavík at one stage, demonstrated the true power of nature.

Whether you’re looking for a volcano update or want to visit one of Iceland’s natural wonders, continue reading. You’ll find more about Fagradalsfjall’s active site, erupting now at Litli-Hrútur, and how to see its magma and lava fields. What’s more, you’ll also discover other top volcanic attractions in Iceland.

Fagradalsfjall volcano erupting from a distance

About the Fagradalsfjall volcano eruptions

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.

Luckily, the eruption was contained in a remote area, away from any towns or villages. And once the Icelandic authorities declared it safe to visit, it became a must-see attraction for Icelanders and visitors from around the world.

Slow-flowing lava surrounded the volcano in the Geldingadalir valley until September 2021, and it was finally declared over that December. Less than a year later, on 3 August 2022, the volcano erupted again at Meradalir, just 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away from the previous site.

About the 2023 Litli-Hrútur volcano eruption

For the 3rd consecutive year, another eruption has reawakened the Reykjanes peninsula. Following thousands of small earthquakes, lava fountains started gushing from the ground on 10 July 2023.

This time, the eruption is taking place near the Litli-Hrútur mountain peak, just north of Mount Fagradalsfjall. Just like the other 2 before it, the volcano is not affecting any flights or putting any people or communities at risk.

That said, Litli-Hrútur was much bigger than Fagradalsfjall at first. It  started off as a 900–meter (2,953-foot) long fissure before shrinking to about 200 meters (656 feet), similar to the previous eruptions.

Where are Litli-Hrútur and Fagradalsfjall?

You’ll find Fagradalsfjall and Litli-Hrútur located on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula. This region lies just south of the capital, Reykjavík, and is home to Keflavik International Airport and the famous Blue Lagoon.

You can reach the Fagradalsfjall volcanic area by driving around 50 minutes from Iceland’s capital or 30 minutes from the airport. Its location means it is more accessible than other volcanic sites. In 2021 and 2022, the last 2 eruptions at Fagradalsfjall became must-see attractions, once the Icelandic authorities declared them safe to visit. 

The Fagradalsfjall volcano as seen from above in 2022

How were Fagradalsfjall and Litli-Hrútur formed?

Before Fagradalsfjall, the last famous eruption in Iceland was Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. That volcano caused disruption all over Europe, but luckily the most recent ones were of a different nature.

The type of eruptions at Fagradalsfjall have been fissures. Instead of rock and ash clouds, they 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 known as the Iceland plume or hotspot.

These fissures and its spurting lava created one larger crater, which the lava flowed from in molten rivers. The lava fields around Fagradalsfjall’s previous eruptions – at Geldingadalir and Meradalir – are now completely solidified.

But the lava surrounding Litli-Hrútur is still flowing. Rivers of molten lava are gushing from the ground as we speak! 

The Fagradalsfjall volcano erupting in Iceland

Why did the eruptions happen 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.  

These eruptions give an insight into the active geology and volcanoes of Iceland. They're not only responsible for one of the latest attractions in the country, but for spouting geysers, warming hot springs, and all the geothermal energy Icelanders use.

Man sitting in front of Fagradalsfjall volcano

How long did the eruptions last?

The 2021 eruption period lasted 6 months, while the smaller eruption the following year only lasted around 3 weeks before going quiet.

As for the ongoing eruption near Litli-Hrútur, no one knows for sure how long it will last! Volcanic eruptions are unpredictable and it could be weeks or months before the lava stops flowing.

Some scientists have said that this is a reawakening of the Reykjanes region, where there have been no eruptions in 800 to 900 years. We might be seeing the beginning of a new period of eruptions dotted across the country.

Fagradalsfjall volcano erupting at sunset

Is the 2023 volcano eruption safe to visit?

The Icelandic authorities have recently opened up the eruption site near Litli-Hrútur to visitors and it's now possible to go there. That said, there are a few essential things to keep in mind before you go. 

First, the active eruption zone is not a safe area and it can be very unpredictable. New cracks in the Earth could open up at any point or the course of the lava could change.

What’s more, fumes and smoke could build up in the area depending on the wind direction. This means that children and people with respiratory problems should steer clear of the eruption.

Once you’re there, the hike to the viewing point is long and strenuous. The return trip is 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) across uneven and steep ground and it takes 5–8 hours to complete. For this reason, it’s only suitable for experienced hikers with a good level of fitness.

We strongly advise you not to do this hike without an experienced local guide. 

Also, bear in mind the active eruption is still evolving and the authorities can open and close the path on short notice. Before you head to the volcano, check the Visit Reykjanes website for up-to-date information about hiking and parking there. And for the latest updates on the eruption and safety information, visit the Safe Travel Iceland website and our volcano update page.  

Lava streams at Fagradalsfjall volcano

How to visit the Litli-Hrútur eruption site

There’s nothing like seeing rivers of lava flowing from an erupting volcano up-close. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience!

The best way to witness this natural wonder is from above, on a helicopter tour from Reykjavík. This gives you a chance to be at the heart of the action but keep a (very) safe distance. On this excursion, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the eruption as you fly over it.

If you want to hike to the eruption site, we also offer a tour of the volcano led by an experienced guide. But keep in mind this hike is very challenging and not suitable for everyone. Please familiarize yourself with all the safety information before booking.

A woman standing by the rocky Fagradalsfjall volcano

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 on 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 see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge up close.

Or treat yourself to a relaxing spa experience after your hike and soak in 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 Alþingi, was founded in the 10th century.

Þingvellir National Park covered in snow

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’s 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 Reynisfjara 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 much of Iceland’s coast.

A rainbow over Reynisfjara black sand beach

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 Islands 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 might even catch sight of whales, seals, and puffins.

Elephant Rock cliff in the Westman Islands

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.

A group of people being lowered into a lava cave © Inside the Volcano

Bonus: Perlan

This is one of Reykjavík’s top attractions. 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.

The Fagradalsfjall volcano in early 2021

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 while you explore Iceland at your own pace. You’ll also have access to our 24/7 helpline while you’re here.

When you’re ready to plan your volcanic adventure, check out our Iceland vacation packages.


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About the author

Adina’s love for travel has led her to different corners of the world over the years. But Iceland’s unique beauty has a special place in her heart, so she’s decided to share it with the world! Next time she’s there, she plans to take a dip in the hot springs, spot some puffins, and collect a few Icelandic wool sweaters (lopapeysa) along the way. When she’s not writing, she loves being out in nature or cozying up with a good book.

View more posts by Adina

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