In March 2021 after multiple earthquakes, a new volcano appeared in Iceland. Close to the small fishing town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula the eruption continued for 6 months. It all went quiet before a second fissure opened in the nearby Meradalir Valley. This short eruption in August 2022 lasted just 19 days before falling silent. These two eruption sites can now be viewed with the newest lava fields in Iceland still steaming as they cool.
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Unlike other volcanic eruptions in Iceland such as the 2010 Eyjafjajökull eruption that caused chaos, these most recent eruptions are relatively accessible and pretty mundane.
Litli Hrútur – The Newest Volcano in Iceland
A new eruption in the area of Fagradalsfjall area started on 10th July 2023. This is an ongoing and rapidly changing area but updates can be found at RUV.is and Visit Reykjanes.
If you want to visit the volcano the hike is 10km in each direction from parking area D, close to the parking areas for Fagradalsfjall. If you would rather go with a guide (which is the best option) then this Troll Expeditions hike is recommended.
For more luxury seeing the site by helicopter is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and can be booked here
The New Volcano in Iceland – Facts about Fagradalsfjall Volcano
On the 19th March 2021 after thousands of earthquakes over the preceding days, a fissure vent opened in Geldingadalir just to the south of Fagradalsfjall mountain. This flat-topped volcano and the surrounding volcanic systems had been dormant for 815 years but had burst into life in spectacular style. Magma at over 1,300°C (2372°F) was ejected into the air and could be seen from Reykjavík over 40km away.
The first eruption saw fountains of lava being ejected for 6 months before activity ceased on 18th September 2021. This left a vast area covered in lava that had flowed from the volcano and filled the valley.
On August 3rd 2022 after a similar swarm of earthquakes to the 2021 eruption a long fissure opened in an adjacent valley called the Meradalir Valley. This eruption lasted until the 21st August 2022 and filled the valley with fresh lava. The fears that this eruption would flow out of the valley towards the road below were eased when the activity ceased soon after the start of the eruption.
How to Get to Fagradalsfjall Volcano
The volcano site is easily reached from Reykjavík and is close to Grindavík on the south coast. The drive from Reykjavík takes about an hour while the drive from Keflavík is about 45 minutes.
Where do you park to See the Volcano in Iceland
There are two main car parks which are very obvious on the left as you drive along Road 427 heading east from Grindavík. A third overflow car park is on the right as you come down the hill, but don’t be tempted into this until you have checked the first car park.
Parking is available 24 hours a day and is paid using the EasyPark App. It is 1,000ISK for 24 hours.
When to Visit the Fagradalsfjall Volcano in Geldingadalur
Even though the volcano has stopped erupting (for now) any visit to this area needs planning and preparation.
Weather in Iceland can change rapidly and even if it is sunny and clear at the car park, by the time you reach the viewing area 2 hours later it could be strong winds and heavy rain. There is nothing worse than slogging uphill to find zero visibility across the lava fields when you get to the viewing points.
Always check the weather forecast on Vedur.is or volcanoweather.is and if there is any doubt in your mind don’t start the hike. You should also check conditions at the site at safetravel.is
Is Fagradalsfjall Worth Visiting Even Though the Eruption Is Over?
Even though Fagradalsfjall volcano is no longer active it is definitely still worth visiting. There are very few places where you can see freshly formed lava fields that are still cooling. The hike to the viewpoints is hard but stunning and to look out over the expansive lava fields is a humbling experience.
Can I Visit the volcano without a guide?
It is possible to hike to the volcano without a guide with the paths to the viewpoints being clearly marked. If you are confident with hiking 14km over mixed terrain and steep hills then it is possible. If you are not used to hiking this far or comfortable with changes in Icelandic weather then you are much better going with a tour guide.
Is the Iceland volcano hike suitable for children?
When the volcano initially erupted younger children were not allowed to complete the hike due to the gases that were being emitted and collecting at ground level. Now that the eruption is over it is safe for children to visit.
However, thought should be given before taking children on this hike. It may only be 14km, but it is on uneven ground. The path is now complete but is very steep in places and can be slippery after rain. There isn’t much other than lava for children to look at or explore and 5 minutes of a steaming lava field that they can’t explore is probably more than enough.
I would certainly think twice before taking kids on the volcano hike, look carefully at the weather forecast and make your judgment knowing your children’s ability.
They can see and learn as much from the first viewpoint without hiking for 6 hours.
Hiking to Fagradalsfjall Volcano
The hike to Fagradalsfjall Volcano can be broken down into a number of stages. There are currently 2 main viewpoints that will allow you to see both the craters and their lava fields. Each viewpoint involves different levels of exertion and time.
The shortest hike is about 15 minutes each way to Nátthagi viewpoint while the hike to the Meradalir viewpoint overlooking the new eruption site takes about 2 hours each way.
Route A to Meradalir Valley Viewpoint
This is the only route to the new eruption site and is a 7km slog each way passing the lava fields from the 2021 eruption.
The route starts with a gentle incline from parking area 1 to a small viewing area that provides an insight into the lava that you will see further on. From this point, it gets more difficult with a steep 2km uphill section with switchbacks. This takes you up the 300m ascent needed.
The path continues with a number of steep sections both up and down which can be quite difficult in wet weather before the wide expanse of the 2021 lava fields and crater come into view at Stórhóll. This is absolutely breathtaking and the colours on the walls of the crater are stunning.
The route then crosses a boulder field which is hard to walk across. A new path has been put in place making it a lot easier to cross over, but it is still hard going. However, once you have crossed the boulders there is just one more descent and ascent before your reach the viewing area.
This final part of the route drops down to the edge of the old lava field where you can get close to the cooling lava. Don’t be tempted to walk on the lava as it is still dangerous and can collapse at any time.
Arriving at the Meradalir viewpoint is time to stop and view the new crater and the vast lava field that was created in just 19 days. It is possible to walk down the slope to the edge of the lava field but again it is still very hot so care is needed.
The return follows the same route but feels much quicker than the walk-up!
Route C To Nátthagi Viewpoint And LangihrygguR
The hike to Nátthagi is probably the easiest of all the hikes to the lava fields. It is just a short 15-minute, 800m walk from car park 2 to the end of the lava flow. It is possible to look back up the valley and see the flow of the lava and where it finally ran out of energy.
If you have the time and energy the hike to Langihryggur is a 4km hike from Nátthagi. There is a 250m ascent over rough ground but it is worth it for the views across the whole area as well as the new eruption site.
Best hiking route to see the Fagradalsfjall Eruption Site – 2023
DUE TO THE NEW ERUPTION ON THE 10TH JULY 2023 THE AUTHORITIES HAVE ASKED VISITORS TO STAY AWAY FROM THE AREA WHILE IT IS ASSESSED
Now that the eruption has ended, if you want to see fresh lava then either follow Route C to Nátthagi or Route A just before the start of the switchbacks.
If you want to see the full expanse of the lava fields and both craters then allow 5 to 6 hours and enjoy the hike along route A to the main Meradalir viewpoint passing the 2021 crater and lava fields on the way to the 2022 eruption site.
More Things to Do in South West Iceland
- Exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula
- Best Views in Reykjavík
- Nature and wildlife in Reykjavík
- Street Art in Reykjavík
- South coast of Iceland road trip