That Iceland is the home of a large number of active and inactive volcanos is not a secret to anyone. Fagradalsfjall is one of the volcanos that people in Iceland refer to as a “tourist volcano” due to the calm eruption and easy access.
There were tens of thousands of earthquakes connected to the events around Fagradalsfjall. However, the property damage was minimal and no one got hurt. In fact, it became commonplace for locals and visitors to spend the day at the volcano and get surprisingly up close and personal with the lava!
Fagradalsfjall Top Facts
On a map that shows the elevation of the earth’s crust, Iceland appears to sit on top of a small pedestal in the North Atlantic Ocean. This is because Iceland formed as the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates separated, allowing magma to build the land mass we see today.
If you look at the border between these Icelandic tectonic plates, you’ll see that this volcanic area sits right on top of the mid-Atlantic ridge that marks the line between the two tectonic plates. This is why you can see Fagradalsfjall on a volcanic map over Iceland, as most volcanos in the country are situated along this ridge.
Even though Fagradalsfjall is a volcanic area, it’s not an impressively tall mountain range. The highest peak in the area is only 385 meters high, which makes this area an excellent spot for hiking. As long as you steer clear of the newly formed smoldering lava fields, of course.
Even though the eruption is technically still active, the lava flows halted in August 2022. So, the Fagradals mountain area is considered to be safe enough at the moment for hikes and normal activities to resume.
If you are hiking to the Fagradalsfjall volcano, you will understand where the area gets its name from. The name is a combination of the Icelandic words for beautiful (fagur), valley (dalur), and mountain (fjall)! The nature surrounding Fagradalsfjall is stunning and has long been a preferred day hike for many Icelandic locals in the area.
History of Fagradalsfjall
The Reykjanes Peninsula was created sometime during the last seven million years. That makes this one of the youngest areas in Iceland. As a reference, the Westfjords in Iceland are (geologically) the oldest area on the island and have existed for more than 16 million years. That means that there was a 9-million-year period where the Westfjords existed, but the Reykjanes Peninsula didn’t.
The actual volcano Fagradalsfjall in Iceland, however, came into existence in the last ice age. That means this volcano is “only” about 100 thousand years old! Fagradalsfjall owes its looks to the time when the volcano erupted in Iceland under a thick sheet of ice. Most volcanos formed this way gets the characteristic flat top and steep sides. Truly a Land of Fire and Ice.
The Iceland volcano Fagradalsfjall has erupted on and off ever since it challenged the ice age 100 thousand years ago. However, there hasn’t been a volcanic eruption for the last 815 years on this peninsula. Many volcanologists in Iceland were happy to get the chance to examine the inner works of the young peninsula.
Fagradalsfjall 2021 Eruption Series
On a cold February morning in the southwestern part of Iceland, the locals got properly shaken. An M5,7 (Richter scale) earthquake shook the Reykjanes Peninsula and everyone on it. However, this Iceland volcano eruption wasn’t satisfied with merely one earthquake. The coming three weeks after the initial tremble was accompanied by no less than 40 thousand (luckily much less powerful) earthquakes that kept the inhabitants of the area on their toes.
On the 19 of March 2021, the ground split open at Geldingadalir and a steady stream of lava started to pour out and cover almost an entire square kilometer. Geldingadalir and Fagradalsfjall are roughly 1 kilometer away from each other, but still share the same magma chamber.
On the 5th of April 2021, the same body of magma that cracked open Geldingadalir now turned its attention to Fagradalsfjall. It opened a 500-meter-long fissure in the beautiful mountain. The Fagradalsfjall volcano had officially erupted, and since this was not an aggressive eruption, it didn’t pose any threat to the locals and tourists.
Mount Fagradalsfjall became an attraction, and both locals and visitors could be seen with a picnic basket not far from the steaming tongues of molten rock.
Fagradalsfjall 2022 Eruption
Lava stopped flowing out of the fissures at and around Fagradalsfjall on September 18th, 2021. The eruptions started again on the 3rd of August 2022, after more than 10 thousand recorded earthquakes in less than a week, with at least two of them measuring above 5 on the Richter scale.
This time, the eruptions were estimated to be more than 10 times bigger than the ones in 2021. Still, no infrastructure or humans were at risk since the type of eruptions were the same as in 2021 and lacked any explosive event. Due to the high volumes of lava coming out, people were advised to stay away, even though the lava seemed to only be directed into the nearby Meradalir Valleys.
The lava flows stopped on the 21st of August, but the eruption is still considered to be ongoing and is monitored closely, even though there are no visible signs of another eruption on the surface. As of now, the lava field is almost 5 square kilometers large and shows no sign of expanding. The Fagradalsfjall volcano's live webcam provides real-time updates on its eruption status, allowing scientists and viewers alike to monitor the volcano's behavior and study its impact on the surrounding environment.
Will an Eruption Break out Again in 2023?
As usual with volcanic activity, it’s often impossible to know exactly when another eruption is going to take place for the Iceland volcano Fagradalsfjall. The next eruption is believed to take place either during 2023 or 2024, but we will only know once the earthquakes start over once again.
Technically, this eruption is still ongoing. However, when it comes to how long will the Fagradalsfjall eruption last, the estimate is for the coming 10 to 20 years. This doesn’t mean continuous lava pouring out, but rather addresses the activity going on in the magma chambers below the site.
Iceland is one of the most active volcanic regions on Earth, with over 30 active volcanoes. Some are still due for an eruption, such as the very active Katla Volcano. Others, are dormant and offer fantastic hiking options and landscapes, such as the sleeping giant of Laki volcano. Eruptions are common and can have both devastating and transformative effects on the island's landscape and communities.
The speculation is that we might see another eruption in the already existing fissures or very close to them. We can only hope that any future Fagradalsfjall eruption will follow in the footsteps of the previous eruptions and not the likes of Eyjafjallajökull volcano. It is well-known for its 2010 eruption that caused widespread disruption to air travel in Europe
Visiting Fagradalsfjall Volcano (and a Few Other Iceland Hot Spots)
Taking a Fagradalsfjall hike is perfectly possible as long as you know your way. The site is close to the capital, so you can think of it as a day excursion from Reykjavík. However, There are no roads that lead to the site, so it’s advised to go with one of the Fagradalsfjall volcano tours, for both safety and convenience.
Fagradalsfjall is actually not far from the famous Blue Lagoon, so you could easily start or end the day with a warm and rejuvenating dip in the amazing pools.
How to Get There
Since Fagradalsfjall is on the Reykjanes Peninsula, it makes sense to think that it’s not that far away from Reykjavík. But where is mount Fagradalsfjall? And how far is Fagradalsfjall from Reykjavík? Fagradalsfjall is actually one of the few active volcanoes near Reykjavík. Tourists can hike to the eruption site and witness the stunning lava flows up close, making for a memorable and unique Icelandic experience.
You can go one of two routes that differ slightly if you go from Reykjavík. The shortest way to Fagradalsfjall will be via Road 42, which cuts right through the peninsula until you reach the mountain area. That one is roughly 55 kilometers long. The other one goes around the peninsula via Grindavík along Road 41, then 43, and then 427. That route will be roughly 65 kilometers but take about the same time.
When it comes to how to get to Fagradalsfjall volcano from the road or nearby town, you should really rely on a cunning tour guide to get you to the right spots. If you want to pay this magnificent volcano a visit up close and personal, we recommend going with any one of the licensed drivers who have the knowledge and expertise to get extra close to the lava.
The easiest way to get to the area is to drive along Road 247 and park as close as possible. You can also hike from Grindavík with one of the guided tours, which will be a longer trip, but you will see more of the beautiful Fagradalsfjall area on the way.
If you decide to take the car to either a hike rendezvous or simply park as close as possible, you can choose from two main parking spots. Both are along Road 247 and will simply allow you to start your journey either from the western part of the mountain area or right in the middle of it.
The western parking area is called Geldingadalir parking and is closer to Geldingadalir. The other one is called Fagradalsfjall parking and is closer to that part of the mountain area.
If you are really daring, you can park on the eastern part of the mountain range along Route 42. That will make your Fagradalsfjall volcano hike longer than the other parking options.
Apart from the newly formed lava fields, mount Fagradalsfjall is perfectly safe and a great destination if you want to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nothing gets you closer to both the beauty and power of nature than hiking at an active volcano!
If you have a little bit of know-how and study the Fagradalsfjall volcano map properly, you won’t have any issues hiking the area without a guide. Just keep a safe distance from the lava fields and don’t take any curious risks just because you want to get close to the lava field. That molten rock is an incredibly hot soup that is far from solid, even if it looks cooled down.
If you insist on hiking the area, we suggest you at least talk to one of the locals. They are usually the ones not struggling with the Fagradalsfjall pronunciation. They'll help you find out which routes are going to give you the most value for your time.
When going on a Fagradalsfjall hike, we suggest you pack warm and waterproof clothing (counter-intuitively) since the area will most likely be somewhat wet and windy in true Icelandic fashion. Check our ultimate packing list for Iceland to make sure you don’t forget any important item while packing.
Ever since the Iceland volcano eruption, many tours have been made available in the area to ensure that visitors are getting a safe interaction with this magnificent display of volcanic force. Most tours will be hikes that take up to 6-7 hours, so prepare accordingly.
If you don’t have the time to spend a day at the lava field, you can take a Fagradalsfjall helicopter tour from Reykjavik instead. They are most definitely on the pricey side, but the tours only take about 40 minutes, and you will get an unbeatable bird's-eye view of the volcanic area. This is a good alternative if you’re staying in a hotel that is not particularly close to the site.
Iceland's volcanic activity
Iceland is indeed a focal point of impressively powerful forces of nature. It can be clearly seen when the ground trembles non-stop for weeks before over 150 million cubic meters of lava filled a valley with molten rock.
Fagradalsfjall won’t go down in history as the most explosive or disruptive volcanic eruption. Instead, it’s likely to go down on the polar opposite of the spectrum. As one of the impressively large, but calm, cozy, and non-disruptive volcanic eruptions in modern Icelandic history.
Seldom do we see people packing picnic baskets and setting up tours for visitors when they hear about how millions of cubic meters of lava are about to burst out of the ground.
Fagradalsfjall is unique and impressive, but far from alone in the Icelandic roster of wonderful experiences. Make sure to rent a car in Iceland, so you can indulge in all the things that Iceland has on offer.