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  • Writer's pictureAndi

Iceland Volcano Eruption: No Trail No Problem

The Eruption of Fagradalsfjall volcano on August 3, 2022

Okay, so the title of this post is a lie... Never go off trail! Despite that there was "no true trail/path" to get to the eruption site, there definitely was a safe way to get to and from there and then a "not so safe way." We managed to find the not so safe way on the way back. But I'll get into that a bit later. Let's go ahead and jump into it the fun stuff.

Volcano Facts:

- Iceland is home to around 130 volcanoes in 30 different volcanic systems.

- Iceland is entirely formed of Volcanic rock and grows a little bit each year.

- Iceland is one of the most active places in the world when it comes to volcanic activity, averaging about 1 (above the surface) eruption every 5 years.

- Many of Iceland's volcanoes lay beneath glaciers.

- Over 90% of heat in Icelandic housing is from geothermal energy thanks to volcanic activity beneath the surface.

- The deadliest Icelandic Volcanic eruption took place in 1782 in the Skaftáreldar (fires of Skaftá), killing about 1/4 of the population (more from indirect effects of the eruption).

Facts about Fagradalsfjalls:

- The Fagradalsfjall volcano is located in a mostly uninhabited region of the Reykjanes Peninsula NE of Grindavik.

- Fagradalsfjall fissure swarm is considered the southwestern branch or a secondary part of the larger Krýsuvík–Trölladyngja volcanic system.

- On March 19, 2021, Fagradalsfjalls erupted after nearly 6,000 years of no activity. The system continued to erupt until September 2021, filling Geldingadalur and reaching Meradalir valley.

- On August 2, 2022, Fagradalsfjalls erupted again.

Days leading up to the eruption:

We arrived in Iceland on July 29, 2022 and stayed in Reykjavik, like proper tourists with no idea of all the magic that Iceland had to offer. I'm going to be honest, we jumped into it without a thought in the world and just a desire for adventure. The volcanic system began receiving intense earthquake swarms on July 30th, and nearly 3,000 earthquakes had been detected by 1527 on 31 July.

I remember being woken up in the middle of the night to my bed shaking. Excited by the rumble of the earth beneath us, I decided to learn a little bit more about Iceland's volcanos, which I will jump into a bit later.


On August 2, 2022, we had just finished a rocky boat ride to seek out whales & puffins. Ready to warm up and feed ourselves, we skipped on over to Bryggjan Brewery. Here is where you're going to have to humor me... My friend and I being ignorant Texans (who had never experienced an earthquake in our lives before this week) initially were a little uneasy and wondering what actually happens if the volcano erupts. After numerous googling, we were comforted and on August 2, 2022 around 1:20pm, shots were bought for the entire Brewery because Fagradalsfjalls had erupted.


That's right - there's no need to panic. For one, the eruption site is not that close to Reykjavik and for another, it's a fissure eruption that oozes magma from the earth - no ash and burning skies or anything we see in the movies.

So now what do we do?

Naturally we HAVE to find a way to get there. With some dedicated travel companions and their connections to local scientists, we devised a plan to drive about 20 miles towards the town of Grindavick.

On the way there, we enjoyed the beautiful sunny skyline around 8:00PM at night while jamming out to songs like Volcano by Jimmy Buffet, We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel and Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash.

The Hike Itself:

We started our hike around 9:00PM - and yes, it really was this bright outside.

There was no "true" trail or path to get there but the scientists guided us through a general route that had used.

We began hiking through valleys and up hills.

Once up top, we were surrounded by the beauty of Iceland's nature.

The ground was covered in a soft squishy moss and rocks. The moss in Iceland is actually a part of the very fragile ecosystem of Iceland and it's important to be mindful of it when visiting the lava fields. Once walked upon, the moss can be damaged for extended periods of time.

In addition to the unique moss and algae, we observed steam being released from little pockets of the earth around us.

We passed the the cooled lava fields that had since solidified from the 2021 eruption along the way, observing waves of delicate rock structures.

In areas of cracks where the lava had cooled and cracked, you could see the layers of cooling that were truly beautiful and mesmerizing.

Just a word of Caution:


You could fall through.

Think of it like ice over a river. The rock can be very delicate and dangerous.

After miles of hiking, we finally arrived around 11:00PM. The night was beautiful. The sound of the magma waves was like a combination of the ocean and thunder. I'm not sure I can truly capture the sound. We sat in silence and awe at the site, captured by the moment. I could feel the warmth and power of the crack in the earth toast my cheeks like a camp fire.

We watched in awe and respect of the earth, as the sun began to go down around midnight. I'm not sure there is anything so beautiful on this earth and captivating.

We met some local Icelandic people who dared to hike to the site of the eruption that evening. They were shocked to see Americans hiking to the site. We did our best to show respect to them and for their country's beautiful nature.

(I took this photograph at 12:30AM)

Okay, so here is where we went wrong:

Refreshed, enlightened and grateful... we began our embarkment back to the car. Unfortunately, we may have allowed our touristy foolishness to shine by following our boozy friends (everyone has at least one) off of the "not-an-actual-but-still-safe" trail...

While this little hill at 1:00AM may not look too bad from this angle, woof... WORST IDEA EVER. Thankfully no one was harmed in the making of this. As we began to zig-zag down a steep path of loose rocks, we found ourselves in a bear crawl position, facing into the hill to keep from falling before scooting on our butts down slowly.


While we're on that topic, here are a few other things to consider when hiking to an active volcano:

- Volcanoes spew hot, dangerous gases, ash, lava, and rock that are powerfully destructive. In this case, ash was not an issue but the gases were.

- Volcanoes release heavy gases and water vapor with various compounds such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen fluoride. That's a lot of chitter chatter to say (1) Avoid being upwind from gas blowing away from the fissure and (2) pay attention to weather advisories in the area.

- The day after our hike to the volcano, we set out on our quest to the Golden Circle and saw that the following warning had been released:

Oops... so maybe don't do what we did. Or do... but at your own risk! YOLO? I have no regrets. I felt so blessed and humbled for that moment. I also felt incredibly fortunate we flew out two days later, because our other friends got stuck in Iceland for another week due to flight cancellations as a result of the eruption. I wouldn't have been mad about another week in Iceland... But I don't think my wallet would have survived and I might not have had a job when I came back home.

All of that to say... going to the site of a Volcano eruption within hours of it happening turned out to be a dream that I didn't even know I had come true. The travel gods were in our favor. I can't wait to return to Iceland to see the full country and uninhabited areas around the Northwest Fjords & Eastern regions.

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