In 2021 Fagradalsfjall Volcano burst into life, red hot lava spewing from its crater. In August 2022 a new fissure in the Meradalir valley split open and it began erupting again. Here’s how to see it.
On Friday, March 19, 2021, at around 8:45 pm, the volcanic area around Fagradalsfjall in southwest Iceland burst into life. Molten lava was thrown spectacularly into the air creating a red-yellow sky that could be seen from Reykjavík, 30 miles away. Iceland’s latest eruption had begun and would continue for 5 months.
As the lava cooled, it left behind a volcanic scar sweeping throughout the valley.
On August 3, 2022, at 1:18 pm Fagradalsfjall Volcano erupted again. A fissure just east of the volcano, in the Meradalir Valley, split open and plumes of molten lava were forced into the air. Scientists rushed to the eruption site to assess the area and it was declared safe enough to open to visitors on the morning of Tuesday, August, 9.
The eruption has now ceased but the volcano site is still a great place to visit with interesting hikes to fantastic viewpoints. Here’s how to see the best of the Fagradalsfjall Volcano area including tours, maps, hiking trails and suggested routes.
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FACTS ABOUT FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO
Fagradalsfjall is a flat-topped, steep-sided volcano in the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of Iceland. It is at the heart of a wider volcanic system (also referred to as Fagradalsfjall) which covers an area 5 kilometres wide and 16 kilometres long.
The volcano was formed in the last ice age but remained dormant for over 800 years until a fissure vent opened in Geldingadalir just to the south of Fagradalsfjall mountain on March 19, 2021.
Magma was thrown into the air and rivers of molten lava flowed round the mountains and through the valleys.
The magma was ejected at over 1,300°C (2372°F) and as it cooled, it left behind a volcanic scar; a sweeping river of black, suspended in place as it settled throughout the valley. On September 18, 2021 the eruption ceased but not for long.
On August 3, 2022, Fagradalsfjall Volcano erupted again. A 300-metre-long fissure opened up in the Meradalir Valley, just east of the previous eruption.
Plumes of molten magma were forced from beneath the ground and new rivers of molten lava flowed down the valley. For a couple of days, the eruption site was checked by scientists then opened to visitors again on the morning of Tuesday, August, 9.
Within days new paths had formed to viewpoints overlooking the eruption site and tours began running to the area.
TOURS TO MERADALIR & FAGRADALSFJALL
Tours to the Meradalir fissure at Fagradalsfjall Volcano are a great way to see the site, especially if you are not driving in Iceland. Most offer a pickup from hotels in Reykjavík and take 6 to 8 hours, including transport to the area and a guided hike to the viewpoint.
GETTING TO THE FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO
If you want to visit Fagradalsfjall Volcano under your own steam it is a 45-minute drive from Keflavik airport or 1 hour from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík.
To get views of the volcano you will need to hike between 30 minutes to 2 hours (each way) on mountain trails to a series of viewpoints.
There are five different viewpoints over Fagradalsfjall Volcano: Stórhóll viewpoint, Meradalir Fissure Viewpoint, Nátthagi viewpoint, Langihryggur viewpoint, and Stóri Hrútur viewpoint.
There are two car parks at Fagradalsfjall (open 24 hours a day) and each cost 1,000 ISK for 24 hours. You can pay via the EasyPark App using a credit or debit card. Cash is not accepted.
HIKES TO THE 2022 FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO VIEWPOINTS
There used to be a series of trails marked A, B or C which circumnavigated the Fagradalsfjall Volcano. However, the authorities have now closed these paths and redirected them to a new series of hiking trails around Fagradalsfall.
There are now 5 viewpoints to hike to at Fagradalsfjall, each giving a unique view of the 2021 and 2022 eruption sites.
1 – STÓRHÓLL VIEWPOINT HIKE
Stórhóll viewpoint gets closest to the black volcanic crater of the 2021 eruption at Geldingadalir. The trail to the viewpoint (Route A) passes right next to its cooled black lava flow and the black and yellow sulphurous crater can be seen about a kilometre away.
Below, the black lava field still steams from the residual heat. But to get to see the new eruption site you’ll need to head a bit further.
STÓRHÓLL HIKE DETAILS
Closest Park – Car Park 1 | Walking Distance – 2.6 kilometres | Time – 1 hour one way | Difficulty – Easy to medium with 150 metres of ascent
2 – MERADALIR FISSURE VIEWPOINT HIKE
Meradalir Fissure viewpoint is 3 kilometres past the Stórhóll viewpoint and is the closest viewpoint to the 2022 eruption site. This the viewpoint to go to for the best views of the new eruption, the fissure is only about 500 meters away.
The eruption is changing on an almost daily basis, the best idea of what you can see from here is from the Langhöll webcam which is positioned on the mountain just behind the viewpoint. But standing here and watching the eruption is breathtaking.
A rough route of the new trail to the viewpoint (an extension to Route A) is provided on the map at the end of the post. Being a new route the path is rough and rocky so wear some shoes with a good grip. It takes about 4 hours to make the round trip walk. Adding an hour to take photos, plan on at least 5 hours for the round trip.
MERADALIR FISSURE HIKE DETAILS
Closest Park – Car Park 1 | Walking Distance – 5.6 kilometres | Time – 2 hours one way | Difficulty – Medium with 200 metres of ascent
3 – NÁTTHAGI VIEWPOINT HIKE
Nátthagi viewpoint is right at the end of the lava flow that was created in the 2021 eruption.
Here you can get up close to the rounded glob of solid black lava at the point where it stopped flowing towards the bottom of the valley. It gives the best impression of how the lava flow solidified and came to a stop.
Although the lava is within touching distance, you are not allowed on the lava as sulphurous gases can still escape.
NÁTTHAGI HIKE DETAILS
Closest Park – Car Park 2 | Distance – 800 metres | Time – 15 minutes one way | Difficulty – Easy with 30 metres of ascent
4 – LANGIHRYGGUR VIEWPOINT HIKE
Langihryggur viewpoint is at the summit of Langihryggur mountain; a dramatic 296-meter-high ridge. It is higher than the previous two viewpoints and offers a tremendous overview of the entire area.
From here you get the best overall impression of the whole site including the path the lava took from the 2021 eruption as it swept over the mountains and down through the valleys.
The 2022 eruption can also be seen from Langihryggur viewpoint although it is about 2.5 kilometres away. To get closer to the Meradalir fissure head further along the ridge to Stóri Hrútur.
LANGIHRYGGUR HIKE DETAILS
Closest Park – Car Park 2 | Distance – 2.5 kilometres | Time – 1 hour one way | Difficulty – Medium with 250 metres of ascent
5 – STÓRI HRÚTUR VIEWPOINT HIKE
Stóri Hrútur viewpoint is on top of Stóri Hrútur mountain (353 metres) and just over 1 kilometre further along the ridge from Langihryggur.
Higher and with steeper sides, Stóri Hrútur is only 1.5 kilometres away from the 2022 fissure eruption in the Meradalir Valley.
There is a steep and often slippery and tricky zig-zag path heading up its slope. An easier path heads around the base of the mountain staying closer to the 2021 lava flow and giving you a lower view over the new eruption.
Depending on conditions you can choose which route to take from the top of Langihryggur.
STÓRI HRÚTUR HIKE DETAILS
Closest Park – Car Park 2 | Distance – 4 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 40 minutes one way | Difficulty – Medium – Challenging with 370 metres of ascent
MAP / 2022 FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO
Below is a map of the five different viewpoints in the Fagradalsfjall area and how to hike to them. The Stórhóll and Meridalir viewpoints are in red, the Nátthagi viewpoint is in black and the Langihryggur viewpoint and Stóri Hrútur viewpoints are in green.
2022 FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO HIKE
Hiking to all the different viewpoints would take 6 to 8 hours, so choose which view you want most.
CLOSEST VIEW OF THE NEW ERUPTION SITE
For a close-up view of the new eruption in the Meradalir Valley, park at car park 1 and head to the Meradalir Viewpoint via Stórhóll (marked as Route A). Allow 4 to 5 hours for the return walk and time to take photos of this amazing natural phenomenon. Here are some tips to keep in mind when visiting the eruption site:
- There are no facilities on the hike so take food and snacks with you and go to the WC before heading off.
- The path is rocky and awkward so try to wear shoes with a good grip and (as ever in Iceland) wear waterproofs and warm layers as the weather can change at any time.
- Stay on the marked routes and off the freshly formed lava.
- Police and members of the ICE-SAR are on site offering advice and trying to keep people safe. It’s a great environment but potentially dangerous so please follow their instructions.
BEST OVERALL VANTAGE POINT
If you want to see an overview of the entire Falgradalsfjall area, including the lava flows from 2021, park at car park 2 and start by hiking to Nátthagi viewpoint to get close to the old solid lava flow.
Then turn around and head up to Langihryggur Viewpoint to get an overview of the entire area and see the 2022 eruption from a distance (2.5 kilometres away). Allow 2 hours for the return walk.
From there you can decide whether to continue to Stóri Hrútur which will get you 1.5km from the new Meradalir Valley eruption (add another 1 hour and 30 minutes return) or head back.
WHERE TO STAY?
Fagradalsfjall is just a 45-minute drive from Keflavik airport or 1 hour from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. In one of the most popular areas of the country, there are plenty of accommodation options nearby. Here are some suggestions from us.
Harbour View Cottages are self-contained units just 10 minute’s drive away from Fagradalsfjall and 5 miles from the Blue Lagoon. Each cottage has a fully-equipped kitchen.
This hotel has a wellness spa, lounges and an excellent restaurant. It’s 5 minutes from the Blue Lagoon with hourly free shuttle buses and very convenient to get to Fagradalsfjall.
Hotel Borg is an elegant Art Deco-style hotel in the centre of Reykjavík, right near the Laugavegur shopping street.
Loft is a friendly hostel in the centre of Reykjavík with a bar, roof terrace and eco-friendly credentials. There are private bathrooms or dorm-style quarters.
PLANNING YOUR ICELAND TRIP
Iceland is an excellent destination for semi-adventurous travellers who like to get off the beaten track and immerse themselves in stunning scenery. Here’s some more reading from us to help plan your journey to the land of fire and ice.
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ALL ICELAND GUIDES
GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS
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