Complete Guide to the 2022 Eruption of Fagradalsfjall Volcano

Complete Guide to the 2022 Eruption of Fagradalsfjall Volcano

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Learn everything you need to know about the 2022 Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in Iceland! How strong was the eruption? Can you visit the volcano now? How do you get there? Was the eruption dangerous? How long did it last, and will it erupt again? In this article, you'll find breathtaking photos, fascinating facts, and all you need to know about the latest eruption in the Land of Ice and FIRE!

It didn't take long for Iceland to remind the world of its volcanic power. Just 10 months after the Fagradalsfjall eruption of 2021 ended, the volcano erupted yet again.

If you are looking to explore the many volcanoes in the country, rent a car in Iceland to get around easily. There are also many volcano tours available, with an expert guide leading the way. Fagradalsfjall volcano is located near Iceland's capital, so it's easy to visit if you book a room in Reykjavik.

Traveler looks at the Fagradalsfjall eruption

The location of the eruption made it very exciting for people who wanted to witness it up close. All visitors to Iceland are at least somewhat familiar with Reykjanes peninsula, as it is the location of Iceland's only international airport.

Travelers tend to drive straight from the airport to the capital city and may notice the lunar-like landscape outside their car window, not realizing the volcanic power lurking underneath.

Lunar like landscape of Reykjanes peninsulaCompared to most of Iceland's volcanic eruptions, which usually take place way up in the remote Highlands or deep under the dense ice of glaciers, Fagradalsfjall volcano is fairly accessible for anyone near Reykjavik.

Read on for answers to all your questions and more in this Complete Guide to the 2022 Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption in Iceland.

2022 Eruption of Fagradalsfjall volcano

On August 3rd, 2022, Fagradalsfjall volcano on Reykjanes peninsula erupted. Weeks of earthquakes preceded the event, with the strongest tremors measuring above 5.0 on the Richter scale. Fortunately, no significant injuries or property damage were reported. However, geologists warned that a volcanic eruption was only a matter of time.

Those predictions eventually came true when a 300-meter-long volcanic fissure opened up in Meradalir valley on August 3rd, gushing out 20-50 square meters of lava per second. The eruption site was about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) away from the 2021 volcanic eruption in Geldingadalur valley.

Lava gushes out of Fagradalsfjall volcano in Meradalir valleyVolcanoes in Iceland can really vary when it comes to the danger level of the eruption. The Eyjafjallajokull eruption in 2010 is still fresh in the mind of some travelers as it disrupted air traffic all over Europe with its dense volcanic ash. Further back in time, the immense Lakagigar eruption of 1783 caused crop failures across Europe, resulting in widespread famine.

Fortunately, the recent Fagradalsfjall volcano was mostly on the harmless side. Despite its menacing appearance and the Mordor-like landscape surrounding the eruption site, it did not pose a threat to life, infrastructure, or air travel.

The Mordor like landscape surrounding the Fagradalsfjall volcanoThe main reason Fagradalsfjall volcano was not considered dangerous was that the eruption was an effusive eruption rather than an explosive one. This means the lava did not burst from the earth's crust in an explosion of ash and fire like Eyjafjallajokull. Rather, the lava that emerged from the volcanic fissure in Meradalir valley did so at a steady rate, forming molten rivers of lava.

It also helps that the eruption took place in an isolated valley where it couldn't harm human settlements or infrastructure.

How do I get to Fagradalsfjall volcano?

Fagradalsfjall is quite visitor-friendly, as far as volcanoes go, for those wanting to experience the aftermath of Earth's raw power up close.

The volcano is located in Meradalir valley on Reykjanes peninsula, about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the fishing town of Grindavik, not too far from the famous Blue Lagoon Spa. The volcano is just 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the capital city of Reykjavik, making it very accessible for most.

Visitors admire the lava bursting from the volcanic fissure in Meradalir valley

Since no roads lead directly to the eruption site in Meradalir valley, the first step is to get to the Fagradalsfjall parking lot. It is marked as 'Parking 1' by nearby road signs, and you can get to it from Route 427. The parking area is about a 1-hour drive from Reykjavik.

From the parking lot, trail markers for Route A will guide you along a hike that follows the solidified lava from the 2021 eruption all the way to the freshest lava from the 2022 eruption. Despite the eruption ending on August 21st, 2022, the lava can still be very hot, and visitors should heed caution when going near it.

The hike itself is of moderate difficulty. Some parts of the route have been paved, making it an easy hike across gravel. The hike is about 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) and has an incline of about 950 feet (300 meters).

However, the last part of the route is more challenging, as it crosses an old lava field characterized by volcanic rocks and mud. With unpredictable weather and ever-changing conditions, this is a hike that requires a decent fitness level and good equipment.

Onlooker admires the lava bursting out of Fagradalsfjall volcanoThe round trip is about 9 miles (14 kilometers) and can take up to four hours to complete, not counting time spent marveling at the volcanic site.

This hiking tour with pickup from Reykjavik takes you along Reykjanes peninsula to the eruption site, where an experienced guide will help you navigate the trail to the volcano.

Those looking for an easier and quicker way to see the volcano without the hassle of having to hike can book an incredible helicopter tour and see it from the air.

If you want to have fantastic photos of yourself and your party with the volcano, you can go on this unique Volcano Tour with a Professional Photographer. Included are professionally edited photos from the tour, and even some epic drone shots.

An amazing drone shot of a traveler with Fagradalsfjall volcanoWhile it's possible to visit the eruption site without a guide, if you're unsure about how to get there or aren't familiar with hiking across rocky trails, it's better to have an experienced guide lead the way. Local search and rescue teams were called out a few times during the eruption to help exhausted or injured travelers get off the mountain trail, so it's always better to be on the safe side.

What should I pack when visiting Fagradalsfjall volcano?

First and foremost, make sure you have good hiking boots with ankle support when you go hiking to the volcano. The trail is rocky and slippery, with a decent incline. Since this is Iceland, the weather can change on a dime, so always be prepared for wind and rain, even if it's nice and sunny outside.

It's important to bring warm layers and a waterproof jacket, so you're prepared for anything. Since the hike can take several hours, it's also necessary to bring plenty of water to drink along the way. You'll probably get hungry at some point since you'll be burning plenty of calories, so it's a good idea to bring a snack like skyr or a protein bar.

Of course, you'll want the memories of this incredible experience to last a lifetime, and therefore you'll need to take plenty of amazing photos of the eruption. Smartphone cameras do a decent job, but they don't do the volcano justice.

If you have one, make sure to bring an SLR camera with a zoom lens, to capture the magic of Iceland's seismic activity up close. If you don't have a camera with a zoom lens, it's not a bad idea to bring binoculars so you can see the lava flowing out of the fissure in as much detail as possible.

If you're planning on flying drones around the volcano, read this article to make sure you're following Icelandic regulations regarding drones.

The list of things you should bring for your volcano trip includes:

  • Hiking boots with ankle support
  • Warm and breathable layers of clothes (preferably not cotton)
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Warm socks
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Warm headgear
  • Fully charged phone
  • Water bottle
  • Small snack
  • Trash bag
  • SLR Camera
  • Binoculars

It bears mentioning that since the volcano is located in Iceland's wilderness, there is no infrastructure near the volcano! That means there are no food services, no toilets, and no trash cans along the way. Keep that in mind before you start your journey toward the volcano.

Is it safe to go visit the Fagradalsfjall volcano?

The Fagradalsfjall eruption did not pose the same threats as some of Iceland's previous volcanic eruptions, but if you're thinking of visiting the eruption site, visitors must follow precautions for personal safety. The lava itself can still be hot, despite being solidified, and can cause severe burns if people are exposed to it directly. Therefore, visitors should keep a safe distance from the solidified lava and remain on the hiking trail.

Photographer admires the active eruption in Meradalir valleySince the hike to the eruption site is challenging, children under 12 years old are not allowed on the trail.

Information about Fagradalsfjall and Reykjanes peninsula

Fagradalsfjall volcano ("Beautiful valley mountain") is located on Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of Iceland. The peninsula is considered relatively "young" in geological terms. It was formed by magma rising from the core of the earth over just the past seven million years. For comparison, the oldest parts of Iceland, located in the Westfjords, are 16 million years old.

Altogether, Iceland is actually a very young land mass when you consider that some of the oldest land in Western Australia is estimated at over 4 billion years old. This makes Reykjanes peninsula a fresh-faced youngster compared to the rest of the world.

NASA satellite image of Reykjanes

Photo by NASA Earth Observatory, from Wikimedia Commons Library. No edits made.

With its location on the Mid-Atlantic Rift, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, Reykjanes peninsula is very volcanically active. This activity is quite evident in its landscapes. Very little vegetation, aside from moss, can grow on the endless plains of lava rocks. Cone-shaped volcanoes, whether dormant or active, dominate the horizon.

The region is also home to the "Bridge Between the Continents," where you can walk across the Mid-Atlantic Rift from one tectonic plate to the other.

Arnarsetuhraun on the Reykjanes peninsula

Photo by Ralf Roletschek, from Wikimedia Commons Library. No edits made.

On March 19th, 2021, Fagradalsfjall volcano erupted after 53,000 tremors had shaken the surrounding area, including Reykjavik, for weeks. This was the first time Fagradalsfjall volcano had erupted in 6,000 years and the first volcano in Iceland to erupt since Holuhraun volcano in 2015. The magma chamber had lain dormant for thousands of years, making it among the oldest lava to have emerged in Iceland in a long time.

The eruption took place in Geldingadalur valley ("Valley of Geldings"), just about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) from the current eruption in Meradalir valley ("Valley of Mares"). The volcanic fissure that opened up in the valley was 700 meters long and was fiercely active right from the start.

The volcanic eruption became an immediate sensation, with people rushing to the eruption site to see it in person. Despite geologists warning people for decades that an eruption in Reykjanes was due, most people were not expecting it. However, when the citizens of Reykjavik could see the sky turn red in the distance from their window, they wanted to see what the hubbub was about.

Fagradalsfjall eruption from ReykjavikIn recent times, the volcanism of Reykjanes peninsula has drawn more travelers to the region. Places such as the ruins of Selatangar, the hot springs of Gunnuhver, and the unique geothermal pool of Brimketill have all increased in popularity since the volcano erupted. Perhaps the best example of the earthly power that lurks underneath the peninsula is the geothermal area of Krysuvik, with its steaming vents and bubbling hot mud pots.

You can explore the wonders of Reykjanes peninsula on this 8-hour Minibus Tour with a private guide that will take you to all the main attractions. If you're looking for something thrilling, you can also go on an exciting 1-hour Panoramic Buggy Tour on Reykjanes peninsula, allowing you to traverse the landscape as if you were driving on the moon.

Seltún geothermal area in SW-IcelandAside from its volcanic activity, Fagradalsfjall is also known as the site of a tragic historical event during World War II. In 1943, when Iceland was under Allied occupation, the bomber plane "Hot Stuff" got caught in bad weather during a mid-Atlantic fueling stop and crashed into the mountainside. This legendary plane had survived 25 bombing missions in Europe and was scheduled to tour the USA to help sell war bonds.

Wreck of bomber plane Hot Stuff on Fagradalsfjall

Photo from Wikimedia Commons Library. No edits made.

It was the worst plane crash in Iceland's history at the time, and 14 of the 15 passengers on board died. Among those who died was Lieutenant General Frank Andrews, the highest-ranking Allied officer to die in the line of duty at that point in the war.

A monument dedicated to the memory of the victims of the crash can be found close to Fagradalsfjall. The monument was opened in 2018, 75 years after the tragic accident.

How long did the Fagradalsfjall eruption last and will it erupt again?

Many people across the world want to see a volcanic eruption in Iceland up close and wonder if Fagradalsfjall volcano might erupt again.

That question is difficult to answer without the ability to see the future. Just like Iceland's weather, the seismic activity of Iceland is unpredictable. Fagradalsfjall volcano had not erupted for over 6,000 years before last year, but now it has erupted two years in a row.

In 2022, the Fagradalsfjall eruption lasted for just about three weeks. However, the eruption of 2021 lasted for a total of six months. During the eruption period, there were a lot of ebbs and flows along the way. Sometimes the eruption lulled and lava output was very low for a few days or weeks, but then the activity would resume dramatically with significantly more lava. The rate of lava flowing from the volcano ranged from one cubic meter per second up to 50 cubic meters per second. 

Fagradalsfjall eruption of 2021Whether the volcano will erupt again, no one knows. Geologists speculate that another volcanic eruption will take place in the coming years somewhere on the Reykjanes peninsula, but not necessarily at Fagradalsfjall. It's far from the only volcano on the peninsula, and the volcanic system underneath the peninsula seems to have recently woken up from a long slumber. If you want to make sure to see it with your own eyes when it happens, keep a close eye on Guide to Iceland for all volcano-related news!

Are you planning to go see the Fagradalsfjall volcano? Did you see the eruption in 2022, if so, how was it? Is there anything you would recommend for travelers planning to go there? How did it compare to the Fagradalsfjall eruption in 2021? Let us know in the comments below!