Have you ever wondered what it was like to come close to see a live erupting volcano? I always did! And I did, right here in Iceland! Iceland isn’t new to erupting volcanoes because this country is iconic for having volcanoes (about 130 of them). Those erupting volcanoes become a tourist attraction because who wouldn’t want to be mesmerized by a rare occurrence in history?
The Fagradalsfjall Volcano is one of the most recent volcano eruptions there and after a few months, it is still erupting and it is said to still erupt in the next few months or years; It could even be longer. Seeing the volcano eruption is easily one of the best experiences of my life and has ever been mentioned in this blog.
Back in March 2021, a fissure vent appeared. That was the start of the Gerlingadalur Eruption on Fagradalsfjall Volcano, located in the Reykjanes Peninsula, just 45 minutes away from the capital of Reykjavik. This peninsula hadn’t had a volcano erupt until about 800 years ago!
How can I hike this too?
Updated on January 22, 2022: It’s been said by the authorities of Iceland that this volcano is no longer erupting. It hasn’t erupted in a few months, but it is still being monitored. I was very honored to have been able to witness its eruption when it was ongoing and be one of those 350,000+ visitors who got to see it too in the months it happened.
I went with A Guide to Iceland to help plan my Iceland itinerary, which was incredibly useful for someone’s first visit. We went with this popular tour company, partnered with A Guide to Iceland, called Troll Expeditions. They are an amazing tour company for all types of different outdoor activities around Iceland including having the chance to be taken on a hike to see the volcano. You could also book a tour on Get Your Guide right here.
Although there were a lot of people who came to hike this without a tour guide, I highly recommend it because these professionals know where to guide you to get to a safe part of the volcano. You may have heard that volcanoes can produce poisonous gases, which can make you question the safety of this hike. But every day, the volcanic gases levels are checked by gas meters to see if they’re dangerous and what direction the wind is going. The trail will be closed if it’s no longer accessible as the trail consistently changed in a few months because of the lava flow.
Steep hills and being guided by professionals
Another reason why you should hire a guide is because the hike was very, very steep and I had a rescue team member who was on my tour come along and he stayed with my friends and I since we were the last ones on the hiking tour group.
My chronic (lung) illness made it hard for me to push through in the beginning to climb the steep extinct volcanic peaks but having a patient, angelic Icelandic rescue guide with me was great. Yes, I did hike this knowing I have a condition with my health and I know that isn’t the most ideal thing to do or advisable unless you talk to your doctor, but I always wanted to see this and I did have a rescue guide member with me and my doctor friend. At one point, I was breathing too heavily and my right leg’s muscle was hurting more (as it was in the beginning of the trip), but I took my inhaler that helped me a lot and a random woman stopped by to offer me almond nuts for more energy.
The rescue guide even helped me climb down the peaks because it was hard to get down with my fear of getting down. It can be dangerous to get down the peaks, even with trekking poles. While getting down, we witnessed a woman getting rescued by an ambulance because she apparently broke her leg. Bless her heart.
Overall, it is entirely up to you whether you should hire a tour guide to guide your hike as one should if you’re especially not used to hiking a certain level. This hike I would say is rated on a difficult level and took us 5 hours to complete. The elevation gain was most likely 1,000+ feet, but I am unsure of the exact number.
Making it to the peak of the extinct volcano
Once I finally made it to the very top, it was so beautiful to witness the live eruption and I literally shed a few tears. It was SO unreal and beautiful to see a part of history unfold in your eyes! It was also nice even when I made it midway, as the trail has many steep uphills to it.
After hiking to see the live eruption of Fagradalsfjall Volcano, we hiked down to the side where the lava field is. Here, we were able to see the recently produced lava that had hardened. It made some beautiful patterns that made you see how the lava was flowing. You can still see some smoke coming out of small vents out of the lava. When hiking from here, this will intersect with another trail alongside where you were hiking above to the peaks and it will direct you back to the parking lot. Stop by to see and smell the purple Mother of Thyme flowers on the open grassy field while you can!
Be updated on the current conditions
The conditions of the Fagradalsfjall Volcano are always changing. I would check out the Eruption in Reykjanes page on Safetravel.is to read about safety tips to keep in mind and which routes to take.
Don’t forget to stop by Helgi’s Street Food after your volcanic hike
I don’t know about you, but I love to eat a good dish after any hike. Right when you get back to the parking lot, you might notice a food truck outside that says “Helgi’s Street Food”. This food stop is a MUST to try!
It was a spontaneous decision for me to stop there and I inspired my friends too when I saw they were selling fish and chips and I had seen previously in a YouTube vlogger video how great the fish and chips were… along with the hot dog! The hot dog is not a traditional American beef, but it is the lamb and pork one and it was the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten so far in my life, as well as the grilled fish in the fish and chips. It WAS all so delicious. I had eaten the food when I got back to the hotel since I was recovering during the tour bus ride back to my hotel.
Pro tips when hiking to see Fagradalsfjall Volcano
Here are some tips that I wish I took into consideration and some tips I was lucky to have followed to make sure I was comfortable throughout my hard hike:
- Wear a windproof jacket and pants! Also bundle up with gloves, a scarf, and a hat. – The weather in Iceland can be very unpredictable and change often and this applies to hiking around here. Making it to the top of the peak can get very windy and cold and you may want to be “safer than sorry” by dressing right. You can also read my ultimate guide of what to wear in Iceland for more ideas.
- Wear good hiking boots. – Wearing the right hiking shoes makes a big difference in the way you hike. I recommend hiking boots for this hike especially. There will be some rocks sporadically in the way.
- Bring a mask if you are very sensitive to sulfur. – You can sometimes smell sulfur in the air. It’s not dangerous for your health but if you are sensitive to the smell like I am, you can wear a gas mask to block the (sometimes) strong scent.
- The best time to hike this is at night. – This hike will definitely be a work out, so save this for last on days where you want to do more easier activities during the day. If hiking this in the summer, the light will still be very bright at like 8, 9, 10, or past 10 o’clock PM.
- Bring trekking poles if you can. – I really wish I did. They will be extremely helpful as you ascend and descend those steep hills.
- Bring good snacks for energy. – Protein bars, nuts, and even the Icelandic chocolate wafer bar (brand is called Hraun) that is packed with protein that my hiking tour guide provided us are good to bring.
Would you want to hike to see a live erupting volcano and put this on your bucket list too?