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How To Drive to the Fagradalsfjall Volcano

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About the volcano

Iceland’s newest eruption kicked off in the Geldingadalir valley on the Reykjanes peninsula on March 29th2021. Prior to that, Fagradalsfjall, a shield volcano, had been dormant for 800 years. A cluster of earthquakes alerted Iceland’s seismologists and vulcanologists that an eruption could be imminent and signalled the start of the current activity.

Molten lava started to flow steadily from the volcano and has been putting on quite a show ever since. Fortunately, this is an area which is sparsely populated and visits are well managed. There’s also a useful website which is updated each day with weather conditions and other important information for travellers.

Rent a car

Although it’s possible to get close to the eruption site using public transport, it’s far more convenient to have your own wheels. Budget has a desk right inside the airport terminal which you’ll see once you arrive. Paperwork is straightforward so you’ll be on your way in no time. Most travellers opt to stay in Reykjavik, at least for the beginning and end of their stay, as it’s handy for Keflavik airport. But the good news is that the Icelandic capital is also an easy drive to reach the volcano.

Getting to the volcano

The Icelandic authorities have established a parking place close to the volcano, from which visitors can walk on a graded trail. In total it will take around 45 minutes to drive from the centre of Reykjavik. First, you’ll need to get to the town of Grindavik, on the south coast. Follow route 427 east from Grindavik to Suðurstrandarvegur.

After about a ten minute drive, you’ll see signs for car parking – stick to designated zones only and note that it is prohibited to park beside the road. From the car park, it’s about a kilometre to walk before you see the start of the hiking paths. There are two trails leading to the volcano, each involving a moderately challenging climb and a round trip of about four hours.

But it’s possible to get closer to the volcano if you prefer. If you want, you can drive to Grindavik where you can park and catch a bus to the trailhead leading to the eruption site. There are five parking places, clearly marked on this map. Services run from about 8am to 10pm, slightly longer hours than the eruption site itself. Buses depart about every half an hour and cost a reasonable 500ISK (about US$4).

The hike

You shouldn’t underestimate the hike to the volcano. Unfortunately, it isn’t an easy stroll. Two trails wind through the lava field over gravel surfaces and uneven ground. In places the path is a steep one, though ropes have been installed on the trail to the west and it will help you safely navigate the section where the gradient is most extreme.

On average, people take about four hours to complete the round trip, though slower walkers should allow six. No vehicles are permitted on the trail, not even ATVs: remember off roading is illegal in Iceland. So you’ll have to be prepared to put in some legwork if you want to see this eruption with your own eyes. It will be tough, but you’ll be rewarded with the experience of a lifetime. No one knows for sure how long the eruption will last, so catch it while you can!