How to Hike to Iceland’s Active Volcano: Geldingadalur

News Flash! Did you hear that we have an active volcano currently erupting in Southern Iceland? But that’s not all… Days later, Iceland announced opening up to all vaccinated visitors from all countries! So much excitement, truly!! In fact, today we would love to share with you a step by step guide to hiking to Iceland’s active volcano, Geldingadalur (also referred to as Fagradalsfjall á Reykjanesi).

History of Volcano Eruptions in Iceland

For millions of years, our tiny island in the North Atlantic is built by volcanic eruptions. Although, Iceland is an infant in regards to geology!  For example, the first eruption dates back to only 16 million years ago, well before Iceland was a settled country. Then as a settled land, between 870 to the 20th century the top 5 most famous eruptions happen…

  1. Katla Subglacial Volcano (20 eruptions during historical times with 100 eruptions being known in modern times).
  2. Hekla Volcano (one of the most industrious of Iceland’s active volcano eruptions).
  3. Skaftáreldar Volcano (one of the most devastating with global consequences).
  4. Eldfell Volcano (on the island of Vestmannaeyjar in 1973 was one of most shocking eruptions in Iceland).
  5. Kröflueldar is most notable due to the duration.

Moving into the current 21st century, the list of Iceland’s active volcano list consists of 5 notable eruptions.  Firstly, it begins with Grímsvötn in 2004 (erupts again in 2011). Secondly, Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 (Fimmvörðuháls first then weeks later a subglacial eruption followed). Thirdly, Holuhraun emerges in 2014-2015 and was in a extremely remote area in the highlands. Furthermore, the most recent eruption (as of when this Vik Expeditions blog post was written) is named Geldingadalur (also referred to as Fagradalsfjall á Reykjanesi).

Endless Earthquakes!

Over the last 30 days (from end of February 2021), Iceland braced for 1,000’s of earthquakes. Did you know, earthquakes are often a precursor for volcanic eruptions? Meanwhile, to put numbers to it for perspective check out the below rundown (as of today):

  • Earthquakes 5.0+ magnitude = 7
  • Quakes between 4.0 – 5.0 magnitude = 53
  • Activity between 3.0 – 4.0 magnitude = 530
  • Between 2.0 – 3.0 magnitude = 2,820
  • Earthquakes below 2.0 = 24,612

Next, late on Friday, March 19th, people within the Reykjanes Peninsula, were beginning to see a glow in the sky! Very exciting news reports followed about Iceland’s active volcano eruption! Now come along with us as we share details on how to hike to it…

How to Get to Geldingadalur (Fagradalsfjall) Volcano

Barely 30 minutes from the KEF Airport, is the starting point to the hike to Geldingadalur Volcano Valley area.  And from the heart of downtown Reykjavik, you can expect less than a 1 hour drive. Further, people are calling the area two different names:

  1. Geldingadalur which directly translates to “neutered horse valley.”
  2. Fagradalsfjall which means beautiful valley mountain.  This area is previously known for a plane crash that happened during World War II. As a matter of fact, it was an American bomber (B-24D Liberator) named “Hot Stuff.”

Honestly, at this point with the volcano being so new, a formal name has not been chosen yet.  Therefore, people are referring to it as Geldingadalur because that is the valley it is in. But also Fagradalsfjall because that is the nearest mountain.

Geldingadalur / Fagradalsfjall Information:
  • Google Map to Parking Area: https://goo.gl/maps/7whyFEjn1pbrQFD99
  • Hiking Maps: https://safetravel.is/eruption-in-reykjanes
  • Elevation Gain: 656 feet
  • Terrain: Dirt/mud path, loose rocks, lava, uneven ground, and gravel.
  • Trekking Time: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours 1 way (currently the shortest hiking route).
  • Gear Needed: Outdoor rain clothing, layers, trekking poles, backpack (with water, snacks, lunch, etc), and possibly crampons depending on weather conditions.

How to Hike to Iceland’s Active Volcano: Geldingadalur

Wow-wee the excitement will surely build as you drive to the starting point… Seriously, especially if this will be the first eruption you witness. Many folks are already saying experiencing Iceland’s active volcano is life changing and even a spiritual moment. After all you are bearing witness to the BIRTH OF NEW LANDSCAPE! That simple fact alone can be a once in a lifetime inspiring moment.

Hiking to Iceland’s active volcano in Geldingadalur, will take you (as of today) between 45 minutes – 1.5 hours one way depending on your fitness level, pace, and weather.  Please make sure you visit the Safe Travel website before you embark too to ensure no danger levels (gases, weather, landslides, or falling rocks, etc).

Step 1: Through the Lava Fields

Once you arrive to parking area (link above), it will be very clear where you begin. Likely you will see a SAR (Search & Rescue) team trailer. Next, you will encounter the following trail markers and signs:

Step 2: Elevation

As you hike further in, you’ll getting closer and closer to the elevation gain. Specifically, this is the area that it can be beneficial to have trekking poles with you to use as the loose rocks are significant and it’s easy to lose your balance. When you get closer to the bottom of the hill, you’ll notice a mounted rope at the steepest part.  Use it and once at the top, savor the view and the fact you’re half way through!

Step 3: The Volcano Comes into View

As you head down the backside of the mountain, Iceland’s active volcano comes into view. Honestly, you do not even realize it until you’re at the point of our photos below… It’s NUTS!

Step 4: Pick Your Trail

Next, when you reach the point (as of today) where the lava begins to fill the valley there are two trails (left side and right side). Be aware they do not currently connect and sometimes one or both can be closed due to gas emissions.

Step 5: View from the Left Side Trail

From the above base point, the hike to the left side of Iceland’s active volcano trail is only 5-10 minutes depending on how close or high up you go. When my wife and I hiked the trail, this side seemed to have less people. So many less that we celebrated the unforgettable moment with champagne and a selfie… I mean you have to indulge sometimes right?  Sunrise here was EPIC!

Step 6: View from the Right Side Trail

Finding your way from the base point to the right side and then to the back side (which is accessed from the right side) can be an additional 10-20 minutes. The trail can get a bit congested so remain patient and take care in passing people. Here, you’ll marvel over the various points and shapes of the volcano, lava, and magma rivers.

Iceland Active Volcano Tips:

  • Be aware this area is ALIVE and changes every single day.
  • Do not walk onto the new lava or get to close, it’s unstable.
  • Listen to ay SAR team members that may approach you with directions (IE, to clear the area, etc).
  • Check the weather conditions before you head out and plan how long you’ll stay around that.
  • Being prepared before you ahead out is important (IE, proper clothing, backpack, food, water, etc).
  • Leave No Trace… Cannot stress this one enough! Also, if you see trash someone else left on purpose or on accident, pick it up.
  • Be in the Moment! Put the phone and camera down… Listen, marvel, enjoy, and realize this experience may be once in a lifetime, savor it!

Want More Adventure? Expeditions in Iceland

Wondering if there is an easier way to see Geldingadalur Volcano area? Good news! There is… You can experience it via a helicopter and likely in several weeks or months via super jeep. The latter route is not a option as of when this Iceland travel blog was written. But we hope it will soon as there is a badass super jeep road nearby which would then only be a 10-15 minute hike (one way). Fingers crossed it opens again!

Lastly, are you invigorated to plan your adventure to Iceland after this adrenaline rush? Vik Expeditions would love to craft a custom day that will “wow” you!  Feel free to contact us for more information on beginning that unforgettable journey…

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