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…

© 2021 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Vik Basalt Stacks: Reynisdrangar

Visitors flock to the South of Iceland for the picturesque landscapes.  In fact, one of the most sought after “must see” attractions are the basalt sea stacks named, Reynisdrangar.  There is a sense of mystery and awe that comes alongside seeing them in person for the first time.  Will they on your South Iceland self drive itinerary?

History of Reynisdrangar

Thousands of years ago, Reynisdrangar was created by volcanic activity.  As the years have passed, wind, rain, and the waves have slowly eaten away at the mountain Reynisfjall leaving the sea stacks on their own.  Reynisfjall Mountain stands tall at 1,115 feet and the basalt stacks tower 216 feet high out of the North Atlantic Ocean.  History of the mountain and sea stacks bring it back to the penultimate Ice Age (which was 135,000-194,000 years ago).  Crazy to think how old Reynisdrangar could be!

Reynisdrangar View Points:

Did you know that you can see Iceland’s basalt sea stacks, Reynisdrangar from 4 different places?  Firstly, the furthest away spot you can see them from is the top of the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse and from lower viewpoint.  Secondly, the most popular and touristy would be Reynisfjara Black Beach.

Although it is very touristy, it’s worth the stop and we elaborate on why below.  Thirdly, Vik Beach which can be found within the town of Vik.  Fourthly, by hiking to the top of Reynisfjall Mountain (hike begins from the base of the town).  Lastly, you can see them as you drive towards the town of Vik from either direction.

How to get to Iceland’s Basalt Sea Stacks

Finding your way to Reynisdrangar is easy if you’re exploring in the South of Iceland!  As a matter of fact, it the points are all accessible from Route 1 (the ring road).  To illustrate, you can plug in your starting point on Google Maps to begin your drive to the most popular viewpoint, Reynisfjara.  Further, here are some drive times from towns to give you a better idea on what to expect…

  • From the KEF International Airport: 2 hours 55 minutes.
  • From downtown Reykjavik: 2 hours 30 minutes.
  • From the village of Selfoss: 1 hour 40 minutes.
  • From the town of Hella: 1 hour 12 minutes.
  • From the village of Hvolsvöllur: 1 hour.
  • From the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur: 1 hour 5 minutes.
  • From the village of Höfn: 3 hours 20 minutes.

Reynisfjara Black Beach & Cave

Over the last 22+ years magazines and organizations have deemed Reynisfjara Beach in the top 10 beaches in the world.  So even though it is touristy, it is well worth the stop for the following reasons:

  1. Unobstructed close viewing of Reynisdrangar.
  2. Hexagonal basalt columns you can climb on.
  3. Hálsanefshellir Cave and other small caves.
  4. The beach is made from black volcanic sand.
  5. View of Dyrhólaey Sea Arch in the distance.
  6. Black Beach Restaurant

* Special Note: The waves at Reynisfjara Beach are dangerous (rip tides / sneaker waves), stay very far away from the water. *

Reynisdrangar Folklore Stories

All sides of Reynisdrangar are riddled with interesting folklore stories my wife and I love retelling.  In fact, the other day as we were preparing to break ground on our Vik Dream House, she reminded me of her favorite…

Vik Beach Folktale

The tale begins on the cliffs our house will overlook on Vik Beach.  And legend says that if you take a walk on the beach at night close to the cliffs and beach you hear sounds.  What kind?  Honestly, it sounds like a huge party with laughter, dishes clanking, etc.  My wife has heard it with her own ears multiple times and has been shocked…  Sounds like elves are partying!!

Folklore Story of the Seal People

Have you ever heard of seal people?  Totally a thing here in Southern Iceland and specifically the shores in and around Vik.  My favorite folklore story of the seal people begins with a farmer who wanted to see if they were real.  Apparently one night a month the seal people would rise from the ocean to part on the beaches near Reynisdrangar.

Meanwhile, the farmer saw that night as his opportunity and he was not disappointed.  There he saw skins shed all along the beach and naked people dancing and partying.  Being in disbelief and wanting to prove their existence to his friends and towns people he took one of the skins.  However when he went near to the beach the next day he found a naked woman hiding in a cave crying…

He went to her and asked what was wrong.  Immediately she admitted she was part of the seal people and had lost her skin.  Therefore, she could not return to the sea without it.  Although he knew he had taken it and locked it away in a chest, he offered to help her look for it.  But not finding it he also invited her to come live with him.  As they years went on, they made a family together.  Each night though she would be haunted with the memories of her child at sea so she would wake up screaming…

“How can I be, how can I be?  I have 4 children on land and 4 at sea!”

The dreams increased and became more stressful to her.  So she began to think the man may have her skin somewhere.  After all, he did where the key to chest she was never allowed to know what was inside.  One evening she made him his favorite dinner and got him super drunk.  He passed out and she took the key from his neck.  Upon opening the chest she saw her seal skin.  Without even thinking about it, she kissed her children goodbye and ran to the ocean to be reunited with her seal children.

Overtime, the farmer admitted to his children who their mother was and what he has done.  As the children grew up and took trips to the ocean they always saw a happy seal that would come to them.  Often the seal would throw up fish or colorful shells for the children to eat or play with.  Maybe it was her way of staying connected with them, who knows!

The Basalt Stacks Reynisdrangar Folktale

Certainly the most told story in Vik and likely the entire South of Iceland is the story of how some believe the Reynisdrangar basalt stacks were “really” created…  Long ago when trolls were still outwardly roaming the world, there were two who left Norway.  They were in hopes of building a better life and a family together.

However, they found themselves in the dangerous position of being in unknown lands and not knowing the sunrise time.  You see, trolls turn to stone when the sunrises, if their not hiding.  So there they were minutes before sunrise, the troll wife and husband were rushing to get themselves and their ship to the cave they saw from afar.  But they unfortunately didn’t make it in time.

Now they stand frozen in time as a reminder to other trolls to be careful.  Therefore, when you look at the basalt stacks you can see the wife as the skinny formation, the husband as the short fatter one and behind him he pulls their 3-mast ship.

Private Expeditions in Vik

Now that you know all about Reynisdrangar… Likely  you’re curious to discover or exciting areas in and around Vik Iceland?  Maybe head into the highlands to hike for hours or days, cross country ski around crazy shaped mountains, or what about SUP on a glacier lagoon?! Lastly, the options are endless and Vik Expeditions would love to craft a custom adventure for you.  Feel free to contact us to get that journey started!

© 2021 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Iceland SUP on a Glacier Lagoon

Lets rewind back in time to the 1940’s on the Hawaiian beaches of Maui…  It is there that standup paddleboarding (affectionately called, SUP) begins.  However it doesn’t really catch on with the general population around the world until 2005 or so.  And it for sure doesn’t come into Icelandic tourism vocabulary until circa 2016 or later depending on who you ask.  Meanwhile, exploring places in unconventional ways is our mission, so bring on the Iceland SUP expeditions!

 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Iceland

Within the last 5 years, SUP adventures have grown worldwide.  Although there are still very few licensed tour operators who offer such adventures here in Iceland.  Personally, Vik Expeditions are fans of Iceland SUP expeditions around glacier lagoons versus boring lakes!

Can you picture yourself going out to standup paddleboard for the day on an expedition?  After all, who wouldn’t want to glide next to icebergs that tower, see a glacier tongue up close, and be friend seals along the way!!

What to Bring on a Iceland SUP Expedition:

Firstly, book with a Iceland SUP adventure with a licensed tour operator.  Secondly, you may be curious on what to pack!  Good question and that begins with what will your tour or expedition provide?  Some ideas follow to get you started…

  • Standup Paddleboard (with leash).
  • Paddle
  • Life Jacket
  • Dry Suit (if you’re not confident or experienced).
  • Hikers or Running Shoes that are old.
  • Sealskinz Socks & Gloves (so feet and hands won’t get wet when launching).
  • Small Dry Bag (for phone / camera).
  • Extras to Bring: Slightly larger dry bag that holds rain gear, sunglasses, hat, gloves, snacks, and water too.

SUP Across a Glacier Lagoon

One of the most serene experiences you can have in your life is standup paddleboarding across a glacier lagoon in Iceland.  Maybe because it is extremely quite, still, leaves you feeling 100% inspired and renewed!

Further, please first be aware that Iceland SUP on a glacier lagoon requires local knowledge, life jackers, safe distance from from the icebergs, possibly a permit and / or permission from a national park, etc.  Also it is very important to be very cognizant on what the weather will do while you’re out there because it can change quickly in Iceland especially by glaciers.

Fun Fact: We’ve learned throughout countless SUP expeditions around glacier lagoons that the seals, protect their pups and keep them closer to the glacier.  Only once have we seen them get a little aggressive making it very clear they wanted more space.

Ready for Your Expedition?

Leaving inspired and interested in planning your very own Iceland SUP expedition near Vik?  Countless glacier outlets await you and your partner or group to discover!  How about elevating your adventure in Iceland by Stand Up Paddlingboarding… Feel free to contact us to get that dialogue started!

Note: This specific SUP adventure in Iceland was in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.  In advance permission was requested and all safety checks were done before the journey began.  Also, a safe distance from the icebergs and glacier walls was always kept to ensure safety at all times.

© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.

Perfect South Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary

The South of Iceland is the most diverse in Iceland in terms of variety of landscapes.  More importantly too, that they are closer together allowing you to explore more in one day.  However, in order to fully explore truly the “best” of you need to have 7 days.  So today I would love to walk you through an exciting South Iceland self-drive itinerary that will leave you utterly inspired!

Where is South Iceland?

From the moment you step off the airplane upon landing at KEF (Keflavík International Airport) you’re in the South of Iceland!  As a matter of fact, you are technically within the Reykjanes Peninsula, but it is still considered a part of Southern Iceland.  Further, the area of the South spans as far east as Hofn and up into the Icelandic Highlands.

Come along with us as we share the very best South Iceland self-drive itinerary that you can do in an economy car!

Day 1: Driving the Reykjanes Peninsula

You begin the morning by arriving into the KEF airport.  Usually North American flights arrive in somewhere between 5-9am.  Therefore, get through customs, jump into Duty Free, grab your bags, rental car, and begin your adventure!  Your choice of sites follow depending on your desire of exploring:

  • Garður Old Lighthouse
  • Bridge Between Continents
  • Gunnuhver Geothermal Area
  • Reykjanesviti
  • Seltún Geothermal Area
  • Lake Kleifarvatn

Best Places to Stay in the Reykjanes Peninsula:

Here is a South Iceland self-drive itinerary for the Reykjanes Peninsula Goggle Map Link.

Day 2: South Central Iceland Self Drive

To maximize your day, it’s good to get on the road no later than 8-8:30am.  Day 2 brings half the day of offbeat adventures that less tourists find their way to and typically not many bus tours.  Opt in for all of the locations below or choose your favorites!

  • Kerid Crater (Tourist location which charges admission).
  • Faxafoss Waterfall (Note: The land owner is now charging admission / parking).
  • Secret Lagoon Hot Spring– Is a fabulous place to relax in natural hot springs!
  • Friðheimar– Is an ideal lunch stop if you love tomatoes! But make sure you make in advance reservations so you are not disappointed!
  • Hjalparfoss Waterfall
  • Haifoss Waterfall offers a 30ish minute hike down into the canyon too!
  • Gjáin Waterfalls and Valley (Please be aware, if in an economy car, take it slow the road can be deeply rutted with potholes).
  • Hafið Bláa Restaurant (Note- Have a sunset dinner here overlooking a black beach!)

Where to stay after your South Iceland self-drive itinerary Day 2: Hotel Stracta in Hella Iceland.  Checkout the Google Maps Link for the full rundown.

Day 3: Heart of South Iceland

Today you will rise with the sun so you can get to see and do all these amazing places!  To illustrate, you will discover the heart of Southern Iceland today as explore.  Which is compiled of some “best of tourist spots” combined with some slightly offbeat to get away from the crowds.

  • Keldur Turf House (Be aware they land owners charge admission during summer).
  • Gluggafoss (also called Merkjárfoss): Iceland Travel Tip- Hike into the canyon on the left and also the right side path which takes you to the top!
  • Thorsteins Grove
  • Nauthúsagil Waterfall- Is at the start of entering into a highland area called Thorsmork.
  • Gljufrabui Waterfall- Happens to also be a campground area too if you need!
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall- The famous waterfall in South Iceland you can walk behind!
  • Skógafoss & Skogar Museum
  • Kvernufoss Waterfall is a 15 minute hike to a hidden waterfall!

Furthermore, where should you stay during your South Iceland self-drive itinerary?

Don’t forget to save the Google Map Link for Day 3 too!

Day 4: Vik Iceland Self Drive Adventure

Welcome to our home town!  Personally, this area is worth spending 3 nights discovering, but we will allow you to decide how many nights you wish.  Although, I would love to elevate your adventure if you run on the side of more extreme adventuring.

  • Solheimajokull Glacier (You can easily take a look at the lagoon and the glacier, but if you wish to climb on to the glacier, please look to hiring an experienced guide).
  • Dyrhólaey Lighthouse (During nesting season the road leading up to the lighthouse is closed but it’s a nice uphill walk!)
  • Loftsalahellir Cave
  • Reynisfjara Black Beach and Basalt Stacks
  • Take Your Pick our Guide to the Best of Vik blog post!  Our Vik Expeditions Guide to Vik gives you all the details on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do…

Day 4, South Iceland self-drive itinerary Google Map Link.

Day 5: Heading Southeast

Glaciers are constantly in front of you during this stretch (from the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur).  Likely, you’re going to need to fight the urge to pull over every 30 seconds for a photo.  Day 5 is going to be a big day of driving in Iceland, sightseeing, and hiking so make sure you get an early start!  Today’s South Iceland self-drive schedule is going to take you to some gorgeous areas…

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
  • Foss a Sidu Waterfall
  • Dverghamrar Cliffs
  • Svartifoss (Inside Skaftafell National Park and about a 45 minute hike one way)
  • Fjallsárlón (offbeat glacier lagoon)
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
  • Diamond Beach (across the street from Jökulsárlón)

Best place to stay near to the above Southern Iceland self-drive itinerary Day 5 is Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon.  Review the Google Map Link for more information.

Day 6: Magical Mountains of South Iceland

Southern Iceland is filled with countless magical mountains that leave you in awe.  For example, we suggest you spend several hours exploring the areas below as they are truly unique.  Also be aware there is an admission fee to the main area of Stokksnes and you pay inside of the café or the machine outside (if it’s working).

  • Viking Café
  • Stokksnes (Vestrahorn Mountain)
  • Viking Village (It is not real, it’s a movie set that is aging until the director is available)
  • Skútafoss Waterfall
  • If you’re coming during November-March we suggest you book a blue ice cave tour with our friends at Local Guide.

South Iceland Travel Tip: Stay 2 nights at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon.  Feel free to checkout the Google Maps driving link.

Day 7: Leave with no Regrets!

Lastly, day 7 is devoted to leaving South Iceland with no regrets… For instance, as you drive back west towards the airport or downtown Reykjavík, the South Iceland self-drive itinerary objective is to do anything you didn’t on the way!

Maybe that is one of the countless landscape stops, a hike, or a more extreme Iceland expedition with me?  Feel free to contact us for more information on how we can elevate your adventure in Vik Iceland!

© 2020 Vik Expeditions, All Rights Reserved.