The Fagradalsfjall volcano was one of the key points of my trip to Iceland. I’ve visited the site twice, in the beginning, and towards the end of my journey. While I almost didn’t see the eruption, I enjoyed the surreal landscape quite a lot. This photo story is a record of the hike.
The Nátthagi Valley
On 19. March 2021, a volcanic eruption started in the Geldingadalir valley at the Fagradalsfjall mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula, South-West Iceland. The volcano is situated approximately 30 km from the country’s capital city, Reykjavík. The eruption is ongoing, and the landscape in the valley and its surrounding area is constantly changing as a result.
The hike starts from the parking lot on road 427, south to the Geldingardalur / Fagradalsfjall volcano. After around a 1km walk, I reach the dam closing Nátthagi valley. The barrier was built there in hope to protect the areas in case lava continues to flow towards the south.
The gentle path quickly turns into a steep ascent onto the hill on the east side. I need to climb roughly ~100m to reach the upper part.
I hear some excited voices of people around me, pointing towards the volcano. A brief look in its direction, Yes! It’s active!
I rest for few minutes after conquering the central part of the hill altitude. Then I continue along the path to the destination.
From the top
The fog is now covering the valley, so I don’t expect any sights.
The volcano is barely visible from there.
It doesn’t last long, though. As I walk towards the viewpoint, the visibility keeps improving.
The view of the volcano itself is terrific.
You look through the vast expanses of lava at the smoking volcano crater that literally just a few dozen minutes ago spewed molten rock and can do it again any time soon.
The smoke mixing with fumes from the cooling lave and the haze lingering in the valley creates a spectacular view.
The lava fields look mesmerizing from above.
In fact, I decided to take a closer look as we walk further, past the viewpoint, along the lava fields.
The rock formations created by cooled lava create endless possibilities for photography.
In search for the hot lava
After hiking, way beyond the mark where the official “path C” was ending, we get the info that we could find it by walking east towards Meradalir valley,
I took a short break from “volcanic scenery” and focused on the scarce but cute Icelandic foliage.
And then we found it! Walking along the edge of a seemingly cooled off lava field, I hear subtle cracking noises. Then, by looking closely, I notice hot, vibrating air. Finally, the molten rock also appears in front of my eyes, glowing in red, brown and orange colours, slowly crawling through cracks and holes.
This is actually amazing. We found it quite far from the volcano, at the very end of one of the “tails” of the lava fields.
What is cool about this (or rather hot, I must say) is that you could literally get as close as 2-3 meters from it, observing the slow, “gentle”, yet unstoppable flow. And it was, in fact, hot! It felt like standing really close to a huge bonfire!
After spending around half-hour watching the lava spectacle, I set off on my way back, hiking the path in the opposite direction. There was now more time to focus on other views, which were equally impressive!
Also, walking back gives you another perspective, which was also quite nice to observe.
As we descended from the hill, the weather cleared out, revealing excellent views on the valley and the coast, something I didn’t see at the beginning of the hike.
Puh! That was it! I hope you like this story. There were plenty of great views out there; it wasn’t easy to capture all of them. Even though I didn’t see many active eruptions (like you’d expect to see based on YouTube livestreams), but it was still a fantastic hike and great, great experience.
I’m grateful I witnessed it with my own eyes to create memories, experiencing the beauty, roughness and atmosphere of Icelandic landscapes.