Jan Kraus
25 August 2021photo story5 min read

Fagradalsfjall volcano and the lava fields of Geldingadalir

A view of lava fields "Fagradalshraun" at Fagradalsfjall volcano, Iceland
A view of lava fields "Fagradalshraun" at Fagradalsfjall volcano, Iceland

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.

Where the lava flows Volcano update from Iceland - viewsoftheworld.net

Lava fields covering the Nátthagi valley
Lava fields covering the Nátthagi valley

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.

Hikers seen on a path leading slightly above the valley, uncovering more views of the lava fields
Hikers seen on a path leading slightly above the valley, uncovering more views of the lava fields

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.

Visitors seen on the steep hike on the hill leading above the valley
Visitors seen on the steep hike on the hill leading above the valley

I hear some excited voices of people around me, pointing towards the volcano. A brief look in its direction, Yes! It’s active!

Fagradalsfjall volcano activity seen from the climb on the opposite side of the valley
Fagradalsfjall volcano activity seen from the climb on the opposite side of the valley

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.

Fog covering the hills at at Fagradalsfjall volcano
Fog covering the hills at at Fagradalsfjall volcano

It doesn’t last long, though. As I walk towards the viewpoint, the visibility keeps improving.

Views from the hike towards viewpoint at Fagradalsfjall volcano
Views from the hike towards viewpoint at Fagradalsfjall volcano

The view of the volcano itself is terrific.

Fagradalsfjall

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.

View at Fagradalsfjall volcano across lava expanses
View at Fagradalsfjall volcano across lava expanses

The smoke mixing with fumes from the cooling lave and the haze lingering in the valley creates a spectacular view.

Smoke coming from the crater of Fagradalsfjall volcano
Smoke coming from the crater of Fagradalsfjall volcano

The lava fields look mesmerizing from above.

Lava fields in the Nátthagi valley, in front of Fagradalsfjall volcano
Lava fields in the Nátthagi valley, in front of Fagradalsfjall volcano

In fact, I decided to take a closer look as we walk further, past the viewpoint, along the lava fields.

Lava rocks

The rock formations created by cooled lava create endless possibilities for photography.

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance
Lava "artefacts" of Fagradalsfjall volcano photographed from close distance

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,

A view towards Meradalir valley in area of Fagradalsfjall volcano
A view towards Meradalir valley in area of Fagradalsfjall volcano

I took a short break from “volcanic scenery” and focused on the scarce but cute Icelandic foliage.

Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground
Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground

Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground
Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground

Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground
Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground

Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground
Tiny, beautiful plants covering the ground

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.

Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!
Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!

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.

Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!
Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!

Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!
Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!

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!

Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!
Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!

Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!
Hot lava from Fagradalsfjall volcano!

Return hike

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!

One of many scenic views in area of Fagradalsfjall
One of many scenic views in area of Fagradalsfjall

Also, walking back gives you another perspective, which was also quite nice to observe.

Once again a look at Nátthagi valley and its lava fields
Once again a look at Nátthagi valley and its lava fields

One of many scenic views in area of Fagradalsfjall
One of many scenic views in area of Fagradalsfjall

One of many scenic views in area of Fagradalsfjall
One of many scenic views in area of Fagradalsfjall

Love how the green patches of grass (or moss) look on the barren land
Love how the green patches of grass (or moss) look on the barren land

Green patches of foliage appearing on arid land
Green patches of foliage appearing on arid land

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.

Amazing view of the coast and the valley, seen from the hill of the viewing paths of Fagradalsfjall volcano
Amazing view of the coast and the valley, seen from the hill of the viewing paths of Fagradalsfjall volcano

Amazing view of the coast and the valley, seen from the hill of the viewing paths of Fagradalsfjall volcano
Amazing view of the coast and the valley, seen from the hill of the viewing paths of Fagradalsfjall volcano

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.

Entry published on 25 August 2021 under #photo story, #photography, #iceland, #hiking, #volcano.
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