Iceland is open for travel: Volcanic eruption in Iceland 2024

Volcano Eruption at Meradalir

A local view from Arctic Adventures guide Nick Reeves

|August 18, 2022
Svetlana is a writer and brand strategist. Her favorite activity in Iceland is to head out of her adopted hometown of Reykjavik into the countryside to observe the magic of the Northern Lights.

Meradalir volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula about 17 miles southwest of Reykjavik erupted a little over a week ago after several weeks of multiple earthquakes. We invite you to relive that epic day through the eyes of an Arctic Adventures guide, Nick Reeves, who made the difficult hike to the eruption site just hours after the firsts outbursts of lava grabbed the Icelandic—and global—headlines.

Man from Scotland Standing by Lava Field

Nick Reeves - Arctic Adventures guide who is from Scotland, wore his kilt to the Fagradalsfjall eruption in 2021

Why did you hike to the volcano on the first day?

Why would you not go?! You see few amazing things in life, and seeing a live volcano got to be one of those. I went to the Fagradasfjall eruption the day after last year, and a new volcano changes so fast so it's always good to see it at the start, and I'll probably go see it again to see how it’s growing and changing.

When you take the hike you get the lava and the smoke all at the same time when you first come over the hill, there is no other feeling to describe it. Just you have to stop and stare at it for a minute.

There is nothing else that looks like that. And the feeling as well: you´re looking at how the earth was made, how land is created from the core of the planet. It’s pretty cool!

- Nick Reeves

Meradalir Lava Valley in Iceland

Meradalir volcano eruption site in the evening, Iceland. Photo by Nick Reeves

Are Iceland’s volcanic eruptions special?

Yes, because you can go and see them. They’re not so violent, so deadly. The local newspapers nicknamed them “the tourist volcanoes”.

Floating Lava at Meradalir Volcano in Iceland

Meradalir volcano violent eruption at night, Iceland. Photo by Nick Reeves

Can you describe your hike to Meradalir?

It was a little bit of an adventure. We knew where the last eruption was, and we could see where the smoke was coming from, and it wasn’t in the same spot. There are three car parks in the vicinity, and we were thinking: do we go here or there. 

Eventually, you go with your instinct. There is a shorter, easier way, which is what we picked, mainly because it was a new eruption. You don’t know how it's going to be, so we chose a safer path. It’s always the same in the first few days. There are no marked paths but we took the original path to the car park but it was extremely steep. There were rescue vehicles driving up and down pretty much all night. 

There is a much longer hike, which I’ll probably do, that gets you much closer to the crater. I prefer to get as close as I can because the pictures are better (laughs). But you don't go just for the pictures. It's good to see it.


Personal story: Nick Reeves at the Meradalir volcano

Talking about volcanic gas, is the eruption site at Meradalir safe to visit?

It’s definitely more present on the new volcano. You can definitely smell volcanic gases, but as long as you can smell them, you’re okay. The problem is when you don’t smell anything but you see the smoke coming. That’s when the concentration can be quite high and the gases can be dangerous. So it’s always good to check the website They’re always posting updates.

Meradalir Eruption Site at Sunset

Meradalir valley during the sunset in Iceland. Photo by Nick Reeves

A solo or guided hike: which one do you recommend?

If you're not from Iceland and you’re not hiking here regularly, it's always safer to go with a tour group and a guide who will be checking the relevant website to make sure it's safe to go on a specific day and the best path to take. We´re also privy to the latest changes of the volcano so we know safer routes. Most of the paths going to the volcano are not registered roads, which probably means that rental cars are not insured if there is any damage.

Man Selfie by the Erupting Volcano

Nick Reeves next to the erupting Meradalir volcano, Iceland. Photo by Nick Reeves

How to properly prepare for an active volcano hike in Iceland?

It's starting to get dark at night, so you do need a headlamp and good walking shoes or boots, outdoor hiking trainers are fine. Take a very good phone if you’re taking pictures. The hike can be long so it's good to bring water.

If you twist an ankle, call 112. There’s a phone signal everywhere. And there are rescue teams actively setting up the car parks.

Are there any other tips you would like to share?

I don’t recommend walking across the old lava. When people are walking far into the old lava field, they actually don’t know if there is a river of lava underneath.  I hate to see it. I walk past people doing it and I shout, “Deathwish!”

Meradalir Volcano Eruption at Night in Iceland

Lava outburst at Meradalir volcano eruption site, Iceland. Photo by Nick Reeves

You’re from Scotland, have you tried deep frying a Snickers bar in the lava?

We cooked soup, sausages and marshmallows on the lava last year.

What else can you see near the Meradalir volcano?

After a full day of hiking, you can relax in the calming waters of the Blue Lagoon or visit The Lava Tunnel to learn about the inner workings of a volcanic eruption that occurred about 5200 years ago.

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