​In this series, Lonely Planet's team of writers and editors answers your travel problems and provides tips and hacks to help you plan a hassle-free trip. This week, Icelandic travel writer Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir from Reykjavík brings us up-to-date on the volcanic activity in Grindavík and how it could impact travelers.

Question: I am due to travel to Iceland next month. We had to reschedule our trip following the earthquake in November and now with the volcano this week. Is there anything I need to be aware of?

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir: Quite a bit has happened since the earthquakes in November. Following weeks of tremors, a magma channel had formed beneath Grindavík, prompting the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management to evacuate the fishing town and the surrounding area, including the popular Blue Lagoon geothermal pool.

On Monday, December 18, a volcano erupted at Hagafell, minutes outside of Grindavík, catching the authorities off-guard. The Blue Lagoon had just reopened and Grindavík residents had started to return to their homes. Now the National Police Commissioner of Iceland has upgraded the preparedness level for Civil Protection from “Alert” to “Emergency” and told the public not to approach the area. The authorities have also closed all nearby roads. Here's everything you need to know.

Couple swimming in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon had reopened following the earthquakes but has now closed again © Kike Arnaiz / Stocksy United

Which volcano has erupted in Iceland?

The Icelandic volcanic eruption is a fissure eruption, a linear vent from which lava spews out. It's part of the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system on the Reykjanes peninsula and this is the fourth such eruption in the area since 2021.

Before that, there hadn't been an eruption in the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark area, a major plate boundary along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, for more than 800 years. Experts now believe that the peninsula has entered a prolonged phase of seismic and volcanic activity. They think regular eruptions could continue for decades, even centuries.

How big is the eruption in Iceland?

The Icelandic Met Office has said that the volcano has a 4km (2.5-mile) crack in it. They believe that the lava flow rate is 100–200 cu meters per second (roughly 26,415–52,835 US gallons). That's more than a swimming pool full of lava being spat out every second. However, the Met Office has since said that the intensity of the volcanic eruption has started to decrease.

“The fact that the activity is decreasing already is not an indication of how long the eruption will last, but rather that the eruption is reaching a state of equilibrium,” they have said.

Flowing lava during a volcanic eruption Litli-Hrútur in July, 2023.
At the time of writing, the volcano is still erupting in Iceland © Mariusz Wlodarski / Getty Images

Is the volcano in Iceland still erupting?

Yes. At the time of writing, the volcano in Iceland is still erupting. The website livefromiceland.is has a dedicated Iceland volcano live cam where people can watch Fagradalsfjall erupt.

The Icelandic Road Administration has closed the following roads: Grindavíkurveg (43), Suðurstrandaveg (427) west of Krýsuvíkurveg and Nesveg (425) near Brimketil.

How close is the erupting volcano to Reykjavík?

The Fagradalsfjall volcanic system is around 40km (25 miles) from Reykjavík, Iceland. It usually takes around 50 minutes to drive here from Iceland's capital. The nearest town to the erupting volcano is Grindavík. The Met Office has said that the southern end of the eruption is almost 3km (1.85 miles) from the fishing town.

Is Grindavík a tourist spot?

Grindavík is not a tourist spot in itself but it is close to the popular Blue Lagoon. The authorities had closed the geothermal pool and spa at the time of the earthquakes but it had reopened on December 17 and started to welcome visitors again. However, as of Monday night (December 18), the Blue Lagoon had reclosed. 

“We have temporarily closed our facilities in Svartsengi,” a message read on their website. “All guests with confirmed bookings in the upcoming days will be contacted. We will continue to monitor the progress and maintain close communication with the authorities,” they added.

The recent seismic activity had already caused severe damage to houses and infrastructure in Grindavík. The area is still closed off to the public over concerns that the lava could reach the town. If you are planning to visit, consider another town on the Reykjanes Peninsula like Keflavík, which is still accessible by car. Speak with your tour operator if you have a Blue Lagoon trip planned, or with the spa directly.

Can I fly to Iceland at the moment? Or Is the volcano affecting flights?

Flights to and from Keflavík Airport and Reykjavík Airport are operating as normal. Isavia, Iceland's national air navigation service provider, has said it is monitoring developments closely. They advise passengers to monitor the flight schedules on either the Keflavík Airport or the Reykjavík Airport websites.

Back in 2010, when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in Iceland, it caused enormous disruption to flights across Europe as ash bellowed into the air. However, experts do not believe that the Fagradalsfjall eruption will have the same impact.

Speaking to the BBC, volcanologist Dr Evgenia Ilyinskaya said there would not be the same level of disruption as in 2010. She said that the volcanoes in southwest Iceland were “physically not able to generate the same ash clouds.”

Is it safe to travel to Iceland right now?

Yes. The Icelandic government has put out a statement to confirm that it is safe to travel to Iceland right now.

“The eruption does not present a threat to life,” they said in a statement. “There are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open.”

Do I need to cancel my trip to Iceland or change my plans?

No. As it stands, the volcanic eruption is only taking place in the southwest of the country. The rest of Iceland remains open.

If you had planned to visit Grindavík, the Blue Lagoon or the nearby area, you should consider altering your trip. Iceland has plenty of great places to visit in winter. For example, Akureyri, on the opposite side of the island, is particularly wonderful this time of year. Popular among skiers; the local ski resort opens on December 22.

As flights are open and disruption is limited to southwest Iceland, insurance companies are very unlikely to pay out should you want to cancel your trip.

Iceland is a volcanic hotspot. Minor and major eruptions have occurred every few years since the island was formed. Earthquakes and eruptions are part of the daily reality here but locals take solace in the fact that scientists monitor volcanoes around the clock. The authorities also do whatever they can to keep people safe.

Iceland is an exciting country to visit as long as you’re aware of the risks and take any necessary precautions. The best source of information is safetravel.is, which has updates on the Grindavík situation and lots of other safety issues, including road conditions.

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