How Do You Volcano?

How Do You Volcano?

Photo by
Art Bicnick

The essential guide to visiting the Litli-Hrútur eruption

It finally happened – again. The third volcanic eruption in three years, the Litli-Hrútur volcano continues to deliver. Following a series of earthquakes, on Monday July 10, magma ascended towards the surface in Reykjanes.

Situated near Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula, it’s located between Keflavík International Airport and the Reykjavík capital area. Due to its proximity to human settlements, it’s a relatively straightforward task to witness Mother Nature birthing new terrain.

Photo by Art Bicnick

But how to actually pull it off? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

 Before making the decision to see the volcano, bear in mind that the area is unsafe.

Preparation is of the utmost importance 

Earlier in July, the provincial police authorities reported the death of a tourist at the eruption site. The tourist lost consciousness and was declared dead on arrival to the hospital. Stories of hikers requiring the assistance of responders in the area, comprised of search and rescue teams and police, are frequently reported. Due to the strain on first responders on site, authorities decided to close the area off to travellers at 18:00 daily.

Before making the decision to see the volcano, bear in mind that the area is unsafe. New fissures can open up anywhere in the area with no notice. And please do not walk on the lava. Just because it’s cooled down does not mean it’s safe to tread upon. Underneath the newly formed crusts is scorching lava, from which no one can save you.

Photo by Art Bicnick

To make things clear, despite the volcano’s closeness to towns, it’s still pretty much wilderness – this is a necessary fact to keep in mind. There are no facilities along the way: no bathrooms, outhouses, or water refill stations. If you’re lucky, the car park at the route’s trailhead might be exceptionally well maintained on the day of your visit. But that’s probably going to be it.

High effort, high reward

First things first. The most popular route, Leið A (Route A), gets you the best view of the volcano. It’s about nine kilometres one way with about 300-400 metres of ascent. This means that you need to bring the right equipment and wear the right clothes. Bring good hiking boots, as the trail can get rocky at spots, and dress according to the weather. Keep in mind that the weather can change very suddenly, so layer up. You should bring enough water to last you both ways. Don’t forget to bring high-protein snacks and something that can sustain your energy for the hike. Please stay on the marked trails and obey all instructions from first responders.

The trek will get you directly above the volcano, with a spectacular view which you are free to ‘gram away.

Something to be aware of while hiking is the combination of smoke from wildfires and gas fumes stemming from the eruption. Although the magma flowing from the volcano can kill you instantly, as it burns at the same temperature as an incinerator, the most dangerous aspect are the invisible gasses emanating from the volcano. Check out the national weather forecast beforehand on, and make sure the wind isn’t blowing directly towards you from the volcano. The fumes are not your friends. It is a good idea to bring a gas mask along with you.

Photo by Art Bicnick

The gasses tend to pool in low spots in the area, so keep clear of hollows and depressions in the terrain. This is also a good opportunity to mention that children are more sensitive to gas, and pets tagging along will not benefit from this type of activity.

Whichever route you choose, once you have arrived at the viewpoint, gaze at the fiery marvel. This is nature’s creation, new terrain being formed in front of your eyes.

This sounds like a lot to think about during the trek, but fret not. This falls within the limits of common sense.

The alternative

For those not interested in an 18-kilometre hike, there is another route –  albeit less travelled.

Starting in Hafnarfjörður, drive down Road 42 (Krýsuvíkurvegur) for approximately 10 kilometres. Then turn onto Road 428 (Vigdísarvallavegur), until you reach Vigdísarvellir – a small camping ground. From there, you can hike up a gravel path onto the nearest ridge to your west, about 1500 metres. From the top of that ridge, you’ll see the crater and magma spurting out of it. The view won’t be as nice from Suðurstrandarvegur, but you also didn’t need to put in a lot of effort, did you? An important note, this route has generally not been recommended by official guides, due to the path not being marked or surveilled in any way.

A third option exists, although it’s nowhere near the volcano as the other two. While in Hafnarfjörður, drive the road Kaldárselsvegur until you reach a roundabout leading to Ásvallavegur. The street will take you up a small hill, from where you are rewarded with a view over the Reykjanes peninsula. Along a small stretch of road, approximately 50 metres, you can see the magma in the distance of about 20 kilometres.

Whichever route you choose, once you have arrived at the viewpoint, gaze at the fiery marvel. This is nature’s creation, new terrain being formed in front of your eyes. Think about how lucky you are to be able to experience this once-in-a-lifetime moment. Thank you for leaving no trace during your journey.

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