Can I see volcanoes erupting in Iceland?

glacier on a volcano
Possibly, as they go off quite regularly is the short answer. For more information about volcanoes in Iceland read on…

Iceland is known as the land of Ice and Fire, and the glaciers take up 11% of our lovely island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Without volcanoes we literally wouldn’t exist, and our island continues to grow about 2.5 cm every year. In fact, since the middle ages a third of the lava that has covered the earth’s surface has been here in Iceland! We are placed on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a fault line between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and so earthquakes and volcanoes are relatively common.

We are frequently asked if people can visit volcanoes, and yes! Of course you can, you can literally see volcanoes from Reykjavik, and many day tours take you up them, and around their craters. On the South coast tour we drive over one, the energy beneath it is used to power an electric plant, and great columns of steam, shooting up from the ground!

volcanoes created this strata in the rock
The volcanic heritage of Iceland can be seen all over the country in the colourful rock strata.

However many people are imagining the volcano spewing lava at the time. Despite, on a geological scale, us having eruptions regularly – about every 5 years – this doesn’t mean they are guaranteed, enough for to book a holiday to view! And even if they did erupt many are in inaccessible places, such as the central Plateau. There there are over a hundred inactive volcanoes – ones that haven’t erupted in the past 1000 years, and more than 30 that have erupted in the last few centuries. You can take a trip into the central highlands during summer in a 4×4 with us.

So, if you want to view an erupting volcano you’ll have to be very lucky… or unlucky… volcanoes are dangerous places, bringing noxious gases, flash floods, earthquakes, mudslides and more in their wake. We cannot in good conscious tell anyone to go anywhere near a live volcano, but it is awesome to explore the lava tunnels! If you are dying to see lava up close we thoroughly recommend the Icelandic Lava Show. They create real flowing lava from the rock here and teach you all about it as they pour it in front of you. You can feel the heat and when the lava cools to glass (as it cools rapidly) you can break it too.

If you are worried about visiting Iceland due to the volcanoes please don’t be. The chances of one happening whilst you are here are very small, let alone you being any where near it at the time. We also monitor the volcanoes all the time, you can see earth quakes and how active or inactive they are on our national weather website and the associated volcano site. This gives us lots notice if there will be an eruption, so we can evacuate any areas required. All mobile phones, Icelandic and Foreign will be messaged if an eruption is imminent, giving you time to get to safety.

BBC New footage of Bárðarbunga eruption in 2014

We hope we have convinced you to come and enjoy the wonders of Iceland that are given to us by our volcanoes – the geysirs and hot springs, the dramatic landscape, the lava tunnels, the environmentally friendly electricity and hot water. And we hoped to have settled any fears you may have had!

For us, living on two tectonic plates earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are pretty normal. For example here is our Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir being interviewed when the strongest earthquake in 17 years, with a magnitude of 5.6 hit. She was shocked, then continued answering the question about something totally un-earthquake related.

As Icelanders say, “þetta reddast” no worries, it will all work out fine!

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