Update: Eruption Potentially Over
As of August 22, signs seem to indicate that the Meradalir eruption has come to an end, although the Meteorological Office of Iceland is hesitant to make an official statement as of yet. Lava flow at the site has been declining steadily since the initial eruption, and at the time of writing, there is no visible activity at the site. An official statement from the Volcanology and Natural Hazard Group of the University of Iceland was released on August 20, which can be seen below. Even for geologists, precisely predicting the activity of a volcanic system is very difficult, especially over small timespans. Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Meradalir eruption here.
Before setting out
As always in Iceland, taking the proper gear is key to having a good hike. Sturdy boots, rain- and windproof layers, water, and food are all must-haves when setting out to visit the eruption. Those setting out later in the day will also want to take a flashlight or head lamp.
The eruption can be safely viewed but as always with such phenomena, there are inherent risks. Besides the lava itself, volcanic gas can pose a danger to hikers, especially on calm, windless days. Hikers are asked to not bring small children or animals because of these conditions. Updates on the wind patterns near the eruption site can be found at the Meteorological Office of Iceland’s website.
In addition to the volcanic gas, the weather can also play an important role, and the site may be closed in inclement weather conditions. For the most up to date information, see the Facebook page or website for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.
Before setting out, it is also important to note that not all are allowed to visit the site. As of August 9, children under the age of 12 are banned from the site, due to the challenging nature of the hike and additional hazards posed by the gases to the young.
The parking for the Meradalir eruption is the same as last year’s. Those driving from Reykjavík can take Route 41 towards Keflavík, then 43 south towards Grindavík. From there, it is only several kilometers along 427 until the parking lot, shown in the map below. Visitors to the site should note that parking is not free. As of the time of writing, parking is a modest ISK 1,000 through the parking app parka.is, but those who skip the fee can expect higher charges.
The hike to the eruption
The hike is a round trip of 14km, about 2 hours of hiking each way. Notably, the walk is longer and more difficult than the hike to last year’s eruption site, so hikers will want to prepare accordingly. The trek is over difficult terrain and you may want to take pictures, so we recommend accounting for around 5 hours total walking. The current route begins with Route A from last year’s eruption, but then branches off at Stórhól, where hikers then follow the trail to an overview of the eruption. Search and Rescue teams have been improving the trail, and as of August 4, the signage reflects the path to the new eruption site.
Hikers are asked to keep to the path, both to protect nature, and also because the trail can be hazardous. Several hikers have already been evacuated by Search and Rescue for minor injuries sustained during the hike.
At the eruption
When at the eruption site, safety is key. As stated, volcanic gases can pose a danger to visitors, so staying high on the slopes can be a good idea. This is also a great vantage point to view the eruption from.
Those wanting a closer view of the eruption can walk down into the valley, but should exercise extra caution around the lava. It is not advisable to touch the lava, even if it looks cool, and under no circumstances should visitors walk on the fresh lava.
Search and Rescue teams are on site and are happy to answer any questions you may have. Should the situation change, listen to any instructions they may have for visitors.
For those unable to make the hike, or else just looking for the most current conditions at the eruption site, there are several live webcams of the Meradalir eruption. RÚV’s live webcam can be found below: