Although authorities are still advising those who are not experienced hikers to refrain from visiting the eruption at Meradalir, an increasing number of tourists and local visitors are making their way there. However, many may be surprised to discover that parking in the nearest lots isn’t free and that a fine will be levied against anyone who doesn’t pay it. RÚV reported as part of its ongoing, updated coverage of the eruption.
During last year’s nearby eruption, the Hraun Landowners’ Association established two parking lots that are still in use. The daily parking fee at both is a modest ISK 1,000 [$7.30; €7.17], payable through the parka.is website or app. Those who don’t pay the fee, however, are charged a fine of ISK 4,750 [$34.67; €34.06]. (For Icelanders, this fee appears as a bill in their online bank account; how this fee is charged to foreign visitors was unclear at time of writing.)
Signs are posted in both lots indicating that there is a daily charge for parking. But some who’ve been hit with the fourfold fine say the signage needs to be improved, particularly as the current notices are difficult to see when there are many cars parked in the lot.
Sigurður Guðjón Gíslason, head of the Landowners’ Association, says that work is underway to improve the posted signage. Looking ahead, he said that Hraun is considering installing cameras and automated charging systems at the parking lots which would be similar to those found in capital-area parking garages.
Challenging 13-km hike poses risks for inexperienced visitors
The eruption is located in Meradalir valley, further inland from the Fagradalsfjall eruption that occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula last year. The hike to the site is around 13 kilometres [8.1 miles] long and includes considerable elevation. Several people were injured while hiking there last Wednesday; one had to be evacuated by helicopter with a broken ankle.
Suðurnes Police Commissioner Úlfar Lúðvíksson reminded the public that the hike is difficult and not for everyone. He told RÚV that many visiting the eruption on its first night were not carrying flashlights, though it has begun to get dark in the evenings.
Those who do visit the eruption also need to be particularly aware of the risk of gas poisoning. Authorities advise visitors to avoid bringing children, who are more sensitive to toxic gases and more prone to poisoning, as heavy toxic gases collect closer to the ground. The same is true of pets such as dogs. On calm days, poisonous gasses are likely to collect in low-lying areas.
Off-road driving is banned at the site, as everywhere else in Iceland. Several individuals were fined for off-road driving near the eruption earlier this week.