Iceland News Review: The Puffins Return, Trip Into a Volcano, and More

In this episode of Iceland News Review, we delve into Iceland’s new government; the return of Iceland’s iconic puffins; a new attraction that could show you the inside of an active volcano, and much more.

Iceland News Review brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland open after the eruption?

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

Update: April 17. The Blue Lagoon temporarily closed its doors on April 16 due to gas pollution but will reopen on April 17 at 2:00 pm.

Due to its close proximity to the eruption site, the Blue Lagoon had to evacuate its guests and temporarily close down all facilities. Even though the lagoon is open, please make sure to stay updated and check the website of the facility before planning your visit.

The Sundhnúkagígar eruption is the fourth eruption since December 2023 and is, at the time of writing, still active.

Land uplift close to the lagoon

After intense seismic activity in the early morning of February 8, a volcanic eruption began on the Reykjanes peninsula in the Sýlingarfell mountain area. Shortly after, the Blue Lagoon closed and evacuated all of its operational units. The spa is in Zone 1 of the hazard map for volcanic eruption by the Icelandic Met Office. Currently, land uplift continues to increase under Svartsengi. The area is in close proximity to the Blue Lagoon. Experts are predicting another eruption to occur within the next few weeks, similar to the last three months.

Please make sure to stay updated and check the website of the facility and local news outlets before planning your visit. The situation can change very fast.

Useful resources

Apart from news updates that we provide, below are some links you may find useful as you stay apprised of the situation or your visit to Iceland nears:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.

How to visit the Blue Lagoon

If you are contemplating a visit to the Blue Lagoon, there are several way to do this. A premium admission pass with bus transfer (from Reykjavík or Keflavík airport) is a popular option. Alternatively, you could combine a trip to the Blue Lagoon with a Golden Circle tour or if you are doing a self-drive, you can book a basic admission ticket.

The Blue Lagoon is located about 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Keflavik International Airport and about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Reykjavik. Hence, you can reach the Blue Lagoon by car, taxi, or shuttle bus. Bear in mind that under normal circumstances this is a very popular destination, so booking in advance is recommended to secure a spot in the lagoon.

By booking travel services through Iceland Review, you are supporting independent coverage and curation of travel in Iceland. See more information on tours and trips to lagoons and hot springs in Iceland or visit our travel section for a comprehensive resource with practical information on travel in Iceland.

 

Perlan May Soon Offer Journey “Into the Volcano”

A rainbow over Perlan, one of the museums in Reykjavík

Perla norðursins ehf, the company that holds the lease for Reykjavík’s famed landmark Perlan, has submitted a proposal to Reykjavík City Council for a new attraction at the site: a virtual elevator ride into the depths of the Earth, to witness the interior of a volcano.

“Into the volcano”

According to the proposal, the site would be roughly 100 metres squared and just to the west of the Perlan structure. The attraction, tentatively called “Into the Volcano”, would offer guests a virtual “elevator ride” some 2,000 metres down into the Earth.

The journey itself would began at an active volcano in Reykjanes, depicting lava flow and ash near Grindavík. As passengers descend into the Earth, screens would depict what they would see if they could literally sink into a volcano unharmed. In addition, there would be a display showing how deep into the Earth the guests are descending, what the temperature is at a given depth, and other data points.

A physically present guide, or a voiceover narration, would explain to guests further what they are witnessing. The entire journey would take about seven minutes.

A trial run

The proposal states that Perlan would cover all the costs to create the exhibition and would pay the City of Reykjavík 1 million ISK per year in rent. They are asking for a three-year trial run of the attraction.

Eruption Reduces from Two Craters to One

Although still ongoing, the Reykjanes eruption that began on March 16th has more encouragingly reduced from two craters issuing lava into the air to just one, mere days after an announcement from the Icelandic Met Office that two craters were still active.

Hard to predict what happens next

Speaking to RÚV, national hazards expert Sigríður Kristjánsdóttir said that while the crater Sundhnúkagígar is still active, the other remaining crater has ceased apparent activity since last Friday. “It’s a particular development and it’s difficult to predict what will happen next,” she said.

She added that lava has been more or less contained to the lava pool within the crater itself. On occasion, lava does manage to splash out of the crater, in an easterly direction.

Downgraded, but still active

The news comes mere days after Civil Protection downgraded the eruption area from “emergency phase” to “alert phase” (applying strictly to the eruption area; not the country as a whole).

In the wake of this the Blue Lagoon has opened to guests once again.

Blue Lagoon Reopens Despite Ongoing Eruption

blue lagoon Iceland

The popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon reopened at noon today after being temporarily closed since a volcanic eruption began in nearby Sundhnúkagígar on March 16.

The spa was evacuated when the eruption began and has been closed for three months in total during the span of volcanic activity in Sundhnúkagígar that started in November of last year. Concerns over gas pollution from the volcano were the main reason for closure this time around.

Coordination with police

Helga Árnadóttir, Blue Lagoon manager, told RÚV that staff and management were excited to begin operations again following this latest three week shutdown. “We’ve been in conversation with the Suðurnes police commissioner and gone over the situation, the shifts, measurements, risk assessments and other things,” she said. “And the result was that we agreed that it would be sensible to reopen today.”

Increased security

Helga said that operating hours would be adjusted according to gas pollution estimates and wind forecasts at each time. “It’s all to ensure that we’re not risking the safety of our guests and staff at any given time,” she said, adding that wind forecasts for the next few days were looking good. Gas meters have been set up along the area and safety personnel are on duty to help with response if evacuation is needed at any time.

Civil Protection Downgrades Reykjanes Eruption

reykjanes eruption march 2024

Yesterday, April 3, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in consultation with the Chief of Police of the Reykjanes peninsula, made the decision to downgrade the emergency preparedness level. The volcanic eruption between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell is now considered to be an “alert phase,” where it was previously an “emergency phase.”

Emergency phase

The emergency phase was activated when the eruption commenced on March 16th. Despite the ongoing eruption, the situation has remained stable for some time. Civil Protection and the Icelandic Met Office state that no significant ground movements have been detected in the region recently.

While challenges like wildfires near the lava flow and gas pollution persist, the pollution hasn’t reached settlements in the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Misleading headlines

It should be noted that the Civil Protection emergency preparedness levels indicate overall levels of caution taken by authorities and first responders to the localised eruption, and not nation-wide conditions. Some reporting in the foreign media have implied that the “state of emergency” applied to the entire nation.

According to Civil Protection, an alert phase (hættustig) is in place if “a hazard assessment indicates increased threat, immediate measures must be taken to ensure the safety and security of those who are exposed/ in the area. This is done by increasing preparedness of the emergency- and security services in the area and by taking preventive measures, such as restrictions, closures, evacuations and relocation of inhabitants. This level is also characterized by public information, advise and warning messages.”

More information can be found, in English, here.

Further monitoring

Despite the downgraded preparedness level, Civil Protection state that continuous monitoring of wildfires during the eruption will be conducted, and necessary actions will be implemented.

More information can be found at the Icelandic Met Office. Air quality can be monitored live here: www.loftgaedi.is.

 

Eruption Cycle Near Grindavík Could End Soon

gígur, crater, eruption, eldgos

The current volcanic eruption in Sundhnúkagígar could mark the end of a string of eruptions in the area near Grindavík, despite now being in its third week and still chugging along.

The eruption began on March 16 and activity remains in two craters in the area, with steady lava flow and no immediate signs of the eruption ending, according to an Mbl.is report. More of the activity is ongoing in the larger of the two craters. Some gas pollution could be detected in Grindavík and Hafnir today.

Magma flowing from deep

However, there are signs that this might be the final eruption in the cycle of volcanic activity which began at the end of last year. Þor­vald­ur Þórðar­son, professor of volcanology at the University of Iceland, told Mbl.is this weekend that activity in Sundhnúkagígar might be coming to a close.

The shallower magma chamber in the area, situated under Svartsengi near the tourist destination Blue Lagoon, which has been closed since the current eruption started, is no longer receiving magma from the eruption, Þorvaldur explains. Therefore, magma from the deeper magma chamber in the area is flowing to the surface. “This could chug on for the next few days,” he said Saturday. “We’re not talking about the eruption ending in the next few hours.”

Activity elsewhere still possible

“I believe that when this eruption stops the activity in Sundhnúkagígar will end,” Þorvaldur added. “That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be activity elsewhere. Since this is coming from the deeper magma chamber and crustal uplift has stopped, the process we’ve seen since November 10 is ending. In my estimation, this activity has been connected to magma flowing from the deeper chamber to the shallower one.”

Grindavík Exodus Heats Up Housing Market

grindavík evacuation

The housing market showed signs of heating up in February, according to a new report from the Housing and Construction Authority (HMS). The biggest change was in the vicinity of the capital area, which HMS attributes to the residents of Grindavík entering the market to buy new homes, RÚV reports.

Grindavík was evacuated in November due to seismic activity. The town has seen four volcanic eruptions just to the north, in the Sundhnúkagígar area, since December. Three houses were destroyed in the January eruption and the Government has since promised to buy homes from Grindavík residents if they choose.

Prices rise and activity increases

According to HMS, an uptick in the housing price index and data on real estate listings show increased activity in the market. More than 1,400 listings were removed in February, indicating completed sales, which is double compared to January. Reykjanesbær, a municipality near Grindavík, saw the number of completed real estate purchase agreements triple compared to January.

The housing price index rose by 1.9% between January and February and has risen by 5.7% in the last year. Outside of the capital area, the bump was 6.4% between January and February and 8.5% in the last year. HMS attributes this to activity from Grindavík residents in municipalities such as Reykjanesbær.

Authorities Combat Fake Volcano News

eruption, Stóra-Skógfell, Sundhnjúkargígarröð

Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, has spent ISK 100 million [€670,690 / $725,584] on marketing to respond to and correct international news coverage on the volcanic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula over the last few months.

The current eruption has been ongoing since Saturday, making it the longest-lasting in the recent spell of volcanic activity on the peninsula.

Imprecise reporting

The Icelandic Tourism Board, social media influencers and others have received public funding from the ministry, Vísir reports. “It’s very important that the correct information gets out there,” Lilja said, pointing to a BBC online article which indicated that Iceland was in a “state of emergency”. This would be an imprecise translation of the civil protection alert levels which the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management decides on at any given time.

Effect on tourism

Other news articles have connected the volcanic activity to tourism and questioning whether anyone would want to go to Iceland. “Tourism is the industry responsible for most of our foreign currency income, around 35%,” Lilja said, adding that tourism was an important pillar in securing the stability of the Icelandic Króna, along with energy intensive industries, fisheries and the creative and tech industries.

 

Is it safe to travel to Iceland in March 2024?

Volcanic Eruption in Reykjanes Iceland, 2023

Volcanic eruptions are notoriously hard to predict. Nevertheless, during the seven eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula within the last three years, travel to and from Iceland was never seriously impacted. Based on past evidence, there is little chance that an eruption on Reykjanes will significantly affect travel.

Previous eruptions

Many people remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, which severely disrupted air travel across Europe for several days and are consequently worried that such a disruption could happen again. One important factor for determining whether air travel will be impacted is the production of ash. The Eyjafjalljökull eruption of 2010 was what is known as an explosive eruption. Due to the volcano’s location underneath a glacier, the erupting lava comes into contact with water and produces ash plumes, which disturbed flights for six days. In contrast, the Reykjanes eruptions have all been effusive fissure eruptions, resulting in relatively calm lava flows with minimal ash and gas.

Blue lagoon may be affected

Previous eruptions have likewise not threatened Keflavík International Airport nor Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between the airport and the greater Reykjavík area. Some local tourist activities such as the Blue Lagoon may remain closed for some time, so travellers are advised to stay updated. While the first three eruptions on Reykjanes were described as “tourist-friendly,” the four eruptions since have threatened the community of Grindavík. As such, the authorities have advised the general public to stay away from these eruptions. The town of Grindavík remains evacuated and unnecessary travel near the eruption sites should be avoided.

Useful resources

At the time of writing, the most recent eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula occurred on March 16. It is currently still active, but will not affect the greater capital area.

In addition to staying up to date with our news coverage, travellers may find the following links useful:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.