My girlfriend and I just returned from a trip around Iceland and to say that it over-delivered would be a massive understatement. On researching the trip (which started with a couple of days road tripping around Reykjavik) I was expecting us to see a lot of waterfalls and hike up a few mountains. What I didn’t realise was that we were going to end up doing something I never thought I would by hiking to an active volcano and watching lava spilling out of it.
Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t go near a volcano without an expert guide – those things are unpredictable and incredibly dangerous. Sure the lava will liquify you in seconds, but the gasses a volcano emits are arguably more dangerous as a change of wind direction can have catastrophic results. When my girlfriend mentioned visiting the volcano once she saw it on the news I was at first not keen (to say the least). We were staying at an AirBnB and the host (who was Icelandic) described it as a “tourist volcano”, meaning you can just walk to it safely as a tourist. He said the volcanoes that erupt in the glacier regions are the dangerous ones but this one would be no problem. So the next morning off we went in our hire car to do the 10km walk in.
The walk in started along an easy angled gravel track used by the rescue vehicles going back and forth, mostly carrying water as the volcano had ignited half the hillside in the previous days. What’s interesting is the entire landscape was clearly created by previous volcanic eruptions and all the surroundings were solidified lava covered in moss. You could see the evidence of volcanic activity everywhere you looked. This was clearly a land formed by fire and it was no surprise our host was unfazed by an eruption – it’s been a fact of life in this part of Iceland for millenia.
Eventually we rounded a corner and caught our first glimpse of the actual volcano.
We kept a respectful distance from the solidified lava but to see miles of it covering the landscape having only started erupting a couple of weeks before gave us an idea of how powerful they. Particularly given this one is called “Litli-Hrútur” or “little Ram” so is only small in the volcano world. I started getting excited as I knew we had a long way more to walk and that would take us very close to the actual crater and as you can just see in the photo above, the lava was bubbling away.
Another hour or so of walking the crater finally came into view in all its glory. Everything smelled of a barbecue due to the entire area being on fire a couple of days before. There were helicopters circling overhead, giving lazy tourists a view of the crater from above. But seeing the lava bubbling just a few hundred metres in front of my eyes – having seen countless documentaries over the years showing the same – was just magical. As you can see in the video below:
We took the obligatory selfies, photos and videos, then just sat down to stare at it just off the solidified lava field. When I was a child I remember reading about volcanoes, what caused them, how dangerous they were and I always imagined what it would be like to actually see one, but never really thought I would. As I sat there watching I knew my 5 year old self would have been so jealous of me!
Of course this was the one trip I didn’t bring my drone along to (since I’d often carry it and just leave it in my bag). Fortunately there were plenty of other people flying them capturing even more incredible footage, like this over on Instagram.
Truly a once in a lifetime experience and I still can’t quite believe we saw it! In spite of the long hike in there was a steady stream of people all day and every one of them will have left with an astonishing memory to last a lifetime. As for the rest of my time on Iceland, it’s a beautiful country I’ll definitely return to for some more in depth exploring.