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August 2022

I still remember that Wednesday. Sitting on the couch at my grandparents' house, I saw the first Instagram story saying that there was a new eruption in Iceland, then a second, then a third... I had been closely following the volcanic activity in the Reykjanes Peninsula for several weeks. All the data confirmed that a potential eruption was imminent, probably in the short term. So I checked what the Icelandic press had to say, and there it was, the information was confirmed! The eruption started through a new fissure near the 2021 eruption in the Reykjanes Peninsula. I missed the previous one, although it lasted for 6 months, I arrived a month and a half too late.


I dream of seeing one like those that occur in Indonesia. Although this one is smaller in scale, its location allows for a quick trip from Europe. And, I am currently on vacation. After missing the one in 2021, I always told myself that if one occurred in Iceland or nearby France, I would take the first flight to get there.


As I learned more about the eruption and the safety-related aspects, the idea of going there became very concrete. So I started looking at flights and weather forecasts. The upcoming weekend looked bad, but the middle of the following week would be good (let's not forget it's Iceland). I gave myself 24 hours to see how the situation would evolve, but I already knew deep down that I would go. Thursday evening, the decision was made at the same time as the purchase of the tickets, I will be in Iceland on Monday evening!

Day 1 - Weather constraint

Tuesday morning, rain is in the forecast, so I pack accordingly. On the way, I quickly realize that I won't be able to access the volcano today. Following the misadventures of ill-equipped people in the previous days, the authorities have gathered and decided that the weather conditions do not allow visitors to be accommodated under good conditions. A police car blocks each end of the road, and for no apparent reason, we can't pass. I learn this information while waiting my turn in the queue of cars. Forced to rethink my plans, I think it would be a shame not to go see the glaciers and the Dyrhólaey lighthouse (I love lighthouses). I finally managed to negotiate my passage to save time on the journey. I take the opportunity to ask at what time the commission will meet the next day. The verdict will be given at 9 am on the same day.

So, I set off towards the Sólheimajökull glacier, easily accessible from a parking lot. On-site, I am shocked to see the melting of the glacier in just a few months. With the weather being rainy, a mist has formed on the glacier between two showers, giving the impression of being on another planet. As shown in the black and white photo, the mix of the texture of the ice, the penitents, and this misty atmosphere directly transports us to Mars. Then, I go to Reynisfjara beach, famous for its monoliths and dangerous waves called "sneaker waves" in English. These waves are much stronger than regular waves because they result from the fusion of several small waves into one large wave. When they break, they reach a much higher height on the beach, creating a phenomenon of undertow that can sweep you out to sea. Although many warning signs are on the site, many tourists continue playing with the waves. If you stay in place during peak hours, it is very likely that you will see someone getting their feet wet or even being carried away by a wave. Who will be next?

To end the day, I go to the top of Dyrhólaey. From there, we overlook a black sand beach that seems to stretch infinitely toward the horizon. During the season, puffins nest in the cliffs. These are very endearing birds that fly with the grace and ease of a chicken! I recommend taking the time to observe them.

Day 2 - As close as possible of the Volcano

9:00 AM: The safety commission has authorized access to the volcano. I quickly stopped by the supermarket to get something to eat for lunch. The day is going to be long. When arriving at the site's parking lot, I notice that many people are already present. The walk is short, about 7km long (one way) with an elevation of 300m. I've heard from various media sources that some "visitors" were not adequately equipped. Although the first part of the trail is developed, the rest is still relatively natural. As in the mountains every summer, one encounters all kinds of people, from those who are well-equipped to those in city shoes, without water, and poorly dressed. I understand that people are not used to this type of environment and therefore may not have the necessary equipment. Nevertheless, there have been many communications from authorities, the media, and even influencers on social networks that provide tips to neophytes. It's important to remember that an eruption, whatever its intensity, remains dangerous, particularly due to gas emissions.

On the way, we first pass the remains of the previous eruption. However, the volcano still poses a threat as there are still many hotspots below, despite no longer spitting lava. The numerous fumaroles emanating from the cooled lava are a clear indication of this. The dozens of meters of accumulated lava will take months to cool. The spectacle is striking and reminiscent of a sci-fi movie. On the ground, the grasses and lichens are burned by the volcano's vapors. The lava field, of a deep black like foundry residues (slag and glass furnace slag), is as tormented as chaos, and offers a landscape of desolation. With, at its center, the cone which, less than a year ago produced lava fountains reaching heights of 460m and a flow rate exceeding 16m3/s (sources: The Watchers News and However, the hostility of this place only emphasizes its beauty. It feels like being transported to another planet, standing face to face with a rebirth, witnessing one of the most recent rocks on Earth.

In the distance, a column of smoke emanates from a valley that is still hidden by the landscape. There is no doubt, we now know where it is. Its breathing betrays its hidden location. As we tip over onto the slope leading to it, the sound of the lava becomes audible, and the emissions become increasingly visible, contrasting with the mountains in the background. The entire crowd becomes filled with enthusiasm and curiosity, which becomes unbearable as we approach. Our steps quicken. The last flat surface becomes the last visual barrier. Suddenly, the steps slow down, then freeze. The amazed faces, stunned looks, and people laughing, crying, and jumping for joy, overwhelmed by emotion. Then, they rush again to see it as a whole. It is right there in front of us. It's what everyone came to see. Its breath and the sound of its whims strike us head-on. The volcano pours cubic meters of lava into a din that could be compared to the waves crashing on rocks on a stormy day. To truly realize the dimensions and atmosphere that reign around the volcano, one has to see it in person.

From the top of this cirque, we overlook a black lava field in the middle of which stands a lava lake and a half-cone from which boiling lava flows. Then, it flows through various lava rivers. Sometimes, the walls of the lake give way, pouring this liquid rock onto the solidified lava fields.

The lava, with its unmatched intensity of red, is by far the most hypnotic thing I have ever seen. You can't stop looking at it, to the point that you could sit and forget yourself. It's an indescribable spectacle. Seeing this viscous substance flow is fascinating.

I decide to go down near the lava field. Solidified in contact with the air, the lava seems frozen in motion. Nearby, you will hear this clicking of the material which cooled. It may happen to hear a similar one with a glowing coal. It is difficult for me to tell myself that I am touching a rock that is only a few days old. But, the most unreal is when I stand at the top of the cove north of the lake. Going around the site and looking for another angle of view, I tell myself that the lake is likely to extend in this direction. From this position, I find myself at the same height as the latter. And, I never managed to realize that all this magma comes from several kilometers underground. It's as if we had simply placed an attraction in the middle of the valley. And yet, under pressure, the magma made its way through cracks in the earth's crust to emerge on the surface giving these bubbling geysers. The lava field ended up extending in my direction. After about ten minutes, the lava front is now below my position and is advancing slowly. So I decide to go down to join the few people there. It's incredible to think that I am only a few meters from this liquid lava. The heat escaping from it does not allow you to go closer than 3-4 meters. At this time, under the downpour, only my hands and my face are not covered by clothes. And yet the radiation is so strong that you already have that burning sensation. Although handy for drying clothes, I didn't want to end up roasted like a chicken.

The cloud of smoke does not allow access to the hill closest to the eruption. Back not far from the initial point of view, the night finally falls and this is where the site reveals all its beauty. Already obscuring by day, the lava, in this darkness, becomes omnipresent. Its light illuminates the site in its entirety. The contrast makes it even more visible and betrays its presence in every corner. Sitting at height, I contemplate this spectacle. Although several hundred meters from the liquid lava, I find that by presenting the palms of my hands facing it, I can feel the heat that emerges. It is really impressive! Late in the evening, leaving the site, I am struck by the intensity with which the eruption illuminates a red halo plume of smoke rising above the site.


At 11 p.m., we still see people arriving on the site. Throughout the day, not all are equipped as they should be. Not sure that street shoes, a simple jacket, and a mobile phone lamp are the most appropriate for hiking on this type of terrain... What's more, at night. Remember that the presence of relief on the site and the island more broadly does not prevail over autonomy and common sense. It is better to start by being able to rely on either before relying on others.

Day 3 - Step back

On this last day, it's raining again. I decide to go to another viewpoint to see the volcano from a different angle and with more perspective. The route is shorter, but I think the elevation gain is similar. We start by climbing the ridge of the mountain that borders the previous eruption. Compared to yesterday, we are on the opposite side of it. Then, we climb up to the summit. As I'm taking the plane in the evening, I don't want to venture further, as can be seen in the photos below. Although several kilometers away, when the wind dies down, you can hear the rumbling of the volcano.

Although the eruption is now over, if you have enough time to visit both sites, I recommend going further or higher on the second mountain to see the site as a whole.

Few advice

If you are planning to visit the site, here are some tips:

- Get information on the routes and conditions of the site. The website has diverse information and provides a map with routes. I also recommend taking a screenshot of a topographic map and not relying on 4G, as there are still dead zones.


- Consider the weather. The wind direction and intensity affect the dispersion of gases. Naturally, the weather conditions will also impact your equipment. I recommend using the websites of the Icelandic Meteorological Office ( and meteoblue to prepare for your outings. These sites are very comprehensive and contain useful information.

- Dress appropriately with clothes suitable for a hike of a few hours. Although the main trail (A) has now been developed up to the volcano, remember to wear appropriate shoes. The trail can be slippery if it has rained or snowed. Bring something to cover yourself. You will likely spend some time on the site, and even at 10°C, when it rains and there is wind, you will get cold when you stay still. A charged headlamp and/or a set of spare batteries don't take up much space and will always come in handy, so don't forget them.


- Regarding to the mask (during the eruption), it should be equipped with ABEK filter cartridges. It is not mandatory but as personal protection, it remains advised to get one. In my opinion, it is not necessary to wear it when you are high up enough and the wind is blowing the gases away. It's more for problems like sudden degassing of the volcano or a rapid change in wind direction that could push the cloud towards you. When you are near the lava or in low-lying areas, it may be wise to wear it. If you are in the post-eruption zone, keep in mind that the presence of fumaroles indicates a probable emission of gas. These are denser than air and will be present near the ground, particularly in depressions, in the absence of wind. This is why some sites may be unsuitable for young children and dogs.


- For your eyes, I recommend bringing something to protect them. At a minimum, a pair of well-covering sunglasses will protect you from the sun and wind. The ash is volatile and, like sand, can be lifted and thrown into your eyes in strong gusts. Also, in certain types of eruptions, you may encounter pumice and may need to protect your eyes. Finally, during the eruption, I also wore eye protection in addition to a mask for breathing to protect my eyes in case the smoke came towards us.


- And lastly, you will probably be spending a few hours outdoors. So don't hesitate to bring plenty of water and a snack.

For information, the emergency number in Iceland remains 112. This is an emergency number, so use it wisely.

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