Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023: Hike To Litli-Hrútur Volcano

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023: Everything you need to know before you start hiking to see the latest volcano eruption at Litli-Hrutur.

Have you been to the latest Iceland volcano eruption 2023 site at Litla Hrút volcano, on the Reykjanes peninsula?

I did this hike to see the volcano, twice, and I want to give you all my tips on how to go and witness the greatness of mother nature without putting yourself, or your family, in any danger. 

To sum it up, it comes down to the time you have to spend in Iceland (you might have to wait some days if the weather is not good), your hiking resistance, and your desire to see this miracle of nature. But if you get just a little bit lucky, you’ll get to witness one of the greatest places on the planet.

If you’re not in Iceland already, make sure to check my comprehensive guide on planning a trip to Iceland! I promise it will save you lots of time when planning and organizing everything you need for your Icelandic adventure.

UPDATE August 9, 2023: The volcano is no longer erupting! You can still use these hiking trails to see the lava field, respect the rules as the lava is not yet cold. 

Things to know before you visit Iceland’s volcano eruption

Before you go, it might also be a good idea to check the air quality in the area (check here). 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023 people close to new lava

Right after the eruption started, in early July 2023, visitors were able to get there for the first three days. But then the trail was closed for four and a half days because of strong winds that were pushing the smoke in the direction of the trail. 

The smoke coming from wildfires, the lave itself, and the unfavourable wind direction make de trail impossible to hike, and therefore, the authorities officially closed it. They were reassessing the situation every day, and after exactly one week, they announced that it was safe to hike the trail to the new volcano eruption site of 2023 (Litli-Hrutur).

I do not recommend hiking a trail to see an active volcano in Iceland if the weather conditions and authorities’ recommendations do not present it as a safe activity. This is a warning for the 2023 eruption and all potential future eruption sites in Iceland! 

Always check the latest news reports here:

These are Icelandic media outlets. They continuously cover the latest news from the volcano eruption, so always check those first. You can search on their English version, but since they tend to be slow in translating the news, I simply check the Icelandic version and use Google Translate. 

I noticed that news websites create live feeds where they post the latest updates. This is an example (https://www.ruv.is/english/2023-07-11-litli-hrutur-latest-387570) with the latest news from the hiking trails. 

Always check SafeTravel.is (this is a website specifically created for tourists travelling to Iceland). They also have an Instagram account, Facebook page – that they update regularly. 

Please note that social media is full of photos and false information – only follow reputable sources and, whenever possible, ask other people who are living or travelling in Iceland at the moment. 

I found Kyana on Instagram. She lives in Iceland and is a big influencer around there. There are many other nice people who you can follow for the latest updates. 

How to get to the volcano eruption site?

The best way to reach the parking lot where you can start a hike is by car.

Check out the best prices on Northbound (Iceland’s dedicated rental platform) or RentalCars (which is international).

Make sure to book your car in advance because summer is the peak tourist season in Iceland, and everything gets sold out quickly, including rental cars.

Regardless of your travel plans in Iceland, there’s no way around it — you’ll need a rental car!

If you decide you don’t want to hike on your own, there are also tours to the volcano offering this experience.

You can choose to hike with a geologist, who will explain the phenomena as you hike.

Or even better, you can book a helicopter tour, which is hands down, the absolute best way to see the new volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Check out my complete Iceland travel tips list for the best first experience in Iceland.

Where to stay near the volcano eruption site in Iceland?

The two largest cities close to see eruption site are:

  • Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland), which is only 1 hour away by car, and
  • Keflavik, the city where the international airport is located. Keflavik is less than 1 hour away from the parking grounds where the hikes start.
Booking.com

Hiking gear

Make sure to start your hiking fully equipped. The weather in Iceland is famous for being unpredictable. 

When I was there in July 2023, I was lucky with the weather. During the day, it was almost T-shirt temperature and not a lot of wind. However, everyone tends to stay there until late. During the evening and night hours, the temperature might be lower, and it may get windy, which will make you feel much colder. 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023 hiking hear

Also, the start of the trails are easy to walk because they have been used for the past few years, but the last parts are new and will make you advance much slower. 

That’s why I strongly suggest packing the following equipment for your trip to Iceland, especially if you’re planning to hike and see the new volcanic eruption in Iceland:

  • Hiking boots. Try to get high-ankle boots if possible, it will serve you for multiple purposes and keep your ankles safe on that lava field (there’s a lot of old lava in Iceland, but DON’T STEP on the newly formed lava!). 
  • Windproof jacket and pants. 
  • Layers under your jacket and hiking pants. 
  • Windbreaker.
  • Winter hat. 
  • Mittens. 
  • Walking sticks are optional, the official trails don’t have a lot of elevation.
  • Binoculars. 
  • Smoke mask. I didn’t have any, but I never hiked in smoke or went close to any wildfires. 

Hiking trails for the Iceland volcano eruption 2023 

Parking

There are two parking spots from where you can start your hike:

To park in these organised parking lots, you will need to pay. Use the Parka app to pay for the parking. In 2023, the fee for a car was 1000 ISK (about $7.60 or €6.90). The bigger the car, the more expensive the parking. Make sure to download to Parka app in advance. 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023 P2 parking

Note that there aren’t other places where you can park around the area. Driving off-road is illegal in Iceland, and fines are high. Just pay for the parking. 

Hiking trails to the 2023 volcano eruption site near Mt. Litli-Hrútur

I’d recommend choosing the hiking trail based on the weather conditions. The wind direction plays an important factor when hiking. 

You don’t want the wind to blow all the smoke on the hiking trail (this would be a wind blowing from N to S). 

As of July 2023, the police in Iceland have advised visitors to be in good physical shape before starting the trail. They don’t recommend it for children or elderly people. 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023

I’ve seen some children, but again, weather conditions can make this a very difficult hike or an easy one. Remember that July and August are summer months, and this is when you’ll find the best weather in Iceland. Remember that during summer, there’s almost no nighttime. 

This means that even if you start your hike late, you’ll have enough light to get back to the parking lot. But after the second half of July, the day starts to get shorter, and you’ll experience twilight at about 12 AM (midnight). If the weather is bad (cloudy or rainy), it will be even darker. A headlamp might help in this case. 

Before starting the hike, make sure you have enough water and food for the road trip. Also, there are no facilities (WC, shops, etc.). 

Trail A – about 10km one way

This is the longer trail, more changing, and it starts from P1.

The 10km hike can translate to about 3 hours one way, but in the end, it depends on your personal pace and weather conditions.

During the first 2 weeks of the eruption, not a lot of people were taking this trail. That’s because it’s longer than Trail D (the one that starts from P2). 

However, this trail gets you closer to the volcano and offers an elevated view of the 2023 volcano eruption at Litli-Hrútur. As of 30th July (last update), most people take this route. In many ways is similar to trail D/E, but longer.

Since it’s a longer hike, getting there with children or staying too long into the night might be dangerous. I’ve read of a case of a family with two small children who had called the rescue team on their way back because they were exhausted and couldn’t get back to the parking lot. This happened on this trail. 

Update: After 3 weeks from the first day of the eruption, the volcano is less active, and lava is only moving inside the crater. Lava is also flowing through underground tunnels, so do not attempt to walk on the newly formed black lava! Given the reduced activity, the best trail to see the volcano is Trail A!

Trail D (new path) Meradalaleið – about 8km one way

This is the first trail that was opened for tourists to see the new 2023 volcano eruption in Iceland. 

This is the trail I hiked in July 2023. I have a vlog from this trip on my YouTube channel

The Path D trail is easy, as you mostly walk on a dirt road that serves as an access road for emergency cars and news reporters. The first part of the trail is gravel. It’s flat and easy to walk on. You’ll get the first glimpse of the 2023 volcano after about 1 hour and 45 minutes. 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023 trail D
First view of the volcano from the first viewing point, after about 4km.

There you will see the new lava. Don’t get too close, as it’s still very hot, and it’s still burning inside. 

The trail continues on the right side of the volcano, about two more kilometres. But this last part is on old lava covered by moss. This makes walking very difficult, and it’s not suitable if you don’t have proper hiking boots and a good physical state. 

I didn’t walk the last part, as the volcano’s crater was visible from the first viewing point. If the weather is good and it’s not too windy, I believe this is a safe trail for everyone. 

Trail D is advertised as a 6-hour trip, not including the time you will spend watching the volcano. 

Unofficial trail – Vigdísarvallavegur (not recommended by authorities)

On my last day in Iceland, I wanted to try Trail A to get to see the volcano. But because the wind was blowing towards the trail, I found an alternative last minute – the Vigdísarvallavegur dirt road. 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023 unofficial trail

To get to the starting point of this trail (which isn’t much of a trail, more like a just-invented trail), you will need to drive on this dirt road. This is not an easy trail. You’ll need hiking sticks for the first part, and be extra careful. 

Here’s the entire thing filmed, time to get your popcorn!

At the time I did this hike, there was no information about this trail, so I just looked at the satellite images and parked further away because I didn’t want to drive on this road, not knowing its condition, with a car that wasn’t mine.

I parked at the Krýsuvík hot spring, which is one mountain away from this spot (and adds an hour and a half to the hike if rested). It’s a medium hike. 

But what I later learnt was that 4WD cars were able to drive up to this point (exact Google Map location here). The reason the authorities don’t recommend this route is because there is no parking. At the end of the road, you can only park a handful of cars. In case you get there and there’s no car, you’ll see a small wooden cabin and a small river behind it.

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023

There are two ways to access the starting point for this hike – from road 427 here (it’s a right and then next left to get on the right road that leads to the cabin) or from road 42 (here). On our way back, a nice Polish guy drove us on this road, from the cabin to road 42, and it was a bit bumpy, not suitable for city cars. It took about 20 minutes from the cabin to get to the main road. 

The only way to get here is by having a rental car! My top two pics are RentalCars and Northbound, depending on their availability.

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023
Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023

The hike is not marked, but it’s fairly easy. You need to start climbing the mountain behind the cabin. Try to find the easiest day, but it will be a bit challenging as the first part is a bit rocky.

Then you’ll find yourself in a small valley before reaching the other top of the mountain. From there, you’ll get a clear view of the volcano if the weather is clear. If you were to park at the small wooden cabin, the hike to the viewpoint up the mountain should take you about 30 minutes. 

From the viewpoint, you’ll notice that there’s a huge lava valley between you and the volcano. That is very old lava that is not covered by thick moss. While walking on that is possible, it can be dangerous, as the lava rocks might move or crack. If you want to cross the valley, try to go a bit around the centre, where the largest lava rocks are located. 

There’s no need to get through the lava valley, as you’ll get a very good view from the mountain. But if you decide to go closer, it will take you about one hour to cross it. It’s also quite challenging, and you always need to watch your step. 

Update August 2023: The volcano has stopped erupting. However, hot lava may still flow underground, and the black lava you see might not be completely cooled.

When I visited, the moss around this area was on fire, about 500 m away from the crater, so be careful. The smoke might be dangerous and also reduce visibility. If this is the case, don’t put yourself in any danger. 

Given this terrain, rescue teams might not be able to help you quickly. 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023

When I did this hike, there was no wind at all.

This is not a common occurrence in Iceland.

I didn’t get too close to the wildfires. If there’s wind and a lot of fire, you risk getting caught in a circle of fire, which happened to some tourists a few days after I did this hike! 

Iceland Volcano Eruption 2023

At all times, there were helicopters from the rescue team above us. They were probably worried that we were there in an open field, a bit close to the smoke and wildfires. 

Always keep in mind that whatever you read online about hiking to see the 2023 volcano in Iceland might be outdated, as fire spreads quickly and affects trails, the efficiency of rescue teams and so on. Please be responsible and aware of your surroundings.

Nobody else is responsible for your own safety but yourself! 

MUST-KNOW when hiking in Iceland to see the volcano eruption

Please remember walking on lava is unsafe and strictly forbidden. As the eruption is ongoing and lava continues to flow, the trail may change frequently and could be closed on short notice. Always adhere to guidance from Safetravel.is and the local authorities.

After about one week after the initial eruption, the crater collapsed, which resulted in rapid lava flooding of the surrounding area. You can watch the moment here (drone photographers are flooding the place so the moment was filmed by a drone). That’s why you should never be too close to the crater. 

Your precise journey depends on where you park and how much exploration you undertake at the eruption site. Always make sure you have enough time and supplies (water and food) when setting out to hike to the eruption site. 

On-site authorities and ICE-SAR members are always available to provide assistance. Don’t hesitate to ask them for guidance and follow their instructions during your visit.

Check these weather reports before starting your trail:

Feel free to message me on Instagram if you have any questions, or comment on this post and I’ll get back to you asap.

Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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