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Iceland volcano eruption

Iceland Volcano Eruption: What it Means for Travel

After weeks of anticipation, a volcano began erupting on Iceland's Reykajanes Peninsula on Monday, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The 2.5-mile-long fissure eruption is close to the famous – and now temporarily closed – Blue Lagoon and the town of Grindavik, which had already been evacuated.

Officials in Iceland warned that while the ongoing volcano eruption is not safe for tourists to visit, it will not impact other travel to the country, or air travel in and around the North Atlantic hub. The Government of Iceland said Keflavik International Airport (KEF) is “functioning normally and international flights have not been affected.”

That means, if you have an Icelandair or PLAY Airlines flight scheduled to connect through KEF sometime soon, you can expect that flight to operate, and you might get treated to a spectacular view of the eruption, too. Both airlines say there have been no changes to their flight schedules.

 

Eruption photo Iceland
Courtesy: The Government of Iceland.

 

Here's what else you need to know about the ongoing volcanic eruption in Iceland.

 

Is the Eruption Affecting Travel?

If you have a trip to Iceland coming up, don't cancel because of the eruption. Air travel is operating like normal, and the rest of Iceland remains open to visitors.

According to mapping from the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the eruption spans about two-and-a-half miles along a fissure on the southern part of Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula.

 

Iceland volcano map
Courtesy: Iceland Meteorological Office

 

The Reykjanes Peninsula is home to Keflavik International Airport (KEF) – the largest airport in Iceland and a major connecting hub between North America and Europe – and the capital city of Reykjavik. The eruption site is approximately 30 minutes from the airport by car and an hour from downtown Reykjavik.

 

Iceland Reykjanes Peninsula map
Courtesy: Google Maps

 

Despite the eruption's proximity to the airport, as of Tuesday morning, data from Flight Aware showed Keflavik Airport only reported three total flight cancellations and wasn't in the top 20 worldwide airports for total delays and cancellations.

This type of eruption, known as an Icelandic-type eruption, happens along a fissure and does not typically result in big explosions or large amounts of ash. In 2010, an ash plume from a volcanic eruption caused mass cancellations of air travel over Iceland, which is a common route for transatlantic flights from North America to Europe.

 

Iceland road closures
Courtesy: Government of Iceland's Road Conditions website. Screenshot taken at 3 p.m. local time, Tuesday, Dec. 19.

 

As of Tuesday morning, the road along the north end of the peninsula between the airport and Reykjavik was still open to traffic (outlined in blue). All roads leading down to the closed Blue Lagoon and the town of Grindavik are closed due to the eruption (outlined in red). You can monitor the latest road closures and information on this website.

With the main, arterial roadway along the north end of the peninsula (Hwy. 41) remaining open, travelers with plans to visit Iceland can still fly into Keflavik (KEF) and drive to the city and beyond to Iceland's famous Golden Circle, the Ring Road, and more.

 

Eruption photo Iceland
Courtesy: The Government of Iceland

 

As of 9 a.m. local time Tuesday, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said the intensity of the eruption is “decreasing” after beginning overnight Monday. The eruption, they said, is “reaching a state of equilibrium” as expected.

This peninsula is used to seismic activity like this. This is the fourth eruption since 2021 in this area, according to the Government of Iceland, but is the largest fissure they've seen so far at 2.5 miles long.

 

Can I Visit the Volcano Erupting in Iceland?

Travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of the eruption are being warned not to approach the area for safety reasons. University of Iceland Professor Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told the Washington Post that the eruption is “not tourist-friendly,” unlike the recent Fagradalsfjall eruptions in 2021 that attracted visitors from all over the world (including some members of the Thrifty Traveler team).

Instead, travelers and curious minds are asked to watch the eruption on live streams set up by news agencies and the Icelandic government. This camera from the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service has an especially good – and close – angle of the spewing lava. Reuters' camera also has a good vantage point.

 

Bottom Line

A volcanic eruption in Iceland has temporarily closed the famous Blue Lagoon and led to an evacuation of the nearby town of Grindavik. Unlike previous Icelandic eruptions, officials have deemed this one “not tourist-friendly” and are asking locals and travelers alike to stay away.

Despite the eruption's proximity to the capital city of Reykjavik and the connecting hub Keflavik International Airport (KEF), officials say air travel and travel within Iceland will remain mostly unchanged despite the eruption.

 

Lead image courtesy of the Icelandic Coast Guard

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