Iceland is famous for its many volcanoes

Iceland’s Volcanoes – Facts & More

Nordical Travel, Last updated: June 8, 2021

Before the current eruption of Fagradalsfjall, swarms of earthquakes had shaken the capital Reykjavík and nearby towns. Magma was moving and slowly approaching the surface. The country was on high alert for what may or may not have happened, but it did happen! Iceland exploded and made the headline all over the world (again!).

So, let’s look back into Iceland’s geological history, their behavior and learn all kinds of Iceland volcanoes facts.


Iceland Volcanoes Facts  

  • Iceland has 130 volcanoes, 30 of which are active
  • There is an eruption once every 4-5 years, on average
  • Whilst past eruptions have caused devastation and disruption in other countries, Iceland is often able to simply go about its business 
  • You will find volcanoes all over Iceland. The only region that does not have any volcanoes are the Westfjords. 
  • Iceland has some particularly large volcanoes, such as Öræfajökull and Katla
  • There are four different types of volcanoes: Stratovolcanoes, lava dome volcanoes, cinder cone volcanoes, and shield volcanoes – Iceland has all of them!
  • Fagradalsfjall is a shield volcano, which means that the eruption can last for months, even years. Shield volcanoes have far runnier lava, which means it will stretch much, much further than thicker lava. This results in a much wider lava flow
Eyjafjallajokull volcano iceland

Iceland Volcanoes Facts – The Notorious Eyjafjallajökull

In 2008, a financial disaster occurred. Iceland found itself thrust into the global media. For better or worse, Iceland’s name was on many people’s lips. Tourism then continued to grow by around 6% every year. However, it wasn’t until March 2010 when tourism in Iceland boomed. Literally. Eyjafjallajökull (eyyafyatl-a-yoo-k-utl) on Iceland’s South Coast, violently erupted, sending a 9 km ash plume into the air. The ash is made of ultra-fine particles, so air traffic across Europe was completely shut down. This was the largest air traffic grounding since the Second World War. Millions of people were stranded in airports across Europe, costing well over 2 billion Euros. This was the trigger point for Iceland’s tourism increasing from 6% annually to 20%. Thousands flocked here to see the eruption site and the still warm and glowing lava. 

bird view of Fagradalsfjall volcano iceland

Iceland Volcanoes Facts – Iceland's Volcanic History

Before Eyjafjallajökull, there was the 2014-2015 eruption of Bárðarbunga (b-aow-r-thar-b-ung-a) and Holuhraun, and three years before that was the eruption of Grímsvötn. In 2017, almost 100 years exactly from its last appearance, we almost saw the eruption of what is considered to be one of the most powerful and dangerous volcanoes in the world – Katla. This supervolcano lies on the South Coast, and last erupted in 1918.  Katla normally erupts every 60-80 years or so, and seismic activity was detected in the area in 2017. Katla appeared to be charging up for an eruption that would have made the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull look like a campfire. However, it transpired that Katla appeared to be simply clearing her throat and has since gone back to sleep.

Pompeii of the North

Around 02:00 AM, on 23rd January 1973, the residents of the Westman Islands, a tiny island community in South Iceland, were awoken by the eruption taking place in their backyard. Eldfjall, on the island of Heimaey, exploded with no warning, causing a mass evacuation of almost 5,000 people to the mainland. The houses were buried under tons of hot ash, and a Herculean attempt later took place to dig the town out from under the ash and restore it to what it once was. Nowadays, you can visit a fascinating museum that tells the story of “The Pompeii of the North” on the island of Heimaey.

Fagradalsfjall volcano craters blowing hot lava at night

Where Will the Next Volcanic Eruption in Iceland Happen?

Well, this is a question that no one can truly answer. All the sophisticated technology at our disposal can only ever tell us what might happen, but we never know for sure. Iceland is a land full of surprises, from the weather to the exploding earth. However, as we learn more and more about volcanoes, we can more accurately predict a number of outcomes and scenarios, meaning that the public can feel advised and prepared. The country was well-prepared for the activity of Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula, which itself is home to five volcano systems. Iceland is normally very prepared for eruptions, but they can still take us by surprise.

people watching Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in iceland

Can I Still Travel to Iceland?

Absolutely! In fact, there is no better time. The excitement about the volcanic event in Fagradalsfjall was huge, especially because it is so close to Reykjavík. First and foremost, Reykjavík was never in any danger. A brand-new lava field has been created and has become a new attraction that is close to the city and airport. Reykjanes was already an incredible place to visit, and actually a bit of a secret hiding in plain sight. However, we feel like its cover has literally been blown and there is now another great reason to visit Iceland.

So, now that you have learned all sorts of amazing Iceland volcanoes facts, if you are looking for more, then why don’t you head on over here to learn more? 

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