The How, Where and When of the visiting the Meradalir eruption
Awesome! Amazing! Unbelievable! Superlatives are thrown around social media like snuff at a wake, they get worn out and lose their meaning, but the volcano at Meradalir – it really is all those things. The good news is that it is easily accessible to anyone that can handle a few hours hiking, does a little preparation and uses their common sense. Below is everything you need to know to get there and back safely.
By Private car
The Meradalir volcano is about 50km south east of Reykjavík as the crow flies. About 10 km outside the village of Grindavik, there are two car parks that were purpose-built for the crowds visiting last year’s eruption in the adjoining valley.
Parking 1 on the left adjoins the main trailhead, and overflow parking farther on, Consult the map below. Click here for more on car rental.
By Bus and Tour
How tough is the hike?
It’s not a walk in the park, but if you are in any kind of shape, it will not pose too much of a challenge. Though it’s not Everest, it has its moments and decent boots are essential, and hiking poles are preferable. There are some steep ascents and descents over uneven ground. The trail is crowded and narrow in sections, requiring opposing lines of traffic to pass at points that are slippy when wet. It takes time to cover this type of terrain and rain will slow everything down.
After the switchback climb the path splits. To the left Path A and to the right Path B. A takes you along the edge of the lava field left by last years eruption. There is a temptation here to set out across the lava field as a short cut. Don’t. The lava is brittle, and still smoking in parts. There have been literally thousands of earthquakes in recent weeks and there’s a raging volcano in the next valley. Lava fields can take decades to cool.
Path B takes you over the plateau, there are great views of last years eruption crater and lava field. B descends and meets with A at the edge of the lava field for the final approach to the eruption site.
How long will it take?
It takes about two hours each way, more if you take breaks. How long you spend there is of course up to you, but do be aware there are copious toxic gasses escaping along with the lava, don’t spend too long by the advancing lava and be sure to stay upwind. You may want to bring a gas mask rated for sulphur dioxide.
If you are meeting a bus to return to the city, give yourself lots of time, you do not want to be rushing or trying to overtake people.
Who can go?
Anyone over twelve years of age in reasonable fitness. It’s not recommended to bring dogs, the gases can gather along the ground and in depressions.
When to go?
The routes may be closed in bad weather conditions. Consult the weather forecast before setting out. The route has been closed on three occasions because of poor weather conditions so far.
Day time or Night time?
At the time of writing the sunset is around 10 pm, with sunrise just after 5 am. The volcano is at it’s most impressive at night. As mentioned above, the hike has some steep and uneven sections, so do be aware and give yourself twice the amount of time to return if walking in the dark. You will, of course need to bring a torch, preferably a headlamp, and poles are recommended for night hiking.
The total duration of the tour is approx. 45 minutes. The helicopter does not land at the eruption.
The flight leaves from the private plane terminal at Reykjavik domestic airport, literally 5 minutes away from the Reykjavik downtown area.