Iceland Ring Road Day 11 – Fagradalsfjall Volcano (again)

The eleventh day of our Ring Road trip in Iceland was our last full day for activities. Technically, we had already completed the Ring Road early on Day 9 because we wanted to circle back around to the active volcano just south of the main city of Reykjavik.

We had been super lucky to have already seen the volcano on Day 1 of our Ring Road trip and while it was erupting, but we couldn’t help pushing our luck to try to see it one more time before we left Iceland.

Our previous day was a bust due to fog and pouring rain, so we distracted ourselves with other sights on the south coast for the day. Then, we purposely positioned ourselves at a campground for the night that was not far from the volcano, so we could be on standby if an eruption lined up with good weather.

On the morning of our eleventh day, I woke up early-ish around 6:30 a.m. and as usual, the first thing I did was check the online data of the seismic activity near the volcano, as well as the live camera views, and I was shocked to find that the volcano was already erupting AND the weather was clear!!!

Hubby was still fast asleep next to me, but obviously not for much longer. I immediately shook him awake and told him it was GO TIME!

We packed up as quick as we could and skipped breakfast because we wanted to get there before the crowds arrived and hopefully before the sun rose to see the lava glowing bright in the dimly-lit morning sky.

We arrived shortly after 7 a.m. and although we didn’t beat the morning sun, the soft sunlight set the vibe for a peaceful morning hike, and more importantly, there weren’t many people that had arrived yet.

Unlike the previous visit, where we didn’t know which of the two routes we were going to do up until the moment we arrived, this time we knew we would hike Route C because this is where the live camera views were broadcasting from and we knew we were certain to see a river of lava from that route’s view; unlike Route B, which we had hiked on Day 1, and at the time, didn’t have a view of much lava flowing down from the cone on that side.

The hike up to the ridge on Route C ended up being slightly more challenging than the hike for Route B, but 15 minutes into the hike, we could already see our first jaw-dropping view of a skinny lava river in the far distance flowing down a steep ridge to the valley floor we were standing on. After climbing the ridge, we were rewarded with the full view of that lava river and its source, a cone puffing out steam and gas into a giant cloud that blended with the rest of the soft morning clouds.

We were able to see much more on Route C than we had on Route B and we couldn’t stop being amazed at every new sight and experience! We were able to stand mere feet away from the quiet, swiftly moving lava river as it poured neatly over the edge of a ridge and down into the valley below. We witnessed slow-moving lava crackling and crunching towards us as it pushed underneath old, petrified lava and formed new outer boundaries of the already-massive lava field. And we were able to touch the very end of the lava field, where the old flow had stopped, while imagining that in a week or month’s time, maybe that same edge would be all the way to the road and/or trailhead.

Sometime during our hike, we realized that in our haste and excitement to get going that morning, not only had we skipped breakfast, but one of us (me!) had forgotten to pack the deli meat for our sandwiches that were meant to be a mid-morning snack after we arrived at the volcano. We were left with nuts, Pringles chips, and bread, and we were quite hungry after all the hiking, but we were certainly not going to end our hike early because of some hunger pangs.

Eventually, we managed to pull ourselves away from the unbelievable views on Route C and it wasn’t so we could finally go back to our vehicle and eat. We were now addicted more than ever to the volcano and couldn’t resist hiking back around to Route B to see if it had changed much from our first visit. Time was of the essence because fog had been rolling in through the valley and kept periodically covering the views. It seemed like it would only be a matter of time before the fog permanently stuck around and brought rainy weather with it.

On our hike back out from Route C, we passed many throngs of people just barely starting their hike and we were very glad we had left early that morning. It was also interesting to see how quickly the end of the fresh lava flow had spread since the start of hike. The end of the fresh lava had crept to the edge of the valley wall and attracted a huge group of visitors wanting to see the fresh lava up close.

By the time we hiked out, the fresh lava we had seen in the middle of the lava field had now reached the edge of the valley wall where it had attracted a large group of visitors, eager to see fresh lava up close.

Route B hadn’t changed too much from our first visit, but a new mini “parasite” volcano had popped up at the bottom edge of the cone and was only visible from this route. This mini ‘cano was spewing lava out of it and sending down multiple small streams of lava from the gently sloped hill. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the views on Route C, but still mesmerizing!

While we were on Route B taking photos with a corny sign that said “I Lava You,” we caught the attention of a couple of newscasters that flew all the way from Norway to do a story on the volcano for their home country. They were eyeing our photoshoot very suspiciously until we finished, at which point they finally asked if they could do a quick interview with us. We obliged and were secretly flattered, but they probably could not have picked a more socially awkward couple to interview.

We snapped a group photo with them afterwards to remember the fun story by and scoured the interwebs later to see if we could find our interview, but we were unsuccessful in locating it. Perhaps after reviewing the footage, they mutually agreed we were too awkward for public consumption. We’ll never know!

We finished up the hike mid-afternoon having covered 11 miles between both routes at the volcano site. Even though we had rushed to the volcano early that morning, not wanting to miss a minute of the eruption and thinking the whole time that it would surely stop erupting at any moment, by the time we finished our hike 7.5 hours later, the volcano was still going. In fact, we were treated to one last, unexpected glimpse of lava spilling over the ridge all the way from our vehicle as we drove away.

We had time for one more very fitting activity for our final full day with the vehicle… a hot soak at the new Sky Lagoon nearby. Sky Lagoon is an outdoor geothermal pool similar to the very famous Blue Lagoon. We had visited Blue Lagoon during our first trip to Iceland and although we loved it (despite how touristy it is), we wanted to try something new, and more importantly, less crowded (for pandemic reasons).

Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon are each amazing in their own ways — Sky Lagoon has an incredible infinity pool next to the ocean and has some really cool rock features, one of which has a gorgeous little waterfall; whereas Blue Lagoon is very eye-catching with its milky blue hues; both have a walk-up bar and other spa amenities to add on to the basic hot soak. We would not hesitate to revisit either in the future!

Here, Hold my drink…while I get another drink at the Sky Lagoon.

After our relaxing time at the Sky Lagoon, we found a free campground not far away, which enabled us to stay close to Reykjavik in order to return the vehicle the next day. We wished we had known about this campground the first night of our trip when we had drove two hours away to find a campground after a long day visiting the volcano. This free campground was not listed on any maps or advertised anywhere. We just happened to see a small sign for it off the side of the road during our earlier travels.

That night, we endured the most rainy and windy night of our trip and we were again glad to have the large camper van, instead of the Land Rover Defender that we had started our trip out with. With the camper van, we didn’t have to haul our belongings from the back of the vehicle to the front seat in order to make room for the night to sleep or sit down, and we were also able to do most of our cooking comfortably in the back of the vehicle (with the door cracked for safety reasons).

We simply could not have asked for a better day and a better ending to our Iceland trip! We felt incredibly lucky to have visited the volcano twice during our trip, and not only that, one of the last times it erupted (the last lava activity ended up being on September 18th).

ICELAND, WE LAVA YOU!!! We’ll see you again soon!

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