"Think four times" before hiking to Iceland volcano, officials warn after rescue

People view the volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula in south west Iceland which has erupted after weeks of intense earthquake activity/ on December 19, 2023 in Grindavik, Iceland.
The hiker required rescue by helicopter after becoming exhausted on the treacherous terrain (Image credit: Jeff J Mitchell / Staff)

When Iceland's Grindavík volcano began erupting on Monday, it came as no surprise to locals, who had already been evacuated following after some 2,000 earthquakes in the region over the last month. One man, however, didn't seem to understand the danger he was in and decided to get his hiking boots on and get up close and personal anyway.

On Tuesday, a Coast Guard helicopter flying near the volcano noticed a flashing light coming from the ground, signalling that someone was in distress. Fortunately, they were able to locate the hiker who was described by The Sun as cold and exhausted and extract him from the area by air. 

It's not uncommon for people to want to witness such a spectacular event first hand  – last year we reported on thousands of hikers who descended on an active Icelandic volcano  – and volcano hiking is a popular activity among thrill seekers. Following the incident, however, Icelandic police have doubled down on their message to people to avoid the area at all costs, telling The Guardian:

 “A little information about the location of the eruption that will hopefully make people think four times before they set off. The first 500 metres are on a decent path, but then rough, rough lava takes over, which is extremely difficult to cross. It can be assumed that it will take an experienced hiker about 4-5 hours to walk this route, which is not for everyone.”

Under normal conditions, the hike to the volcano is about 12 miles long. Making current conditions even more hazardous is extensive gas pollution, while below freezing temperatures in recent days are expected to make the already wet ground even more treacherous.

The initial eruption produced large lava fountains and intense seismic activity, but according to the Icelandic Met Office the power of the eruption has decreased in recent days.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.