A volcano in Iceland could erupt soon – should you still travel there?

Written by Travel Adventures

Is it still safe to visit Iceland? That’s the question on the minds of many tourists after a section of the island nation was placed under a state of emergency following a spike in seismic activity. The recent uptick in occurrences of small earthquakes began on October 24 and has reached as many as 1,000 quakes in 24 hours – and scientists are predicting an imminent volcanic eruption.

From midnight to about noon local time on November 14, more than 700 earthquakes were recorded along the magma corridor, according to the Icelandic ​​Meteorological Office, most of which were micro-quakes. But the office is warning that this means there is a “significant likelihood of a volcanic eruption in the coming days” in the Reykjanes Peninsula, a region in Southwestern Iceland about 27 miles from the capital of Reykjavik.

Scientists say the area with the highest risk of seeing an eruption is the small fishing village of Grindavík. A nine-mile long magma corridor now stretches from Kálfellsheiði, which lies northeast of the Blue Lagoon, to the sea outside of Grindavík, where the IMO has detected the “greatest area of magma upwelling.” On November 10, the Icelandic Civil Protection declared a state of emergency in the village and evacuated all of its 3,000 residents. The evacuation order will remain in effect until seismic activity begins to subside, with Icelandic Police stopping any access to the town.

Although teams from the Icelandic Meteorological Office, The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, and scientists from the University of Iceland are actively monitoring the situation, at this point it’s not possible for anyone to predict when an eruption might happen or where exactly lava could surface.

With that level of uncertainty – and with residents being told to evacuate certain areas—can travellers still visit Iceland? Here’s the latest on everything visitors should know.

What areas should tourists avoid?

The first thing to remember is that Iceland is highly prepared to deal with volcanic eruptions. After all, its nickname is the “Land of Fire and Ice” in part due to frequency of magma breaching the island’s surface. The nation experiences a volcanic event about every five years on average, according to its tourism board.

Travel specialists say that tourists don’t need to avoid Iceland altogether amid the latest volcanic warnings. “The latest seismology reports are showing much lower magma flow than anticipated, implying considerably lowered concern,” says Chris Gordon, founder of Icepedition, which specialises in trips to Iceland and the Arctic. “It’s important to note this same hotspot has already erupted three times recently with no impact to safety or tourism, in fact becoming a draw to tourism rather than a lability.”

Is it safe to travel to other parts of Iceland?

Yes. Officials say that the seismic event is highly localised to Grindavik and surrounding areas of the Reykjanes Peninsula. “Virtually all of Iceland is perfectly safe, except one tiny fishing village which has very little tourist draw,” Gordon says.

How will air travel be affected?

Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport is currently operating normally and no flights arriving to or departing from Iceland have been delayed or canceled. In fact, all flights are likely to keep operating even if an eruption does occur. “While the possibility of air traffic disturbance cannot be entirely ruled out, scientists consider it an unlikely scenario,” says the tourism board’s website.

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