Northern Lights hunters heading to Iceland in 2023-24 may be impacted by recent volcanic activity in the country. Get the news on the Iceland 2023 volcano situation, and how it will affect your travel plans and bookings.
If you’ve planned a vacation and booked flights to Iceland to see the Northern Lights this coming season, it is imperative that you read about and understand the current situation regarding the Iceland 2023 volcano eruption and impacts.
- State of Emergency declared in Iceland Reykjanes region, including Blue Lagoon.
- Displaced locals are prioritized for accommodation, leading to booking cancellations.
- Flights to/from Reykjavik are still operational (check official sources for updates).
Read on for the full story. Information current as of Monday 18 December 2023.
Iceland 2023 Volcano Halts Aurora Borealis Hunters
The Background on Iceland Volcano Activity
Iceland is known for its awe-inspiring beauty, expansive vistas, and 32 active volcanoes. The most famous, and active volcanoes in Iceland are Katla, Eyjafjallajokull, and Askja. The hot magma plays an integral role in supplying the island nation’s power, and although generally poses no real threat to the sparsely populated nation, from time to time their activity can result in an excessive disruption of day-to-day tourism activities.
The most active volcano in Iceland is Katla. Not only is it one of the largest volcanoes on the island, it is also one of the most feared. This has to do with the fact that the volcano itself is situated several hundred meters below the glacial ice. During the last eruption back in 1918, large volumes of glacial ice melted and flooded Vik and the surrounding region.
While Katla is the most feared, the most famous volcano in Iceland is Eyjafjallajökull. Back in 2010, the volcano erupted and stranded millions of passengers around the globe as hundreds of thousands of flights were grounded for more than 7 days. Because of the vast amounts of volcanic ash that were ejected into the atmosphere, many airlines worried, would damage the aircraft engines. Naturally, if there is a volcanic eruption near any populated location or international Airport in Iceland, flights in and out of the country would be halted until the eruptions subsided.
In early 2023, Askja showed signs of a potential eruption. The volcano, which is composed of several complex calderas located in the centralmost portion of the country, last erupted back in 1961. A phreatoplinian eruption occurred back in 1875, the ash fall was carried by the wind to Poland, Sweden, Germany, and Norway, which resulted in devastating damage to agricultural infrastructure. Luckily, no eruption occurred in 2023.
Iceland 2023 Volcano Current Situation
On November 22, 2023, a series of earthquakes rocked the Reykjanes Peninsula which is the most populated region of the entire country.
Beyond the earthquakes, there were signs that the Fagradalsfjall volcano would potentially erupt and that the magma channels that run under the town of Grindavík, and the Blue Lagoon would be forced to the surface.
As a result, a state of emergency was declared and more than 4,000 residents were forced out of their homes.
To house a large number of displaced residents, many of the accommodations that had been previously reserved for the year’s annual influx of aurora hunting tourists, were quickly filled, resulting in numerous cancellations.
The Blue Lagoon
Perhaps one of the biggest tourist spots in the entire country is the Blue Lagoon. As a result of the earthquake and the potential for an eruption, many of the facilities had been shut down from November 22 until December 15.
As a result of a reduction in seismic activity in the region, the popular tourist attraction began re-opening some of its facilities the weekend of December 17.
However, due to damage in the area and the dangers posed by the 15 km underground channel of magma, not all of the popular site’s facilities will be available throughout the 2023-2024 aurora season.
Iceland 2023 Volcano Impact on Tourism
Iceland Volcano Impact on Aurora Borealis Travel in 2023-2024
- Accommodation reservations cancelled to provide emergency housing for locals.
- Contact your travel agent or accommodation provider to check if your booking is cancelled.
- International flights to Reykjavik still operational, but are subject to change at any time.
Due to its location well within the auroral oval, the many great amenities, and awe-inspiring vistas, Iceland has become a hotspot for aurora hunters from around the globe.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the island nation, to catch a glimpse of the elusive lights as they dance through the night skies. The annual Aurora season represents a vast majority of the nation’s gross domestic product.
However, due to the recent volcanic activity in the southwesternmost part of the nation, the aurora travel season has been placed on hold until it is not only safe to fly to and from Reykjavík, but until the 4,000 displaced residents can return home. While the international airport at Reykjavik remains open at this stage, the situation could change quickly.
While many aurora seekers have already received cancellation notices for the season, others may need to follow up with their travel agency, to determine whether their reservations are still active, or whether they need to plan to travel elsewhere.
Alternative Northern Lights Tourism Destinations
When it comes to alternative hunting locations for Northern Lights seekers, it is important to remember that at this time of year, it is first come first serve.
Due to the volcanic activity in Iceland, many travelers have already opted to transfer their reservations to other top destinations like Alaska, Canada, Finland, or Norway. Last minute travel options to alternative destinations may therefore be difficult to secure.
If the Iceland 2023 volcano has disrupted your travel plans, consider looking into last minute travel arrangements for these excellent aurora borealis hunting destinations instead:
Finland is an excellent location for those wishing to view the northern lights and a similar setting to that of Iceland. The nation’s fjords provide a similar experience to that which can be found in Iceland. Finland is also one of the most popular destinations during the aurora season, so finding available accommodations this late in the tourist season may be difficult.
Finnish Lapland is excellent for aurora hunting, but is extremely busy around Christmas time, especially at Rovaniemi (the world famous ‘home of Santa Claus’). It quietens down significantly after the Christmas period, however, so your chances of securing last minute accommodation and travel increases substantially after the festive period.
Another good option, which has similar environmental settings to that of Iceland and Finland, is Norway. Chances are, if you cannot find any available accommodations in Finland, then you might have better luck with finding several great options throughout the northernmost part of Norway.
Alaska is a popular alternative for aurora seekers, looking for a relaxing destination to hunt for the elusive lights. You’ll find that there are many excellent destinations to choose. Some of the most popular options in Alaska are located in and around the Fairbanks region.
If you find it difficult to locate any alternative accommodations in Alaska, you may also opt for the Yellowknife region of Canada. Yellowknife is a very popular destination for aurora seekers, and the entire region is dedicated to the annual tourist season.
Further Information on the Iceland 2023 Volcano
To keep up-to-date with the current situation on the Iceland 2023 volcano, and its impact on travelers, keep your eye on these Iceland news sources:
- Iceland Monitor iceland.mbl.is
- Iceland Review icelandreview.com
- Reykjavik Grapevine grapevine.is
- BBC News > Europe bbc.com/news/world-europe-67756413
Remember to always heed official advice regarding travel. Keep safe.
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