Crowds Flock to Iceland Volcano as Lava Spills

Some are roasting marshmallows on the lava; others are trying to get close to a moment 800 years in the making.

Crowds Flock to Iceland Volcano as Lava Spills

As a volcano erupts in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, crowds gather to witness the gentle lava flow firsthand.

Photo by Marco Di Marco/AP

The eruption of a long-dormant volcano in southwestern Iceland has drawn large crowds of visitors eager to get close to the lava flows.

Many have trekked to the volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula, near Iceland’s capital Reykjavík, since it flared to life Friday night after tens of thousands of earthquakes were recorded in the area in the past three weeks. It was the area’s first volcanic eruption in nearly 800 years.

On Tuesday, Iceland’s civil protection officials were seen gesturing to dozens of people to move away from lava just meters behind them to ensure visitors don’t get hurt. One of the officials said a visitor tried to cook bacon and eggs on the lava—but the pan melted in the heat. Others have been roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, with greater success.

The eruption in Geldingadalur isn’t seen as a threat to nearby towns—the closest road is 1.5 miles away—and the slow flows mean people can get close to the action without too much harm.

American photographer and adventure traveler Chris Burkard (@chrisburkhard) has been documenting the eruption on Instagram for his 3.6M followers, and the images are otherworldly: scenes that seem ripped from Tolkien’s Middle-earth, with lava spewing from a double-coned volcano and travelers dressed in their winter parkas edging ever closer to Mordor.

Burkhard has also shadowed an Icelandic search-and-rescue team that has been keeping bystanders from getting too close or inhaling noxious fumes if the wind shifts. Weather in Iceland is unpredictable at best, so ice and snow storms may drop with a moment’s notice.

Photographers could get extraordinarily close to the active Iceland volcano.

Photographers could get extraordinarily close to the active Iceland volcano.

Photo by Marco Di Marco/AP

Italian photographer Vincenzo Mazza, who lives in Iceland, has also gotten a close look at the slow-flowing lava.

“I’ve been waiting for many years to see an eruption in Iceland,” he said. “I saw some eruptions in Italy, like Etna and Stromboli, but this is absolutely different.”

“I can’t say ‘this is more beautiful than that’ because they are very different, but this lava glowing just so close to us, it’s insane,” Mazza said.

Volcano tourism has risen in recent years, with travelers seeking out active volcanoes—yes, erupting, terrifying acts of nature—to get as close as humanly possible. In the past week, Iceland has reopened to international travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID, which will likely fuel the growing crowds.

The glow from the lava could be seen from the outskirts of Reykjavík, about 20 miles away.

With reporting by Laura Dannen Redman for AFAR.

>>Next: Stunning Images of Mount Etna’s Latest Eruption

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