Iceland volcano 2023: How likely is an eruption and how will it affect travel?

The UK Foreign Office has updated its Iceland travel advice warning that a volcanic eruption is increasingly possible.


Icelandic authorities have declared a state of emergency after hundreds of small earthquakes have rocked the Reykjanes Peninsula – the island nation’s most populated region – for more than two weeks.

Experts fear an imminent volcanic eruption and authorities have evacuated a town located nearby.

Despite lying just 10 miles north of the eruption site, Keflavik International Airport has not been closed and flights are still arriving and departing.

If you are planning on travelling to or from the affected area, here are the full details on advice from European governments and which airlines are still operating flights.

Is there going to be a volcanic eruption in Iceland?

Iceland’s seismic activity began in an area north of Grindavik, a fishing town of 3,400 people, which was evacuated on Saturday.

Here, a magma corridor beneath the surface is already around 10 kilometres long and spreading, geology professor Pall Einarrson, told Iceland’s RUV.

“The biggest earthquakes originated there, under this old series of craters, but since then [the magma corridor] has been getting longer, went under the urban area in Grindavík and is heading even further and towards the sea,” he said.

In and around Grindavik, the seismic activity has caused large cracks to appear in roads and golf courses.

Have flights to Iceland been cancelled?

Concerns have been raised over the impact the seismic activity and potential eruption will have on travel.

A major eruption in Iceland in 2010 caused widespread disruption to air travel between Europe and North America, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled over an eight-day period.

“At this stage, it is not possible to determine exactly whether and where magma might reach the surface,” Iceland’s Meteorological Office said.

Iceland’s authorities have raised their aviation alert to orange, indicating an increased risk of a volcanic eruption.

Volcanic eruptions can pose a serious hazard to air travel as ash released into the atmosphere can cause jet engines to fail, damage flight control systems and reduce visibility.

But flights are currently still operating as normal to the nearby Keflavik International Airport and there haven’t been cancellations or significant delays.

“Our flying schedule is currently operating as normal however we are monitoring the situation closely and should this change we will contact customers directly to advise on their flights,” a spokesperson for easyJet told the Independent.

Is it safe to travel to Iceland?

The UK Foreign Office has updated its Iceland travel advice warning that a volcanic eruption is increasingly possible.

“Earthquakes and indications of volcanic activity have increased above normal levels on the Reykjanes peninsula, southwest of Reykjavik,” the official advice reads.

“The Icelandic authorities continue to monitor the area closely, particularly the area northwest of Mt Thorbjörn near the Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon.


On 10 November, a Civil Protection Alert was declared after an intense swarm of earthquakes.”

Visitors are advised to stay away from the town of Grindavík and the surrounding area.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs similarly prohibits travel to the town and warns that “visitors to Iceland must follow the directions and guidance of the local authorities at all times.”

However, neither government has not issued a ‘no-go’ travel warning for Iceland meaning that airlines and holiday companies are operating as normal and travellers who cancel have no automatic right to a refund.

“We’d like to stress, that if the current FCO guidance remains advisory, insurance coverage stands as normal,” says Jonathan Frankham, General Manager of travel insurance company World Nomads.


“However, if a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake, flood or volcano affects your travel plans and/or injures you must check your policy details. For example, at World Nomads, you need to have purchased your policy before these powerful forces of nature become a “known event” and be on an Explorer Plan for us to consider coverage.” 

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa – one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions – has been closed temporarily until 16 November after being hit by the earthquakes.