Iceland volcano erupts: What this means for travel

A volcano is erupting near the most-populated area of Iceland, spewing flames and lava not far from the town of Grindavik. Travel impacts are minimal so far, but that could change as the eruption continues, especially if ash and smoke become a bigger issue.

Flight operations are currently running normally at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) despite the eruption. The U.S. Embassy in Iceland issued a volcano alert saying, “U.S. citizens are advised to monitor local news and government websites for detailed information and to follow Civil Protection instructions.”

The popular Blue Lagoon is closed due to the volcano, and some roads in and out of Rejkyavik are closed to traffic.

Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate the Reykjanes Peninsula, where there have been a series of earthquakes over the past month. According to a Washington Post report, one of the roads to Reykjavik has been closed.

Volcanologists say the eruption could last as many as 10 days.

There is also a geothermal power plant about a mile from the eruption that continues to be operated remotely.

Is it safe to travel to Iceland right now?

Local resident watch smoke billow as the lava color the night sky orange from an volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula north of Grindavik, western Iceland on December 19, 2023. KRISTIN ELISABET GUNNARSDOTTIR/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Right now, the U.S. Embassy in Iceland is not telling Americans to cancel travel plans. It said: “Airlines will base their flight operation decisions on ash forecasts and other factors from the Icelandic Met Office and its partners. If you have pending travel plans, contact your airline or check their website for information.”

The U.S. Embassy did advise travelers to:

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When might it be OK to travel to Iceland?

At least so far, it appears safe to travel to Iceland with the caveat that tourists should avoid the impacted area and closely monitor the news.

Airlines allowing changes to Iceland flights

So far, no airlines have issued specific warnings to avoid travel to Iceland or issued travel waivers. Some are advising customers to keep an eye on the situation, though.

Play Airline

Icelandic carrier Play Airlines issued this advisory:

“Due to a volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland on December 18, 2023, the roads to the town of Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon have been closed while the situation is being evaluated. We do not expect any disruptions to our flight schedule but safety is always our top priority and the situation is being monitored closely by the relevant authorities. We ask all passengers booked on upcoming flights to keep a close eye on messages from us regarding a possible disruption to our flight schedule.”

Iceland Air

Another Iceland-based airline, Icelandair, is also not canceling flights. “At this time, the eruption does not affect our operations or Keflavík airport. Our flight schedule remains unchanged,” the airline said on its website.

“The safety of our passengers and staff is always our number one priority and at the heart of every decision we make. We’re monitoring the situation closely and will inform our passengers of any new developments,” Icelandair said.

Bottom line

There’s a major eruption of a volcano underway right now in Iceland. So far, there are few travel restrictions aside from areas being closed near the site of the eruption, but that could change quickly.

If you have travel planned for Iceland, keep a close eye on the news and talk to your airline or hotel if you have a trip planned in the next few days and weeks.

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