Eyjafjallajokull: now is the perfect time to visit Iceland
We received a summary of the events surrounding the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland from a good friend of Discover the World, the irrepressible then manager of Hotel Ranga – the only 4 star hotel outside of Reykjavik, located a short distance from the volcano.
We were very excited about the first volcanic eruption that took place here. It was located only 35 km away from Hotel Ranga by the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail and started on the evening of 21 March. It was located on mountainous terrain close to the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, but caused no glacial melt or ash deposits.
The eruption was a small, beautiful ‘tourist volcano’ that provided accessibility in numerous ways to Icelanders and tourists alike. We arranged trips every hour to the volcano by helicopters from the hotel. Other options to get there included Superjeep tours, ATW tours, hiking and snowmobile tours. Thousands of people went there on almost a daily basis. The picturesque fireworks and volcanic rivers and waterfalls of lava were awe-inspiring wonders of nature. It displayed an extremely unique phenomenon that nobody wanted to miss.
What was also exciting was that you could see the volcano glowing red into the night skies from our dining room. We then became the unofficial volcano base located in the middle of what I refer to as ‘The Ring of Fire’. And, as we had been getting incredible aurora displays over the past weeks, you will understand why coming here was a truly magical experience.
Then this ‘nice’ little volcano ceased to exist on 13 April.
On 14 April, a much larger eruption occurred on top of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. This time under the icecap and a mere 30 km from the hotel. After some uncertain days of limited flooding and very local ash deposits, a large plume of ash from Iceland entered European airspace and interrupted flights throughout most of Europe for about a week. Airspace over Iceland was however one of the places still allowing traffic, the only ash free zone in all of Northern Europe! This was due to favourable wind conditions here in Iceland allowing Keflavik International Airport to remain open.
After air-traffic in Europe resumed on the 21 April, Keflavik Airport was closed several times, due to ash traces in our airspace. However Iceland still had two other international airports open (in both Akureyri and Egilsstaðir) during this period, so we could still be ‘open’ to the rest of the world. Icelandair also very quickly adapted to this challenging situation and temporarily used Glasgow as their hub for intercontinental travel. Now all airports are open again and Icelandair continues its operations at Keflavik.
Throughout the last few weeks we have been quite concerned about the somewhat sensationalistic journalism from some of the world press regarding the situation here in Iceland. Even our own Icelandic President has unfortunately hurt our industry with his non-scientific comments regarding the threat that other volcanoes eventually may pose to the rest of the world. This information, contradicted by the experts, is damaging to our small, yet vibrant and growing tourist industry here in Iceland.
The bulk of the international media is making it sound like Iceland is about to explode any day! But Iceland is not blowing up. This eruption is located in a relatively small and inaccessible area.
It is important to remember that Iceland has a volcanic eruption on average every 5 to 10 years so this is business as usual for us here. There is no panic on the island. We are resilient people who have learned to live in harmony with the forces of nature and are not prone to panic, but to constrained cautiousness. I’m therefore expressing hope that the exaggerated and sometimes misleading news reports, about the eruption and the impact on daily life in Iceland, will not cause unnecessary alarm. I hope you can help us spread the word about this objectively around the world.
So now I feel obliged for myself, the hotels I manage and the entire Icelandic tourist industry to counter the inaccurate and unjust information that has been transpiring far too long!
The area around Hotel Ranga and in the immediate vicinity of the Eyjafjalljökull glacier and its spectacular volcano is in great shape to accommodate tourists right now.
There has in fact only been damage in very limited areas due to ash deposits and flooding. Most of these areas are now accessible and instead very interesting to witness without threat or inconvenience. The Icelandic authorities have shown great perceptiveness and cautiousness here and this has benefitted these fantastic results and limited damage.
There is no danger at all in coming here. One should, in my opinion, only trust daily official reports of the monitored situation in English from the civilian emergency authorities found on the website: www.almannavarnir.is.
The volcano here at Eyjafjalljökull is a positive attraction – not a negative detraction.
The amount of ash is now down to less than 10% of the original production and the risk of flooding is now deemed as minimal. The entire country provides great opportunities for travellers seeking a unique and uplifting experience in an entirely different economic situation than before. Iceland is no longer the most expensive country in the world. Far, far from it – this is a great time to experience it! There have been no direct injuries or casualties due to the volcanic activity for any tourist or Icelander.
I claim with certainty that Iceland is probably one of the safest countries in the world to travel to right now.
I therefore think we need to mutually act quickly to use this time and opportunity together to make thousands of people happy tourists in this wonderful, safe and stunning environment and unique world event!
There is no reason for the concern and uncertainty – this is something not to be missed!
Sincerely with warmest lava regards,