How Many Volcanos Are in Iceland?

Volcanoes play a central role in Iceland’s unique geology. They directly contribute to producing some enormous glaciers in Europe.

Volcanoes and glaciers cement Iceland’s reputation as a “Land of Fire and Ice.” [1]

There are 130 volcanoes in Iceland.

By tracking the Catalogue of Icelandic Volcanoes on the website of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, visitors can keep up to date on active volcano systems and any ongoing volcanic activity in the region.

They can also track all eruptions going back to 1913. 

This article provides information on the number of active volcanoes in Iceland and explains the impact of volcanic activity on the Icelandic landscape, its people, and their lives. 

Also, see Who Owns Iceland? to learn more.

How Many Active Volcanos Does Iceland Have?

According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, there are currently 32 active volcanic systems in Iceland.

A volcanic system can include several active volcanoes, and the Met Office does not catalog active volcanoes individually. [2] 

Listed by recency of eruption, the active volcano systems of Iceland are:

  • Fagradalsfjall (2022 CE)
  • Bárðarbunga (2014 CE)
  • Grímsvötn (2011 CE)
  • Eyjafjallajökull (2010 CE)
  • Hekla (2000 CE)
  • Beerenberg (1985 CE)
  • Krafla (1975-84 CE)
  • Vestmannaeyjar (1973 CE)
  • Askja(1961 CE)
  • Esjufjöll (1927 CE)
  • Eldey (1926 CE)
  • Katla (1918 CE)
  • Þórðarhyrna (1903 CE)
  • Öræfajökull (1727 CE)
  • Torfajökull (1477 CE)
  • Reykjanes (1240 CE)
  • Krýsuvík (1188 CE)
  • Brennisteinsfjöll (10th century CE)
  • Ljósufjöll (10th century CE)
  • Prestahnúkur (~900 CE)
  • Kverkfjöll (~700 CE)
  • Hengill (~100 CE)
  • Heiðarsporðar (~200 BCE)
  • Snæfellsjökull (~200 BCE)
  • Þeistareykir (~400 BCE)
  • Fremrinámar (~1000 BCE)
  • Langjökull (~1600 BCE)
  • Grímsnes (~5000 BCE)
  • Hofsjökull (the Early Holocene epoch)
  • Helgrindur (Not known)
  • Tungnafellsjökull (Not known)
  • Hrómundartindur (~8000-9000 BCE)

Dormant Volcanoes in Iceland

Reliable information on the number of dormant volcanoes in Iceland is not readily available.

It is thought that most of the volcanic systems in the country are still active. The inactive ones are located in the Westfjords area.

This area does not experience eruptions because it’s geologically the oldest part of Iceland. [3]

Volcanic Landscapes Are Constantly Changing

Iceland is one of the most active and unpredictable volcanic zones on the planet. By some estimates, eruptions occur every fourth year on average. [4]

As the geological systems of Iceland are constantly in flux, the information on this list keeps changing. 

For instance, Fagradalsfjall only moved to the top of the list in the previous section very recently when an eruption in 2021 turned the system active after eight centuries of dormancy.

Geologists now believe the eruption hints at a coming period of more frequent volcanic activity in the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Other dormant volcanoes may still become active in the future. 

For the most up-to-date information on volcanic activity, readers should consult the website of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, which has an official mandate to keep track of Iceland’s active volcanoes. 

Types of Volcanic Activity

Volcanic eruptions are of two broad categories: explosions and effusions. [5]

The effects they produce and their consequences for people and the environment can differ significantly.

Volcanic explosions produce:

  • Explosive clouds (sometimes reaching as far as the stratosphere)
  • Pyroclastic flows (fast-moving lava, pumice, ash, and gas) [6]
  • Tephra fall (spewing rock particles) [7]
  • Jökulhlaup (glacial flooding) [8]
  • Lightning

On the other hand, volcanic effusions produce:

  • Slow-moving lava flows
  • Gas (emitted into the lower reaches of the atmosphere)

Why Iceland Has So Many Active Volcanoes

By some estimates, a third of all lava flows on Earth over the last 10,000 years have taken place in Iceland.

The reason the region is so geologically active is that it sits on top of a 24,855 Mile (40,000 Km) long underwater fault known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. 

Over millennia, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which lie on either side of the fault, have pressed against each other under the Atlantic Ocean, pushing up magma from the earth’s crust.

The friction they produce makes the zone volcanically active.

The Consequences of Volcanic Activity

Almost all the geological features typical of Iceland owe their origins to volcanic activity.

It has produced the mountains, glaciers, hot springs, geysers, lava fields, cave systems, and black sand the country is famous for.

Inevitably, such a significant aspect of a region’s geology will have a widespread impact on its life.

Danger to Human Life 

These days volcanoes pose a negligible danger to human life.

Most Icelandic cities are located away from active volcanoes, and the sophisticated predictive systems now available provide sufficient notice in the event of an impending eruption. 

Disruption to Activity and Damage to Property

It’s very rare for volcanic eruptions and activity to be a danger to human life in modern-day Iceland. However, they can still temporarily affect normal daily life.

The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, for instance, caused a seven-day shutdown of air traffic across much of Europe, costing airlines between $1.5 and 2.5 billion in losses. [9]

When a volcano erupts under a glacier, leading to rapid flooding, it can cause significant damage to property within the vicinity.

If everyone in the surrounding area evacuates in good time, human life is safeguarded but the volcano can still cause significant damage to buildings, the surrounding landscape, and more.

When Jökulhlaup erupted in 1973, there was serious damage to the immediate area. 

Similarly, the gasses and chemical elements released during eruptions can be toxic to animals, plants, and crops. 

The 2015 Holuhraun eruption was responsible for the loss of several thousand sheep, and many farmers could not recoup their losses.

In the case of the most dramatic explosions, which occur more rarely, adverse effects can span far greater scales.

An eruption in 536 CE was so devastating that it birthed ash clouds vast enough to block out the sun across Europe and West Asia and caused 18 months of continuous darkness.  

As a result, temperatures across the region plummeted, crops failed, and people starved.

The Roman Empire went into decline, and Europe faced a century of economic stagnation.

No wonder the year has become a candidate for the worst year in human history. [10]

A Source of Energy 

While volcanoes do pose a risk to life and property, they also make many positive contributions to the Icelandic economy and the quality of life of the Icelandic people.

For instance, over 85% of Icelandic homes are heated by geothermal springs.

Water from glacial flows provides the remaining energy needs of the country through hydroelectric power.

This makes the country one of the only of its kind globally that uses environmentally-friendly energy sources. 


Interestingly, when Eyjafjallajokull erupted in 2010, the country saw a sharp increase in tourists in the months and years immediately following it.

It has also piqued interest in volcanoes, further increasing Iceland’s tourism. 

The spectacular images people across the world saw on their television screens left them mesmerized. 

Today, many people come to Iceland to see its epic landscapes.

Along with glaciers, hot springs, caves, and black sand beaches, volcanoes are a big part of this draw.

Visitors can also take part in guided tours of active volcanoes, where they can watch one of the most spectacular sights in the world from a safe distance. 

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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