Fall of Snow & Rise of Smoke: How Iceland proved why it's called the land of Fire & Ice

Written By Anjali Dedha


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Anyone who has ever heard of Iceland (which is basically everyone on the planet) knows that “Land of Fire and Ice” is the popular epithet for the country where these two opposing elements of nature come together in a beautiful juxtaposition.

It is fascinating how fire (volcanic eruptions) and ice (glacier terrains) not only co-exist but are imperative for the continuance of life itself in this land.

Apart from lending Iceland the beauty it is globally renowned for, Glaciers are also a major source of water in the country. On the other hand, the nation perhaps wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the volcanos; as the entire surface of Iceland is built on basalt, a kind of rock that forms when lava cools down.


So, it makes complete sense that a country that owes its entire existence to volcanism and has 269 glaciers earns such a dramatic nickname.

But I never truly thought that I would actually get to experience the origin of this title as a part of my Iceland Expedition. I am not complaining but damn, that was one sight I will never, ever want to forget.

Bidding farewell to the first batch of Iceland Expedition

For context as to why I was in Iceland and how I witnessed, perhaps the most surreal view of my life, I should tell you that I was one of the trip leaders for the Iceland Expedition organized by Adventures Overland.

Since, there were three consecutive batches in March, it only made sense to make ourselves at home in this beautiful country.

We had spent more than a week in the country which meant that most of the “must-visit destinations of Iceland” had already been checked off as part of our itinerary.


The previous night was spent cheering the group for successfully finishing the expedition and saying goodbyes.

There was a short window of time between the departure of the previous group and the arrival of the next which meant we were free to go off-the beaten path.

We were in Reykjavik with lots of time on our hand and no obligations to stay rooted to one place. So, we asked our guide to give us some suggestions, perhaps take us on a “not on the map” adventure and he was more than happy to oblige.

I would forever be grateful to him for that. (Ingo, you are the best!)

Fall of snow, Rise of smoke!


Our guide suggested lots of activities and places to visit that we normally wouldn’t get a chance to. However, none of them were quite as fascinating as the site of the volcano eruption that occurred near Grindavík in December, 2023.

The eruption began on Reykjanes peninsula on 18 December and was officially declared over by the morning of December 21, 2023.

The opportunity to visit a dormant volcano that had erupted only a few months ago was too good to pass on, so with our subs packed and tank full, we let our guide take the wheel (quite literally) and lead us to our destination, which was actually in the middle of nowhere.

We covered a distance of approximately 80 kilometers as we drove towards Grindavík and then somewhere around 15 kilometers towards north on a totally offbeat road that was covered in black-ice before we were told that we will need to hike for the rest of the way.

They say the best view comes after the climb but if you are in Iceland, you are practically surrounded by the most beautiful views all the time. This hike was no different.


Ingo didn’t tell us exactly where he was taking us and honestly we didn’t even care, as long as he made good on his promise.

It was barely a stretch of 4 kilometers but let me tell you, I could’ve kept walking forever.

The carpet of green moss beneath our feet, the expansive roof of cobalt blue skies above, and the mountains in the distance awaiting our arrival, it very well felt like we were coming home.

And then just like that, the green was replaced with charcoal black and shades of gray started to peek from behind the clouds, along with wisps of smoke waving at us like an old friend, as if to say; look, we are here!

I don’t think there are words that can capture the feeling of standing above what was once hot, scalding lava with remnants of smoke still billowing from the ground, as if to remind us of its existence, only to look up and see delicate flakes of snow falling on the same ground, only a few feet away.


If you truly think about it, on one hand we have fire, which can be cruel and unforgiving, but in this case, gave birth to the very land that I was standing upon. On the other, the ever flowing water stays frozen in time to make sure that life keeps moving.

And I was there, witnessing the magic of both, at one of the only places on the earth that allows you to be blessed with such a view. At that moment, I considered myself to be the luckiest person in the world. I’d learn, not even an hour later, that I spoke too soon.

The Volcanic Eruptions of March 16, 2024


We spent a good amount of time at the site and even had a small picnic with our previously packed subs. But like all good things come to an end, so did our little escapade.

We descended by retracing our footsteps left behind in the damp moss which took us an hour or so. We had just hit solid ground when we finally noticed that something was wrong.

At first, we didn’t understand what was happening. The weather was as unpredictable as it always is in Iceland. But then as we took in our surroundings – the black clouds looming, the sound of booming and everything slowly being covered in red as if something in the world had been torn apart and was now bleeding – it clicked.

The dormant volcano that we had been admiring from afar had just come alive, again.

The eruption cited as the largest by NASA among a string of four that occurred in the same region since 2023 was happening right then and there.

And we had missed the best possible view of the live eruption by only a matter of minutes.

I didn’t feel the luckiest anymore but in hindsight, it was probably for the best because I don’t know how safe our proximity was to the lava that poured itself outside.

We practically begged Ingo to take us to a spot, from where we will be able to see the eruptions but evacuation in the Blue Lagoon and some areas of Grindavík had already started. The authorities were clearing out nearby regions and also putting up barricades to stop people from going close. There was no chance that we could’ve gone back, no matter how much we wanted to.

We could’ve been one of the first ones to see the live eruption but we had already missed the chance. The term disappointment would be an understatement to describe what I felt, what we all felt.

But seeing as we were still at the right place, at just the right moment, we decided to make the most of the hand we were dealt with. We booked a cab that would take us as close to the eruption site as possible.

It wasn’t going to match up to the thrill of watching it happen from up above but I was willing to take whatever I could get at that point.


And, I can’t deny that it was still the best experience of my life.

When we finally reached there and saw what was happening in front of us, I think we forgot to even breathe. We stood there, unable to do anything else and simply watched in awe as the scarlet hand of lava completely engulfed the blues of Iceland.

I didn’t know back then that this eruption that had started on March 16 would continue for over two weeks. I didn’t know that the lava would reach water pipes, roads and even the ocean in the future.

At that moment, I only knew that no other term could ever perfectly encapsulate Iceland and all its glory than the one we all know and adore: The Land of Fire and Ice!

eruption that had started

As told to Adventures Overland by Prateek Baghel.

Published On: 11th June 2024


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