Raufarhólshellir is a fairytale-like lava tunnel found in the South West of Iceland, only 30 minutes driving from the capital on the road to Thorlakshofn. All around it is moss covered lava, mountains and craters and it is quietly tucked between them just waiting to be explored.
The cave is heavenly in form and color and walking through it is a memorable experience.
The lava tunnel is the fourth largest ever to be found in Iceland, measuring 1360 meters at length and 10-30 meters (33-98 ft) wide depending on where you are standing at. The ceiling is high up to 10 meters (33 ft), making the cave one of the best caves to visit if you have ever experienced claustrophobia. The average thickness of the lava ceiling is about 12 meters (39,3 ft).
Raufarholshellir Lava Tunnel shouldn’t be visited without a guide or a lava cave expert. This small group tour is one of the most budget-friendly experiences you can have in Iceland and the guides make sure to keep you safe and informed at all times. The tour takes place only 30 minutes from Reykjavík so you can easily join the tour on a half-day mission out from the city.
Fun Facts about Raufarholshellir
- Raufarhólshellir is the 4th largest lava cave in Iceland
- Some parts of the tunnel actually go under the road to Thorlakshofn so when you are driving there you will actually be driving over parts of the cave you will walk through later!
- There used to be a framed epitaph document and a cinerary urn kept at the middle of the cave but in the urn were the earthly remains of the last member of the Fire Island’s Indian tribe. This was later taken from the cave and sadly, its location remains unknown.
The history of Raufarholshellir
The history of Raufarholshellir starts like with many other attractions in Iceland, with a volcanic eruption. This special one occurred in the Bláfjöll mountain range about 5200 years ago. The eruption which is often referred to as the Leitarhraun eruption created the scene you see today and with it an 11 kilometers long crater row. Lava tunnels are natural canals which form when active low-viscosity flowing magma starts to harden creating a thin lava crust on top. This lava crust then thickens as more lava flows through which results in the formation of the lava tunnel’s roof. The hot running lava continues to flow through but the roof stays solid. When visiting the lava tunnel you will be following the path of the lava, which flowed through the site a few thousand years ago.
Joining a tour to Raufarholshellir is a truly unique experience!
What is there to see inside Raufarhólshellir?
- A beautiful variety of moss-covered lava.
- An incredible natural array of colors that were created in the volcanic formation of the tunnel. Each color beam tells you a little bit about the history of the cave and when joining one of the standard tours to the cave you will hear all about it!
- The tunnel was filled with stalactites but around the 1950s, when the cave started getting more and more popular they began to disappear. Today you can only see a few of them in the cave but they are well worth the search.
- Incredible rock formations and naturally sculpted lava falls.
- In winter you can see stunning icicles and ice formations all around the cave.
Where is Raufarholshellir located?
GPS Coordinates: 63.959753° N 21.312831° W
Raufarholshellir is located right off road nr 39 which runs off the main Ring Road 1. It is only about 41 kilometers (25,4 mi) away from Reykjavík.
How to get to Raufarholshellir?
There are two ways of going about visiting Raufarhólshellir. You can purchase a pick up from the tour company when booking the tour or you can get a rental car and drive there on your own.
The drive from Reykjavík to Raufarholshellir is an effortless one as the cave is located just 30 minutes away from the capital. You will exit the city through Norðlingaholt via road 49 and soon you are on road 1. This road you follow through the beautiful moss covered lava field until you see a sign pointing to Þorlákshöfn, road 39. This is where you make a turn and drive for about 18 kilometers (11 mi). There is a well-marked sign by the parking lot right off the road.
Raufarholshellir in winter
Raufarholshellir can be visited multiple times a day all year round and is definitely one of those tours easy to do even when the weather isn’t perfect. Just remember to dress warm, wear sturdy shoes and if you aren’t used to driving in Nordic winter conditions, you might want to consider getting the pickup service extra.
In winter you can see all sorts of magical icicles and ice formations scattered around the cave, some of them sticking right up from the ground but others hanging from the ceiling, a true winter paradise.
Where to stay near Raufarholshellir
- Hotel Hlid
- Hotel Örk
- Frost and Funi
Guesthouses, B&Bs and Farmstays
- Cora’s House and Horses
- Jonna Guesthouse
- Black Beach Guesthouse
- Varmi Guesthouse Apartments
- Iceland’s Guesthouse Axelhusi
- Frumskogar Guesthouse
- Hot Springs Hostel
Cottages and Cabins
- Black Beach Cottage
Where to eat near Raufarholshellir
Where to eat at Þorlákshöfn and Eyrarbakki:
- Hafið – the highest rated restaurant on Tripadvisor. A fabulous seafood restaurant with the most stunning ocean view.
- Rauða Húsið – a famous lobster restaurant in an old well kept house at Eyrarbakki. A fantastic stop to make.
- Meitilinn – a family owned restaurant with great pizzas, burgers and locally caught fish!
- Hendur í Höfn – a fresh and healthy menu in a charming setting. They have gluten free and vegan options.
Where to eat in Hveragerði:
- Ölverk – A fantastic beer brewery and pizzeria. The only geothermally brewed beer in Europe, simply delicious!
- Skyrgerðin – great for some soup or a slice of delicious home baked cakes.
- Almarsbakarí – a lovely café/bakery with all the baked good one might like.
Interesting places near Raufarholshellir
- Thrihnukagigur – Inside the Volcano
- Bláfjöll Famous for Winter Skiing
- Thorlakshofn Fishing Village
- Thorlakshofn Winter Ferry to Westman Islands
- Rauðhólar Red Cluster of Pseudocraters
- Hellisheidarvirkjun Geothermal Plant
- Reykjadalur Hot Spring Valley
- Hveragerdi Town
- Selfoss Town
- The Bobby Fischer Center
- Eyrarbakki Village
- Stokkseyri Village
- Olfusa River