Caves are fantastic natural attractions found all across Iceland, evidence of the fascinating geography that has influenced the appearance of the country since its beginning. The small island offers caves of all kinds - lava caves, ice caves, and even this lovely hidden gem in the Eastfjords known as Easter Cave. Exploring caves like this is an adventure for the whole family.
Páskahellir Cave is a quaint sea cave nestled deep in the rugged Eastfjords of Iceland, in the Neskaupstaður National Park. The cave was formed, like many others, after an ancient volcanic eruption. The site is estimated to be the location of a prehistoric forest, with holes in the cave where the roots of the trees once burrowed some 12 million years ago. An eruption millions of years ago destroyed these trees, leaving the area vulnerable to the power of the sea’s waves, which eventually formed Páskahellir.
The outside of the cave contains numerous crystals, and the view out to the Barðsneshorn peninsula is dominated by the red rhyolite of Rauðubjörg. You’ll also find small marine animals and crustaceans in the rockpools outside.
There seems to be a number of explanations for the name given to Páskahellir Cave, with no real way to know which reasoning is accurate. Whether you want to believe the more scientific version, the folklore tale or just want to enjoy the beauty of the cave, locals from the nearby village enjoy the hike to the cave each Easter.
One explanation for the cave’s name is that Páskahellir first appeared on Easter morning, or this is when the cave was first noticed by local villagers.
Another common explanation is that when you arrive towards the cave on Easter Sunday before sunrise, you’ll witness sunlight dancing across the sea in an almost magical way. It’s actually possible, weather permitting, to explore the cave’s unusual forms year-round, so don’t let the name put you off!
The final and perhaps most unusual explanation is a tale told as part of Icelandic folklore - a rather peculiar story about a nearby farmer. Allegedly, he spotted a pretty half-seal half-human girl and, on Easter morning, managed to steal her discarded seal skin, thus enslaving her to him. After several years and 7 children born to him, the woman managed to retrieve the stolen skin, which meant she could return to her life in the sea where 7 other children awaited her. The story later reveals that the man catches a bull from the ocean, which the woman supposedly sent to him in order to improve his cattle.
Once you enter the Neskaupstaður National Park, you can reach Páskahellir within 10 to 15 minutes. There is a metal staircase leading from the trail down to Easter Cave, which you should be careful using as the steps can become incredibly slippery in adverse weather conditions. The rocks underneath the steps and the rocks around the cave require sturdy walking boots to protect your ankles.