From Norse fire giants to Viking Age rituals, Surtshellir Lava Cave in West Iceland has a history as long as its tunnels.
Discover breathtaking skylights as you make your way along this famous lava tube, and be rewarded with crystal ice formations as you reach the secret center of the cave.
Surtshellir is a lava cave situated in the Hallmundarhraun lava field in West Iceland. It lies side by side with another lava cave called Stefánshellir. Surtshellir itself is 1,970 m (6,463 ft) long, and together with Stefánshellir, forms the longest cave structure in Iceland measuring 3,500 m (11,482 ft)!
The innermost part of Surtshellir is called ‘The Ice Cave.’ Here, the ceiling is lower and is filled with pretty ice candles and columns. The roof of the cave currently has five openings where it has previously collapsed.
Surt, the fire giant of Norse mythology, is where the lava tunnel gets its name. It is believed that Surt created the cave and lived there as the first inhabitant. In the past, outlaws often sought refuge in Surtshellir, which is also believed to be haunted.
According to cave scientists, Surtshellir is the first known lava tube in the world. There have been discoveries of human bones and stone-built walls suggesting human habitation.
Surtshellir is an easy two-hour drive from Reykjavík. To begin with, head towards the town of Borgarnes on the Ring Road. There is a bridge that leads to town. Before you get there, change to Road 50, and you should be at the cave within an hour.
Once there, you’ll find a trail that’ll take you across the lava fields. There are three cave openings and warning signs about climbing on the rocks around the area.