Thrihnukagigur is a dormant volcano near Reykjavik in Iceland’s capital region. It’s famous for its large magma chamber at an otherworldly scale. Visit the volcano’s chamber for a unique adventure that only few people will ever experience!
Thrihnukagigur has three craters. Visitors can descend into the magma chamber through one of them by an elevator. It’s the only volcano in the world that allows visitors to go into its magma chamber and journey to the center of the earth.
Its Icelandic name, Þríhnúkagígur, is quite hard to pronounce for non-Icelandic speakers. It sounds like “three-nuga-geegu.” The literal translation is three peaks crater. It actually describes one of many features about Thrihnukagigur.
The dormant volcano is located in the Blue Mountain Range (Bláfjöll in Icelandic) on the border between the capital and southern Region. This area is a popular recreational hub for local outdoor lovers to go skiing, hiking, and caving.
Going into the Thrihnukagigur volcano is the most fantastic experience of all. The colors beneath the surface of the earth are beautiful!
GPS coordinates of Thrihnukagigur: 63.9985° N, 21.6990° W
The unique experience of going into Thrihnukagigur volcano starts at the Blue Mountain parking lot. This is a meeting point for self-drive travelers and visitors picked up from Reykjavik. It’s about a 20-minute drive from the capital via Route 1 and later Route 417.
From the parking lot, it takes less than one hour to walk on the vast lava field before you reach the Blafjoll welcome cabin. During the short hike, you will cross a terrain of basalts and green moss field. The hike is rated as moderate in difficulty. Participants need to be in good physical shape to manage the hiking or climbing part of the tour.
The volcano was discovered in 1974 by cave explorer Arni B. Stefannson, who also gave it its name “Thrihnukagigur.” The tremendous magma chamber bewildered many volcanologists and scientists when the discovery made world news. The discovery was news-worthy because something exceptional happened at Thrihnukagigur volcano – it left a large empty magma chamber without any cooled lava left inside.
Some scientists assumed the lava was drained through tunnels and arteries deep into the earth. As the geological pressure was released through the rift beneath, Thrihnukagigur was able to be intact with a magma chamber and the entire mountain – a “pristine collapse” as Stefannson once put.
The volcano was not open to the public for several decades after its discovery. Finally, in 2012, after years of pleading from Stefannson, Thrihnukagigur was open for tourism. It immediately became a popular attraction. It’s been 4,000 years since Thrihnukagigur’s last eruption and there are no indications of erupting in the near future.
The silence inside the chamber once appalled the cave explorer because, in the beginning, it was almost impossible to appreciate the natural treasure in pitch darkness. Now, with sufficient lighting, the visitors can stay inside and appreciate the inner-beauty of Thrihnukagigur.
Once you’re inside the volcano, you’ll see the mesmerizing colors on the walls. They’re the minerals deposit left by the last eruption. The extreme beauty of such a rare geological wonder attracted many scientists.
Enjoy the otherworldly experience when you stand under the rock dome that has been scalded and ruptured by the forces of Earth. This underground arena was carved by the forceful gasses, powerful pressures and extreme temperatures that stained the walls. The beautiful colors on the walls are mixed tones of colors like red and yellow.
Apart from the enchanting colors, the chamber’s size is also an amazing feature. One of the three peaks is a smaller cinder cone standing north-easterly about 35 meters (100 ft) higher than its surroundings. At the top of this cinder cone, you can see a funnel-shaped opening. It’s about 4×4 (12×12 ft) meters wide and is the entrance to a deep volcanic vault, which is 120 meters (400 ft) in depth.
But the vault doesn’t end there. The volcanic passages continue to stretch deeper to the southwest and it eventually reaches a total depth of almost 200 meters (700 ft) down. To give you a better idea of how humongous the magma chamber is, we are going to compare its space with many famous landmarks from all over the world.
The landmark church Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest structure in Reykjavik with a height of 74.5 m. (243 ft.). It can be comfortably put into Thrihnukagigur’s magma chamber, with some extra space to spare. Also, the Statue of Liberty – a colossal sculpture that has a height of 93 m. (305 ft.) – can be easily fit into the magma chamber.
In August 2015, Kaleo – an Icelandic blues/rock band – recorded a live rendition of their song “Way Down We Go” inside the massive magma chamber. They were accompanied by 14 support staff members. In 2016, the volcano’s glamour attracted an alternative rock musician Chino Moreno of Deftones to perform a public concert inside the volcano at the Secret Solstice Music Festival.
Upon reaching Thrihnukagigur crater’s opening, you’ll grab a harness and helmet before you’re lowered down into the chamber by an open elevator system. The 120-meter (400 feet) journey to the center of the earth takes about 6 minutes. Once you’re leveled down to the ground, you’ll spend about half an hour inside the volcano with an expert-guide.
The tour is rated as one of the top 5 volcano experiences in Iceland. Please note that it’s prohibited to take any stones away from the volcano as it’s important to protect the sensitive environment. The tour runs from May to October.
There are plenty of great places to stay within an 8-kilometer radius of Thrihnukagigur or the Blue Mountain area. If you want to stay in the capital region, any hotel located in the area will be within a 20-kilometer radius (12.4 miles) from the volcano.
Thrihnukagigur is located close to the capital region of Iceland. Therefore, all the interesting places and fabulous attractions found in the major municipalities are easily reachable. The closest city center is Hafnarfjörður – a vibrant harbor town with colorful houses and a beautiful lake in the center.
Further North upon reaching Reykjavik, you will pass two residential towns Gardabaer and Kopavogur where you can find nice golf courses. Finally, in Reykjavik, you’ll find fabulous landmarks such as Hallgrimskirkja church and Harpa Concert Hall.
The Blue Mountain area, where Thrihnukagigur is located, is also a popular ski resort in Iceland. It’s known for its incredible landscapes and spectacular views. The area is also a popular location for Northern Lights hunting tours since it’s far away from the city light pollution.