How did Lava Caves in Iceland Form?
Iceland’s located on a divergent tectonic plate boundary on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is a geological hot spot. Due to its location, Iceland has 30 active volcanic systems. Thirteen of them have erupted since the settlement of the country in 874 AD. Volcanic eruptions created many lava tubes in the country. Around 500 of them are known, which might only be a small fraction of all the lava caves that exist in Iceland.
Lava caves form when, after a volcanic eruption, a river of hot lava flows on the ground’s surface. Sometimes magma is so hot it melts its way down into the ground. The stream gradually cools down and a crust starts forming on the outside of the flow. The sub-surface stream of molten lava continues to flow, leaving behind a hardened crust in the form of a tube.
Lava tubes are often multi-layered because existing lava caves can have multiple rivers of magma flow through them. In this way, tunnels get reshaped, and every single lava tunnel is completely different from the others. The flowing lava splashes, and when it cools down and hardens, it creates stalactites of all shapes and forms.
Can You Go to a Lava Cave in Iceland Without a Tour?
Lava tubes are often affected by natural factors, such as earthquakes. No matter how stable lava tunnels might look, one can never be certain of how natural forces have affected the ancient rocks. That’s why lava caves in Iceland should never be visited without an expert guide, and everyone inside a cave needs to wear helmets.
We offer various lava cave tours in Iceland, so you can visit caves without any worries!
Where Can I See Lava Caves in Iceland?
Some of the largest lava caves in Iceland are near Reykjavik. For example, the Raufarhólshellir lava tube is located less than a 30-minute drive from the capital and is accessible by all vehicles. Thrihnukagigur Volcano is only a 25-minute drive away from Reykjavik.
Varnshellir lava cave in Iceland is on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and Lofthellir cave is in North Iceland.
Best Lava Caves in Iceland
Raufarhólshellir lava cave is one of the longest lava tubes in Iceland. It spans 1,360 m (4,462 ft) with the main tunnel running for 900 m (2,953 ft). The ceiling of the tunnel reaches up to 10 m (33 ft)! The lava tube formed after a Leitahraun volcanic eruption around 5,200 years ago, but it was only discovered by geologists in 1950. Impressive rock formations decorated the ceiling of the tunnel, but unregulated visits to the cave caused damage to the lava formations. The tunnel is only available for visits led by a tour guide.
Thrihnukagigur Volcano has been ranked by CNN Travel as one of the must-see places in the world. The dormant volcano is accessible through its top crater. An open elevator lowers visitors 120 m (400 ft) to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chambers. The inside of the volcano is covered in enchanting colors, due to minerals deposited by the last eruption. Standing inside the massive Thrihnukagigur volcano is a truly unique experience!
Inside the Volcano Video
Lofthellir Cave near Lake Myvatn is home to the largest known natural ice sculptures ever found in any lava tube in Iceland. The cave was only discovered in the 1980s after an earthquake destroyed the roof of the cave. The pilot of a plane flying above the area noticed the massive hole in the ground. The secret underground world of lava and ice was soon discovered. Now, this magical 3,500-year-old lava cave is available to visit on a guided day tour from Akureyri or Myvarn.
Combo Tours with Lava Caving in Raufarhólshellir
Lava caving is a fun activity, but you can also combine it with another tour and turn it into a full-day adventure.
Visit Raufarhólshellir lava tube and see the highlights of the iconic Golden Circle in one day! Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall are important natural sites that everyone needs to visit in Iceland. If you’re traveling in winter, add a hunt for the Northern Lights to make it an ultimate Icelandic experience!
If you’ve already visited the Golden Circle, then simply join a Raufarhólshellir and Northern Lights tour to enjoy the best Iceland has to offer both under the ground and in the sky.
Snorkeling in Silfra fissure is another unique experience that Iceland has to offer. Snorkel between two tectonic plates and explore the underwater world! Combine snorkeling with lava caving and visit Raufarhólshellir on the same day, or even add a Northern Lights tour to your itinerary!
Lava cave tours in Iceland can also be combined with a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon spa, where you can enjoy the healing powers of Icelandic water.
Combine your lava caving tour with horseback riding and meet charming Icelandic horses! The purebred horses are friendly and intelligent. Children love them!
If you’re looking for an extreme experience, try out a caving and ATV tour! Ride quad bikes on vast lava fields and then explore the same fields from a completely different angle: under the ground!
How to Prepare for a Lava Cave Tour in Iceland?
When going on a lava cave tour, make sure to wear warm clothing, preferably in different layers. Choose a waterproof top layer, and wear a scarf, gloves, and headwear. Please bring hiking boots (or rent these from us when booking the tour). Your guide will take care of all the necessary safety equipment.