There are more than 2,000 caves listed in the country with several more being discovered each year. It’s an increasingly popular activity in Iceland – so popular that not only is it possible to visit dozens of natural caves (lava or ice), but it is also possible to access an ice tunnel under the Langjökull glacier that has been created artificially by man.
Here are some caves to explore and some tips to make the most of your expedition!
Iceland’s Lava Caves
Leiðarendi Cave, literally ‘the end of the road’, is 30 minutes from Reykjavik; it is certainly the most popular cave in Iceland, and the most accessible. It is a 900-meter-long lava tube (2,953 feet) that formed over 2,000 years ago. Today, you can visit this cave with a guide. Access is relatively easy and several companies offer excursions to Leiðarendi. While some emphasize the scientific and recreational side of lava caves, others put more emphasis on adventure and physical activity. It’s up to you to see what suits you best!
Lofthellir is a 3,500-year-old lava cave that extends for 370 meters (1,214 feet) and features glacial formations that will leave you in awe. You can choose to start this tour from Akureyri or Lake Mývatn. More information can be sound in the local tourist office in Akureyri. Discovered in 1907, the Cave of Gjábakkahellir, ‘cave of the little girl’, is a 364-meter lava tube (1,194) located in Þingvellir National Park. It’s a relatively easy cave to access and has all the typical features of a lava cave. The stalactites are particularly impressive. Inside the cave, there are many rocks on the ground making mobility difficult; you have to walk, crawl and climb to get around!
There are dozens of lava caves around Iceland that you can visit with a guide. Be prepared to find yourself in total darkness, except for the headlamps that your guide will provide you with. Take note: the caves tend to be very humid, so it’s better to bring along waterproof clothing and shoes for this type of excursion.
Depending on weather conditions, ice caves can usually be visited from mid-November to mid-March. Often referred to as crystal caves, they are located near the Langjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers.
Outside these dates, the cellars are dangerous because they can collapse, so it’s not possible to visit them. Vatnajökull Glacier is a 4-5 hour drive from the capital Reykjavik and Langjökull is about 2-2.5 hours away by car. It’s a very popular activity and if you intend to explore an ice cave, reserve your trip as early as possible. Visits are often fully booked several months in advance.
You must always be accompanied by a sworn guide to go into an ice cave. Glaciers are dangerous places, dotted with crevasses, and only an experienced guide will be able to shepherd you safely through.
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