Iceland’s Þríhnúkagígur volcano is thought to be the only place in the world where you can safely explore a volcano’s magma chamber. Directly from the inside. Talk about the experience of a lifetime!
Lowered in a small skyscraper window washer’s pulley lift through a four metre wide hole, down, down, down nearly 150 metres (double the height of Hallgrímskirkja) onto a floor the size of a football pitch in a cavern 150,000 cubic metres by volume, which was once filled with pressurised molten lava waiting to explode upwards. Welcome to Þríhnúkagígur.
The volcano is the only place on earth where the magma chamber is accessible and currently safe to explore. The size of its chamber is enormous; the ground space is roughly the size of a football pitch. The distance from top to bottom is about 150 meters (450 ft.). Þríhnúkagígur last erupted over 4000 years ago. This Icelandic volcano hasn’t erupted for 4,000 years, so you’re probably safe being inside it. But the frisson of danger is nevertheless pervasive and basely attractive.
Summer 2012 was the first time the crater was open to tourists – and even then only until mid-August. But if you’re lucky you might manage to get onto one of the 5-6 hour tours again in summer 2013, between 15th May and 10th September.
Plans to run the tours for a second summer were late to be revealed. And there is no way of knowing if they will run in 2014 or not. Even if they don’t, there are plans afoot to tunnel directly – hopefully discreetly – into the crater and erect a viewing platform in the coming years. While this would remove the thrill of the descent, it would allow more people to see the amazing site, and for a less exorbitant price. The Volcano is only approximately 30 minutes drive from Reykjavík.
Once there, travelers must walk for 40 minutes across a lava field to reach the summit. Then they will take an open cable lift 120 meters down to the bottom of the crater before beginning the hour-long tour with a team of expert guides. CNN rated Þríhnúkagígur number 13 on its 27 Must See Places Before You Die list…so it must be good!
Peter, June 2014 Iceland24