Choosing the Right Lava Cave Adventure
As with almost anything, the more options you have, the better. This includes choosing the right caving tour in Iceland. While few places in the world have accessible lava caves, Iceland has a wide range of lava tube caves that are within easy reach of the capital area. At Basecamp Iceland, we offer a wide range of caving tours, allowing you to explore the vast lava tube caves that our country has to offer.
Roughly speaking, caving tour adventures in Iceland can be divided into three categories: sightseeing caves, luxury caves, and adventure caves.
Raufarhólshellir, Víðgelmir, and Vatnshellir are three examples of sightseeing caves. Each lava tube in this category has been modiﬁed for big group tours with manmade stairs, platforms, and installed floodlights.
Sightseeing lave tube caves are designed for big groups, which means there is little chance of feeling claustrophobic or at risk of getting lost. These caves also have installed floodlights to bring out the colours of the interior of the caves.
Since lava tube caves tend to be narrow, everyone on the caving tour will be walking in a line, which means that you might have to wait for a good photo-op. Museum and bus-like guided tours might feel dull to some tourists and these caves offer little or no option for tours adjusted to each group.
Þríhnúkagígur (Thrihnukagigur): While this cave is technically not a lava tube, it is an enormous empty magma chamber that does share many of the same attributes, while also offering some unique features of its own.
This 213-meter-deep magma chamber can only be accessed from the top and the ride down is an attraction all on its own. Operators have installed a special open-framed elevator to lower you into the chamber with enormous ﬂoodlights at the bottom of the cave so that you can take in the extraordinary colours and forms of the inside of a volcano. According to its operators, it is the only extinct volcano in the world to offer this kind of access for volcano tour groups.
To get to and from the site requires a 1.5 hour hike – unless you book a helicopter drop off. This tour is also not a good cave tour for people afraid of heights. Þríhnúkagígur (Thrihnukagigur) is only open for volcano tours six months of the year due to rough conditions in winter and this kind of specialty visit comes at a high cost (although it's worth every penny).
Leiðarendi and Gjábakkahellir are excellent representatives for adventure caves. These caves are natural lava tubes that offer hands on adventure for the active traveler. Most operators offer small group tours with a max guest/guide ratio ranging from 6/1 to 12/1; however, the smaller the group the better.
Adventure caves allow you to get very close to the formations and the colours are spectacular. Smaller cave touring groups also allow the guide to alter the route and tailor the information to fit each group.
Those with limited mobility will not ﬁnd this as comfortable of a tour as some of the other caving tour options.
Know before you go
Exploring the volcanic features of Iceland should be on every visitors list and going underneath the surface of the lava fields with an expert guide is an unforgettable experience. There is no one-size-fits-all caving tour available and knowing your options will increase your chance of choosing the right tour for you.
If you would like to find out more about the 3 types of Icelandic cave adventures you should know about, or if you are interested in one of our caving tours, please contact Basecamp Iceland at +345-777-0708 or by filling out a contact form on our website. As much as we would like to see everyone who reads this join us on our Caves & Volcanoes tours, what is most important to us is that you ﬁnd the right tour at the right comfort level for you.
Happy spelunking and we hope to see you in the underworld.