On my most recent trip to Iceland I had the great experience of descending into the earth on three separate tours that involved ice, lava caves and a volcano. You could think of it as experiencing the hottest and coldest places on the planet all in one comfortable day.
Into the Glacier
This tour takes you into man made tunnels that have bored their way deep into the Langjokull glacier in Iceland. Leaving Reykjavik, you drive inland and upwards climbing steadily up to an elevation of about 1500 m. The first day that we tried we were turned away by the 160 km/h winds and complete white out conditions. The glacier receives 15 m of snow per year so storms like this are very common. A tall flag marks the entrance way and after digging for a short period of time the guide showed us the entrance. From there we entered and after putting on crampons onto our boots descended deeper and deeper into the tunnels. Strategically placed lights give an eerie colour to the amazing blue colour of the ice. What is fascinating about the tunnels is that they move; which is in fact the definition of a glacier. We spent about an hour inside the glacier and it was not cold at all as the temperature is a constant -2c all year long.
Into the Lava Tubes
This tour allows you to walk into giant natural tunnels that were left behind when the lava poured out of the volcanoes and gradually cooled down. Lava tubes can be found in the US, Spain and Hawaii and are a phenomenon of the outer part of a lava flow solidifying at a faster pace than the inside and the inside continuing to find a passage to flow out. There are 2 lava tube systems in Iceland and, for the longest period, they were the longest in the world at about 1.6 km long. You walk along a boardwalk inside the tunnel that is about 40 m wide and 10 m high (though at times it does narrow down to about 2 m high). It is a very neat feeling to be in this tunnel and when they turn off all the lights and you experience perfect darkness, it is amazing. You can experience this any day of the year.
Into the Volcano
This is an unnatural experience of descending 198 m into the bowels of the earth in the shaft of a dormant volcano (or so you hope). It last erupted 4,000 years ago. This volcano, named Thrihnukagigur (Þríhnúkagígur – good luck trying to pronounce it – our Iceland Specialists can and would be happy to teach you) is a unique natural phenomenon. You see, normally when a volcano becomes dormant, the magma chamber usually cools and solidifies, but this one, for some reason, decided to drain away, leaving behind this beautiful formation.
You are equipped with a helmet and a harness before you enter the elevator and begin your descent into the belly of the volcano. This is the only place in the world that you can enter a magma chamber this way, which is why this tour is so unique and worth while! Your journey down into the centre of the earth takes approximately 6 minutes.
Unlike the previous two tours, Inside the Volcano is very weather dependent and is normally only possible from about mid-May to mid/end of October. Some years, they have had to stop the tours in September due to weather).
From the power of ice to the power of magma, Iceland has your hot and cold adventures covered. You can journey into the centre of the earth, of a glacier and dive between the tectonic plates of two massive land masses. Iceland truly is a place where fire and ice exist together harmoniously.