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Caving in lava tunnels

  • Iceland

Last updated: 18 March, 2024

Volcanoes aren’t just about the craters: sometimes, there’s even more to see underground.

Iceland is one of the few places on the planet where it’s possible to venture down into ‘lava tubes’. These tunnels of volcanic rock are formed around molten lava flows, usually close to eruption points. As the flows peter out, the rock surrounding them cools, leaving behind hollow tubes that can be 15m wide and hundreds of metres long.

Hiking into these subterranean structures is a seriously spooky experience: dark, cold and lined with peculiar rock formations, it feels like venturing into the lair of some gigantic, monstrous worm.

Most lava tubes can only be visited on a guided tour. Access is variable: some of the more accessible caves have walkways built into them, while others involve scrambling, sliding and uneven footing.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Raufarholshellir Lava Tunnel

  • Iceland

People visiting the Raufarholshellir lava tube tunnel and caves, one of the longest in Iceland.

Experience

One of the longest lava tunnels in Iceland – 1360m long, 30m wide and up to 10m high. The ‘Standard’ lava tunnel tour (1 hour) visits the most accessible section of the cave, while the longer ‘Adventure’ tour (3-4 hours) ventures into the deeper sections.

Adult price: £45

Good for age: 8+

Freq: monthly

Little Bjorn-Vorouhellir Lava Tunnels

  • Iceland

Tour group underground in a tunnel listening to tour guide

Experience

For the full-on caving experience, visit these neighbouring caves in Thingvellir National Park, including the longest of all, 1,100m-long Vorouhellir. Initially thought to be separate, the caves are actually connected – and you get to squeeze through narrow tunnels joining the two systems.

Adult price: £35

Min age 5

Good for age: 8+

Freq: monthly

Leidarendi Lava Tunnel

  • Iceland

View down a long lava tunnel

Experience

This 900m-long lava tube is popular as it’s one of the nearest to Reykjavik. Guided tours explore the main cave sections, with impressive displays of stalactites and stalagmites.

Adult price: £45

Good for age: 8+

Freq: monthly

Vatnshellir Lava Tunnel

  • Snaefellsjokull National Park, Iceland

Vatnshellir Lava Tunnel

Experience

Way out on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a spiral staircase leads down into this deep lava tube – estimated to be one of Iceland’s oldest (circa 8,000 years). With a guide, it’s possible to walk around 200m into the cave: wear good shoes as the base of the cave is unstable underfoot. Tours last 45 minutes.

Adult price: £35

Min age 5

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 45 minutes

Freq: monthly

Vidgelmir Lava Tunnel

  • Borgarfjordur, Iceland

View down a yellow walkway descending into a tunnel

Experience

An accessible, family-friendly cave in the Hallmundarhraun lava field, in Borgarfjordur. It’s a great choice for kids, as most of the cave is reached via a walkway, and illuminated by fixed lighting. No squeezing, sliding or slipping required here.

Adult price: £40

Good for age: 8+

Freq: monthly

Lofthellir Lava Tunnel & Ice Cave

  • Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Lofthellir Lava Tunnel & Ice Cave

Experience

This unusual cave near Myvatn combines two geological processes in one: it’s a lava cave coated in impressive ice formations. Around 370m of the cave is accessible on foot. Don headlamps, spiked boots and waterproofs – it’s a proper, big-thrill caving experience, so expect to get wet and muddy – and be prepared to squeeze through some tight spots. Tours last 4-5 hours.

Adult price: £200

Min age 8

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 4-5 hours

Freq: monthly

Logistics

Price from: £40
Minimum age: 3
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around
Duration: 2+ hours

Getting there & doing it

You need to book with a Reykjavik day tour company to go on a lava caving trip – you can’t do it unaccompanied or unguided.

There are a variety of locations and tours to select from, many in Thingvellir National Park, just under an hour‘s drive from Reykjavik.

Sturdy walking boots are recommended for the lava caves, as surfaces can be uneven or slippery. All equipment, including overalls and a head torch, will be provided.

When to do it

Trips run all year, but are weather dependent (as roads to Thingvellir and other sites) may be cut off in winter. Start times vary by operator.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • Reykjavik

Explore the magnificent lava tunnel Raufarhólshellir, one of the longest and best-known lava tubes in Iceland. Located just 30-40 minutes from Reykjavík, the tunnel is easily accessible year round. Discover the inner workings of a volcanic eruption and walk along the path where lava flowed during the Leitahraun eruption, which occurred approximately 5200 years ago. Our tour is approximately one hour whereas platforms and lights have been incorporated - making the experience of visiting the cave simply breathtaking.   The tour includes all necessary equipment. Choose your preferred departure time upon booking.  Please note that this tour does not include pick up and is for self driving passengers only.

Price €51

Min age 0

Rating 4.73 / 5 [1374 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Reykjavik

Explore Raufarhólshellir, one of the longest lava tunnels in Iceland, with transport to Reykjavik. An ideal half-a-day activity that combines amazing Icelandic nature just outside the capital Reykjavik. You will be provided with a helmet and headlamp and on this guided tour you will learn about and witness amazing geological features that can only be found inside a lava tube. Paths and platforms are provided making this accessible activity for most people and our lighting design has won numerous awards. Tours with transfer from Reykjavik are provided 2- 3 times a day.

Price €94

Min age 3

Rating 4.58 / 5 [240 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Reykjavik

Go cave exploring in the amazing Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel. One of the longest and best-known lava tubes in Iceland, located only 30 minutes from Reykjavík, you are in for a unique experience exploring the colorful underground. After the caving experience, visit Silfra fissure, located in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Thingvellir National Park for a snorkeling adventure. Alongside your guide, discover the depths of some of Iceland's most stunning natural wonders as you explore a mysterious cave and snorkel in a pristine, dream-like underground pool.

Price €258

Min age 12

Rating 4.66 / 5 [159 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Reykjavik

Leave behind Reykjavík and journey to Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel for a one-hour lava cave tour, just 30 minutes away. Walk through the lava's path and learn about the tunnel's history. The lava tunnel is one of the biggest in Iceland and scenes from the film Noah were shot in the cave. This tour includes a driver/guide and safety equipment.

Price $95

Min age 3

Rating 4.43 / 5 [150 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Reykjavik

Explore Iceland’s ancient underground lava tunnels at Raufarholshellir lava tunnel on a caving experience with transport from Reykjavik! Hidden deep beneath the stunning Blue Mountains (Bláhnjúkur), Raufarholshellir lava tunnel is home to a volcanic wonderland of rock formations, ice and craters. Using specialist caving equipment, follow a local guide and hike through the tunnels to the cave, discovering Iceland’s otherworldly sights at their finest and witness the inner workings of a volcanic eruption.

Price €89

Min age 6

Rating 4.45 / 5 [77 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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