Each year, thousands upon thousands of visitors flock to Grjotagja in Iceland. That’s not just because it’ll probably be one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen, but because Grjotagja is our very own local celebrity.
In this article, we reveal what gives Grjotagja its star quality and what exactly its claim to fame is. We’ll tell you how to get there, when the best time is to visit, as well as give you some local insights into the nearby surroundings. So, without further ado, let’s spill some tea on our local celeb.
What is Grjotagja?
Grjotagja is a lava cave that gives off more intimate cavern vibes. But what makes Grjotagja cave extra special as a natural wonder is the fact that it holds a beautiful hot spring with bright blue water, hence why some also refer to it as the hot spring cave. It was eruptions of the Krafla volcano that made the water in the caves so boiling hot that it was unusable.
Even though it cooled down after 1984, the water temperature is still very unpredictable. This is due to the liquid rock lying just 2 kilometers below the surface. This unpredictability is why it’s now prohibited to go swimming in Grjotagja’s hot spring.
Where is Grjotagja in Iceland?
Grjotagja can be found near Lake Myvatn in the north of Iceland. It’s also conveniently located close to the Ring Road and Diamond Circle routes, making it the ideal stop along a road trip around the country.
If you want to make a day trip out of it, however, we suggest you do that from the town of Myvatn which’s just 13.6 kilometers or an 18-minute drive away.
How to Get to Grjotagja
The best way to reach Grjotagja is by driving yourself. You essentially have two options:
Simply drive northwest and turn right onto Route 1 aka the Ring Road. Drive on till you reach the sign and turn right to Grjotagjarvegur. You will then take another short right to the cave itself.
As a Road Trip From the Direction of Reykjavík
This journey totals 475 kilometers, or roughly just over a 6-hour-long drive. The drive is pretty straightforward, though. You simply take Gardastræti and Sudurgata to Hringbraut/Route 49, then follow Route 1 aka the Ring Road to Grjotagjarvegur, etc. just as you would from Myvatn.
How was Grjotagja Formed?
Grjotagja was formed due to the volcanic activity we mentioned earlier. The cave itself was created by lava moving downhill. As it moves, the outer “layer” of the lava starts to cool down and harden, whilst the inner part or center keeps flowing.
Similar to a soft-centered sweet. Once the rest of the flowing lava has exited the hardened shell, it has formed a cave. The hot spring is caused by a fissure in the crust still emitting all that volcanic heat simmering underneath the surface, varying from a few meters to a mere couple of centimeters.
When is the Best Time to Visit Grjotagja?
Whilst the cave is technically open all year round, there are a few things to consider when deciding what the best time would be for you to visit. Grjotagja is in North Iceland, which is notoriously much colder and experiences much harsher weather conditions than the rest of the island.
This makes winter a difficult time to take on certain things. Although the inside of the cave isn’t exposed to the external elements, you’ll still need to get there. Except for the fact that harsher weather can make moving around outside uncomfortable and driving more challenging, the north often sees sudden road closures due to weather conditions flaring up.
This means that you might not even be able to drive to Grjotagja in the first place. During the summer months, it can become pretty busy at Grjotagja, so then you might have to contend with peak season crowds when visiting the cave.
Grjotagja and Game of Thrones
Grjotagja was featured on the famous TV series, Game of Thrones, in what is now considered one of its most memorable scenes. In episode 4 of season 3, Jon Snow had to prove his loyalty and abandon the Night’s Watch. Therefore, in a symbolic act, Jon Snow consummated his relationship with Ygritte, the wildling woman.
Although a waterfall was added with special effects, the rest of Grjotagja is shown exactly as it is in reality. It is this exact scene that has Game of Thrones fans flocking to the cave, and why locals know exactly what is meant when someone asks for the Game of Thrones cave.
Other Things to Do & See Around Grjotagja
You will find plenty of other interesting things to do and see around Grjotagja. These are a few things to add to your trip itinerary:
Namafjall Geothermal Area
Dimmuborgir Lava Formations
Grenjadarstadir Historical Site
Where to Stay Near Grjotagja
With so much to see and do, it only makes sense to stay over for a night or two. And you will find a wide variety of accommodation in the area to choose from. You can opt for a private rental such as Birkilauf Nature Lodge or book a spot at Myvatn – Berjaya Iceland Hotels.
Grjotagja; Don’t Miss Out on the Most Famous Cave in Iceland!
Under no circumstances should you visit Iceland and not make a stop at this local celebrity. Except for its TV screen track record, it’s also one of the most idyllic settings here on the island.
We recommend that you rent a car in Iceland and do either a Diamond Circle or Ring Road road trip that will have you passing Grjotagja along the way.
But just remember; the hot spring can be a little too hot to handle, so don’t tempt fate and quite literally test the waters – it might turn you into a Kentucky fried human. Take a snap, but don’t take a dip. See you soon at Grjotagja!