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What You Need To Know About Exploring the Mariuhellar Lava Cave in Iceland

Have you ever dreamt of delving into the hidden gems of Iceland, straight into the heart of the Earth? Well, you're in for a treat! 

Today, we're embarking on an enchanting journey to the mesmerizing Mariuhellar Lava Cave, nestled within the captivating landscapes of Iceland. As your guide, armed with intimate knowledge of this magical land, we're here to share insider tips and essential details about these stunning underground wonders. 

Ready to uncover the secrets of Mariuhellar Lava Cave and other breathtaking caves in the area? Grab your explorer's hat, and let's dive into Iceland's hidden treasures together!

Mariuhellar Lava Cave

Overview Of Mariuhellar Lava Cave in Iceland

Curious about Mariuhellar Lava Cave? Well, your curiosity is about to be rewarded! 'Mariuhellar,' translating to 'Maria's Cave' in Icelandic, introduces us not to just one but a cluster of three mesmerizing lava caves, each telling its own story. 

These geological wonders, having whispered the Earth's secrets for approximately 4,600 years, provide us with an extraordinary window into Iceland's volcanic past. Now, what makes each cave stand out? Among them, Vífilsstaðahellir and Urriðakotshellir have historically served as shelters for sheep, bearing witness to centuries of history. 

Urriðakotshellir, particularly fascinating, lies close to civilization yet feels worlds away. Imagine stepping into this spacious lava tube, surrounded by a large, grassy expanse, only to look up and see a sliver of the sky peeking through. To dive deeper into this incredible country's offerings, consider exploring our Iceland itinerary for more breathtaking adventures.

How Mariuhellar Lava Cave was Formed

Imagine a river of molten lava cutting through the landscape. As it flows, the lava cools and hardens into a crust, creating a solid shell around the fiery river below. 

Over time, the lava drains away, leaving behind a hollow tunnel. These natural corridors, nestled amidst lush green mountains, stand as majestic lava tubes formed by the dynamic forces of volcanoes. 

The Mariuhellar lava caves, resulting from this fascinating geological process, invite us to explore the ancient forces shaping our planet.

Where Is Mariuhellar Located

Tucked away in the lush expanse of the Heiðmörk Nature Reserve lies the fascinating Mariuhellar, beckoning the adventurous at heart. Imagine a place where you have to trek through rolling hills and rugged cliffs to unveil its secrets—sounds like an adventure, doesn't it? 

Well, it's just a 20-minute scenic drive from Reykjavík, making it a perfect escape into nature's mysterious arms. Specifically located in Svínahraun, northeast of where Flóttavegur meets Heiðmerkurvegur, these caves mark the historical boundary between Urriðakot and Vífilsstaðir. 

The tale of Mariuhellar isn't just about location; it's about origins. These caves owe their existence to the mighty Búrfell volcano, which stands guard over Hafnarfjörður. This connection points us to the Reykjanes Peninsula, a geological marvel that tells the Earth's volatile history through its dramatic landscapes. 

How to Get To Mariuhellar Lava Cave

Embarking on a journey to Mariuhellar from Reykjavík or any other major starting point in Iceland is an adventure in itself, but worry not; it's quite straightforward. Here's how you can get there:

  • Start from Reykjavík: Mariuhellar is a mere 12 km (7 mi) south of Iceland's bustling capital, making it an easy getaway for a day of exploration.

  • Driving Directions: Your adventure begins on Reykjanesbraut Road. Take a left at the Vifilsstaðavegur roundabouts, followed by a right onto Elliðavatnsvegur. The road is your companion, guiding you through Iceland's awe-inspiring landscapes.

  • GPS Coordinates: To ensure you don't miss a turn, punch in the Mariuhellar Caves' coordinates (64.0717° N, 21.8934° W) into your GPS or Google Maps for pinpoint accuracy.

  • Quick Arrival: After turning onto Elliðavatnsvegur, a brief 3-4 minute drive is all that stands between you and the cave's welcome embrace.

  • Transportation Options: Opting to rent a car in Iceland is your best bet, as public transport doesn't venture to these hidden natural treasures.

  • Access Fees: The best things in life are free, and access to Mariuhellar is no exception. No fees are required to explore this marvel of nature.

Other Lava Caves to Explore in the Area

While Mariuhellar undeniably captivates the hearts of its visitors, the surrounding area is a treasure trove of geological wonders. Venture a little further, and you'll uncover more subterranean marvels, each with its own story to tell. Ready for round two? Here's where your curiosity should lead you next.

Leidarendi Cave

Just imagine, only a 25-minute drive from Reykjavík, and you're stepping into another world, Leiðarendi Cave. This 900-meter (nearly 2953 feet) natural tunnel isn't just a walk in the park—it's a circular voyage into darkness, nestled in a lava field near Bláfjöll, the iconic Blue Mountains in southwest Iceland. What's inside is a sheer spectacle: ceilings adorned with delicate stalactites, floors rising into drip stalagmites, and walls flaunting intricate lava formations. 

Raufarholshellir Cave

Just 30 minutes from Reykjavík, Raufarholshellir Cave, known lovingly as the Lava Tunnel, is a must-see for adventure seekers. This isn't your average cave; it's one of Iceland's longest lava tubes, measuring an impressive 4,462 ft (1,360 m) in length. Inside, you'll walk through the main tunnel, stretching about 2,953 ft (900 m), into a vast space where nature's grandeur is on full display.


The cave's dimensions are breathtaking, with widths of 33-98 ft (10-30 m) and heights reaching up to 33 ft (10 m), all under a solid rock roof averaging 39 ft (12 m) thick. For the best experience, we recommend joining a guided tour where you can learn about the cave's history and geological wonders. 

Raufarholshellir Cave

Gjabakkahellir Cave

Stepping into Gjábakkahellir Cave is like walking through a natural time capsule formed over 9,000 years ago. This 360-meter (about 1,181 feet) lava tube offers a literal pathway through history, where each step takes you deeper into Earth's architectural marvels. 

Discovered in 1907, its tale of unearthing is as thrilling as the adventures it promises. Just an hour's drive from Reykjavík, it's not just accessible; it's an invitation for those eager to explore the depths of Iceland's geological wonders, connecting the past to the present in the most adventurous way possible.

Tips for Cave Exploring in Iceland

Cave exploring, or spelunking, in Iceland's lava caves like Mariuhellar, is an unbeatable adventure, but it requires some prep to ensure you enjoy it safely and responsibly. Here's how you can gear up and behave for a respectful and safe exploration:

  • Dress for Success: Wear sturdy hiking boots and layer up. Icelandic weather loves surprises!

  • Pack Smart: Don't forget a flashlight (or headlamp), water, snacks, and a good camera. The caves don't have snack bars!

  • Cave Manners: Move gently through the caves. Touching formations or taking souvenirs is a no-go. Let's keep the caves beautiful for everyone.

  • Timing is Everything: Summer is your friend here. Longer days mean more time for exploring Mariuhellar Lava Cave and its siblings.

  • Leave No Trace: Treat the caves like your home. Actually, even better! Anything you bring in, you take out. Respect nature and it will respect you back.

Why Mariuhellar Lava Cave Deserves a Spot on Your Itinerary

After tunneling through the rich history and geological marvels of Mariuhellar Lava Cave, it's clear that this isn't just another tourist spot—it's a gateway to Iceland's fiery past, a living museum where every step tells a story. 

But don't just take our word for it. Embarking on this adventure yourself is the only way to truly grasp the beauty and thrill of cave exploration in Iceland. Whether it's Mariuhellar or its subterranean kin, these caves are waiting to reveal their secrets to those daring enough to explore. 

Ready to start your own underground saga? Plan your trip, then share your experiences with us. Iceland's underworld awaits your footsteps.



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