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Visiting Vatnshellir Cave in Iceland

One of the perks of being the Land of Fire and Ice is that one boasts incredible landscapes and contrasting terrains, and all sorts of other weird and wonderful natural wonders. A good example of one of these incredible sites is Vatnshellir Cave in Iceland.


In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to visit Vatnshellir, so if you’ve got an upcoming trip to the island, or are just curious to know more about why thousands flock to Iceland each year to visit sites like these, read on.


vatnshellir cave

What is Vatnshellir Cave?


Vatnshellir is a lava tube cave that is about 8000 years old, making it one of Iceland’s oldest lava caves. It runs 200 meters long and 35 meters deep, and its walls are multicolored, showcasing shades of greens, reds, and yellows. Why exactly this is, we’ll get into a little later.


Where is Vatnshellir Cave?


Vatnshellir is located inside the Snæfellsjökull National Park and lies on the tip of the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula. Snæfellsjökull National Park can be found in the western part of Iceland. The nearest towns are Arnarstapi (a 10-minute drive away), and Hellisandur (a 25-minute drive away).


How was Cave Vatnshellir Formed?


As we already mentioned, Vatnshellir is a lava tube cave. So, the event that led to its creation, 8000 years ago, was none other than a volcanic eruption. Just imagine a river of red-hot lava flowing across the land, but slowly over time, the outer layer of lava that’s the most exposed to the external elements such as cold air, rain, and snow starts to cool down.


When lava cools down, it turns into a hardened sedimentary rock, essentially turning the outer layer of the lava into a sort of crust covering the rest of the still-flowing lava in its center (almost like a sweet that’s simply too hot to handle). It is once all the lava on the inside has flowed out that you are left with this large lava casing that is called a lava tube cave.

The colors that can be seen today are remnants of its very creation. It is the lava minerals that can still be seen today that lie deposited in the cave’s walls. The reds are iron deposits, the greens are copper, and the yellows are sulfur.


vatnshellir lava tube cave

Visiting Vatnshellir


The only way that you can explore Vatnshellir is by booking a spot on a Vatnshellir cave tour, due to safety concerns. It’s just important to keep in mind that tours run almost hourly during the peak season summer months in Iceland, but the rest of the year there are only a few tours offered a day, so please check operating hours before planning your trip itinerary.





What You Can Expect from a Vatnshellir Cave Tour


When going on a Vatnshellir lava cave tour, you will meet your experienced guide along with the rest of your group at the caves itself. Just take note that although this is an easy walk, there are some age restrictions due to safety reasons and no children under 5 will be allowed on the tour.


There is no need to bring any gear – your guide will provide you with a helmet and a flashlight at no extra cost to you. Just ensure that you’re dressed warmly and have comfortable hiking shoes or boots on, and we recommend that you take some warm gloves with you as well. The tour is roughly 4 hours long, so plan your trip itinerary accordingly.


How Much Does a Vatnshellir Cave Tour Cost?


It’s about $35 per adult, $26 per student (but you’ll need to have a valid student card with you), $15 for kids between the ages of 12 to 17, and children between the ages of 5 and 11 enjoy free entry.


vatnshellir lava cave tour

Is a Vatnshellir Cave Tour Worth it?


If you are an explorer and adventurer at heart or can just appreciate the incredible power of nature, then this is the tour for you. Moving through the cave with the guide not only ensures your safety, but he/she sharing a wealth of knowledge is an experience that is hard to describe, and is guaranteed to leave you with lifelong memories.


If this sounds like something you’d like to add to your Iceland trip itinerary, you can book your spot on a Vatnshellir Cave tour here.



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