Discovering Iceland’s Hidden Underground World

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The damp chill in the air was a bit eerie as I thought about the reality of where I was. If it weren’t for the headlamps on our helmets, this subterranean world of wonder would be the darkest and creepiest place imaginable (or so I thought at the time). Rewind. We had pulled off of the road about 25 minutes from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik and parked near the middle of a lava field. Having just landed at the Reykjavik airport 30 minutes prior, we wasted no time, and dove right into our adventure.

The sun was beginning to set as we made our way over the rocky terrain to a small crevice in the ground. HOLD ON! I’m supposed to climb inside of that crevice??? A bit of fear and claustrophobia set in. But I followed my guide, sat down on by bum, and slipped in through the crack in the ground. To my relief, the cave opened up so that we were able to walk.

I fumbled to get my hand lamp on. It was hard to use my hands through the thick gloves I was wearing. The thought did cross my mind that if my light turned off, I might not be able to figure out how to get it back on. Wait, am I scared of the dark? I think I must be. I could hear nothing except the muted echo of drips from icicles melting in the distance. This dark unknown cave had some terrorizing thoughts racing through my mind. There were only three of us and who knows what could be lurking down here. Don’t think about it. Keep moving. It’s at times like this that I have to force myself to enjoy what a unique experience this is, but I was truly nervous and frightened. The shadows cast by the sheep skeleton to my right weren’t helping to calm my vivid imagination. The ground was rocky and slippery, and covered in a layer of ice. It would be so easy to break a leg in here. Why was this mysterious place giving me so much anxiety? I asked my guide how long the tour was and he replied that we had an hour left, so I knew I had better lock away my fears and make the best of it.

Once I realized that we were alone in the cave (and no boogie monster was in there waiting to eat my brains) I was able to relax a little bit. We trekked deeper into the abyss and my headlamp reflected off of something. It was a marvelous icicle formation, a thing of beauty, and more importantly, a natural phenomena I’ve never witnessed before. The lava structures and colors around it were indescribable. Just then, there. it. was. That feeling I crave. The feeling of having encountered something completely foreign and new to me. Excited like a little kid, it was as if Iceland was a living and breathing human body and I was making my way through it’s hollow veins. This was the very place where volcanic magma had flowed through many, many years ago, while the surface of the lava had solidified. What this volcano left behind was simply magnificent. Mystical rock formations and a dark and marvelous cave to explore. My fear quickly turned into a sense of adventure. Um, hellooooo? I’m spelunking through a volcanic cave in Iceland!!! AWESOME!!! We decided we’d sit still for a minute and take it all in. We sat down, turned off all of our lamps, and enjoyed the pitch-black, completely soundless solitude.

Operation Iceland Cave Exploration Complete.

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Tour Operator: Private guided tour by Arctic Adventures
Tour Guide: Mio (very intelligent and knowledgeable- ask for him!)
Location: Leidarendi Lava Tube in the Blue Mountains
Cost: 15.990 ISK per person for a group tour and add 27.000 ISK to that for a private tour.
What to wear: It’s COLD! Dress in layers, bring gloves, and wear boots that have some serious non-slip action on the soles.
Duration: We were in the actual cave 1.5 hours, but there is a short trek before entering the cave, as well as drive-time, and suiting up, so allow 3-4 hours from start to finish.
Difficulty level: Arctic Adventures calls it a 2 of 5, but I’d call it a 3. The ground was very slippery and I had to hold on and concentrate to keep from slipping.

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