When I boasted to my parents that I was going on a lava caving and snorkeling tour in Iceland, my dad’s first reaction was Sarah, can you even swim? Yes, I am infamous for hating water and avoiding it at all costs. But new year, new me, right? And besides- I can’t rationally hate something until I give it a chance. So come 9am the next morning, I walked out into the still dark morning and awaited my pickup for the Black & Blue tour with Arctic Adventures.
A strapping Icelandic man introduced himself with an exceptionally long Scandinavian name (as they do), so I renamed him ASD in my mind (Attractive Scandinavian Dude). After a 30 minute sleepy bus ride, we arrived at Leiðarendi Cave, received the brief “don’t do this, definitely do that” guidelines, and embarked into the underworld. ASD brought good humor and appropriate sarcasm to our exploration, making all the information easy to follow. I am no geologist, so anyone with minimal lava knowledge will also appreciate this.
During our 90-minute journey, we witnessed what I like to think of as the Picasso exhibit on lava— the amazing and diverse patterns that form when lava hardens. For all those people whose toes are curling right now because you watched one too many cave themed horror movies in your teens— I’m with you. I thought that tight dark spaces and Sarah would not mesh well. But you almost forget you’re in a cave with how mesmerizing the surroundings are. And on top of that, this cave receives a lot of foot traffic, so you rarely ever feel alone or without access to help.
Prepare to feel like Indiana Jones on leg day at the gym. There is a lot of crouching involved, so anyone with a bad back should take caution. At one point we even got to roll on our stomachs in full on ninja mode. Hands down my favorite part of the cave exploration was when we turned off all our headlamps, exchanged scary stories, and then sat in complete silence, listening to the cave. I won’t spoil it, but your eyes like to start imagining shapes when in total darkness.
After the cave exploration, we had a two-hour lunch break and ASD drove the crew to a gas station/ food court. If you’re balling on a budget like this girl, then just pack a lunch. Around 2pm, we arrived at Part 2 of the tour- snorkeling in Thingvellir National Park.
Here we were dressed in a very tight, very constricting body suit. The worst part about it was discovering that there were indeed two more attractive Scandinavian dudes guiding us through Part 2 who now got to watch me waddle like a bloated penguin to the start of the water. All was forgotten when I got in the water, though. Silfra fissure has crystal clear glacial water, allowing you to see to depths of 100 feet. It is surreal. There is no aquatic life in the water, but you get to float above massive trenches, boulders, and beautiful aquatic colors.
The guides are all very professional, so I always felt safe and comfortable asking for help. Plus, it is impossible to sink in your bloated penguin suit. The only negative part of the experience was having my mouth completely freeze. The bodysuit keeps your core warm, but your hands and face will likely go numb. And the season is irrelevant here. Summer or winter, the temperature of glacial water never changes. Getting out of the water, everyone wanted to exchange excited stories of what we’d seen, but our cheeks were nonresponsive. So much for trying to flirt some more.
The bus ride back to Reykjavik was full of collective elation and a mutual appreciation for having picked this tour. We all exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up for happy hour in Reykjavik. Walking away, my only regret was not having exchanged numbers with ASDs #1, #2 and #3.
Good To Know
Who should do this tour
Black & Blue is great for both adventurous travelers and first-time cavers/ snorkelers. Due to some tight spaces inside the cave, caution should be taken if you have a bad back or trouble bending over. Don’t book if pregnant. The body suits for snorkeling are very tight, so those who are highly claustrophobic may find them uncomfortable. This tour is great for solo travelers and those looking to meet fellow adventurers since the tour size is smaller and highly interactive. Although I joked about not being able to swim at the start of this post, and even though the drysuits help you to float, you cannot do this tour if you don’t swim. No exceptions.
How to book
Lucky for you, you can book this tour right here through the blog. I Heart Reykjavík makes a small commission of everything you book through the blog but you don’t pay anything extra. This small commission allows the team to carry on providing excellent, relevant and free travel advice for you and everyone else traveling to Iceland.
Pickup and dropoff
You will be picked up from your accommodation during a 30-minute pickup window specified on your ticket. Make sure to be ready on time outside your accommodation in case you are the first pick up. Drop off depends on when the group finishes snorkeling, but you should be back between 5 and 6 pm.
The temperature inside the cave stays relatively the same throughout the year and is protected from wind chill, so don’t worry about extensive layering for the caving. I was comfortable in two thermals and a light coat. There is precipitation that falls from the cave, so I would recommend wearing a waterproof coat and pants. Also, you will be using your hands to crawl around rocks, so bring thick gloves that can protect from jagged edges. For the snorkeling, you can only fit thin layers under the “teddy suit” provided, so wear your tight thermals. I’d recommend avoiding jeans or any clothing that is difficult to move in since you’ll want good mobility in the water.
What to bring
If you don’t want to spend money during the lunch stop, pack your meal and snacks. Caving helmets and snorkeling equipment are provided, so just show up wearing the proper warm clothing. In case your clothes get wet during the snorkeling, I recommend bringing an extra pair of pants and top. And of course a camera!
This post is a part of a series of posts where Sarah, our 23-year-old Coloradan blog-helping-elf, shares her findings during her 5-week stay in Reykjavík. Before Sarah joined us here in Reykjavík she spent a year in New Zealand where she got a taste for the sweet life of travel. After Reykjavík she’s headed south again to spend a year in Australia.
Read more of Sarah Takes on Iceland here.