In 1864 Jule Verne wrote his classic novel Journey to the Center of the Earth where professor Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Alex and their guide Hans descend into Snæfellsjökull volcano and get into to all kinds of adventures. Although there are many scientific inaccuracies in the novel (Verne didn’t know everything we know today, after all) you can’t help but wonder what kind of prehistoric creatures you will encounter as you start your own adventure descending into Vatnshellir Cave – a lave tube just under Snæfellsjökull glacier.
During our West Iceland getaway a couple of weeks ago the boyfriend and I decided to visit Vatnshellir Cave in Snæfellsnes National Park. It doesn’t look like much from the road, a small work shed and the sign above, but as you know you should never judge a book by its cover.
We met up with our guide, who at first seemed like she didn’t really know whether she was coming or going, but once she started talking about the cave, how it came about and the efforts in making it more accessible she lid up and was actually really fun and nice. Since there was no one else signed up for our tour there was only the three of us. Lets just say that we didn’t hate getting a private tour.
The cave is very accessible but the visit to it takes you 35 meters underground and about 200 meters into the lava tube. From the surface you walk down some stairs and walk a few steps until you reach the first chamber. Then you go further down until you reach another set of stairs and make your way even further down. Just to put things into perspective 35 meters is like a 12 story high building. All the stairs are well worth it though.
Since I don’t want to give the whole tour away with telling you about the things we saw and did I’m going to make do with saying that we really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. The guide happily answered all our questions and it was just a really informative and unique experience. There’s something a bit odd but wonderful about being so far into the ground, in total darkness, listening to water dripping through the lava.
The details on visiting Vatnshellir Cave
Vatnshellir cave is open every day, both during winter and summer. In the winter they offer tours every hour, on the hour, between 12:00 and 16:00 but in summer it’s between 10:00 and 17:00 according to their Facebook page. The tour costs 2000 ISK per person, 1000 ISK for children 12-16 years of age and it’s free for 11 years old and younger. Included in the price is a helmet, flash light and guidance but you can’t visit the cave without a guide. You need to be wearing good shoes and some warm clothes.
I was told that Jules Verne’s grandchild visited the cave this summer and really enjoyed the experience. Must have been strange to come to this place his grandfather wrote about and make his own journey towards the center of the earth.
You should probably hurry up and visit Vatnshellir cave soon – there’s no way this will cost only 2000 ISK for long!