A journey to the center of the earth: Vatnshellir Cave in Snæfellsnes

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.

Vatnshellir Cave - Snæfellsnes West Iceland

Sign by the cave Vatnshellir

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.

Vatnshellir Cave - Snæfellsjökull

Our guide telling the boyfriend about how the cave came about. Above them you can see Snæfellsjökull glacier (and volano).

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.

Vatnshellir Cave

The cave is locked and only accessible with a guide. The letters above the door spell Undirheimar which is Icelandic for the underworlds.

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.

Vatnsheillir Cave in Snæfellsnes

Interesting lava formations

Going down

Going down

The second set of stairs

The second set of stairs

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!

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8 thoughts on “A journey to the center of the earth: Vatnshellir Cave in Snæfellsnes”

  1. Alex G. says:

    Hidden cave routes deeper within – leads ultimately to Center of Earth. Then, once you get there, if you can climb straight upward from the sunken but now-dry interior of the ancient Atlantis area, you may emerge in safe-exit horizontal lava tubes on the north side of Stromboli’s (Italy) volcano. You have to limb down the outer side of Stromboli from there……
    I know!
    I did it! Almost the same as my great ancestor did – slightly different though.

    Arne Socknussum IV

  2. William Collier says:

    I was there in 1988. We had a heck of a time getting in. There was no tour or stairs, as I recall. We climbed down in, but at some other point. It was crazy. The interior I recognize. We had no guide and no haTS! But someone in out group knew the whole story. We explored and almost got lost. There were no roped off areas, as I recall.

  3. Dario says:

    If you keep going far enough, do you come out in Stromboli? 😉

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes, that’s exactly what happens 🙂

  4. Astrid says:

    A bit of an old post, but I’ll try a question: It says children 11 and under free – but what age would you recommend for children to be before going on this tour? We will be visiting the area with kids aged 3 and 5 (with a back-carrier for the 3-year-old). Are they a bit too young for this? It looks very cool, and not too claustropobic…

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      The age limit for the cave is 2 years old (so 2-year-olds and younger can’t go) so your kids should be fine. It’s a very accessible cave, the only thing that might take the 5 year old some time is the stairs going up. But with help it should be fine.

  5. Kate says:

    Do you remember about how long the tour took?

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      It was about an hour or so 🙂

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