Sarah takes on Iceland: Lava Cave Exploration with Icelandic Mountain Guides

Attention travelers, I am now a certified lava cave explorer. Having received the opportunity to explore Leiðarendi Cave for a second time, this go-around with Icelandic Mountain Guides, I now know the cave like the back of my hand. Currently taking bookings for personal tours with yours truly. Okay, only joking. It’s probably best that I stick to writing and leave the guiding to the trained professionals. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed spending some more time in my favorite Icelandic lava cave (and the only one I’ve seen) in order to report my findings to you all.

The moment I walked out my door to catch my tour bus for Lava Cave Exploration I was pounded by howling winds and horizontal rain. In this moment, I felt very fortunate to be spending the day underground. A very friendly guide with a British accent picked me up by 9am. After only 10 minutes in the van, I could tell this guy deserved a PhD in lava tubes. Why is it that British accents make people sound so much smarter? Curse my American heritage. Besides our extremely intelligent guide, four of us traveled out against the howling winds towards Leiðarendi Cave.

When we arrived in the parking lot, the guide warned us that the weather might be too treacherous for us to hike to the cave. The wind here is no joke; it’s pushed cars off of roads. I imagined a savage game of “draw-the-straw” going down as we fought over who would test the weather, but thankfully the guide jumped out of the car and assessed the situation. Much to everyone’s delight, he reported back that we were going to make it. Nonetheless, it’s very comforting to know that these guides do put your safety first.

The guide handed everyone their helmets, gave a quick safety lesson in the van, and we all dashed out into the rain. By the time we reached the cave I looked like I’d just stepped out of a shower. I thought the lava cave would serve as refuge, but I wasn’t so pleased to find that the rain was seeping through the porous ground and falling in the cave. So please don’t make a newbie mistake like me and do wear your rainproof gear.

The Lava Cave Exploration tour is only a half-day, meaning you don’t get to see the entire Leiðarendi Cave. To complete the full cave means more rolling, squeezing, and maneuvering over sharp objects, so the Icelandic Mountain Guide’s tour is perfect for anyone who feels more timid about tight spaces. We also only went about ten minutes deep into the cave, so I never felt trapped or isolated.

The guide was extremely professional and had endless stories about the cave’s folklore and history. It wasn’t just his British accent fooling me—this man knew his stuff. With the small tour size, it felt like an intimate seminar on the science behind nature’s beautiful masterpiece. We were all asking questions, exchanging stories, and admiring the beauty of lavacicles (favorite word from the day).

After about 80 minutes inside the cave, the guide cranked the heat in the van and drove us back on a different scenic route so we could catch a glimpse of some more Icelandic wonders. I was dying to get home and put on dry clothes, but he offered to drop off the rest of the group at a local geothermal hot pool after swinging by their accommodation to pick up bathing suits. Now that’s great hospitality, to say the least.

Not many people are lucky enough to explore the cave twice with two different companies, so I’m sharing my thoughts on how the two differ and what kind of traveler they cater to. The tour through Icelandic Mountain Guides is tailored to those who prefer the educational side of an excursion. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and the tour works for those who care less about seeing everything and more about understanding exactly what they’re seeing. Also, since this is a half-day tour, it’s great for people who want to spend more time exploring Reykjavík or relaxing in the afternoon. If you’re on a tighter budget, you’ll save some money here since half-day tours are less expensive.

On the other hand, the Black and Blue tour that I did through Arctic Adventures is ideal for those who crave more adventure and movement. While you spend less time discussing the cave, you walk the entire loop and get to see more of the funky lava formations. You pay more for this full day experience (with the afternoon snorkeling), but you get to cram two very exciting adventures into one day. This works well for people who are short on time or those fellow adventure junkies out there who want to experience maximum adrenalin during their trip.

Good To Know

Who should do this tour

The Lava Cave Exploration is great for first-time cave explorers and experienced adventurers. I would recommend this company to those wanting exceptional customer service and a highly educational experience. Because it is over by 1pm, this tour is perfect for those wanting to pack more activities into their day—such as another half-day tour or an activity in Reykjavik. There is a bit of crouching involved, so take caution if you have a bad back.

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.

Pick up and Drop off

Your guide will pick you up from your accommodation between 8:30 and 8:50am, so be ready to go at 8:30 in case you’re the first pickup. Drop off is by 1pm back at your accommodation.

Clothing

Rain gear, rain gear, rain gear. Wear your waterproof pants and jacket. You will be using your hands to maneuver around some sharp rocks, so bring thick gloves. You’ll also want sturdy hiking boots, preferably waterproof as well. The cave is protected from wind and stays generally mild in temperature, so you don’t need to layer extensively. A layer of thermals under my coat was perfect for me.

What to bring

Icelandic Mountain Guides will provide you with the gear to explore the cave, so just bring the proper clothing I mentioned above. You will be back in time for lunch, so bring a packed snack if you’re prone to mid-morning hanger (hunger + anger). As always, you’ll want your camera!

Sarah takes on Iceland

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.

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