Life is short, so why not take a plunge into a volcano “Joe versus the Volcano” style, if possible, right? Well… we don’t want to instantly burn up in a second, and we definitely don’t want to venture into a journey of with no return. The good news is that the “Inside the Volcano” day tour is a real-life “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” as you do descend 120 meters via a cable lift into the magma chamber of the Icelandic volcano called Thrihnukagigur (“Three Peaks Crater”). From the bottom of the magma chamber, you’ll be able to marvel at the colorfully textured lava-rock walls. How cool is that?!?
Thrihnukagigur volcano is a dormant volcano which erupted over 4,000 years ago. And the ONLY PLACE on earth you can actually go inside a volcano.
Fun fact: The 1864 science fiction novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne, has professor Lidenbrock and company descending into another Icelandic volcano, Snæfellsjökull (“Snow fell glacier”); little did Verne know that he had the wrong volcano as the entrance to Thrihnukagigur was only discovered in 1974 by Árni B Stefánsson.
When I first heard about this place, I knew that my husband would love to check it out. Rocks, crystals, gems, and fossils fascinate him, and so do volcanoes. There was no way we’d skip this adventure, and we are always up for a challenge as well.
I booked our tour with “Inside the Volcano,” and there is no other better way to schedule and book this tour but with them. It was easy, fast and they’re very reliable.
There are two ways to get there: by car or get a bus or coach. Since we were staying in Reykjavik center, it made sense just to take the option of getting pick up from or near the hotel in our case as large vehicles aren’t permitted everywhere. The available options are on the website, click here.
The scheduled tour option includes pick-up and drop-off from/to your hotel in Reykjavik or a location close to your hotel. We highly recommend this option!
Fyi: Thrihnukagigur is just 30 minutes drive from Reykjavik, but it’s technically located in the highlands and is only accessible for a short period from mid-May through mid-October. All visitors usually spend about an hour in the magma chamber and, once finished, will walk back 3km over its lava field. Experienced and qualified tour guides are with you at all times to ensure your safety.
The Meeting Point – Breiðabliksskáli Ski Cabin
It was the normal Icelandic morning, the sun was up, but it was still cloudy and cold. We left Reykjavik early to the mountain ski cabin where we start our walk to the base camp. The ride was smooth, and our guide talked a little bit about the places we passed by.
Interesting fact: While Iceland was very forested (a quarter of the island by some estimates) when the original Vikings settlers arrive more than a 1000 years ago, over the following 3 centuries the country lost most of its trees as the settlers chopped them down. Due to the very short growing seasons, the forests never recovered and today trees only cover about 1% of the land. So those lovely hilly grasslands and mossy lava field scenes you see today are unfortunately thanks to this deforestation.
FYI: Those who plan to drive to the meeting point (or missed their pickup), you have to be there 20 minutes past the set departure time. Twenty minutes past because that’s when the bus will arrive from Reykjavík. For example, if you booked the 08:00 tour, you have to be at the meeting point at 08:20.
When we arrived at the mountain ski cabin, we all put on our rain/ wind gears (please grab one even if you think you won’t need it at the moment) and headed off to our 45 minutes or so hike to the base camp (the time of hike will all depend on the weather and your group’s pace).
The HIKE Toward
The hike up was easy on our way to the base camp. It was chilly and windy but very bearable for a casual hiker like me. The hike is over an uneven and rocky lava field so you gotta make sure you pay attention to your steps because the last thing you want to happen is a sprained ankle or worse. The walk made this tour such a great adventure. I felt like I was on the Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider movie. There’s no trace of civilization, just cooled lava formations, rocks scattered with moss and splatters of lichen and ashy peaks extending to the horizon. With the drizzle, wind blowing, the lava fields, and the moss, it made some dramatic scenery and was exhilarating!
Fyi: Fitness level needed is moderate (the difficulty is 2 out of a possible 5). No knowledge of hiking or climbing is required. It’s not a steep uphill walk but the surface is partly uneven. The last 10 minutes of the hike is the most challenging, with an elevation of around 100m/350ft. Although we are advocates for people to challenge themselves and also not to let disabilities stop you, we do advise preparing appropriately as this is NOT a recommended tour for people in poor physical condition or those with disabilities.
Keep in mind that weather is very unpredictable. Thrihnukagigur Volcano is located 600 meters above sea level so the weather and conditions can be very different from what it’s like in the city and other areas. Please be sure to visit their site the day before you are scheduled to do the tour since they cancel tours with just a few hours notice, depending on weather and visibility. When they canceled, you will be offered another tour in return or a full refund without any additional fees.
The Base Camp
When we arrived at the base camp, it was getting colder and the wind picked up a bit. We had our briefing while having some tea and coffee to warm up.
We were all too excited to get inside the volcano, but first, we needed to gear up with our helmet and harness. As soon as everyone was ready, we walked up to the crater opening.
I couldn’t explain my emotions at this time, I was very excited, but a bit scared thinking that anything could happen Inside a Volcano. Passed the point of no return. After 120 meters descend, the elevator touches down onto the magma chamber’s floor. MY GOD!!!
The Magma Chamber
The sight was extraordinary! Gold, blue, purple, brown and some shining rocks with some water droplets from above welcomed us. I believe it’s from icicles of rock and it dripped to the bottom of the magma floor. The vivid and beautiful colors on the rocks are coming from the various mineral compounds that were in the erupting lava and gases along with clusters of microorganisms that made a home in the chamber over the years. The walls glow!!! BEYOND BELIEF!!!
Just another day… chillin’ Inside the Volcano. HA!!!
We explored and took lots of photos and videos. The rest is history!
The ascend was fast and everyone in our group agreed that it was a once in a lifetime experience indeed and well worth it.
The Journey Back
We headed back to the base camp which was probably one of the scariest moments in my life. It was raining and extremely windy, it feels like I am walking in the middle of a category 2 or 3 hurricane.
At the base camp, we were offered hot lamp soup; which by the way, is really good and my hubby even got a second helping. We relaxed, talked with some people in our group and then we got to head back to the ski cabin.
The walk back down to the ski cabin was a lot more difficult than walk up, there was the cold and rain but the wind had also picked up and was pushing us off our footing. And, you gotta think that we were walking in a lava field. Scary but the most exhilarating adventure I have done. While in Iceland, you gotta be ready of the weather, it can surprise you in a good or a bad way.
I do recommend this once in a lifetime, mind-blowing and extraordinary experience! If you are the type of person who wants to experience extraordinary and unique adventures, then this is a definite must. There are a lot out there, you just have to DO IT!!!
Hope this blog inspires you and helps prepare you for your journey into the center of the Earth. If it does then, please share your comments below.
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