Inside The Volcano

Do you dare!?

We will make our last stop on the way to Reykjavík by going inside the dormant volcano Þríhnúkagígur. Did I say inside? Yes, we will walk for about 45 minutes through the lava field, which came from eruptions over 4000 years ago, towards the crater. The name, Þríhnúkagígur, may sound quite unpronounceable for non-Icelanders, but it translates to ‘Three Peaks Crater’.

The three craters are located on the highland edge, making them a prominent landmark, approximately 20 km south east of the capital area, within the Country Park of Bláfjöll, or Blue Mountains. We will be descending into one of them. 

Since we will be learning about the geology of the area, I will do my best to explain in layman’s terms.

Once we arrive to the Base Camp, we will gear up with  harnesses and helmets provided and follow the highly trained and experienced mountain guides and cave explorers into the volcano.

As I have mentioned before in this trip, Iceland can be described as one large geological hotspot, where eruptions occur on average every 3 to 4 years, and located on an active volcanic ridge in a fissure zone where earthquakes originate. It is clear that we will be face to face with Mother Nature.

The mountains in the nearest surroundings of Þríhnúkagígur, which sit on the center of the Reykjanesridge, are in one of the most active and untouched visible parts of the ridge above sea level and outside the glaciers.

One of its three peaks is a small cinder cone, taller by about 35 meters than its surroundings. A funnel-shaped opening is at the top of it, about 4 by 4 meters wide, and is the entrance to the huge bottle-shaped volcanic vault of 120 meters deep, with a floor measuring 50 by 70 meters wide. The volcanic passages continue down towards the southwest, to a total depth of about 200 meters. The various coloration inside the crater is beautiful, but I want you to decide for yourselves what you think.

What is often referred to as the heart of a volcano, the magma chamber, which is where the liquid rock finds its way to the surface during a volcanic eruption. Usually after an eruption, the craters close by cold and hardened lava.

In the case of Þríhnúkagígur, which is a rare exception to this, it seems like the magma either solidified in the walls of the chamber, or quite simply retreated to the depths of the earth. 

It is obvious that a natural phenomenon like Þríhnúkagígur, as well as the nature around it, must be treated with the utmost respect. The idea of making it accessible to public came from Dr. Árni B. Stefánsson, a lifelong cave enthusiast who has been studying caves in Iceland since 1954, and was the first man to descend down to the floor chamber of Þríhnúkagígur in 1974. He became spellbound by its beauty and uniqueness.

Árni has pleaded the case for protecting and preserving Icelandic caves, but throughout the years many of Iceland’s lava caves have been severely damaged because people tended to collect and take the beautiful and pristine formations like stalagmites and stalactites.

“In my opinion, a moderate approach–an approach that really demands all our ingenuity, resourcefulness and modestyis the only way to tackle a grand natural wonder like Þríhnúkagígur. Sensitive nature neither defends nor protects itself. We must treat with care and wisdom what we have been entrusted with. Enlightened humility and modesty is the only way towards a real success. Sustainable development, environmental consciousness, green thinking and modesty are all prerequisites of how to approach the subject.“

(Árni B. Stefánsson)

An open elevator system normally used to carry window cleaners on the side of skyscrapers, holding 6-7 persons, is used to bring the visitors down the 120 meters. The journey takes 6 minutes to complete, but provides the opportunity to enjoy the amazing scenery.

After the trip into the volcano, we will enjoy Icelandic meat soup or vegetarian soup at the base camp before heading back to the bus.

Photo credit: Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Good to know: Please be respectful of the nature: Leave no trace.

The trip back to the hotel takes about 30 minutes. Hope you enjoyed the trip which your company paid for! Thank you!