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In the belly of a volcano

Earlier this summer I was invited to take a most unusual tour – into the magma chamber of the [extinct!] Þríhnúkagígur volcano.

I’d heard a bit about this tour before I went and read numerous gushing reviews – mostly from foreign journos. Consequently I was more than a little curious, although to be honest I didn’t have any vast expectations. After all, I live in a land renowned for its phenomenal natural beauty and while I wouldn’t exactly say I’m jaded, let’s just say I’ve been around the block a few times in the awesome department.

The tour started with a 30-minute or so drive to the Bláfjöll [Blue Mountains] area, which in the winter is the main outdoor recreation area [read: skiing] for Reykjavík residents. From there, we hiked for about 45 minutes until we reached Þríhnúkagígur, which literally means “three-peaks’ crater”. Near the opening there is a “base camp”, i.e. a couple of containers that act as storage and reception facilities, and some portable toilets. There we were outfitted with gear for the descent – helmets with lights on the front, and harnesses.

The rudimentary base camp, with two of the three peaks of Þríhnúkagígur in the background:

Having put our kit on, it was time to head for the lift, which took us down, four at a time:

The colours and textures on the way down were amazing:

… But they were nothing compared to the incredible palette and dramatic silhouettes once we were down in the chamber. In a word: SPECTACULAR.

We were there for about 45 minutes, after which the elevator came back down to get us. As you can hear on this video, the elevator man was in pretty good spirits, as was our guide. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, since it turns out an extinct volcano’s magma chamber has killer acoustics.

Somehow I missed this stunning palette on the way down, but caught it on the way up. Looks just like a painting – except I don’t think a painting could fully capture the beauty of the real thing.

Back above ground, we were greeted with a bowl of piping-hot Icelandic lamb soup, which was JUST what the doctor ordered. The belly of a volcano is a bit damp and chilly, so this totally hit the spot:

If you want more info on the volcano tour, check out the tour operator’s website. But be advised: the last tour is on August 20.




Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike August 1, 2012, 11:24 pm

    Hi Alda,

    I was there last week and it is an absolutely mind-blowing place and the folks running the operation are fantastic. Although I don’t think any words can quite convey the sense of terror of making that short trip across a small aluminium bridge over a huge chasm in a screaming gale.

    My trip nearly ended in chaos for the Discovery Channel when their setup crew arrived and assumed I was their tame geologist. It was only a bit later I broke it to them that whilst I was a geologist, I wasn’t their geologist. Oh well… fame continues to elude me, but I would have been brilliant at it.

    My photos are at:


  • Dankoozy October 8, 2012, 10:23 pm

    You have a great life 🙂