Jet lag and Volcanoes

(Disclaimer: This tour is not a budget tour. It is not for people with severe height phobias. Please excuse the sweeping adjectives, this was one of the best things I have ever done. And finally, as one would guess, the pictures do it no justice at all.) 

Sometimes when you fly a red eye you get jet lag, other times you go on a hike and end up inside a volcano. Sometimes both happen. I had this very unique experience the other day during a stopover in Iceland. By chance, a week before leaving for my trip I came across the “Inside the Volcano” tour option. I immediately knew I had to do it. One, I had never heard of such a thing before, and two I had no idea that it was even possible to do it at all. I looked it up, saw the sizable price and decided to go for it anyways as a kick off and a treat. It was worth EVERY hard saved penny.

I drove myself to the meeting point because I arrived directly from the airport (my flight landed at 6am the tour was at 8:20am). Everyone else took the bus from Reykjavik. The directions on the website specifically say that if you end up on a dirt road you have gone the wrong way. What they don’t say is that if you come direct from the airport and get directions from the people in the airport, you will be on a dirt road for a very long time. This is obviously very unfriendly to rental cars and should be avoided. I would recommend driving up to Reykjavik and backtracking a bit because the road is that unfriendly. I considered for a while that I was going the wrong way, but I was also incredibly sure I had gotten on the right road, so I pressed on and eventually arrived, early.

The tour begins with little fan fare, the bus arrives and the guide says ready? And off you go through a lava field headed for some unknown destination The tour leaves from Iceland’s biggest ski area, Blafjoll. About 15 minutes into the walk/hike, the guide stops to show you lava tubes and explain them. Basically they are tunnels that were once full of lava and now a lot of them are really cool looking but dangerous caves. Dangerous because they can collapse at will. We walked for about 15 more minutes and then the guide checks in to make sure everyone is doing well, points out our destination, way way off in the distance and promises that it is closer than it looks. I can easily say that I did not believe him for a second based on my lying eyes, but sure enough he was right.

The hike itself was mostly flat. It is slightly difficult just because it is across a lava field. If you have never seen a lava field, which I will assume is the majority of humans, it is the area where the lava has cooled and hardened in place. Basically it is a whole lot of lava rocks strewn all over the place with some grass and dirt here and there. A lot of the rocks also of have very light green moss on them. Navigating the rocks was the most difficult part of this excursion…unless of course you are afraid of heights, then they had another treat in store for you. At the end of the trek of potential broken ankles, there is a “basecamp” that the company has set up to operate this tour.  They have porta-potties, and a trailer like building which houses the gear, a kitchen and tables. They feed you a glorious soup after you return from the volcano and have tea and coffee available when you arrive 

First let me say that all of the guides and people working there were absolutely fabulous. They had great personalities, were excited about the tour, and were very informative. We got the requisite safety briefing and a quick overview of how the whole process was going to work. We were broken down into smaller groups of 4-6 and sent down at intervals. When it is your turn, you get a harness and a hard hat with a lamp, hike up to the top of the volcano, walk over a mini bridge over the opening (you are harnessed)  and get lowered in on what can only be described as a window washer's lift. You are warned ahead of time that the beginning is a bit narrow, which I won’t lie concerned me, but it was not nearly as bad as my brain imagined. Then you are  on a slow ride into the most magnificent thing I have ever seen in my life. The colors and shapes jump out at you screaming to be seen and photographed. The slow ride 400 feet down allows ample opportunity for photography and video. I was instantly in awe. I was half saying to myself, “is this real? Is this really happening right now?” and half just enjoying every second fully. After the glorious decent, you arrive on the floor of the collapsed chamber. You get another safety briefing and are set free to explore for about a half hour.

Bridge over the opening.

Being lowered, looking up towards the opening.

Our guide giving us a briefing once one the floor. 
Once on the floor I just stood around looking up for a while. In addition to all of the rock formations and volcanic eruption scars, there is also a steady stream of water droplets falling from the “ceiling” of rock. Because of the height, they almost float down in slow motion. I have never seen anything like it and I was enthralled. I would have been happy to just watch that the whole time, like a ballet unfolding in front of me from on high. I eventually started to walk around and explore. Every step was another brilliant view taking my breath away. The rock is very loose and you have to be very careful but that just added to the adventure of it. You can actually explore an overall large amount of the area which was surprising. They do have a few areas which you can't go into but there is so much to see that you can never get it all in the time given. 

Eventually it was time to leave. I had enjoyed every second of being inside the earth. We headed straight up towards a small opening of light that shone above us. It felt like being reborn into the light again when we came up. Being in the earth and then out on the outer layers, a fresh start, a new beginning, kind of like this trip. What an amazing kick off!

Top Tips

-No matter what month you do this tour bring lots of clothes. The lava field is open and the wind whips right off the ocean and across the area. The wind is intense and cold. I was there in August and it was like winter.
-The tour takes around 5 hours, take the earliest one if you can.
-Try to be the first or second group to go into the volcano if you want to enjoy your soup in a relaxing manner. I was in the last group and I felt like I was wolfing down my soup before we left to hike back.
-Pictures come out better with the flash off.  iphones take surprisingly good pictures down there.
-Do not take route 417, it is the dirt road that I took part way from the airport. It is better to go a few miles further and avoid that mess.
-It’s expensive but worth it. Treat yourself.
-If you are REALLY afraid of heights, you might want to be honest with yourself and skip it. Think of a skyscraper window washer’s hanging elevator going down into a cave 400 feet deep. If reading that freaks you out, you should probably skip it.

Other Notes

-This volcano chamber was only discovered in 1974 and this tour has only been running 1 year.
-The lift was originally installed so that National Geographic could study it and bring equipment down, once it had been discovered.
-It is only about a half hour from Reykjavik.
-The volcano has been dormant for about 4,000 years and they are constantly monitoring it.
-The volcano's name is Thrihnukagigur They try to make every one pronounce it, but it’s a hard one!
-The tour is only open during the summer months in Iceland.

You can find out more about this tour here.

My friend, the arctic fox. I wanted to take her home. 

"Base Camp"

Slowly making our way down. 

A volcanic scar that they call "the eye."

Dancing water. 

Me - Thinking, this is the coolest thing I have ever done. 

A view of the color range.



  1. What an incredible start to your trip! We're so excited for you and look forward to sharing in your adventures. This memoir and pictures are wonderful. Have fun! P & T