When we were a little more than halfway through our trip to Iceland, we realized that there had been some mistake in booking and we had an additional full day in Reykjavik with no plans at all. So we decided to spend that unbelievable amount of 37 000 ISK (almost 300 USD) per person to get inside the volcano Thrinúkagigur (meaning, roughly translated, “Three-Peak-Crater”) close to Reykjavik’s skiing area Blue Mountains.
National Geographic has been shooting a documentary there, so they installed an adapted window cleaning lift at the volcano’s crater to carry the filming equipment inside. Like this, it was possible for the first time ever to descend into the huge emptied out magma chamber without using an incredibly long rope. Just to give you an idea of how huge the chamber is: You could fit three Statues of Liberty in there – on top of each other! So some Icelandic people convinced the film crew to leave their equipment there for a little longer to give tourists the chance to get inside themselves. So far, the lift is planned to only stay there this summer.
Although we knew of this possibility before we went to Iceland, we had always assumed we wouldn’t have any time to do it. That’s why even the extremely high price couldn’t stop us from booking when we realized we unexpectedly did have the time after all.
So off we went. We got picked up at our hotel and were then driven as close to the volcano as the road went. It’s actually just a half hour drive from Reykjavik. But as roads tend to end quite far away from interesting spots in Iceland, we then had to walk for about 50 minutes through a vast lava field to get there. With us having been hiking for the past two weeks, it was an easy walk and no problem for us, even though the path was not as easily to spot as in other hiking areas in Iceland. (I assume it was still so new that people hadn’t trampled enough flora yet to actually produce a visible path.) But other people probably more used to be driven close to where they wanted to go had problems and could barely keep up with the guide and the rest of the group, so we had to wait up for them quite a lot. Finding the volcano wasn’t difficult as it lay clearly visible just ahead of us, but as there were many caves and treacherous holes under the moss, it was safer to lead everyone on the marked path and stay together as a group.
When we arrived at the foot of the volcano at the so-called base camp built of a few containers (which had to be brought there by helicopters!), we were divided into groups of five and started to put on our gear: helmets with head lights and climbing harnesses. After having some water for refreshment we started for another short walk up to the volcano’s peak. With ropes fastened to our harnesses at all times for security, we walked over a short plank into the lift.
And down we went. As the volcano’s chimney was so narrow, we had to push the lift away from the wall during the first few minutes. Then the pipe suddenly widened and we descended into the huge chamber. Just going down there takes the lift eight minutes, which I felt to be a few seconds though, as incredible colors and rock formations were passing by so quickly.
Finally inside, we had to quickly step out of the “danger zone” where rocks could fall down from the crater’s rim. Then we were given 40 minutes before the lift picked us up again, which also seemed much too short considering how taken aback I was with what I saw. It was difficult to take pictures in there due to the lack of light, but I hope you get some idea of it nonetheless. Also visit the Gallery at the project’s website for some better shots. Apart from the incredible colors, the idea of actually standing in what once was a magma chamber within what today is still classified as an active (but dormant) volcano (considering its last eruption was “only” 3000 years ago) was breathtaking.
After we got out of the volcano, we all ate a strong broth in the base camp to warm up a bit. (It’s only about 4°C within the chamber – very strange, considering there was actually molten stone in there before…) Then we all went back the same way we came to be picked up by the bus again.
To all of you who might have the chance to get to Iceland this summer, I definitely recommend going inside that volcano. Yes, it is expensive, but in my opinion worth every cent. This is the only place like this in the whole world and it might get closed again for a long time after August 20th of this year. It might have been the most incredible experience I have made so far and I wouldn’t have missed it.