Exploring the hidden depths of Iceland’s subterranean world can be an exhilarating and unforgettable adventure. Caving in Iceland offers a unique opportunity to witness the geological wonders of this Nordic island up close, as you crawl, climb, and squeeze through underground passages and caverns.
Whether you’re an experienced spelunker or a curious first-timer, Iceland’s volcanic landscape is sure to leave you spellbound. So grab your helmet, strap on your headlamp, and get ready to discover the secrets that lie beneath the surface of this stunning country.
This beginner’s guide to caving in Iceland will give you all the information you need to get started on your subterranean adventure.
What is Caving?
Caving involves exploring natural underground spaces like caves and caverns. Some may think that it’s just walking around in a dark space with a flashlight or headlamp, but it’s much more than that. It’s about discovering hidden geological formations and observing subterranean wildlife in their natural habitat.
The adventure can be as mild or extreme as you want it to be; there are options for beginners and experienced adventurers alike. Caves come in all shapes and sizes with different levels of difficulty and challenges.
You’ll crawl through narrow spaces, climb over rocks, or even swim through underground rivers depending on the cave you choose. But don’t let this deter you; cavers will safely guide you through everything.
Iceland – A Perfect Place for Caving
Iceland is famous for its stunning landscapes – from glaciers to volcanoes – and its underground world is no less impressive. Its location on a tectonic plate boundary means there are plenty of geothermal activities creating both ice caves and lava tubes–perfect backdrops for caving adventures.
Caves such as Leidarendi Cave, Gjabakkahellir Cave, and Vatnshellir Cave offer diverse features ranging from colorful rock formations to long tunnels with interesting shapes along with unique ice stalactites forming within other glaciers’ crevices like Vatnajokull. Plus, the wildlife in Icelandic caves is just as incredible.
Iceland’s bat population is thriving, and they play an essential role in the ecosystem. So, if you’re looking for a unique adventure that combines nature and adrenaline, caving in Iceland should be on your bucket list.
What to Wear and Bring Caving in Iceland
When it comes to caving in Iceland, it’s essential to wear and bring the right equipment. First off, you’ll need sturdy hiking boots with good traction, as the caves can be slippery. Clothing-wise, dress in warm layers that are easy to move around in.
A waterproof jacket is also recommended as some caves may have water running through them. Gloves are a must-have accessory as well – they will keep your hands warm and protect them from sharp rocks.
In terms of gear, most tour companies will provide helmets and headlamps for their customers. However, if you have your own helmet or headlamp that you’re more comfortable with using, feel free to bring them along.
Caving can be a dangerous activity if proper safety precautions aren’t taken. It’s essential to remember that caves are not natural places for humans to be in – they are often dark, damp, and unstable environments.
Before starting your caving adventure, make sure that you’ve chosen a reputable tour company with experienced guides who know the caves inside out. They should also have all the necessary safety gear on hand such as ropes or ladders.
When inside the cave itself, always stay close to your guide and follow their instructions carefully. Never wander off alone or touch anything without permission from your guide – some formations could be delicate or dangerous to touch.
Don’t forget to listen to your body – if at any point during the tour you feel tired or unwell, let your guide know immediately so they can help you out. With proper preparation and care on both sides (both yours and your guides), caving can be a safe and exhilarating experience!
Popular Caves in Iceland
Iceland is home to a plethora of unique and beautiful caves, each with its own characteristics and features. Whether you are a seasoned caver or a first-timer, there is something for everyone to explore. Some of the most popular caves in Iceland include the Leidarendi Cave, Gjabakkahellir Cave, and Vatnshellir Cave.
1. Leidarendi Cave: The Hidden Gem
Located just outside Reykjavik is the hidden gem of Leidarendi Cave. This cave offers visitors an unforgettable underground adventure with an array of lava formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, and even “cave flowers.”
As you make your way through the cave, you’ll be amazed by the natural beauty that surrounds you. The Leidarendi cave system was formed over 2,000 years ago by lava flow from nearby Blafjoll mountain range.
The average temperature inside the cave is about 4°C (39°F), so wearing warm clothing is recommended. It’s also important to wear sturdy shoes with good grip since the terrain can be uneven and slippery at times.
2. Gjabakkahellir Cave: The Perfect Day Trip
If you’re looking for a perfect day trip from Reykjavik that includes caving, then look no further than Gjabakkahellir Cave. This popular cave is located near Thingvellir National Park and offers visitors stunning views both above and below ground.
The cave itself was formed thousands of years ago by flowing lava that has created some fascinating geological features like narrow tunnel-like passages, high ceilings (up to 15 meters) adorned with icicles during winter months or glimmering crystals during summer months when sunlight penetrates deeper into the earth’s crust where there are no trees blocking it out.
3. Vatnshellir Cave: A Unique Experience
Vatnshellir Cave is one of Iceland’s most unique caves, offering visitors an extraordinary opportunity to explore the underworld beneath Snæfellsjökull glacier. This 8,000-year-old cave is located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and boasts a variety of unique features such as dramatic lava formations and stunning ice caves. Exploring inside Vatnshellir Cave is a truly unique experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.
The average temperature inside the cave stays around zero degrees Celsius, so it’s important to wear warm clothing. Visitors have the chance to see unique geological formations such as lava stalactites and many other fascinating features that can only be found underneath Iceland’s rugged landscape.
Overall, there are many outstanding caves to explore in Iceland, each with its own particular beauty and charm. Whether you’re an experienced caver or just starting out, Iceland’s underground world offers something for everyone!
Unique Features Of Icelandic Caves
A guide on caving in Iceland would be incomplete without this section on the nation’s cave’s features that make them so special.
1. Lava Formations
Iceland is a volcanic island, and as such, many of the caves that form in its landscape are made of lava. This means that the caves have some truly unique geological features that are unlike anything you would find in other countries.
One of the most impressive sights in Icelandic caves are the “lava tubes”. These are long, tube-like formations that were created by flowing lava.
The lava eventually hardened on the outside, forming a protective shell around it. As the lava continued to flow through the tube, it eventually emptied out, leaving behind an empty space.
These tubes can be several kilometers long and can be quite narrow in places. Another common sight in Icelandic caves are “lava falls”.
These formations were created when molten lava flowed over uneven ground. The lava would cool and harden on contact with air, forming what looks like a frozen waterfall.
2. Ice Formations
Not all caves in Iceland are made of lava, however. Some underground caverns have formed underneath glaciers! These ice caves have some truly unique features that make them well worth exploring.
One of the most spectacular things about ice caves is their blue coloration. This is due to how light interacts with ice crystals – when light enters an ice cave it gets refracted through all of these crystals like a prism before reaching your eyes!
It gives everything an eerie blue glow. Another amazing feature is how transient these caves can be!
They form from melting glacial water cutting channels into large glaciers during summer months when temperatures rise high enough to melt enough snow to create flowing water under them. As winter comes back around and temperatures drop again causing water pressure to build up under certain areas or points within larger glacial structures – ice begins to form over this new channel or below pre-existing ones as they fill up with water again.
Overall, the unique features of Icelandic caves provide a truly stunning and otherworldly experience that cannot be found elsewhere. Whether made of lava or ice, these formations are a testament to the power of nature and are well worth exploring for anyone interested in caving.
The Importance of Bats in Icelandic Caves
When we think of caving, we often imagine exploring dark tunnels and witnessing stunning geological formations. However, it’s also important to remember that caves are home to many species of animals, including bats.
In Iceland, several species of bats call the country’s caves their home, playing a crucial role in the local ecosystem. Bats are essential to maintaining a healthy environment in Icelandic caves.
They eat insects and other small creatures that would otherwise reproduce rapidly and cause harm to the delicate ecosystem. By doing so, bats help prevent overpopulation and maintain balance within the cave.
It’s also worth noting that many species of bats are considered endangered or at risk due to habitat loss and other factors. This makes it all the more important for us as cavers to respect their presence in Icelandic caves by minimizing our impact on their habitats.
The Fascinating World of Icelandic Cave Bats
Icelandic caves are home not only to some of the most unique geological formations in the world but also some fascinating species of bats. The two most common types found in Iceland are the common pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bat. Common pipistrelles are small brownish-grey bats that use echolocation (the use of sound waves) to navigate through dark spaces like caves.
They feed on a variety of insects such as moths and beetles. Daubenton’s bat is another type commonly found in Iceland’s caves.
They have longer wings than common pipistrelles which allow them to fly low over water sources inside caves where they hunt for insects such as mayflies and midges. As you explore these beautiful underground landscapes, listen carefully for sounds that might indicate nearby bat activity – you never know what interesting creatures you might encounter!
Respectful Caving Practices for Bat Conservation
While exploring Icelandic caves, it’s important to remember that we are visitors in a very delicate ecosystem. To ensure the safety of the cave inhabitants and to minimize our impact on their environment, there are a few guidelines to follow.
One of the most important things you can do is to be mindful of your surroundings. Avoid disturbing bats or any other animals you encounter inside the cave.
This means avoiding loud noises, sudden movements, or bright lights that can startle them. Additionally, make sure you leave no trace behind when exploring caves in Iceland.
This means packing out all your trash and making sure not to damage any cave formations or disturb bat habitats. By following these simple guidelines, we can help preserve the unique ecosystems found inside Iceland’s beautiful caves for generations to come.
Cultural Significance of Icelandic Caves
Caves hold a special place in Icelandic culture, with stories and legends that have been passed down through generations. In Norse mythology, it is believed that caves were the dwelling places of trolls, elves, and other supernatural beings.
These creatures were often feared by the locals as they were believed to be mischievous or malevolent. The importance of caves in Icelandic folklore is also reflected in many of the country’s local folktales.
One such tale tells the story of a giant named Bergthor who lived in a cave near Skaftafell National Park. It is said that Bergthor would come out at night to steal sheep from nearby farms.
The farmers eventually banded together to put a stop to his raids and drove him away. In addition to their mythological significance, caves have played an important role throughout Iceland’s history.
During the Viking age, caves were used as hiding places for outlaws and fugitives from the law. In more recent times, some caves served as shelters during World War II bombings.
Folklore and Legends Surrounding Caves
Icelandic folklore is steeped in tales of mystical creatures inhabiting remote locations like glaciers, mountains, and forests – but few creatures are as closely associated with Icelandic terrain as trolls living inside volcanic rock formations like fissures and lava tubes. One popular folktale tells of a shepherd boy who was tending his flock when he stumbled upon a hidden door leading down into an underground cave where trolls lived.
The trolls invited him into their home for dinner but warned him not to touch anything while he was there. Of course, being curious, the boy couldn’t resist peeking into one room where he saw three cooking pots hanging over a fire pit.
He tasted each pot’s contents – salted meatballs (first pot), porridge (second pot), and trout (third pot) – but when he tasted the third dish, the spoon broke in his mouth. Panicked, the boy ran from the cave and never went back.
The next day, he awoke to find that his tongue had turned to stone, which he knew was the trolls’ way of reminding him not to reveal their secret abode. From that day on, the boy became known as Steinunn Tongue-Stone.
Tips for First-Time Cavers in Iceland
Trust me, you’ll be gratefull that you took this section of the guide seriously.
1. Prepare for the Experience
Caving in Iceland can be a thrilling and unforgettable experience, especially if it’s your first time. However, it’s important to be prepared for what you’ll encounter underground. Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the activity – wear warm layers that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet.
It’s also recommended to wear sturdy shoes with good grip and ankle support. Bringing a backpack with snacks, water, extra layers, and a headlamp is also a good idea.
2. Follow Safety Instructions
When caving in Iceland, safety should always be your top priority. Listen carefully to your guide’s instructions and follow them closely throughout the tour. Stay close to the group at all times and avoid wandering off on your own.
Be aware of any potential hazards such as slippery surfaces or low ceilings. If you have any concerns or questions about safety during the tour, don’t hesitate to ask your guide.
3. Respect Nature
Icelandic caves are not just geological wonders but also delicate ecosystems that need protection from human impact. Avoid touching any formations inside the caves as oils from our skin can damage them over time. Never leave trash behind or disturb any wildlife you may encounter during the tour such as bats or insects.
How to choose the right tour company
Here is a detailed guide on how you can ensure you pick the right tour company while caving in Iceland.
1. Research Tour Companies Online
Before booking a caving tour in Iceland, do some research online about different companies offering this service. Check their websites for information about their tours-what they offer, how long they last, what equipment is provided-and read customer reviews on travel forums or social media platforms like TripAdvisor.
2. Consider Safety Record
When choosing a caving tour company in Iceland, take into consideration their safety record. Look for operators that have experienced guides, certified safety equipment, and follow strict safety protocols. Ask about their safety policies and procedures before booking to ensure you feel comfortable with their approach.
3. Check Availability and Pricing
Check the availability and pricing of different caving tour companies in Iceland. Some companies offer tours year-round while others are only available during certain seasons.
Prices may vary depending on the length of the tour, the size of the group, and what’s included in the package. Look for a company that fits your budget and schedule while still providing a high-quality experience.
There’s no question that Iceland offers a wealth of natural beauty and wonder, from its stunning landscapes to its welcoming people. But for thrill-seekers and adventurers looking for something truly unique, caving in Iceland is an absolute must-do activity. With its abundance of caves, both above and below ground, Iceland offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the hidden treasures of this magical island.
From the unique formations created by lava flows to the sparkling ice formations that can be found deep underground, Icelandic caves offer a glimpse into a world that few have seen before.
Plus, with a variety of options available for both novice and experienced cavers alike, there’s no reason not to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
So why wait? Book your tour today and prepare yourself for an experience unlike any other.
With the right equipment and the guidance of experienced professionals, you’ll be ready to discover all that Icelandic caves have to offer.
Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – go caving in Iceland today!