Underground, Underwater: Lava Caves and Hot Springs
Driving around Iceland with a guidebook and a map can be rewarding, but even the most astute and adventurous tourists won’t find everything on their own. There are certain places which you’ll have to enlist the help of experts to uncover. That’s what we did, to explore a secret lava cave and an amazing (though not-so-secret) hot spring.
Our trip was run by Icelandic Mountain Guides: a tour company operating out of the capital. Shortly after our pick-up, we already had helmets strapped on and were entering a tunnel found in a lava field just outside Reykjavík. I’ve been in caves before, but none which were formed by a flowing river of lava. The experience was different — at 4000 years in age, this cave is relatively young and fairly shallow.
At times, the tunnel narrowed precariously. In order to complete the tour, we had to get down on our hands and knees and wedge through a couple small openings. Not a huge problem for me, but a considerable one for 6’6″ Jürgen (who, I’ve learned, does a very clumsy crab walk). We saw some stalagmites and the bones of a poor lamb which had become lost in the cave. It was a neat way to learn more about the geology of Iceland; and our guide was able to answer all our questions.
Next up, the part of the journey I had really been looking forward to: hot springs. We drove out to the Hengill mountain range: the same range in which we’d recently completed the fun walk we lovingly nicknamed Death Hike. But today would be much less dangerous. After a 30-minute hike which brought us by steaming vents shooting out of the over-heated earth, we ended up at a river in which people were bathing.
The river here combines both cold water streaming down off the glacier and hot water bubbling up from the earth, so it makes an ideal place for a bath. Despite the difficulty of reaching it, this location is no real secret — there were a lot of others present when we arrived. But no matter: the river is long (as rivers tend to be) and we were able to find a nice spot to soak our bones.
We really enjoyed the time with our small group led by Icelandic Mountain Guides. Fun, nice guys, who clearly enjoy their jobs… it was a great day out.
Icelandic Mountain Guides – Website
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August 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm