Lava tubes are a type of lava cave that form when slow flowing lava cools and solidifies on the tops and sides during an eruption. Once the eruption ceases the lava drains from these ‘channels’ and a new lava tube cave is left behind.
Lava tubes contain many amazing features to discover including mineral stalactites and stalagmites, fascinating lava pillars, and ghostly ice sculptures. Some lava tubes become covered in perennial ice over time and become known as Ice Caves. There are dozens of caves worth seeking out with a professional guide, and we’ve spotlighted a few for you here…
Hidden underneath the Kverkfjoll Mountains in Iceland’s uninhabited interior are beautiful glacial ice caves where the fluttering play of light on the icy curved walls is utterly mesmerizing. The acoustics are unusual with mysterious crashing sounds that echo from deep within.
Located in the Leitahraun lava field on the Reykjanes peninsula, the Raufarholshellir lava tube cave was created 5,000 years ago and is more than a kilometer long (.75 mi) with a variety of twisted natural lava sculptures and hanging icicles.
The Buri cave in the Reykjanes peninsula was discovered in May 2005 in the Leitahraun lava field. Over a kilometer in length and 10 meters (33 ft) wide, the innermost portion of the cave is the most impressive with a 17 meter (55 ft) long vertical pit created from a lava ‘waterfall.’ The entry chamber during winter is adorned with natural ice sculptures and icicles.
Formed during an eruption 9,000 years ago, Gjabakkahellir lava tube cave in Thingvellir has a unique feature in that it’s open on both ends so visitors are able to walk directly through it. Inside are incredible rock formations in various colors, and stalactites of all shapes and sizes.
Easily the most spectacular lava cave in Iceland is Surtshellir, hidden beneath the Hallmundarhraun lava field. Surtshellir is 1.5 kilometers (1 mi) in length and is the result of a lava flow from 1000 years ago. The cave is wonderful to explore and is also famous former hideout of a band of outlaws form the Saga Age.
Lofthellir cave in northern Iceland boasts the greatest natural ice sculptures in an Icelandic lava cave. Visitors must trek 30 minutes across a craggy lava field but the surreal, lustrous ice formations are well worth the effort.
Located among the bizarre lava formations of Dimmuborgir (Dark Castles) in the Lake Myvatn area, the unique Kirkjan (the Church) formations resemble the interior of a Gothic cathedral with a three meter (16 ft) hole running through it.
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