Vatnshellir Cave is a lava tube on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and a popular site for caving tours.
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Vatnshellir is one of Iceland’s older lava tubes that can be explored, having been formed in an eruption 8,000 years ago. To compare, Iceland’s other most popular lava tunnels for caving, Viðgelmir and Leiðarendi, are only one and two thousand years old respectively.
Like all lava tubes in Iceland, Vatnshellir was created when during an eruption, a river of molten rock began to cool from outside in. The effect left a crust over still-flowing lava, which, after flushing away, left a hollow tube.
The minerals of this lava can still be seen in Vatnshellir today. The rocks are vividly coloured, with reds representing deposits of iron, yellows representing sulphur, and greens representing copper.
Vatnshellir is 200 metres (656 feet) long, with a deepest point of 35 metres (114 feet).
Lava caving is possible in Vatnshellir throughout the summer months with a guided tour. Taking such a tour is essential, as guides know the caves in and out, and will bring all the equipment you need. Alone, they are notoriously easy to get lost and hurt in.
Vatnshellir is easier to enter than its cousin Leiðarendi, as it has a staircase descending into it. Unlike Viðgelmir, however, the ground is not paved and the walls are not lit, so you need a reasonable level of fitness and confidence on your feet to traverse it comfortably. Even so, children as young as five can join the fun.
When travelling the cave, you will learn about Iceland’s geology and folklore, as trolls were said to make the caves their homes in many tales. You will also get to experience total darkness by shutting off your lights at the deepest point.
Vatnshellir is a protected site, as it is within the Snæfellsjökull National Park. This park sits right on the tip of the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula, meaning you can include many nearby sites in a visit to it.