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Wednesday, July 27 Update Part 1: Gjábakki Cave with Laugarvatn Adventure

Ever since we ventured into Raufarhólshellir Lava Tube Cave on our own, we have been eager to explore a lava cave with a guide. Today, we got that chance with Laugarvatn Adventure. We chose a tour of Gjábakki Cave; the company offers other cave tours as well, but this cave is supposedly a little bit easier for children.

cave entrance

All of the caves that Laugarvatn Adventures will take you to are in or near Þingvellir National Park, and so they are a good add-on to a tour of the Golden Circle. We met our guide in Laugarvatn, just down the road from a popular spa, Laugarvatn Fontana.

Let’s talk for a minute about guides and safety. While we were in the cave, we saw a large group head into the cave with only headlamps, and no helmets. I think almost all of us bashed our helmeted heads; I probably hit my head 5 times. There are some small spaces, and it’s pitch black in there! You want to make sure you’re going with a guide who will provide you with the right equipment, and can handle anything that goes wrong.

Laugarvatn Caving is a small company, and all of the tours are led by Smári Stefánsson. He teaches outdoor studies at the University of Iceland, so you’re in good hands.

On to the cave! You can see the entrance above; unlike Raufarhólshellir, the opening is pretty tough to find without a guide. As with all of these lava caves, at first you can see by the light coming in from the entrance. But as you move further back, you rely more and more on your headlamp.

entering the cave

eerie cave view

Eventually, it’s completely dark; as long as there are no other people around, you’ll get the chance to turn off your headlamps and experience total darkness. It looks the same whether your eyes are open or closed.

Lava caves are formed by flowing lava; the top part that is exposed to the air cools first, leaving a rushing river of hot lava below. This lava carves a cave. As you look around, you can see remnants of this lava as it cooled and hardened into various rock formations:

lava cave cool formations

Here’s a closer look:

lava cave cool formations closer

As you walk through the cave, you come to what looks like a dead end. Smári pretended that he didn’t know where the exit was, and he made the kids search for it. The youngest in the group climbed around and found it, and we all followed him toward the exit.

lava cave exit

It’s not really fair to label one the entrance and one the exit. We saw one group head the other direction. Either way, it was nice to not have to turn around and head back to the same place; this way, it felt like we had accomplished something by maneuvering through the cave to the other side. Though when we exited, we could clearly see where we had parked; the cave is not quite 1,200 feet long.

The footing is uneven throughout the cave, and you are relying on your headlamp to light the path in front of you. All of our kids did just fine, though it might be a challenge for a child younger than, say 6 or so. Everyone enjoyed the tour, though they were tired afterwards!

The cost of the tour is 12,300 krona, or just over $100 for adults; kids under 16 are half price. So, for a family with 2 adults and 2 kids, you would pay a little over $300. You’re in the cave for around an hour, plus the 15 minute van ride each way, plus some time getting your helmets on and for safety training. Figure on about 2 hours total.

That puts this in the category of expensive tours, but I do think you are getting a premium experience. The guide is an accomplished outdoorsman, and he only takes up to 11 people per trip. And since Laugarvatn is right in the heart of the Golden Circle (less than half an hour from both the Þingvellir Visitor’s Center and Geysir) you can add it to your Golden Circle day.

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Wednesday, July 27 Update Part 1: Gjábakki Cave with Laugarvatn Adventure was last modified: January 8th, 2017 by Eric