Edited April 2021: This is not the volcano that is currently erupting in Iceland. See information about that new Iceland volcanic eruption here. This is a tourist attraction that lets you go inside a volcano. It’s a great addition to your volcano-themed Iceland vacation: See an active volcano, then go inside a dormant volcano! Let us know if you want us to help you plan your volcanic Iceland vacation!
Right off the bat, there are two things you should know about the Inside The Volcano tour:
- This is the only place in the world you can go into a volcano. You really go inside a volcano. Through the top and down into it.
- It’s a really expensive tour.
Well, maybe three things: It’s amazing in there.
Let’s take a step back. The meeting point for Inside the Volcano is about a half hour drive from Reykjavik. Inside the building, you can have some coffee, tea, hot chocolate or water while you wait for the tour to begin. The waiting area also has some games and puzzles you can enjoy. Oh, and there are bathrooms.
A guide will check everyone in, and then go over the basic rules. Most of what you’ll hear is summarized on a sign at the entrance:
The 40 minute hike is over land that likely could not support a vehicle, so walking really is the only way to get to the volcano. Well, there’s a helicopter option too, but that adds a lot more to the price. And the hike is fun. It’s a flat dirt path with some rocks and gravel. The only thing to watch out for are the larger rocks embedded in the ground. If you’re staring at your phone while you’re walking, you’re likely to stumble over one of these rocks.
We had a beautiful day, and the scenery along the way is gorgeous, in a rugged Icelandic sort of way:
You’ll also see some lava caves, and the continental rift. This is the split between the American and European continental plates, and it “splits” a good portion of the country. Most of the volcanic activity in Iceland is found along the divide. You can see it in several other places in Iceland, though most famously in Þingvellir. It’s just a crack in the ground, but it’s a nice bonus to see it along the way to the volcano.
As you get closer and closer to the volcano, the path gets steeper and steeper. But before you get to the steepest part, you reach the base camp. Here you’ll get a hard hat, a safety harness (just for the elevator) and you’ll be assigned an elevator group. The elevator only holds 8 passengers, though we got 9 on there, since I had 2 kids with me. But you may have to wait in the base camp until it’s your turn on the elevator.
When it’s your turn, you’ll hike up the side of the volcano, which is steep but not scary. And then you’ll see the elevator that you’ll be on for about 6 minutes.
In the picture above you can see the ropes that attach the safety harness to the elevator. These seem like a formality, since there’s no way to accidentally fall out of the elevator. Just keep your hands inside, and not on the red sections of the railing. (You can also see the red sections above. But don’t worry about this– a guide rides the elevator with you and will tell you everything.)
You can also just barely make out some rubber wheels on the left side of the elevator. Toward the top, where the volcano opening is small, the elevator tens to bump into the edges a little bit. I didn’t find this off-putting at all, but if you’re already queasy about the elevator ride, this could make it worse.
The elevator starts with a little bit of a jerk, but after that first moment it’s smooth and slow sailing to the bottom. This is a very slow and very gentle ride.
It’s impossible to capture the magnitude of this volcano you’re in, but here’s my best shot. Take a look at the elevator in the picture above. Then look to the top of the picture, where you’ll see the teeny rectangle of daylight. That’s the opening you came through on the elevator. It’s an incredible place to be.
You’ll unstrap from the elevator and walk into the bottom of the volcano. There’s a walking path which takes you around in a circle. And a place you can go and touch some of the volcanic rock. The guides will talk about the volcano for a few minutes, and answer any questions you have. But much of the time you can wander slowly along the path, taking it all in.
You’ll want to stay down there forever, but you’ll also be ready to leave. Whether you want to or not, your group will be assigned an elevator trip, around 30 minutes after you arrived in the volcano. Then you’ll head back up, and walk back to the base camp,
Give back your helmet and harness, and you can relax and enjoy some soup: Choose lamb soup, vegetable soup, or some of each. (I’m a big fan of lamb soup, but I enjoyed the vegetable more!) The soup was very good; I’m sure there’s better soup at some restaurants in Iceland, but that’s not really fair. Every ingredient in the soup had to be brought out here on foot or by helicopter. You can also have coffee, tea, and water.
When we visited in August of 2019, there was a baby arctic fox that has adopted the guides as her family. Guests aren’t allowed to touch her, but it’s a treat to watch her interact with the staff:
Sadly, fox visits are not guaranteed, and there won’t be one there every year.
You walk to the volcano with your group, but you can walk back on your own once you’re ready to leave. If you drove on your own and you’re not hungry, you can skip the soup and walk back to the rest of your vacation. We lingered, went to the bathrooms (not nearly as nice as the bathrooms at the meeting point!) and then headed back. Total time: 3 1/2 hours, excluding driving time to and from Reykjavik.
The price: 44000 ISK per person; that’s about $350 US or €320 at current exchange rates. Is it worth it? Well, it is the best price you’ll find anywhere to go inside a volcano (and the only price!) And it includes food, which adds some value. And a shuttle from Reykjavik. And it’s an amazing experience. A premium price gets you a premium experience.
New for 2020 is that kids 8-12 are half price. Actually, that’s 2 changes: The minimum age was lowered from 12 to 8, and the price for those younger kids is 22000 ISK.
That’s still much more expensive than a whale watching tour. But those tours don’t take you inside a volcano. And you don’t get a meal and transportation. Add those in and it’s still expensive, but it’s also fun and remarkable and memorable.
The price of the tour includes transportation to and from Reykjavik, so this is a good option for people based in Reykjavik who are not renting a car.
If you drive yourself, it’s only about 10 minutes off of Ring Road (Route 1). And the roads are paved the entire way, at least until the parking lot. Driving yourself also lets you leave once you’re done with the tour.
Inside The Volcano is a special place that you won’t forget. If it fits within your budget and schedule, it’s worth checking out.