Descending Into A Volcano

After departing Greenland with tears in my eyes, it was back on to Iceland. As much as I love Iceland and was excited to go back, Greenland was just extra special for me. There’s only been a few places I have ever felt truly sad to leave, and Greenland is one of those places. However, the show must go on, and Iceland was a pretty great place to soften the blow of the Greenland break up.

I needed to see and do something amazing to get me out of my funk, so when I heard about a place where you could descend into an actual (but non active) volcano, I was pretty damn keen.

Thrihnukagigur (pronounced three-nuke-a-ghee-gur) is a dormant volcano sitting about three kilometres from the Blue Mountains Country Park parking area and meeting spot. To get from the meeting point to the volcano, one must either hike or take a helicopter. The hike is about 3km each way and isn’t overly difficult, you definitely don’t need to be super fit to do it, but it is super uneven, rocky and it would be easy to trip and hurt yourself, so some semblance of caution must be undertaken. The trail is so uneven because the volcano is surrounded by many kilometres of hardened lava, which as you may remember, doesn’t make for a very smooth surface.

It is also worth noting that even on the clearest of days, Icelandic weather can (and will) change in a heartbeat, and this area is particularly prone to heavy rain and thick (wet) mist; make sure you bring waterproof clothes and shoes.

After hiking for around 40-45 minutes we arrived at ‘base camp’ just below the volcano. At base camp you get fitted with a harness, helmet and headlamp. To get inside the volcano involves taking an open elevator, like those used to clean windows of skyscrapers, and this can only hold several people at any one time, so descents are made in small groups. I wanted to be in one of the smallest groups and thus had to wait for a while until it was my turn. While I was waiting, I left the warmth of the tiny base camp and went out to explore.

After only a short walk, I came across something pretty damn strange!

Were my eyes deceiving me? Because it looked like a door in a rock!

Of course, my curiosity was piqued and I simply HAD to open the door. What would be inside? Would it be empty, full of Icelandic elves, or full of monsters or would it be a doorway to Narnia? What could it be?

Once I finally opened the door to take a peek inside, I discovered a small collection of total junk! Some plastic tarp, old clothes, a few bags and a few other knick knacks. The most logical explanation is that this was someones home once upon a time. Definitely not my dream home but different strokes for different folks I suppose!

I must admit, although I enjoy living with a few modern amenities, this area is so beautiful that I could start to understand the appeal.

After arriving back to base camp it was finally my turn to explore the inside of a volcano! The hike from base camp to the crater takes about five minutes and is fairly steep, but is still a relatively easy hike. Once at the top, it was time to make like a pirate and walk the plank, before descending 213m (700ft) to the bottom via elevator.

Thrihnukagigur volcano hasn’t erupted for around 4000 years, so fears about getting caught in an eruption are easily put to one side and ignored.

Once over onto the elevator and secured via harness, the six minute descent begins.

I am not afraid of heights so did this without any issue, but apparently they have several punters each week who refuse to even walk the plank and descend. It’s not the cheapest of day trips from Reykjavik, so if you are afraid of heights, be sure that you will be able to overcome your fears long enough to make the descent.

The opening to the volcano appears to be rather small, but it’s actually deceptively large. The Statue of Liberty could easily fit inside and still have room to spare!

Once fully descended, the elevator wastes no time and begins the six minute trip back up to the crater.

Then it was time to explore and really relish in the beauty of Thrihnukagigur. All the colours on the rocks are a result of minerals and elements being exposed to such extreme temperatures as molten lava erupted from the Earth.

To give some perspective regarding the size of Thrihnukagigur, check out the next few photographs, which all have a person standing or sitting on the right side of the frame, which give some scale.

I still cannot quite put into words how stunning Thrihnukagigur is. This volcano exploration is easily one of the coolest things I have ever been lucky enough to do.

The experience of being inside a volcano is definitely a rare one, and there are very few places in the world where this is possible. Most volcanic craters usually close up after an eruption as after erupting and filling with magma, the lava cools and solidifies. Thrihnukagigur is a rare exception to this.

After a while of exploring, it was time to head back up to the crater and hike back to base camp. As much as I didn’t want to leave, I had made the mistake of foregoing waterproof pants and shoes, so I had become pretty soaked by the rain. The hike back was cold and uncomfortable to say the least! Despite this, I had the most wonderful day and an amazing experience. It was exactly what I needed to mend my Greenland departure induced broken heart.

T H E Β  L O W D O W N
Inside the Volcano: Tours are run by 3H Travel and will set you back around $445 AUD, which includes pick up and drop off in Reykjavik
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 12-40mm lens
Remember: To wear clothing that is both waterproof and warm!

Also please don’t forget to click this link to try and help me win a trip to Antarctica!

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

84 thoughts on “Descending Into A Volcano

  1. Looks stunning! – I looked into doing the tour when I first researched our Iceland trip (have always had such a huge fascination with volcanoes) but as my other half is terrified of heights for the price we’ll not risk going. So thank you, at least I’ve now virtually experienced it!

      1. It’s an idea although, as silly as it may sound, it wouldn’t mean as much to me if I couldn’t share the experience with him. Maybe I’ll convince him eventually!

  2. This post nearly made me scream… from JEALOUSY! As a geologist, I am completely enthralled by the idea of hiking/exploring/descending into volcanoes and have a general interest in most things rock-related. Your experience seemed extraordinary, as it is rare to explore a preserved lava tube (safely). Thanks for sharing, excellent pictures! You’ve given me the itch to get to Iceland ASAP!

  3. Lovely photos! Does the tour you mention at the end just include the 6 minute descent and elevator ride up? I see that it includes the transfer, but if I were to pay that much, I’d at least like to spend more time inside the volcano… If not, how much did you pay to get there yourself and descend?

    1. The company running these tours controls the entrance to the volcano, and the tour is the only way to get inside! Tour includes pick up and drop off in Reykjavik, descent, ascent, approx 30-40 minutes inside the cave, all safety gear and a hot light meal post ascent.

  4. That looks awesome! The colors inside are definitely amazing and until you posted the photos with a person in them….it looked so small! But wow! So amazing! The idea of being inside a volcano is awesome!!!! The worry of eruption wouldn’t be me….neither would the heights. I’d be more afraid of the stability of the plank and the open elevator on the rides down and up! You are definitely one brave and adventurous woman!

    1. Brave and adventurous – maybe. Young and foolish – definitely! Ha! But yes the colours are amazing! Definitely the kinda place where you have to remember to pick your jaw up off the floor!

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