Rachel peers into the very small opening to the cave and turns to the guide. “I don’t think I’ll fit. What if I get stuck?” she says. The hole is about 15 by 36 inches. The only way to get through is to lie on your stomach and pull yourself straight in and down. The guide assures us we will all fit, and we won’t disappear into the dark once inside. I do as he says and slither through. On the inside, I see a huge column made of blue ice. I made it inside the ice cave of Lofthellir, near Myvatn, Iceland and it is so cool (no pun intended.)
Getting to this point is part of the adventure. Rafael, our 11-year-old daughter Rachel, and I start the ice cave tour with about 45 minutes of extremely rough driving in a 4×4 van. We should have put our helmets on for the ride; we could have saved our heads from crashing into the windows! The ride takes us around Hverfell Volcano to the base of Mount Hvannfell. Once there, we walk for 25 minutes across a black lava field, carrying our big boots for the ice cave. The lava field is 7000 years old and full of black hills and small craters.
The first sight of the cave is a big hole in the ground. We climb down 20 feet by ladder and crowd around the little hole we need to squeeze through to enter the cave. Once we are all in, we start our exploration. We climb up an ice mound with the help of the studs on our boots, and into a narrow opening that gets smaller as we crawl. Eventually, it gets so small that we lie down and do the James Bond slide and roll, as though we are being chased by bad guys! We slide into a new room with beautiful blue and white ice stalactites and stalagmites. Some are huge, while others look like you could push them over, if you aren’t careful. We are! The next room we get into by either climbing down a cliff with the help of a rope or sliding on our bums. I climb but Rafael and Rachel slide, which leaves them very wet for the rest of the trip!
Continuing through the cave brings us one beautiful and unique vision after the other. We have toured a lot of caves, but never one made all of ice. The colors, the size of some of the formations, and just the fact that it is all ice make this such a great place. We emerge back into the sun thrilled with our adventure and ready for more!
Can I do this adventure?
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.
Courage level: 3 If you have claustrophobia, this trip will be impossible. If not, once you get past the idea that the roof may be only inches from your head, you should be fine. If you like caving, this is a great one to add to your list.
Fitness level: 3 The walk across the lava requires sure footing. If walking is difficult, this will be a tough tour. Inside the cave, you need to be able to roll, climb and slide. Someone in reasonable condition can do it.
Do I need special gear?
The tour company will provide a helmet and boots. You need warm clothing, preferably waterproof. I had on some Athleta pants that are warm and waterproof. Rachel and Rafael just got wet, which isn’t that fun. Wear a hat that can fit under a helmet.
We use our Olympus Stylus Tough camera. It’s waterproof and shock proof. You need something like this or your camera will be ruined. I kept my camera on my wrist and let it get wet and banged around, but then it was easily accessible for photo-taking.
Any other info?
We did our tour with Saga Travel. The guide was nice, friendly and knowledgeable. The tour ran on time and covered what the brochure said it would. I would definitely recommend them.
Finding accommodations outside of Reykjavik was a little challenging. Lake Myvatn had a couple hotels and guest houses. We stayed at Skutustadir Farm. Although not luxurious, the rooms were clean and well-kept and breakfast was included. The location was great, right near the lake. Their website doesn’t tell you anything; you need to email them. You can see the buildings in the photo, though. The rooms were in the smaller building to the right.
There were a couple restaurants that we liked in Myvatn:
Vogafjos Café (the Cow Shed Café) All ingredients were local and you could watch the cows through the large window. Everything tasted great! https://www.vogafjos.net/en/page/local_food
The restaurant at the Gigur Hotel. Myvatn is known for its trout, so that is a good bet anywhere. We came here for the views, and we were not disappointed. We could see the lake, snowcapped mountains and volcano cones – not a sight I see every day!