Caves Surtshellir, Stefanshellir and Vidgelmir - in Hallmundarhraun
Three of Iceland's largest lava tube caves
We at Extreme Iceland offer both day trips and weekend trips to Iceland’s largest lava tubes named Surtshellir, Stefanshellir and Vidgelmir, all located in Hallmundarhraun lava field.
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The Lava Field called Hallmundarhraun
Hallmundarhraun lava field was formed in giant eruption close to the Langjokull glacier around the year 930. Therefore it is likely that the first settlers in the Borgarfjordur area, the Vikings watched the molten lava flow when these giant lava caves were formed. The Hallmundarhraun lava field covers over 242 sq. kilometres. It consists of several large tubes, and some of them are Iceland’s longest and deepest lava tubes.
Hraunfossar or the Lava Falls, come from underneath the Hallmundarhraun lava field and cascade down the lava rocks. We’ll take a look at this pearl of Icelandic nature amongst others.
Surtshellir is the largest and best known of all caves in Iceland. Much has been written about Surtshellir and it is told that in earlier centuries a band of outlaws resided in the lava tube.
From there they raided the countryside and stole livestock from neighbouring farms. They fortified the cave and made the authorities’ task in finding and apprehending them more difficult. Today, 1000 years later, the remains of their settlement in the lava tube can still easily be seen .
Surtshellir lava tube is almost 2 kilometres long or 1970 metres. It has 5 skylights, all rather large except for one. The main part of the lava tube is almost 9 metres in height, although in the bottom part of the tube the ceiling is much lower. It will take a whole day to explore every corner of the cave, but if you’re willing to just see the main parts of this famous lava tube, the tour will only take around 2-3 hours.
Stefanshellir lava tube lies not far from Surtshellir. The main entrance to the cave is about 300 metres from Surtshellir’s northernmost skylight. Only about 30 metres divide the lava tubes from being joined into a single lava tube, so it’s really easy to consider them a single lava tube.
Stefanshellir lava tube is 1520 meters long and if we add that to the length of Surtshellir lava tube they combine to give 3500 meters of great lava tubes.
The lava tube itself has very little breakdown and fairly smooth floor, so it’s easy to walk around the tube. The main entrance of the tube is a pitfall and can not be seen from far away. The lava tube forks in every imaginable direction and it’s really easy for those who don’t know the tube that well to get lost in the myriad of passageways.
Vidgelmir lava tube is the farthest away of the three lava tubes in Hallmundarhraun lava field. It takes about a half an hour to drive from Surtshellir lava tube to Vidgelmir lava tube. Vidgelmir is around 33 kilometres from the main crater and about 5 kilometres from Surtshellir lava tube. Vidgelmir lava tube is 1585 metres long, the highest point inside the tube is 15,8 metres and at its widest it is 16,5 metres in width.
The tubes volume is well over 150,000 cubic metres. It is clear, with those measurements in mind, that Vidgelmir lava tube is the largest of all lava tubes in Iceland. The pitfall which also doubles as an entrance is huge, 75 metres long and 15 metres wide and it is also very deep.
The cave starts with a narrow tunnel which leads into the main chamber and from there all the way into the bottom of the tube. This cave is huge and there is so much to see. It’s easy to see why Vidgelmir lava tube is considered one of Iceland’s most precious gems.
Feel free to contact Extreme Iceland and discuss what we have to offer regarding tours to Hallmundarhraun lava field and its system of lava tubes.
Surtshellir Lava Tube Caves, Stefanshellir, Vidgelmir Iceland
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