Raufarhólshellir Lava Cave is one of the biggest lava tube caves in Iceland. Discover an underground world that’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen above ground.
Located in southeast Iceland, Raufarholshellir is the 4th largest lava cave in the country. The tunnel stretches for nearly 1,4 km (0.87 mi) and the ceiling reaches up to 10 m (33 ft) in height!
Here we’ve put together everything you need to know about Raufarholshellir, including:
Learn everything you need to know about this unique underground miracle or, even better — join a lava tunnel tour and see the exceptional beauty of Raufarholshellir with your own eyes!
The History of Raufarholshellir
Raufarhólshellir formed around 5,200 years ago after the Leitahraun eruption. This famous eruption occurred in West Iceland in the Bláfjöll Mountain Range. The lava created Leitahraun Lava Field and, of course, the gorgeous lava tunnels at Raufarhólshellir.
Lava caves in Iceland are natural tunnels that form when flowing hot magma begins to harden on its top, forming a crust. As more lava flows, the crust begins to thicken and gradually forms a roof for the lava tunnel.
While the hot magma continues to run through, the top crust stays firm. Eventually, the lava stopps flowing and leaves behind a lava tunnel.
When you step inside the Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel, you walk along the same path that lava flowed through thousands of years ago!
- Raufarhólshellir is the 4th largest lava tube in Iceland.
- The lava cave is 1360 m (4500 ft) long, 10-30 m (33-99 ft) wide, and 10 m (33 ft) high.
- Part of Raufarholshellir cave stretches under Þrengslavegur (Route 39) — the road that connects Iceland’s main road (route 1) with the southern coastline. This means that on your way to the cave, you’ll drive over the tunnel!
- Raufarholshellir cave formed about 5,200 years ago, during the Leitahraun eruption.
- At the end of the cave, Raufarholshellir branches out into three small tunnels.
- The tunnel used to be full of stalactites, but since more people started visiting the cave in the 1950s, the stalactites began to disappear. Now, they’re nearly all gone.
- In 2016, the cave was closed to the public to remove tons of trash, install lighting, and build a walkway. Since then, visiting the lava tunnel is only available on a guided tour.
- The tunnel was used as a set for filming Hollywood’s biblical drama Noah in 2014, and the science-fiction drama series Sense8.
- In 2017, two concerts were held at the tunnel as part of the Secret Solstice music festival. Only 50 tickets were available for the concerts.
Where is Raufarholshellir Located?
The Raufarholshellir cave tour takes you through one of the most accessible lava caves from Reykjavik. It’s a perfect choice for a half-day excursion.
The cave is located right off Þrengslavegur road, or Route 39, which is close to Route 1 (also known as the Ring Road). Raufarholshellir is about 40 km (25 mi) away from Reykjavik.
How to get to Raufarholshellir from Reykjavik?
You have two options when it comes to traveling to Raufarholshellir from Reykjavik.
The easiest way is to choose a pick-up option when booking a Raufarholshellir Lava Tunnel tour. The guide will pick you up from your pre-selected location and take you to the cave right in time for the tour. After the tour, you’ll be taken back to your chosen drop off location in Reykjavik.
Alternatively, you can travel by a rental car and meet the guide on location. The cave is located just 30 minutes from Reykjavik.
Simply exit the city through Norðlingaholt via route 49 and jump on Route 1. Follow the road through the moss-covered Leitahraun lava field and follow the road signs for Þorlákshöfn. Take a turn and follow Route 39 for around 18 km (11 mi). A car park is right off the road.
Raufarholshellir in Winter
The lava tube is open all year round and is worth visiting in both summer and winter. However, in winter the road gets quite icy, so you may want to consider booking a pick up along with your caving tour.
In the cold season, the lava tube turns into a true winter wonderland. Icicles of all shapes and sizes hang from the ceiling and stick out from the ground. Ice sculptures form near the entrance when the snow falls in through three natural “roof windows”.
Raufarholshellir is a great spot to visit on a winter tour and also the perfect hideaway from the winter weather that might be a little harsh at times. Remember, as long as you wear warm clothing and sturdy shoes, Icelandic weather is nothing to worry about!
Raufarholshellir is a perfect example of Iceland’s incredible beauty hidden deep underneath the ground. Join our lava caving tours and get to know the country from deep below the surface!