What is it like going down under the Earth and into a cave? What do you bring? What do you wear? What can you expect?! Our intern Selina gives you a first-hand account of her caving experience in Iceland.
My name is Selina, I am 21 years old and I am from Austria. Currently I am staying with Extreme Iceland to do my practical training semester for University. I have never been to a cave and the idea of how it would be never crossed my mind before I came to Iceland.
During my first week here I got the chance to explore the lava tube cave Leidarendi and the week after I went on a tour to another lava tube, Raufarholshellir, with Extreme Iceland.
I want to share my experience with you, so you know what you‘re getting in (or down!) to.
Get down and dirty
Getting into a cave may not sound appealing to everyone, but if you start thinking about it, it gets more and more interesting. Caving is not only a great way to explore a different world underneath our feet, it is also an adventure in itself. If you like hiking and being active, getting below the surface is a whole new experience, and I promise you that lava tube caves offer a lot more than you expect! Lava formations, different colors, ice formations in winter and lots of interesting stories that your guide will tell you, are just a part of the experience.
Additionally it is a great way to escape if there´s bad weather! Some two weeks ago there was a terrible snowstorm in Iceland and almost all tours had to be cancelled, but we at Extreme Iceland set up an alternative tour to the lava tube cave Raufarholshellir. We even had a small barbecue with hot dogs inside the cave and we did not even notice what was going on above us. Isn‘t that amazing?
Where to go if I want to see a cave?
Iceland offers a lot of caving tours with different types and difficulty levels. If you have never been inside a cave before I would recommend you to go on a tour to Leidarendi since it is very easy accesible, but still offers adventure - there are some parts where you have to crawl on all four or even lay down on you belly to get further into the cave. The entrance area is covered with ice during wintertime and it is very impressive to see those big icicles underneath the earth.
However if you are already experienced in caving or if you want more adventure and a longer tour I would definitely go for Raufarholshellir. This is a very big lava tube cave with a length of more than one kilometer. It is not as narrow as Leidarendi and most of the time it is possible to stand upright. This cave is a bit more challenging for your hiking skills because a lot of big rocks are laying on the floor. You will have to climb over build-in "rock hills"! The entrance area of this cave is totally covered with a thin crust of ice in the winter which makes it very slippery, but at the same time impressive.
Of course there are a lot of other caves to visit in Iceland, but those two are the ones I have visited so far.
If you are not an experienced caver, you should go on a tour with a guide because sometimes it can be tricky to find the entrance to the cave and also some caves are really confusing and have more than one tube. If you are an experienced caver, please check if the cave is safe to explore before going in. You can always contanct Extreme Iceland for a private tour that fits your abilities!
What to wear and what to bring?
Caves are usually dry, but especially in winter the entrance area tends to be moisty. It is very important to bring good hiking shoes, because on the uneven floor it can easily happen that you turn your ankle and those shoes protect it.
Furthermore it is very important to wear waterproof trousers and a jacket because you can be on your knees, belly or butt when things get narrow. When I went to Raufarholshellir we entered the cave by sliding down the snow covered entrance area on our butts so be prepared for things like that. I was wearing my ski pants that day and they kept me warm and dry all the time.
You will be provided with gloves, a helmet and a torch if you go on a tour with Extreme Iceland, however if you want to bring your own torch or a head torch you can do that.
If you are going on a longer caving tour I would always bring something to eat like cereal bars or a sandwich just in case you get hungry. Of course it is important to bring enough water since you will be very active inside the cave.
I hope that my post helped you with preparing for a caving tour and I hope you will enjoy this unique adventure!
If you want to get an impression of how it is to be inside the cave you can watch this video I made during my trip to Leidarendi at the bottom of this article.