Caves of Iceland: Names, Facts, and Features

Caves of Iceland

Caves are defined as natural voids in the ground. For a void to be classified as a cave, it needs to be spacious enough to fit at least one person. Based on this definition, Iceland has many caves. At the moment, there are well over 25 caves, and there could be many more that are yet to be discovered. The four main types of caves in iceland are volcanic, glacial, ice, and artificial. Each type has its features. Most of the caves in Iceland are open for visitors; however, for safety reasons, some of them can only be explored under the supervision of professional guides. Also, some caves are open during specific times of the year.

Here is a list of the Caves of Iceland is given below.

  • Crystal Cave
  • Katla Ice Cave
  • Thrihnjukagigur Cave
  • Vatnshellir Cave
  • Leidarendi Cave
  • Raufarholshellir Cave
  • Vidgelmir Cave
  • Lofthellir Cave
  • Buri Cave
  • Mariuhellar Caves
  • Gjabakkahellir Cave
  • Langjökull Cave
  • Laugarvatnshellir Cave
  • Surtshellir Cave
  • Rútshellir Cave
  • Sönghellir Cave
  • Kirkjan Cave
  • The Cave of the Yule Lads
  • Grjótagjá Lava Cave
  • Gýgagjá  (Yoda Cave)
  • Baðstofuhellir
  • Stóri-Hellir
  • Eyvindarhellir Cave
  • Skessan í Hellinum
  • Vatnajökull Ice Caves
  • Skaftafell Ice Caves. 

1. Crystal Cave

Crystal Cave in Iceland is located in the south. The Crystal Cave’s coordinates are 63.6467° N, 19.1303° W. Crystal is a glacier cave and part of the Vatnajökull Ice Caves. Representing an actual glacier cave, the size (height and width) of the Crystal Cave are constantly changing and differ from year to year. The icy blue walls of the cave are lined with air bubbles and black sands. Tours and Tour Guides for the Crystal Cave in Iceland are available. All visitors will be given special equipment before entering the cave. The Crystal Cave is a must-visit destination for tourists visiting the area during the winter months of the year when the cave is open. 

2. Katla Ice Cave

Katla Ice Cave in Iceland is located in the south. The Katla Ice Cave’s coordinates are 63.6467° N, 19.1303° W. Katla is a glacier cave in the Kötlujökull glacier, an outlet of Iceland’s fourth largest glacier,  Mýrdalsjökull. Within the Katla Ice Cave is the subglacial Katla volcano, the most dreaded volcano in the country. Tours and Tour Guides for the Katla Ice Cave in Iceland are available. The hiking to the cave is an experience on its own and totally worthy of what visitors will find inside the Katla Ice Cave. 

3. Thrihnjukagigur Cave

Thrihnjukagigur Cave in Iceland is located in the southwest. The Thrihnjukagigur Cave’s coordinates are 63.9985° N, 21.6990° W. Thrihnjukagigur is not an actual cave, it is a magma chamber of a volcano that has been dormant for the past 4000 years. The hallmarks of Thrihnjukagigur are the vibrant colors and citadel reminiscent. Tours and Tour Guides for the Thrihnjukagigur Cave in Iceland are available. The activity is called “Inside the Volcano” and includes hiking the lava field and descending to the 120-meters below the surface chamber. Visiting the Thrihnjukagigur Cave is an adrenaline tour and perhaps one of the most exciting things to do in Iceland. The Thrihnjukagigur Cave is closed during winter. 

4. Vatnshellir Cave

Vatnshellir Cave in Iceland is located in the west. The Vatnshellir Cave’s coordinates are 64.7479° N, 23.8183° W. Situated on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, Vatnshellir is part of the Purkhólahraun lava field. Vatnshellir is a 200-meters long lava tube consisting of a spiral staircase leading to the 8,000-year-old lava cave. Within the cave, there are amazing lava formations and splashes of mixed colors. Tours and Tour Guides for the Vatnshellir Cave in Iceland are available. In fact, visiting Vatnshellir is only possible with a guide, and visitors are advised to wear warm clothes. Vatnshellir is a must-see attraction that takes one hour. Plus, the cave was opened for public visits in 2011, meaning it is still new and popular among tourists and locals. 

5. Leidarendi Cave

Leidarendi Cave in Iceland is located in the southwest. The Leidarendi Cave’s coordinates are 63.9816° N, 21.8346° W. Laying beneath the Tvíbollahraun lava field, Leidarendi is a colorful cave with green marks from coppers, red marks from iron, and yellow marks from sulfur. Leidarendi Cave consists of two separate chambers that formed due to different eruptions, one 2000 and the other one 1000 years ago. The Leidarendi Cave features many lava formations and, in winter, mesmerizing ice sculptures. Tours and Tour Guides for the Leidarendi Cave in Iceland are available. Leidarendi is still raw, and there are no artificial paths to facilitate walking inside the cave. Because of the low ceiling, visitors must squat and wear protective helmets. Leidarendi is open year-round. 

6. Raufarholshellir Cave

Raufarholshellir Cave in Iceland is located in the southwest. The Raufarholshellir Cave’s coordinates are 63.9399° N, 21.3956° W. Raufarholshellir Cave is a lava tube and the fourth longest one in the country. The 5000-year-old Raufarholshellir Cave is one of the most popular places in Iceland. The ceiling has three holes, thus allowing light to enter the lava tunnel. The contrasting red from the walls adds to the overall beauty of the cave. Tours and Tour Guides for the Raufarholshellir Cave in Iceland are available. Raufarholshellir is open for visitors year-round, and because of its proximity to Reykjavik, it is a popular destination. 

7. Vidgelmir Cave

Vidgelmir Cave in Iceland is located in the west. The Vidgelmir Cave’s coordinates are 64.7503° N, 20.8019° W. The Vidgelmir Cave is part of the Hallmundarhraun lava field, and being 1585 meters long, it is the largest cave in Iceland. The most extensive section of Vidgelmir is almost 16 meters tall and 16 meters wide. Tours and Tour Guides for the Vidgelmir Cave in Iceland are available. Vidgelmir Cave is a family-friendly activity as its access is easy, and exploring does not require physical preparation. The Vidgelmir Cave is part of the Silver Circle. 

8. Lofthellir Cave

Lofthellir Cave in Iceland is located in the north. The Lofthellir Cave’s coordinates are 65.5551° N, 16.7221° W.  Formed 35000 years ago, Lofthellir is a 370-meters long tube that belongs to the Laxardalshraun lava field. The Lofthellir Cave is classified as an ice cave, and in winter, it is best known for its beautiful ice sculptures. Tours and Tour Guides for the Lofthellir Cave in Iceland are available. Visiting the cave without a guide is dangerous. The floor is covered with water and ice, so waterproof boots are a must-have. Plus, the tour through the Lofthellir Cave can be demanding and sometimes requires crawling. 

9. Buri Cave

Buri Cave in Iceland is located in the southwest. The Buri Cave’s coordinates are 63.9139° N, 21.4844° W. Measuring one kilometer in length, Buri is a stunningly long cave. Plus, it has a 17-meters bottomless lava pit which is an incredible feature for a volcanic cave. The Buri Cave has formed 5000 years ago, but it was only discovered in 2005. Tours and Tour Guides for the Buri Cave in Iceland are not available. Buri needs to be examined and preserved, and therefore, it was closed for visits in 2014. 

10. Mariuhellar Caves

Maríuhellar Caves in Iceland are located in the southwest. The  Maríuhellar Caves’ coordinates are 64.0717° N, 21.8933° W.  Maríuhellar Caves are in fact a group of three separate caves within the Heidmork Nature Reserve. The names of the caves are Urridakotshellir., Vífilsstadahellir, and Draugahellir. Tours and Tour Guides for the  Maríuhellar Caves in Iceland are available. The Maríuhellar Caves are easily accessible; visitors just need to hike across the grassy lava field surrounding the caves. The entrance to the caves is free of charge. 

11. Gjabakkahellir Cave

Gjabakkahellir Cave in Iceland is located in the south. The Gjabakkahellir Cave’s coordinates are 63.4912° N, 19.3632° W. The Gjabakkahellir Cave is also known as Helguhellir or Stelpuhellir, and it is situated within the Thingvellir National Park. Gjabakkahellir has formed around 9000 years ago and features stunning ice sculptures and volcanic formations. Tours and Tour Guides for the Gjabakkahellir Cave in Iceland are available. The entrance is free but accessing the cave requires hiking over boulders, and the cave’s opening is very small. 

12. Langjökull Cave

Langjökull Cave in Iceland is located in the western parts of the country. The Langjökull Cave’s coordinates are 64.6562° N, 20.1531° W. Langjökull Cave is the largest artificial cave not just in Iceland but in the world. The Langjökull Cave is 1200 meters above sea level and features several frozen halls and ice tunnels. The ice formations and crevasses add to the beauty of the cave. Tours and Tour Guides for the Langjökull Cave in Iceland are available. The activity is called “Into the Glacier,” and visitors can reach the entrance of the cave driving on a repurposed NATO missile truck. 

13. Laugarvatnshellir Cave

Laugarvatnshellir Cave in Iceland is located in the south. The Laugarvatnshellir Cave’s coordinates are 64.2179° N, 20.7328° W. Laugarvatnshellir Cave is in fact man-made and one of the dew caves in Iceland that have once been inhabited. Tours and Tour Guides for the Laugarvatnshellir Cave in Iceland are available. 

14. Surtshellir Cave 

Surtshellir Cave in Iceland is located in the west. The Surtshellir Cave’s coordinates are 64.7814° N, 20.7236° W. Surtshellir Cave is part of the Hallmundarhraun lava field, the same as another volcanic cave, the Vidgelmir Cave. Surtshellir is best known for its ice sculptures, and part of the cave features a shallow ceiling. Tours and Tour Guides for the Surtshellir Cave in Iceland are available. The path leading to the Surtshellir Cave is rough and requires physical preparedness. 

15. Rútshellir Cave

Rútshellir Cave in Iceland is located in the south. The Rútshellir Cave’s coordinates are 63.5226° N, 19.5726° W. Rútshellir Cave is set in a nig tuff and rather a peculiar pile of rock. The Rútshellir Cave is one of Iceland’s first man-made caves and consists of two separate cave chambers. Based on Icelandic tales, the cave was inhabited by an evil troll named Rútur. Tours and Tour Guides for the Rútshellir Cave in Iceland are available. 

16. Sönghellir Cave

Sönghellir Cave (Song Cave) in Iceland is located in the west. The Sönghellir Cave’s coordinates are 64.7816° N, 23.6837° W. Sönghellir is a cluster of caves that got the “Song Cave” name for the unusual echoing of sounds inside their chambers. It is believed that in the past, a half-man half-giant named Bárður Snæfellsás lived in the Sönghellir Cave. Tours and Tour Guides for the Sönghellir Cave in Iceland are available. 

17. Kirkjan Cave

Kirkjan Cave in Iceland is located in the northeast of the country. The Kirkjan Cave’s coordinates are  65.9378° N, 16.5348° W. The spacious Kirkjan Cave is situated in the Hljóðaklettar within the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. The hallmark of the Kirkjan Cave is the basalt and wave-form entrance. Kirkjan is one of the bizarre lava formations of Dimmuborgir, which according to Iceland folklore, is believed to be the entrance to the inferno. Tours and Tour Guides for the Kirkjan Cave in Iceland are available. 

18. The Cave of the Yule Lads

The Cave of the Yule Lads in Iceland is located in the northeast. The Yule Lads Cave’s coordinates are 65.5909 ° N, 16.9117 ° W. It is believed that within the cave live the Yule Lads (the 13 Icelandic Santa Clauses). Tours and Tour Guides for the Cave of the Yule Lads in Iceland are available. 

19. Grjótagjá Lava Cave

Grjótagjá Lava Cave in Iceland is located in the north. The Grjótagjá Lava Cave’s coordinates are 65.6262° N, 16.8830° W. Grjótagjá Lava Cave is a small cave filled with a geothermally-heated pool. The depth of the pool varies between a few centimeters and a few meters. Grjótagjá was a popular bathing spot among locals, but Krafla’s volcanic activity (1975-1984) made the water temperature rise. Today, the pool is cooling down, but bathing is still forbidden. Tours and Tour Guides for the Grjótagjá Lava Cave in Iceland are unavailable. Grjótagjá Lava Cave is situated on private land and its open hours depend on the owner. Entering the cave requires climbing a wall of rocks which is not particularly strenuous but still not recommended for people with knee issues. 

20. Gýgagjá  (Yoda Cave)

Gýgagjá (Yoda Cave) in Iceland is located in the south. The Gýgagjá Cave’s coordinates are 63.4170° N, 18.7646° W. Situated at the base of Hjörleifshöfði promontory, Gýgagjá got its name in honor of the unusual entrance shape that looks like the intergalactic fictional character from “Star Wars” Yoda. Tours and Tour Guides for the Gýgagjá Cave in Iceland are available. Gýgagjá is one of the favorite caves among locals. 

21. Baðstofuhellir 

Baðstofuhellir Cave (The Cave of the Pastor of Fire) in Iceland is located in the south. The Baðstofuhellir Cave’s coordinates are 64.1189° N, 20.3176° W. Baðstofuhellir is a historic and hidden large basalt-column cave. In this cave, Jón Steingrímsson and his brother Þorsteinn spent the winter of 1755. Tours and Tour Guides for the Baðstofuhellir Cave in Iceland are available. 

22. Stóri-Hellir

Stóri-Hellir Cave in Iceland is located in the south. The Stóri-Hellir Cave’s coordinates are 63.9547° N, 20.9993° W. Situated in the Hellisskógur forest, the Stóri-Hellir cave is believed to be haunted, and it is between 0.7 and 3.1 million years old. The beliefs about the cave being hunted stem from the event of a man hanging himself inside Stóri-Hellir due to unresponded love. Tours and Tour Guides for the Stóri-Hellir Cave in Iceland are available. Today, Stóri-Hellir is a popular picnic spot. 

23. Eyvindarhellir Cave

Eyvindarhellir Cave in Iceland is located in the west. The Eyvindarhellir Cave’s coordinates are 64.8604° N, 19.5552° W. Situated in Hverafvellir, Eyvindarhellir was once inhabited by one of Iceland’s best-known outlaws Fjalla-Eyvindur and his wife, Halla Jónsdóttir. The entrance of the Eyvindarhellir Cave is small, but the inner chamber is spacious. Tours and Tour Guides for the Eyvindarhellir Cave in Iceland are available. 

24. Skessan í Hellinum

Skessan í Hellinum Cave in Iceland is located in the southwest. Inside the man-made Skessan í Hellinum Cave, folklore tells there was a gentle giantess with a heart of gold. Tours and Tour Guides for the Skessan í Hellinum Cave in Iceland are available. The cave is a popular destination among children because inside the cave; there is a 5-meters replica of the giantess. 

25. Vatnajökull Ice Caves

Vatnajökull Ice Caves in Iceland are located in the south. The Vatnajökull Ice Caves’ coordinates are 63.8815° N, 16.6459° W. Vatnajökull Ice Caves are fostered by Vatnajökull, which is the largest glacier in the country. They are popularly called Crystal caves because of the icy walls and Anaconda Caves because they are long and winding. Tours and Tour Guides for the Vatnajökull Ice Caves in Iceland are available. As they are constantly shifting in appearance, the Vatnajökull Ice Caves must be visited with a professional guide, using special equipment, and during the coldest months of the year. 

26. Skaftafell Ice Caves

Skaftafell Ice Caves in Iceland are located in the southeast. The Skaftafell Ice Caves’ coordinates are 64.0704° N, 16.9752° W. Skaftafell Ice Caves are one of the most beautiful and picturesque ice caves in Iceland. Tours and Tour Guides for the Skaftafell Ice Caves in Iceland are available. Visitors are properly equipped before entering the cave and given helmets, ice axes, and ice spikes. 

What are the facts about Caves in Iceland?

As a small country, Iceland has many caves with different origins. Iceland has over 25 named caves of the main four types, volcanic caves, glacial caves, ice caves, and man-made caves. The Icelandic caves represent a versatile landform that attracts many visitors, both foreign and local. On a yearly basis, Iceland receives around 2.000.000 tourists. This number is supported by the caves of Iceland together with the country’s other natural attractions. 

What is the biggest Cave in Iceland?

The biggest cave in Iceland is Víðgelmir. The Víðgelmir Cave is an incredible 1585 meters long. At its largest section, the cave is 15.8 meters high and 16.5 meters wide. The Víðgelmir Cave’s entrance is wide, but the inside gets narrower at certain points. Víðgelmir is located in the west of Iceland and is easily accessible, thus being one of the most frequently visited caves in the country. 

What is the smallest Cave in Iceland?

The smallest cave in Iceland is Grjótagjá. Situated in the north, the Grjótagjá Cave is close to lake Mývatn and features a hot spring inside. In the beginning of the 18th century, the Grjótagjá Cave was home to the Icelandic outlaw Jón Markússon. Grjótagjá used to be a popular bathing spot until its water became too hot due to volcanic activity by Krafla. 

What is the oldest Cave in Iceland?

The oldest man-made cave in Iceland is Rútshellir (Rútur’s Cave). Its first inhabitant was the builder Rútur himself, but then the cave was inhabited for hundreds of years. Rútshellir is located in the south, and today, it is a popular destination for tourists. 

What is the prominence of Caves for Iceland Geography?

Iceland’s caves have a considerable impact on the overall Iceland Geography. Certain types of caves are continuously changing and contributing to the formation and preservation of landforms. Plus, caves have affected Icelandic culture. Namely, there are many tales about giants and trolls living in the caves. 

What is the effect of Caves on the Icelandic economy?

Caves have a positive effect on the Economy of Iceland. They are natural wonders and attract tourists, supporting the country’s economy. Plus, caves do not take much space, and unlike some other natural landforms, they do not prevent the industrialization of specific areas and do not pose a transportation challenge. 

How were the Caves in Iceland Formed?

There are different caves in Iceland, but the most common caves are volcanic, glacial, ice, and man-made. Volcanic caves develop due to the lava flow, which digs deep into the ground. Glacial caves form within glaciers and are very inconsistent in terms of shape and size. Ice caves are caves that are not essentially within glaciers but have icy walls due to water leakage. Man-made caves, as the name suggests, are made by people. 

What are the Volcanic Caves in Iceland?

Volcanic caves form as a result of volcanic eruptions and subsequent lava flows. The many active volcanoes of Iceland have contributed to the formation of the Thrihnjukagigur Cave, Vatnshellir Cave, Leidarendi Cave, Raufarholshellir Cave, Lofthellir Cave, Mariuhellar Caves, Surtshellir Cave, Vidgelmir Cave, Buri Cave, Gjabakkahellir Cave, Kirkjan Cave, and Grjótagjá Lava Cave.

What are the Glacial Caves in Iceland?

The glacial caves are formed within glaciers and constantly change shape and size. Considering many glacials of Iceland, it is not surprising that glacial caves are common. In Iceland, some glacial caves are the Katla Ice Cave, Vatnajökull Ice Caves, and Skaftafell Ice Caves. 

What are the Cave Tours in Iceland?

Cave tours in Iceland are a popular activity for tourists. There are many different cave tours. Some include hiking to the cave, while others drive special vehicles. Depending on the visiting cave, the tour can be short or last up to several days if visiting more close caves and surrounding attractions. 

What is the Best Time to Visit Caves of Iceland?

The best time to visit the Island and its caves depends on what you want to see and explore. Many volcanic caves are only open during the summer months. On the other hand, the glacial caves are usually available for visits during winter. Therefore, before planning a trip to Iceland, tourists need to plan which caves they want to see and check whether tours to those caves are available at that point. 

What animals can be seen in the Caves of Iceland?

In Iceland, common wildlife and birdlife include Arctic foxes, reindeer, puffins, Arctic terns, golden plovers, oystercatchers, and gyrfalcons. These wild animals and birds thrive in Iceland’s untouched natural landscapes and attract tourists interested in animal-watching activities.  

Are Iceland Caves Dangerous without Guide?

Yes, Iceland caves are dangerous without a guide. The danger depends on the cave but usually includes roof crashes and slippery grounds. These dangers are mainly present in glacial caves and ice caves. For preservation purposes and safety issues, some of the caves in Iceland are not allowed to be visited without a professional guide. To make the caves less dangerous, all visitors are given special equipment before entering the caves of Iceland.