Your Guide to the Stunning Vidgelmir Cave

Vidgelmir Cave

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    The awe-striking lava caves of Iceland have fascinated people ever since they were discovered on the island. Vidgelmir is the crème de la crème when it comes to lava caves, making it the ultimate site to visit for the cave enthusiast.

    This family-friendly cave carries a little history and plenty of “wow”-moments. Read on to find out exactly why you should put this on the holiday list for your next trip to Iceland.

    What is Vidgelmir Lava Cave?

    If you are into cave exploration but not fond of climbing or squishing into narrow spaces, you’ll love Vidgelmir. It is the largest lava cave in Iceland (by volume) and one of the most popular caves to see among both international and local visitors. It’s easy to move around and well-suited for everyone who can walk stairs.

    Vidgelmir is 1,585 meters long and has a myriad of amazing rock formations. Inside the well-lit cave, you will see the surroundings shift in color as different minerals coat the walls. Part of the cave is closed off with an iron gate to protect some of the natural rock formations from human interaction. Still, despite this, there are plenty of areas to explore in Vidgelmir, so you don’t have to fear missing out.


    Vidgelmir: Punishment or Hiding Spot?

    Most of us would probably not look at a 1,585-meter-deep cave and think that this is something we’d like to live in. Before modern times, however, this was the only option for those on the wrong side of the local laws. Evidence of occupants has been found in the cave Vidgelmir, proving that it was someone’s home at some point. 

    It was also common practice to banish criminals as punishment when serious crimes were committed. Since Iceland is a somewhat isolated island in the North Atlantic, it was hard to leave if you didn’t have the means or reputation to do so. Therefore, criminals who were no longer desired by society often moved into caves and other odd places as a last resort.

    How was the Vidgelmir Cave Formed?

    As you might already know, the Land of Fire and Ice has an abundance of magma floating underneath it. Sometimes, these tunnels of molten rock create long tubes of magma that eventually get emptied into another chamber or onto the surface. When this happens, the tube is left empty, and a lava cave is born.

    This is what happened with Vidgelmir around the year 900. When the cave had cooled down and the roof collapsed at the tunnel’s northern end, it started to get human visitors.

    Visiting the Vidgelmir Cave

    One of the first things you might notice when entering the cave is the manmade pathways. Wooden stairs will take you down into the cave, and wherever the path is a little rocky or unstable, the cave has been equipped with wooden railings and pathways.

    To get into Vidgelmir, you must book a tour with the landowner. Access is restricted to guided tours, so you won’t be allowed to enter without one. Keep in mind that the cave doesn’t have any toilets or similar amenities, so all types of business are conducted on the surface.

    Despite Vidgelmir’s volcanic origin, the cave is cold all year round. Water is present in some areas, and natural ice sculptures have emerged in parts where the temperature is low enough.

    the cave vidgelmir

    Where can I Find Vidgelmir Cave?

    Nestled in the western parts of inland Iceland, the Vidgelmir Lava Cave can be found just north of Húsafell. The site is close to Langjökull glacier and a part of the Hallmundarhraun Lava Field, which contains at least ten known other caves.  

    How Do I Get to Vidgelmir?

    Even if we would have liked to say otherwise, the options to get to Vidgelmir are limited. There is no public transport that stops close enough for anyone to take the bus or a short walk. The tours will only go as far as picking you up at Húsafell, and no public transport will take you there.

    From the South

    From Reykjavik in Iceland, take Ring Road 1 going north and get on Road 50 right before Borgarnes. After about 32 kilometers, take the 518 road towards Reykholt and continue to Húsafell. From Húsafell, you will see signs towards “The Cave”. These signs will take you straight to the entrance.

    This route will be roughly 137 kilometers long and take 2 hours to drive.

    From the North

    After you’ve done the top things to do in Akureyri, travel along Ring Road 1 going southwest. A while after Bifröst, you can get onto Road 50 heading east. From there, it’s the same as the above route: Get on Road 518, continue to Húsafell, and then keep following the signs that lead you to Vidgelmir.

    Going all the way from Akureyri will take roughly 4.5 hours, and the journey will be 339 kilometers long.

    vidgelmir lava cave

    What to Do Around Vidgelmir

    The Vidgelmir tour will take around 1.5 hours to walk through, leaving you with plenty of time to explore the area. Here are some suggestions for nearby sites and activities to do around Vidgelmir:

    • Explore the nearby ice caves in Iceland
    • Krauma geothermal baths and spa
    • Explore the Surtshellir Lava Tube
    • Visit Langjökull – Iceland’s second-largest glacier
    • Explore Húsafell

    Places to Stay Close to Vidgelmir

    Vidgelmir is off the beaten path and far away from most parts of civilization, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have options in terms of accommodation. See below for a collection of nearby accommodations:

    Vigdelmir Lava Cave – Begin Your Adventure

    If you want to have the experience of a lifetime and step foot in one of nature’s wonders, you must visit Vidgelmir on your Iceland holiday. The road is easy to navigate, and it doesn’t take long to get there from the capital. All you need to do now is to rent a campervan in Iceland and start exploring the land of fire and ice. 

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