Descending via rope ladder from the Laxardalshraun lava field, the first that hits you upon entering Lofthellir cave is the temperature, which plummets to around 0°C, but the freezing microclimate and enveloping darkness only add to the experience. Formed over 3,500 years ago from solidified lava, Lofthellir has earned a reputation as one of Iceland’s most famous caves, home to the country’s most impressive collection of natural ice formations.
The lava tube stretches for 370 meters and visitors can explore the honeycomb of underground chambers by torchlight, sliding down the icy slopes and scrabbling through ice columns. The thrilling climb is all part of the adventure but the undeniable highlight is the magnificent scenery – glittering walls of ice, frozen stalactites and stalagmites, and gigantic ice sculptures carved out over thousands of years.
Lofthellir Cave is located around 45 minutes by car from Lake Myvatn and is only accessible by guided tour. Although no hiking or climbing experience is necessary, basic fitness and decent walking shoes are advised, as visitors will have to walk across the lava fields to reach the cave (an easy, 30-minute hike over rough terrain), descend into the cave via rope ladder and scramble (assisted by ropes) around the cave’s ice structures. Tour operators generally provide waterproof clothing, rubber boots and torches.