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8 fascinating facts about Raufarholshellir Lava Tunnel

Last updated: Jan 23rd, 2024


Geographers, ever fascinated by all things lava, and what better place to experience this than in Iceland. Hike on active volcanoes, see recent lava fields, learn fascinating facts and intriguing geological stories at the Lava Centre and even see real-life lava at the Vik or Reykjavik Lava Show.  

One of the most unique experiences for many groups is the opportunity to see the effects of lava flow in its wake by descending into Raufarholshellir lava tunnel.  

To whet your appetite for what’s in store on this fantastic excursion, here are 8 fascinating facts about Raufarholshellir lava tunnel, Iceland.  

1. It’s one of the longest lava tunnels in Iceland.

At 1,360m long, the Raufarholshellir lava tunnel is one of the longest lava tubes in Iceland. It is thought that the tube was formed 5,200 years ago after the Leitahraun eruption east of the Bláfjöll mountains, roughly 10km away from the tube.  

It would take you over 4 hours to walk the full length of the lava tunnel, but fear not, guided tours today only take groups about 25 minutes into the tunnel – plenty far enough to see and learn about the magnificent features! 

2. Guided Tours Only!

The cave was closed in 2016 due to growing concerns of the damage being caused to the tunnel by visitors not adhering to advice and leaving behind rubbish. During its closure, metal walkways were added to preserve the wonder of the tube allowing it to reopen to visitors, but now only as part of a guided tour.  

The friendly and knowledgeable guides are such an integral part to the experience, imparting interesting facts as well as humorous stories to keep students entertained throughout.  

3. Teardrops – protected by law!

One of the most stunning features seen on the walls of the lava tunnel are the teardrop-like formations on the wall of the tunnel. But, did you know that breaking off one of these teardrops is against the law and could results in up to 2 years in prison? 

4. Silence!

It takes a little while to realise that this lava tunnel is not like any ordinary tunnel – and not just due to the fact that it was carved out the earth by flowing lava.  

On a recent trip to Iceland, the guide asks the group, “Is it someone’s birthday while you are on this trip? Great! Well in a moment I am going to wish you a Happy Birthday!” As he bellows “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” down the tunnel the students stand and wait. NOTHING!  

There is no echo in the lava tunnel!   


This was another great excursion. The guide we had was very knowledgeable and also could relate very well to our students! The experience, especially when the lights were turned off in the cave, was unforgettable!

Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School

 


 

5. It’s cold in here!

Deep in the lava tunnel and the temperature doesn’t change. Some students expect it to get warmer as you descend away from the surface and deeper into the centre of the earth, whilst others expect the temperature to plummet. Did you know that all lava tunnels maintain the average outdoor temperatures? So the lava tunnels in Hawaii will be far warmer than those in Iceland.  

Ah, Hawaii! Maybe this is something you need to corroborate yourself!  

6. Pitch black, literally!

At the furthest point of your tour, you’ll get the opportunity to experience how dark the tunnel is without the lights. Did you know that it is so dark that your eyes will never adjust to it? Literally, true dark!  

7. The walls are alive!

There’s nothing more spectacular than the colours of the walls and ceiling. A myriad of reds, yellows, golds and oranges, and the lights glistening off the tiny little water droplets that cling to the beautiful rock. But wait, the water isn’t just clinging to the rock, the water is clinging to the bacteria growing on the wall. Cue 40 children taking a small step away from the wall! 

8. A favourite with school groups

With an abundance of incredible excursions on offer for a school geography trip to Iceland, why do groups opt for a visit to the Raufarholshellir lava tunnel?  

  • Because it’s a unique experience like no other? Yes! 
  • Because it allows them to see the power of volcanic activity? Probably!  
  • Because the team at Rayburn highly recommend it? Absolutely! And so do other teachers… 

 


Great visit and the guide was excellent! It brought home the power of Earth and the beauty that can be found even in a tectonically active place.”

Goole Academy

 


 

 

The Raufarholshellir lava tunnel won’t fail to impress…

Take a look how the Raufarholshellir lava tunnel. can fit into your tailor-made Iceland itinerary and discover some of the other great experiences on offer on your next Geography Trip to Iceland.

 

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