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Beyond the Surface: An Adventurer's Guide to Mariuhellar Lava Cave in Iceland

Nestled within Iceland's rugged landscapes, a country celebrated for its stunning geological wonders, lies the Mariuhellar Lava Cave. This hidden gem invites adventurers to explore its ancient, mysterious depths. 

We at Campervan Reykjavík are here to guide you through this entrancing underworld. With a deep-rooted passion for Iceland's natural beauty, our local expertise positions us as your trusted companion in discovering the marvels of Mariuhellar. 

This blog aims to unveil the cave's captivating allure, making it a must-visit for those eager to witness the extraordinary tapestry of Iceland's volcanic legacy. Welcome to an adventure that goes beyond the surface.

Mariuhellar Lava Cave.

What is Mariuhellar Lava Cave?

Mariuhellar Lava Cave, or 'Maria's Cave' when translated from Icelandic, is more than just a single cave; it's a fascinating cluster of three distinct lava caves, each holding its own unique narrative and preserving over 4,600 years of volcanic history. 

These caves, named Vífilsstaðahellir and Urriðakotshellir, historically served as shelters for sheep, weaving a rich tapestry of cultural and historical significance into their rugged forms. Particularly striking, Urriðakotshellir lies close to civilization yet offers a portal to another world. 

Visitors can gaze up at the sky through a natural aperture, surrounded by a lush, grassy meadow, which contrasts the cave's stark, volcanic origins. Inside, the caves boast unique geological formations and a variety of flora and fauna and reveal the raw beauty of Iceland's underground landscape.

Where is Mariuhellar Lava Cave in Iceland?

Nestled in the scenic Heiðmörk Nature Reserve, Mariuhellar is a mere 20-minute drive from the bustling heart of Reykjavík. To reach this hidden gem, head northeast from the intersection of Flóttavegur and Heiðmerkurvegur in the area known as Svínahraun. 

Not just a site of natural beauty, Mariuhellar also serves as a historical marker, defining the boundary between Urriðakot and Vífilsstaðir. These caves owe their existence to the ancient eruptions of Búrfell volcano, which looms over the nearby Hafnarfjörður. Situated on the Reykjanes Peninsula, this volcanic area is noteworthy for its striking raw beauty and proximity to the capital.

How To Get To Mariuhellar 

Getting to Mariuhellar from Reykjavík is a breeze, making it an ideal day trip destination. Here's the lowdown on how to get there:

  • Start from Reykjavík: It's just 12 km (7 mi) south of Iceland's vibrant capital, a straightforward drive.

  • Driving Directions: Kick off on Reykjanesbraut Road, swing a left at Vifilsstaðavegur roundabouts, then veer right onto Elliðavatnsvegur. This route offers a peek into the stunning Icelandic landscape.

  • GPS Coordinates: Punch in 64.0717° N, 21.8934° W into your navigation system for pinpoint directions to Mariuhellar Caves.

  • Quick Arrival: A short 3-4 minute jaunt on Elliðavatnsvegur, and you're there.

  • Transportation Options: While a rental car gets the job done, renting a campervan in Iceland not only saves you money on accommodation but also adds a unique touch of adventure to your trip. After all, how many people do you know who have traveled around Iceland in a campervan?

  • Access Fees: Mariuhellar welcomes visitors free of charge, making your exploration both memorable and affordable.

Camper rental Iceland

Other Noteworthy Lava Caves in Iceland Close to Mariuhellar

Exploring Mariuhellar surely captivates, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Iceland is riddled with hidden treasures, and nearby, several other lava caves beckon with their own mystique and wonder. Here are a few noteworthy choices to explore:

Leidarendi Cave

Just a stone's throw away from Reykjavík, a mere 25-minute drive will land you at the fascinating entrance of Leiðarendi Cave. 

Nestled in the lava fields near Bláfjöll, or the Blue Mountains, Leiðarendi stands as a 900-meter-long (2953 feet) natural marvel. This cave isn't just a tunnel into the Earth – it's a circular voyage that presents the awe-inspiring power of Iceland's volcanic landscape. 

For those ready to explore its depths, Leiðarendi offers a world where the ceiling drips with delicate stalactites, the floors bulge with rising stalagmites, and the walls are a museum of intricate lava formations. It's a visceral reminder of nature's prowess and beauty, inviting adventurers to wander and wonder at the raw creativity of the Earth beneath our feet.

Raufarholshellir Cave

Raufarholshellir Cave, merely a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík, is not just another item on your Icelandic adventure list; it's a gateway into the heart of one of Iceland's longest lava tubes. This remarkable cave stretches across 4,462 ft (1,360 m), with its main tunnel extending about 2,953 ft (900 m), offering a mesmerizing experience beneath the Earth's surface. 

The dimensions of this natural wonder are spectacular, with widths ranging from 33-98 ft (10-30 m) and heights reaching up to 33 ft (10 m), all under a robust rock roof averaging 39 ft (12 m) thick. Strolling through Raufarholshellir provides a breathtaking view of what can only be described as nature's grand architecture. 

For those looking to fully comprehend the cave's historical and geological context, opting for a guided tour comes highly recommended. This ensures a deep-dive exploration into the cave's majestic chambers, illuminated by the knowledgeable insights of local guides.

Raufarholshellir Cave

Gjabakkahellir Cave

Gjábakkahellir Cave isn't just another spot on the map; it's a voyage back in time, clocking in at over 9,000 years. This natural time capsule captures both the imagination and the spirit of historical inquiry, offering a 360-meter (about 1,181 feet) long pathway through Earth's architectural marvels. 

Discovered in 1907, it added an exciting chapter to Iceland's rich tapestry of geological wonders. Just an hour's drive from Reykjavík, Gjábakkahellir is remarkably accessible, inviting adventurers and history buffs alike to tread its ancient grounds. It's a unique opportunity for those eager to explore Iceland's geological wonders and establish a tangible connection between the past and the present.

Tips For Exploring Mariuhellar Lava Cave and Other Lava Tubes in Iceland

Exploring Mariuhellar and other Icelandic lava caves is an exhilarating adventure, but preparation is key to making the most of this unique experience. Here are a few tips to ensure your exploration is as enjoyable and safe as possible:

  • Headlamp or Flashlight: Navigating the dark paths of lava caves requires good lighting. A headlamp is preferred for hands-free exploration.

  • Warm and Waterproof Clothing: The temperature inside caves can be cool, even in summer. Waterproof gear is also a necessity in case of water drips.

  • Sturdy Shoes: The uneven and possibly slippery cave floors demand reliable footwear for safety.

  • Camera: You'll want to capture the stunning, otherworldly beauty of these formations.

  • Best Time to Visit: Icelandic summer months are ideal for cave explorations, offering warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours to enjoy the sights.

  • Cave Manners: Respect the fragile environment of the caves, stay on designated paths, and do not touch any formations. Also, be mindful of noise levels, as sound can easily echo and disturb other visitors.

Why Mariuhellar Lave Cave is a Must-Visit

Exploring Mariuhellar Lave Cave is more than just an adventure; it's a chance to connect with the raw, unfiltered beauty of Iceland's natural wonders. These caves are not just geological formations, but stories etched in the Earth, waiting to be read by those curious enough to explore.

They offer a unique perspective on the power of natural forces and the passage of time. Whether you're an avid explorer, a nature lover, or simply someone in search of the extraordinary, Mariuhellar and its surrounding caves present an unparalleled experience that's both enlightening and awe-inspiring. Don't miss the opportunity to witness these marvels firsthand.



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