Vatnshellir

Water Cave


Useful Information

Location: 124km from Borgarnes, 8km from Arnarstapi. On the western end of Iceland, at the Snæfellsjökull volcano. Follow the road 574 around the peninsula on the southern side, from the turnoff to Arnarstapi its about 7km. The parking is at the road and signposted. (64° 44' 51.93" N, 23° 49' 2.54" W)
Open: 15-MAY to SEP daily 10-18.
OCT to 14-MAY daily 11-15.
Tours every hour on the hour.
Check-in 10 minutes before the tour starts.
[2018]
Fee: Adults ISK 3750, Children (12-17) ISK 1500, Children (5-11) free, Children (0-4) not allowed, Seniors ISK 3000, Students ISK 3000.
[2018]
Classification: Lava Caves Lava Tubes
Light: torch provided.
Dimension: L=200m, T=6°C.
Guided tours: D=45min, VR=35m. Helmet and lamp provided. V=1,000/a.
Photography: Allowed.
Accessibility: No
Bibliography:  
Address: Vatnshellir, Summit Adventure Guides, Gufuskalar, 360 Snaefellsbaer, Iceland, Tel: +354-787-0001. E-mail:
Vatnshellir Cave guides on location, Tel: +354-665-2818.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

2007 begin of development.
2010 opened to the public.

Description

Vatnshellir (water cave) is a lava cave located at the southern slopes of the volcano Snæfellsjökull. Around this volcano more than 50 caves are known. The volcano erupted a little off the coast but when it grew it connected with the island, and so it forms an almost circular peninsula today. This peninsula is a National Park.

This cave is a lava tube formed by a lava flow from an eruption 8,000 to 10,000 years ago from a nearby crater in the Purkhólar crater family. It has actually three levels. The uppermost level is open to the surface, the entrance portal oriented to the south. This portal is open and so it is possible to visit this part of the cave without a tour and without restrictions. In winter the entrance may be full of snow and so the cave is not accessible.

The show cave part is entered through a silver metal cone, which is protecting the staircase into the cave. Above the entrance is the word Undirheimar written, which is the Icelandic term for hell. Down the spiral staircase the middle level of the cave is reached 8m below. After 100m another spiral staircase goes down a 12m high lava fall to the lower level of the cave. This passage is 70m long and ends 32m below the entrance.

The cave is full of strange lava formations and lava in various colours. But the dominant colour is still the black of the basaltic rock. The forms are also quite bizarre, most of them resemble calcite speleothems like stalactites and stalagmites though. It seems this form is quite natural for dripping water depositing limestone and dripping lava solidifying in the process. Unfortunately the cave was vandalized before it was developed as a show caves. The visitors removed all lava formation they were able to break off. So in the middle level four of the stalagmites are reconstructed and 37 are replicas of stalagmites from another cave. Quite sad is that even the originals of those replicas were stolen soon after.

The guided tour includes a lot of geology and history, but also some legends connected with the area and the caves. It tells the stories of the Trolls which live inside the rocks and have their festivities in the cave. In the moment there are only two cave guides, although they are doing the tours for Summit Adventure Guides. Þór Magnusson and his son Ægir Þór Þórsson are both glacier guides and volunteers for the ICE-SAR, the icelandic association for search and rescue. So their tours are quite competent and save.

The cave is developed with a path and staircases, but the path is mostly natural, which means rough. Also there is no electric light, which makes the cave a quite dark experience, as much of the light of the lamps is absorbed by the black rocks. And finally it is very cold, only 6°C. So the guides recommend sturdy shoes or boots, warm clothes, and if possible gloves. The helmet and the lamp are provided.

The cave is known for a long time. The local farmers came here to collect water, that's how it was named Vatnshellir, which means Water Cave. Jules Verne obviously also knew about this cave, as he used this cave as the entrance to the underground world in his book Journey to the Center of the Earth. So it is absolutely correct that there is a wooden sign in the cave pointing down, which says Stromboli 3,592km.