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Iceland is the only country in the world where you can descend into the vast and vibrant magma chamber of a dormant volcano – with a guide, of course. Situated on a rift between the North American and European tectonic plates, the island has a lot of volcanic activity and is, in fact, one of the most volcanic places on Earth, with 150 to 200 volcanoes both dormant and active.
The tour begins in Reykjavik, where you are picked up and taken to Bláfjöll, a park just outside of the capital that is a popular ski area in the winter. From the park, it is a 3.2-kilometer hike to Þríhnúkagígur (Three Peaks Crater in English) volcano. Be sure you are capable of climbing uphill over rough terrain for an hour before considering the tour. Also, be sure to wear many layers of clothing, including rain gear, as the weather in Iceland can be notoriously unpredictable. At the volcano’s opening crater awaits an elevator crane where you will enter – after being outfitted in helmet and harness – and begin your descent.
This unique way of entering a magma chamber is the only one of its kind in the world. Your descent takes about six minutes and covers 198 meters. The slow pace of the descent allows you to take in the incredible beauty of the chamber that was formed over 4,000 years ago during the volcano’s last eruption. The seemingly unnatural coloration of yellows, blues, reds, violets and oranges create bizarre scenes, the scale of which will make you feel microscopic. For perspective, the Statue of Liberty could easily fit inside and the ground of the chamber is the size of three football fields.
Once on the ground of the chamber, the guide allows you to explore for half an hour before ascending again. The ground is an incredible array of lava formations and light effects flowing in from above, creating an incredible photographic opportunity. Most volcanoes that are dormant have magma chambers that are full of solidified magma, but for some unknown reason, this chamber was drained, leaving this vast empty space. After the ascent, the tour guide treats you to a typical Icelandic soup before your hike back to the van. Available between May and October, be sure to book your tour in advance, as it is a popular one, at Inside the Volcano.