Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness

Þríhnúkagígur is a 4,000-year-old volcano by the mountain range Bláfjöll close to Reykjavík. Its highly unusual empty magma chamber makes it possible to explore the heart of the volcano from the inside.

Published in the 2012 October-December issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.12. By Jón Kaldal. Photos by Páll Stefánsson.


Just 25 minutes by car from Reykjavík and around 45 minutes on foot lies one of Iceland’s most inspiring places. This summer CNN ranked it as number 13 on its list of 27 ‘must-sees on this incredible planet.’ Incidentally, until a few months ago this place was completely out of reach for all but the most seasoned mountain climbers and daredevils.

The place in question is the volcanic crater Þríhnúkagígur, a 4,000-year-old volcano with a magnificent bottle-shaped dome where the Statue of Liberty could stand in all its grandeur.

The Þríhnúkagígur crater is close to the mountain range Bláfjöll, where the capital region’s ski resort lies. It was first explored in 1972, when cave expeditioner Árni B. Stefánsson was roped down with a single lamp mounted to his helmet. Many years later this unique work of nature became a legend among Iceland’s mountaineers and cave explorers who were up to the task of lowering themselves down the small black opening, through the bottleneck and all the 120 meters to the bottom of the dome.

In June 2012, tourists were given the opportunity to partake in such an expedition for the first time, with the Inside the Volcano tour, run by the tour operator 3H Travel. A specialized lift was installed and travelers were lowered into the crater. The company’s managing director Björn Ólafsson calls the crater a ‘diamond in the rough’ and believes it has the potential to become as big an attraction as the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s top tourist destination along with the erupting hot spring Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall.

You can read the remainder of the article in the 2012 October-December issue of Iceland Review – IR 04.12. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review & Atlantica brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country’s majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.