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A person looking at the newly discovered lava cave

The newly discoverd cave. Picture: The Environment Agency of Iceland

A unique natural lava cave was discovered in the Mývatn region in February 2023.

The newly discovered lava tunnel has provided an unexpected opportunity for scientists to study the Earth’s subsurface environment.

The cave was discovered by a contractor working at the building site of the renovated facilities of the Mývatn Nature Baths, when working on the foundation of the new building a hole emerged when a small part of the roof of the cave fell in.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History and the University of Iceland were quickly alerted and sent a team of scientists to investigate the site. The cave is full of delicate and rare geological features. It is believed that before the opening the cave was warm from geothermal heat and even damp which might have supported the beautiful formations found.

A sponmge like white geological formation.

Rare geological features. Picture: The Environment Agency of Iceland

The scientists are now measuring and documenting the cave and it has been closed for visitors.

Visiting the lava cave

The Mývatn Nature Baths is of the same nature as the more famous Blue Lagoon close to Reykjavík, on the other side of Iceland. With the new facilities and a larger lagoon the baths will for sure have thousands of guests in the coming years. The Nature Baths aim to open access to the caves if perments will be granted and create a unique experience like we can see at The Lava Tunnel and The Cave. What makes this cave different from the other destinations is how newly discovered it is and that it has not been affected by humans in any way. Many of the most known caves in Iceland have been damaged throughout the years from uncontrolled access.

Lava caves in Iceland

Lava caves and tunnels are quite common in the lava that has flowed in Iceland. The more fluid the flowing magma is the longer the caves tend to get. In Iceland we’ve known around 5-600 caves, some have been known for centuries while others are recently discovered. According to Ari Trausti Guðmundsson, the organization Ferlir recorded more than 600 caves on the Reykjanes Peninsula alone. The Icelandic Speleological Society has also been researching and exploring caves around the country. According to Ari, many of the Icelandic caves are closed or kept secret due to the delicate geological formations that cannot withstand any handling by non-professionals.

Where can I experience lava caves and tunnels?

The best way to experience and learn about these magnificent colourful underworlds is to visit one of the three guided caves in Iceland.

The Lava Tunnel or Raufarhólshellir close to Reykjavík is very beautiful and accessible, the more secluded Víðgelmir or The Cave is close to Húsafell in West Iceland an area famous for lava caves such as Surtshellir. And finally, the beautiful cave Vatnshellir in the Snæfellsnes National Park is worth the visit.

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