A catastrophic eruption between June 1783 and February 1784 created the Laki Lava Fields, which are some of the largest in the world. The eruption caused temperatures to drop across the northern hemisphere, decimated livestock in Iceland and crops across Europe, and is even considered a factor in the start of the French Revolution. Today, a sprawling field of solidified lava formations, carpeted in a thick moss, spreads across this vast wilderness region. Exploring by bike and 4x4 offers the chance to learn about this historic event and the science behind it, and explore the lava fields and caves of this remote region in person.
You’ll meet your guide in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a small town in south Iceland that was miraculously bypassed by the lava flow during the 1783 eruption. A short stop at the town’s Tourist Information Office reveals more about the eruption and the town’s lucky escape.
From here, you’ll venture inland by 4x4 through the lava field, stopping along the way to admire the region’s pristine lakes and rivers. Much of the area is inaccessible and as a result, has become an untouched wilderness with few visitors apart from the occasional vehicle that traverses its rugged dirt road.
As you explore the lava fields, stopping at particular points of interest, your guide will explain how the lava cooled and formed the area’s unusual rock formations. You’ll also stop at one of the many lava caves in the region. These underground caverns were formed by rapidly cooling volcanic rock and can be explored safely with a local guide.
After being outfitted with a helmet and headlamp, follow your guide inside and down rough steps into the enormous cave. The sides of the cave walls display a variety of volcanic deposits which your guide will point out and explain how and why they came to be formed.
Once you’ve had time to look around and ask questions, return to the surface and enjoy a hot drink and Icelandic snack, such as kleina (a type of doughnut), before making the return journey by mountain bike.
Cycling through the lava fields offers a different perspective on the area. The 15 km (9 mile) ride follows a largely flat dirt track flanked by a mossy wilderness and offers a chance to see lava formations up close as well as examine the hardy plants that make their home here.
The entire tour lasts about four hours. However, the ground in the cave is extremely uneven and some scrambling through small spaces may be necessary, so we don’t recommend this tour to those with limited agility or claustrophobia. Walking boots with a good grip are strongly recommended.