You might be wondering why this tour is being offered now and only for this short period of time. Well, there is a valid reason.
The idea of making Thrihnukagigur volcano accessible to the public was first formally presented in 2004 by Árni B. Stefánsson (pictured on the right), a veteran cave expeditioner, doctor and – from that moment – entrepreneur. Up until that time, very few people actually knew that a phenomenon like this (a volcano with an open entrance) existed in Iceland – let alone only a 30 minute drive from the capital!
To make a long story short, the idea of public access to Thrihnukagigur was well received – so well, in fact, that a nonprofit firm, Thrihnukar ehf., was established in 2005, supported by various parties from the public and private sectors. The main purpose of the company is to plan, carry out, and eventually evaluate, the best ways to make the volcano accessible, while upholding a strict benchmark in terms of environmental protection and sustainability.
As of today, there are plans to build a ground tunnel from the surface that will lead into the magma chamber. From the tunnel, visitors will walk to a viewing platform inside the crater, from where the enormous size of the chamber can be enjoyed. An environmental impact assessment is currently being conducted and all licence applications are being processed.
If all goes according to plan, construction could start as early as 2014. The Thrihnukagigur volcano could then potentially be open to the public through a ground tunnel by the end of 2015, making it one of the most unique tourist attractions in the world.
Which brings us to the original question: Why now?
Well, because one aspect of the preparation is to get an idea of how the attraction will be perceived by its visitors. What is the experience like? What feelings does being inside a volcano evoke? What is the value of this experience? The questions are countless.
In order to discover more, it was decided to offer a tour for the general public. The operation started in June 2012 and continued through August. In short, the tour turned out to be a great success and Thrihnukagigur volcano is now recognised as a tourist attraction in Iceland. Hence, it was decided to offer the tour again in the summer of 2013 and 2014 and, at the same time, continue with the ongoing environmental, geological and marketing research on the volcano.
Conditions in Iceland make it impossible to operate the tour outside the summer season, from May until September. The area is classified as highlands, it’s located 500 metres above sea level and snow will begin to set in from September, with regular storms and unpredictable weather. It simply wouldn’t be safe.