The charming town of Vik in southern Iceland recently launched a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the only molten lava show in the world, AKA the Icelandic lava show.
This region was the site of a terrible cataclysm and can still remember the eruption of the Katla volcano of 1918, the most dangerous volcano in the country.
Tourists flock to Vik for its extraordinary landscapes and beaches, but recently in 2018 the city upped its game with an absolutely unique experience: watching a lava flow up close and personal.
The Icelandic Lava Show is always a family favorite for young and old alike!
You're looking for a small building in the center of the small town of Vik, which is in the far south of the country and about 200 km or 2-hour's drive from Reykjavik, between Kirkjubaejarklaustur and Hella.
When you get into Vik from the west, turn right on Vikurbraut Street. The building is in fact shared with another business, the Soup Company, which is a reputed soup restaurant that offers some particularly delicious concoctions, including the “Lava soup”.
In front of the building you will find a small free car park.
The place is open all year round and 7 days a week. The shows take place every day from 01:30PM to 05:30PM in winter and 11AM to 08PM in summer.
Groups can however book to see shows at 11AM and 08PM in winter.
You can book online, and we recommend you do so well in advance, especially in summer: information and reservations by Guide To Iceland. You should also show up a little before the start of the show, so you can get a front row seat to a rather small stage.
Admission costs 37 euros per adult and 22 euros for children aged 2 to 12, and includes a discount at the Soup Company restaurant.
The founders of the Icelandic Lava Show are in fact a couple, Júlíus and Ragnhildur, parents to three children. They met as students and got together with a plan to start a business together.
The Eureka moment took place during the 2010 volcanic eruption in Fimmvörðuháls. The couple went on a tour of the glacier to see the eruption up close. They were completely mesmerized by the overwhelming heat, the mysterious sounds, and the striking contrasts of bright orange lava flows and snow-white glaciers.
But volcanic eruptions are unpredictable and dangerous events, most often forbidden to the public due to toxic smoke and the risk of burns, not the easiest kind of show to put on. But they took up the challenge and created a show where you can see real molten lava flowing in a secure environment.
Eruptions occur quite frequently in Iceland (approximately every 5 years), but there's no way to get anywhere near them due to safety concerns and toxic gases.
When Júlíus and Ragnhildur first talked about their project, people thought they were crazy! Nobody thought it was possible. But with courage, dedication, and hard work, they created a unique business that's thriving today.
To get to the Icelandic Lava Show, you go in through the same entrance as the “Soup Company” restaurant. Look for a small room at the back of the dining hall.
As explained above, come a little early to get the best spot in the first row, which is ideal for photos.
The show takes place in a small, round chamber, about 50 m², with a large basalt basin at its center that channels the lava during the show.
The show has 3 parts.
The first 10 minutes are a sort of presentation as Júlíus just explains the origins of the project, some relevant Icelandic volcanology, and a personal story. It's a riveting tale about the time his grandfather became trapped during the last Katla eruption in 1918 when it generated what Icelanders call a Jökulhlaups: a flood triggered by a subglacial eruption.
The next part is a 10-minute video presentation to set the mood and teach you about eruptions in the region. Júlíus's family was directly affected by the 1918 Katla, so the storytelling really does show the human perspective living with these natural phenomena.
Finally, Júlíus warns the group that it's about to get hot. Very hot, in fact, as the lava pouring out is over 1,100 degrees Celsius! So hang up your jackets because it's basically T-shirt weather in that chamber.
For dramatic effects, they cut the lights to plunge the chamber into a dim and mysterious atmosphere. The lava then appears, glowing and crackling electrically. The colors are absolutely incredible and the room temperature jumps ten degrees! The ice left at the bottom of the basin melts loudly, spitting steam in spectacular fashion.
You will be a mere 2-3m from the lava and even at that distance the heat is astounding. Júlíus then experimentally pokes and prods the lava with a metal bar to show how the lava reacts, cooling and hardening, and volunteers can even poke the dragon themselves.
A teacher at heart, Júlíus expounds on the physical properties of lava, and how the show manages to channel the lava into the chamber.
This is followed by a quick Q&A with the public. Júlíus is is a warm and friendly host with boundless energy and knowledge.
The show lasts just under 1 hour and you can even go home with a chunk of cold lava left over from the show the previous day! Kids are always mesmerized by this particular attraction, but parents too come back amazed by seeing a wonder of nature up close.