More background info: I haven’t been able to find out much about the background of this attraction, just that it is the brainchild of an Icelandic couple who were inspired by watching a real live volcanic eruption at Fimmvörðuháls in 2010.
They wanted to bring the experience of seeing lava into a safe and controlled environment where people can observe lava without the hazards that a real eruption often brings with it (except at the Reykjanes eruptions of 2021-2023
). So the idea of this start-up that became the Icelandic Lava Show was born.
There were delays in realizing the project but eventually the first branch in Vik opened sometime in the late 2010s. The second branch in Reykjavik is even newer.
I don’t know the technical details but they have a furnace that heats real lava (in Vik gleaned from the black sand beaches outside the town, which really is old ground-up volcanic lava). This reaches a temperature of 1100 degrees Celsius (2000 degrees Fahrenheit) until it is released into a special safe container in front of the audience.
As you could imagine, the whole idea required a lot of health and safety regulations to be fulfilled; but they pulled it off. And now these two Lava Show sites are the only places in the world where you can watch real lava indoors!
What there is to see:
I went to see the Lava Show at the original location in Vik on the south coast of Iceland
. This is the somewhat more intimate of the two sites, with a maximum of 50 people in the auditorium. At the Reykjavik location the capacity is 118. At the show I saw in Vik, the room was not filled to capacity, perhaps only two-thirds full.
When everybody has taken their seat the doors are closed and a guide appears who first delivers a short intro and then starts a video that is played on two screens. This contains some general info about volcanism in Iceland and then concentrates on an especially disastrous eruption in 1918 of the nearby Katla subglacial volcano that can create deadly jökulhlaups (flash floods of melted glacier water – see under Iceland
). I found this part, with animated sequences depicting particular characters during the disaster, a little bit too much on the over-emotional side. It felt more aimed at kids than adults.
But then the actual highlight finally comes: when the film ends the guide reappears and asks everybody who’s not wearing glasses to put on the security goggles provided at each seat. That’s to protect your eyes from the heat that’s about to hit the room.
Then a valve in the centre of the back wall is released – and there is comes: a bright orange flow of actual lava. It runs down a sand-filled angled channel fairly swiftly to a roughly circular horizontal central basin where the lava stops in a flat round shape. It can crackle a little but is mostly silent. The temperature in the room does go up, but nowhere near as to an intense heat as we were led to believe beforehand. Their ventilation system under the ceiling must really be very good.
The guide then uses a steel stick to lift up some of the still liquid lava. Later as it begins to solidify he uses the stick to lift up the middle bit of the lava flow which at that point is still viscous enough to be malleable but no longer liquid. So he bends it up to then look like a bridge. The guide also puts a piece of ice on the hot lava to demonstrate the interaction of lava and ice (remember: Iceland is often called the “land of ice and fire”).
Eventually the lava turns darker, and in the end mostly black, while the guide invites a question-and-answer session. Our guide told some personal anecdotes as well. He was also the one who estimated that the then still ongoing eruption at Litli-Hrutur
would soon stop (and unfortunately he was right – when we got on our helicopter flight
over the volcano the next day, no more lava was being ejected).
The lava flow just observed would still be far too hot to touch, but the guide handed out pieces of broken up lava produced here at an earlier show. The pieces look and feel just like black glass!
Then the doors are opened again and everybody leaves.
There is also a souvenir shop by the ticket counter with all manner of lava-related items, from jewellery to books. Also adjacent is a small restaurant and it looked quite busy both before and after our show.
All in all
I found the sight of the lava impressive enough – but it’s only a relatively short part of the whole show. The film before the lava demonstration wasn’t really for me and the Q&A session didn’t reveal all that much that was new to me. So overall I found the whole thing a bit too expensive for what you get. But I’m clearly a minority here, as the reviews of the show you can find online are mostly raving about it. So much so that the Lava Show can claim to be one of the highest rated attractions in all of Iceland
! So I recommend you make up your own mind about it …
I am pretty certain, though, that this show could not remotely compete with watching a real volcanic eruption with lava fountains and large red lava flows filling whole valleys – as had recently been the case on the Reykjanes Peninsula
(but I was too late to witness it for myself ...).
There are two branches. The original is right in the centre of the small town of Vik on Iceland
’s south coast and by the Ring Road (at Vikurbraut 5, which branches off the Ring Road to the south). The newer branch is in Reykjavik
in the harbour area north-west of the centre (at Fiskislóð 73).
Google Maps locators:
Access and costs: fairly easy to locate; relatively expensive.
Details: To get to the branch in Vik you ideally need a car. The Lava Show is on Vikurbraut, the main street branching off the No. 1 Ring Road to the south-west in roughly the centre of Vik. The building with the large Icelandic Lava Show logo is hard to miss. There are numerous parking spaces right in front and to the side. In theory you can also get to Vik by bus (line 51), though it’s a bit of a walk from the bus stop to the Lava Show.
To get to the Lava Show in Reykjavik
you easily can walk it. From the western end of Laugavegur in the very city centre it’s 2 km (1.2 miles) through the western part of the centre and onwards along Myrargata, past the Saga Museum and then right into Fiskislóð. If you have a car you can also drive up there. There are plenty of parking spaces. Bus line 14 also goes up Fiskislóð.
Admission: a hefty 5900 ISK per person (that’s roughly 40 EUR) for the “classic experience”; children (2-12) get in for 3500 ISK. In Reykjavik there’s also a “premium experience” available (adults only, i.e. over 13 years old) for a whopping 9900 ISK that includes a drink, access to a “premium lounge”, balcony view and a backstage tour to see the furnace. In Vik the backstage tour can be booked as an add-on to the regular show and costs an extra 1490 ISK.
Show times: There are usually five shows per day in Vik (every two hours beginning at 11 a.m.), and four in Reykjavik (from 12 noon).
When I saw the show in Vik, my wife and I just rocked up and asked at the counter whether they had tickets for a show that day. They did and asked us to come back in two hours and re-register for the show then. (We used that time to explore Vik and its black beach and sea stacks … and there were some puffins too!).
However, it is recommended to book tickets online in advance to avoid possible disappointment (see the Icelandic Lava Show website).
Time required: Shows last ca. 45-55 minutes (backstage tour an extra 10-15). You’re advised to turn up 20 minutes before the show for registration.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Iceland
The Lava Show is not to be confused with the LAVA Centre
, which is located in Hvolsvöllur
and is basically a hi-tech and highly immersive volcano museum, but without any real molten lava, just simulations. But it’s also worth seeing.
- Lava Show 1 - the flow begins
- Lava Show 2 - reaching the bottom
- Lava Show 3 - bringing the steel stick into play
- Lava Show 4 - using the stick
- Lava Show 5 - poking at lava
- Lava Show 6 - melting a block of ice
- Lava Show 7 - bent
- Lava Show 8 - flames
- Lava Show 9 - cooling down