Our misadventures at Grjótagjá

Grjótagjá, if you have never heard of it is an ancient lava cave that houses one of the many geothermal springs in Iceland. It came into the spotlight after the Jon Snow and Ygritte love scene in Season 3 of Game of Thrones. We being crazy GoT nerds, had to visit this epic cave on our honeymoon. Did we manage to enter this cave of love? Keep reading to find out.

GoT Filming Location - GrjótagjáPhoto Credit: Wikipedia

When we were writing our Game of Thrones locations on our bucket-list post last week, we strolled down memory lane and relived our Grjótagjá misadventures. Let’s start at the beginning, when we were on our honeymoon in Iceland in winter. Although the Ring Road is paved and maintained in winter, many of the smaller roads that lead off it are not. We had rented a 4 wheel drive Mitsubishi Outlander equipped with snow tyres which made us think we could do it all. Dirt road…no problem, we have a 4WD, right? We did eventually get into trouble at one spot, though not on the way to Grjótagjá.

Reaching Grjótagjá:

After spending long hours researching how to reach this magical cave, we were sort of confident that we will find it. Well, to our credit we did find it. Thank you Google Maps, don’t know what we would do without you.

Attempt No 1. Try to take a short cut (Hint: Bad idea)

When two adventurous people marry each other, sometimes they do enjoy taking the road less explored and it’s not always the best choice, especially in the dead of winter with no one around for miles. There are two roads leading to Grjótagjá; one from Route 848 and the other from Route 1. Since we were coming from around Dimmuborgir, we thought the most logical thing to do is to take Route 848. As we mentioned above, the Ring Road is cleared regularly during winter but other roads aren’t. Somewhere down 860, we parked and thought we could walk it. Wading through snow with the winter sun over our heads for 30 minutes didn’t get us anywhere near Grjótagjá. It just managed to get us wet, tired and dehydrated.

Attempt No 2. Ask a local and take the Ring Road

We went back to our hotel and spoke to the lady at the reception who very politely told us to stick to the Ring Road which will take the car all the way to the cave. And so we went, with warm food in our belly confident that we had all the right information. We drove all the way to Reykjahlíð and came down Route 860. We did reach the cave and were the only ones there at the time, so we parked the car and reached the entrance of Grjótagjá. There was a board there with the name and information about the cave, so we knew we had reached the right place. When we reached the entrance, our heart stopped. It is a tiny hole in the ground!

As you can see from the picture above, the entrance looked so treacherous that we dared not enter. The locals do step in easily and claim that the ceiling is stable and will not cave in. But without any local with us, we decided it was for our own good to not be overly adventurous this time. If we slipped and fell inside on our way down, there was a slim chance of getting out. While Grjótagjá is accessible and probably less daunting in summer, during winter we would advise you to visit ONLY with a guide!

Some interesting trivia and history about this ancient cave:

  • During the eruptions from 1975 to 1984, the temperature rose to more than 50°C making it impossible to enter the water. Water has returned to a suitable temperature post the 90s and bathing has been permitted in certain parts of the cave. (Another reason to go with a local, so that you don’t break the law and injure yourself by stepping into scalding hot water).
  • In the early 18th century an outlaw named Jón Markússon lived in Grjótagjá and used it for bathing purposes. Given how remote this cave is, we believe it must have been a good place to hide.
  • There is another cave around Reykjahlíð  called Stóragjá which is used as an alternate for bathing.
  • Although the exterior of this cave was used for the lovemaking scene, most of the scene was actually filmed inside a Belfast production studio.

Jon Snow and Ygritte at Grjotagja

Photo Credit: HBO

We would love to revisit Iceland in the summer and finally attempt getting inside this cave someday. Have you been to Grjótagjá? Did you visit with a guide? Or are you braver than us? Let us know in the comments below!

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18 Comments

  1. April 14, 2018 / 9:54 PM

    Hahah oh my gosh no wonder it’s so hard to find!! It looks beautiful inside though, so definitely worth the effort.

    • April 14, 2018 / 10:44 PM

      A reason to go back to Iceland someday 🙂

  2. April 14, 2018 / 10:23 PM

    Good decision not to go in. It looks scary! Did you consider getting a guide? Maybe next time you’ll be luckier.

    • April 14, 2018 / 10:43 PM

      Next time we will surely go with a guide 🙂

  3. April 15, 2018 / 8:48 AM

    Ahh, I totally recognize that spot from the show! I had no idea it was in Iceland. You made the right choice not to go in without a guide… that looks rather treacherous!

  4. April 15, 2018 / 2:41 PM

    I think local advice is really important when exploring the sites that are off the main track in Iceland, especially in winter. If you had been lost after your first attempt to visit the caves, it could have been dangerous for you. Very relieved you made it back OK, and tried the other route successfully! As for entering the cave, I know what you mean. We visited a different site of some submerged hot caves elsewhere, and although some people venture inside, the access was far too tricky for us to attempt. In addition the signs told us that while that site had once been popular for locals to bathe, changes in volcanic activity meant the water there was now far hotter and too hot to bathe in safety!!!

  5. April 15, 2018 / 7:52 PM

    We love Iceland and visited twice last year, Winter and Summer. There is so much to see and do, we need to go back to visit Grjótagjá. As you mention, driving in the winter can be a bit tricky even with a 4WD.

  6. April 15, 2018 / 10:54 PM

    Oh man…so you didn’t make it down inside? Are you sure that was the only entrance? Was the footing all snow covered? That cave looks freakin awesome though…are you going to go back for a swim? Congrats on the honeymoon….woooohoooo!!!!

  7. April 16, 2018 / 2:06 AM

    Ah bummer that you didn’t get the chance to go in, but it’s probably for the best, especially without a guide! Definitely looks cool! #FeetDoTravel

  8. Indrani
    April 16, 2018 / 4:07 PM

    Didn’t know where Grjótagjá was exactly located. Glad you included the map. I like how they highlight such small caves too. It must have been slightly disappointing but then I would surely like it. Great pics. Love off beat locations a lot.

  9. April 18, 2018 / 3:53 PM

    It was probably for the best that you didn’t go in, especially during winter. I want to see Grjótagjá and thank god for the heads up!

  10. April 20, 2018 / 1:09 AM

    How exciting to find the GOT cave at Grojotagia. Too bad you did not go for a swim but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Great tips! Iceland is very high on my bucket list just not sure when to visit, winter or summer? Thanks for sharing! #feetdotravel

  11. April 20, 2018 / 3:09 AM

    At least you got TO the cave! Iceland is so popular right now — it was fun to read about your adventures there.

  12. April 20, 2018 / 6:15 AM

    Ahh, I am not sure if I would have wanted to get into the cave. When I visited Iceland, I stopped to see some minor waterfalls along the road and I noticed people jumping a fence very close to me. Then, I saw a sign explaining there are several caves in the area. I am assuming people were walking towards them. There is a lot to see in Iceland, more than the popular sights.

  13. April 20, 2018 / 6:38 AM

    What an adventure (or as you correctly said mis-adventure!). Glad you eventually found it and so glad you chose wisely not to enter, especially on your honeymoon lol. We did a tour when in Iceland at winter and we saw many drivers stuck in the snow, our guide had to tow a vehicle out of a dodgy area so we know how treacherous it can be. #feetdotravel

  14. April 20, 2018 / 9:43 PM

    You went on honeymoon to Iceland? Wow! That’s unusual! Most people go somewhere beachy!

  15. April 21, 2018 / 10:52 AM

    Haha that little entrance which the locals advised you to take does look a bit scary. Glad you finally found your way through. I remember many times my husband and I would also get super adventurous and take the ‘road less travelled’ and land up into trouble so I was laughing when I read your story 🙂

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