Rútshellir: Iceland’s largest man-made Cave

Chapters

Basic Information

  • Largest man-made cave in Iceland. 
  • GPS: 63.52263, -19.57268
  • Small parking lot – please close the gate after you to protect the farm animals and keep them in.

There is something mysterious about caves. People are always excited to explore them to find out what is inside. One such cave that can heighten your curiosity is Rútshellir Cave. Located in South Iceland, Rútshellir Cave is situated amidst the majestic mountains. There are various man-made caves that can be found in the vicinity but the most notable one is Rútshellir Cave. It is nested by the magnificent Mount Hrútafell. The cave looks like a small house built in a huge chunk of rock. This is the beauty of Iceland; each corner is blessed with something distinct. The cave is known by several names such as Cave of Rútur and Hrútshellir Cave.

Rútshellir cave in south Iceland

Exploring the Rútshellir Cave

Rútshellir is the largest man-made cave in the country. Visitors stop by to admire this wonder created by humans that have been given several redecorations time and again. A stone barn was constructed onto the entrance of the cave in the early 20th century. Visitors enter the cave through this entrance only.

Once you go inside the cave, you will find that it is divided into two parts. The main cave is rounded and approximately 20 meters long. While the height is approximately 2.5 meters and across at its widest point, the cave stretches at least five meters. There are signs of habitation in the cave, which makes the whole watching experience even more exciting. At a certain time, Rútshellir was used as a warehouse or outhouse. Stockfish was also stored inside the cave. The ancient cave looks much improved from the outside and from the inside it looks like a ruined home. There is little evidence that the cave was used as a residence.

The smaller cave is known as Stúkan and there are speculations that it was a heathen temple or a blacksmith’s shop. The dimensions of the floor space are 8.05 x 2.40-meter square. The two caves are connected by an opening. The place is a haven for those who like to delve deep into the myths and legends of Iceland. There are details to be explored inside the cave such as a cross carved into the sandstone.

Rútshellir cave in south Iceland

Reaching the Cave

Renting a car is recommended for a visit to Rútshellir Cave, since no guided tours will take you here, except for the private tours. You will find the cave on the southern Ring Road, near Skógafoss waterfall. You can easily reach the cave from the parking at the old community center building at Skarðshlíð. From there you have to walk west towards the cave. You will reach the outer entrance shortly. Please close the gate after you. It helps to protect the farm animals and keep them in. A recent addition is the slabs that lead you to the cave making a trail.

As you reach closer to the cave, there are Carved stiles which is a good spot to take some photos with your friends.

Activities in the area

Rútshellir cave in south Iceland

Legend of the Cave

Another intriguing and mind-boggling story involves a man called Rútur who lived inside the cave along with his slaves. They intended to kill Rútur but he discovered their plot and killed them all instead. Guðni was the last slave killed on the stone which is today known as Guðnasteinn or Guðni’s stone. The cave was studied by German scientists on the order of the Nazi authorities. They examined sites of heathen temples in Iceland, inspired by the Nazis’ fascination for Old Norse culture. The cave is written in the Register of Estates compiled in 1714 by Árni Magnússon and Páll Vídalín. It was mentioned again in the Travel Book of Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson in 1756. Eventually, in 1818, it was recorded by the Rev. Ólafur Pálsson of Eyvindarhólar in a register of archaeological sites.

Rútshellir cave in south Iceland

Rútshellir Cave on a map

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