Hanging above a deep and seemingly endless black hole, the window cleaner’s basket in which I am standing jerks to life and begins to drop. After a nailbiting couple of minutes descending in the dark, we touch down. I am now inside a volcano.
Iceland is an incredible world of fire and ice, topped with creaking glaciers, bubbling mud pools, geysers and an astonishing country-length crack in the ground that marks the continental divide between Europe and the Americas.
But there is nothing more spectacular than this.
After clattering down a narrow chute, past sharp, spiked rock walls and a deep, red blowhole that mimics the jaws of hell, we have a gentle landing at the bottom of Thrihnukagigur volcano’s cavernous magma chamber, the only accessible one of its kind in the world.
Stepping out across the boulder-strewn floor, it is hard to stay upright as I stumble my way around, taking in a roof blotched with volcanic deposits that look like a modern art version of the Sistine Chapel, painted by a rather disturbed and angry artist.
The silence is eerie, the only noise comes from the continuous plop of water drops seeping through the earth, hitting the ground and echoing through the damp air. Coupled with the psychedelic views, the experience is mesmerising.
All too soon, it’s time to return to the surface. “You can stay down here if you want,” offers my guide, Bjorn, with a cheeky smile. “Take my radio and we’ll come back down and pick you up in 15 minutes or so. It’ll be fine.”
The chance to experience complete isolation from the world in this incredible place is tempting. But then I remember that we’re sitting right on top of the lava hotbed that caused Eyjafjallajökull to violently rumble to life in 2010 without warning, just 100 kilometres away. Erm, maybe next time…