Published August 12, 2019
“Did I stumble through the back of the wardrobe and end up in Narnia?” I asked myself as the unassuming automatic doors of Perlan’s ice cave slid open and beckoned me inside what felt like an entirely different world. The walls glittered with frozen crystals; my breath condensed into vapour; all around me was an icy winter wonderland that felt utterly alien. While I knew somewhere in my head that I was but a stone’s throw from downtown Reykjavík, the beauty of Perlan’s ice cave transported me to another dimension.
Perlan’s fated ice cave
Yes, inside the circular dome of Perlan lies a real-life ice cave. The man-made 100 metre long structure is part of the building’s Wonders Of Iceland exhibition and feels a bit like entering a science fiction or fantasy movie. Winding haphazardly complete with twists, turns, and little alcoves, it’s designed to be as real as possible with layers of blue and white ice, and ash following your movements as you journey through the cave. While the ice cave is not real, per se, it was made exactly as a glacier is, that is through layers of compressed snow and water. They even brought in ash from Eyjafjallajökull to complete the illusion. Truly, it’s so life-like that had I not entered the ice cave through the comfortably warm and decidedly modern building of Perlan, I would wholeheartedly believe I was standing inside a glacier.
For reference, I’ve been inside or on top of most of the glaciers in Iceland. I’ve seen numerous ice caves and meandered through them. But if due to weather, time, or athletic ability, going to the real thing isn’t possible, there is no better way to experience the majesty of a glacier than Perlan’s ice cave. Grab some photos inside and trust me, no one will know the difference!
The future of glaciers
Ascending out of the ice cave delivers you directly into an interactive exhibit about glaciers in Iceland. Standing on censors, I pointed at glacier models projected on screens on the wall to learn about the ice giants, and see projections of their melting means for the future of Iceland. It’s both a fascinating and heart-wrenching experience. Of course, I knew the glaciers were melting, but I didn’t realise how that would affect the entire environment of Iceland, from erosion to water availability. It was a chilling experience (pun intended), but something I’m happy I did. Knowledge is power, as they say.
Along with the exhibition on glaciers, Perlan’s Wonders of Iceland museum also has exhibitions on Icelandic water and wildlife, and a recreation of an Icelandic bird cliff. As you gaze through massive binoculars at animations of birds feeding their children, socialising, or merely standing there in all their beauty, you’ll feel dwarfed by the loveliness of Iceland’s fauna and flora. From Perlan’s ice cave to its exhibitions to its bird cliff, The Wonders of Iceland exhibit is truly a wonder of Iceland.
Read more about the Perlan here.