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We descend into the Earth. Shining a torch into the gloom reveals boulders swept away in the lava flow, and shelves of rock running downhill and out of sight. The sunlight fades, and our footsteps echo. Verne's world of yawning crevices and subterranean monsters seems close by.

We go further, before Guðbjörg points to a second, deeper chamber, reached only by a rope. The dripping of water resonates around the cave, and I'm reminded of Axel's words in Journey to the Centre of the Earth: 'I had not yet peered into the fathomless pit into which I was about to venture. A rush of vertigo overcame me, and dizziness rushed to my head like wine. Nothing could be more intoxicating than the lure of the void.'

It's possible there are other tunnels yet to be explored, perhaps a whole network running deep beneath Snæfellsjökull and down into the innards of the planet. It's almost tempting to step into the pitch black, snatch a burning torch and begin our own subterranean adventure... but we turn back. After all, who would ever believe that what lies beneath our feet could be any stranger than the landscapes on the surface above?

 

Oliver Smith is a journalist who was named AITO Young Travel Writer of the Year for his article In Search of Lawrence's Arabia, in the May issue of Lonely Planet Magazine.

 

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The article ‘An Icelandic journey to the centre of the earth’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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