Molten hot: Icelandic show recreates volcanic eruptions by pouring lava into a room full of people

The world's first lava show
The world's first lava show Copyright Jeremie Richard /AFP
Copyright Jeremie Richard /AFP
By Theo FarrantAFP
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Take a look at the world's first and only lava show


In a dark auditorium in Reykjavík (the city, not the Icelandic prime minister's new crime thriller novel), bubbling orange lava flows down a slide to within inches of awe-struck visitors.

The flow, contained on both sides by black sand, lights up the room like a spectacular sunrise.

This is the Lava Show, Iceland's latest tourist attraction, that uses reheated lava from a real eruption of the island's Katla volcano more than 100 years ago.

The heat emanating from the molten rock is tangible, so much so that some of the spectators shuffle in their seats to remove their coats.

"This is the show where you get to experience real molten lava flowing inside of a building, intentionally," the Lava Show's Scottish host Iain MacKinnon joked.

The first and only lava show in the world

Jeremie Richard/AFP
Real molten lava glows in front of the public at the Lava Show showroom in ReykjavikJeremie Richard/AFP

Hundreds of thousands of curious onlookers have flocked to watch the hypnotising jets of lava at Iceland's Mount Fagradalsfjall after two eruptions over the last year just 40 kilometres from Reykjavík.

But not all Icelandic eruptions are safe.

While the lava used in the show retains a hint of sulphur, the dangerous toxic gases that normally emanate from an eruption have dissipated, since the rock has been reheated and melted down so many times.

More than 600 kilos of tephra - the rocks ejected from Katla, one of Iceland's most dangerous volcanoes, when it last erupted in 1918 - are used in the Lava Show.

"We heat that up to its melting point, which is around 1,100 degrees Celsius and then we pour it into the room," said the show's founder Julius Jonsson.

In an adjoining room, a large furnace has been modified to suit the show's needs.

Jonsson's company has run a version of the production in the seafront village of Vik in south Iceland since 2018, but the Reykjavik show only opened last month.

He came up with the idea of a lava show when he was standing atop a glacier watching lava flow from Fimmvorduhals, a small eruption that preceded the massive Eyjafjallajokull one in 2010, whose ash cloud disrupted air traffic and stranded more than 10 million travellers.

Lava's all you need

Jeremie Ricahrd/AFP
Scottish Lava Show host Iain MacKinnon (C-L) manipulates cooled lava as the spectators get closer to it at the showroom of the Lava ShowJeremie Ricahrd/AFP

"It was really beautiful," Jasmine Luong, a 28-year-old Australian tourist from Melbourne said after visiting the attraction. 

"I can see why a lot of people would be drawn to (an eruption), but obviously you wouldn't be able to go near it in a normal natural setting," she added.

"This is a lot safer."

Charlotte Kuehnel, an Irish tourist also thought the show was "fascinating", and particularly liked how the molten lava changed colour throughout the show. 

"At the beginning it was very bright yellow, very neon, and then it kind of went darker as it went on," she explains.


Check out the video above for a closer look at this sizzling hot Icelandic experience.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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