In 2010 there was a small volcanic eruption on the Fimmvörðuháls hiking route here. This proved to be a prelude to the massive Eyjafjallajökull eruption. These eruptions proved to change the lives of many Icelanders. Eyjafjallajökull was the catalyst for Iceland becoming a major destination for international travelers, which helped to catapult the country out of the economic crisis resulting from the banking crash of 2008 for the couple Ragnhildur Ágústsdóttir and Júlíus Jónsson, who trekked up to see the Fimmvörðuháls eruption and witnessed a stunning display of lava cascading down like a waterfall. They felt that everybody should have this sort of experience. The result is the stunning Lava Show.

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A demonstration of flowing lava indoors at the Lava Show in Iceland.
It is safe to say that the Lava Show is one of the most immersive shows you watch

Lady Lava and Mr. Lava Lava are one of Iceland’s most remarkable entrepreneurs.

What followed is one of the most remarkable tales of entrepreneurship and audacity in the history of the Icelandic travel industry. Ragnhildur and Júlíus explored how they could create an interactive and enjoyable learning experience around geology, volcanic eruption, and lava flow for the general public. The fruit of their labors was the Lava Show which opened in the southern town of Vík in 2018. Four years later, a larger version of the show opened in Reykjavik.

The Lava Show will make geology fascinating

I have attended both shows many times, and it is just the most amazing form of edutainment. The concept is simple. A massive oven melts basalt to create free-forming lava. Part of the lava flow goes over ice to demonstrate the interaction between ice and fire. Before the show, a video explains the geology behind volcanic eruptions, and a knowledgeable host demonstrates the qualities of lava and answers questions from the audience. This makes the Lava Show one of the best “school rooms” for geology worldwide. This is why many school groups visit the Lava Show every year. This is why it is not an exaggeration to call the Lava Show one of the best family-friendly activities in Iceland. Of course, the Lava Show is one of the many activities for you to get a discount promo code if you sign up for the Stuck in Iceland Newsletter.

Júlíus Jónsson, the co-founder of the Lava Show shows the properties of free flowing lava.
Júlíus Jónsson, the co-founder of the Lava Show shows the properties of free flowing lava.

Environmentally friendly lava melting furnace

So the Lava Show is unique. It makes it possible to get near real flowing lava safely. The show explains the forces that create volcanoes and is highly educational and entertaining. The furnace in the Reykjavik Lava Shows, which heats and melts the lava up to melting point to temperatures of 1100 degrees Celsius (2.000 Fahrenheit), is powered by methane created by bio-waste from the Reykjavik waste management company.

Ragnhildur, or Ragga as she is known to her friends, is a good friend of mine, and she has actually been my boss at two workplaces, Advania and Controlant, where I currently work. She recently dedicated herself completely to the Lava Show, and it is safe to say that her nickname, Lady Lava, is appropriate.

Hey Ragga, it is about time I interviewed you for Stuck in Iceland Travel Magazine. You recently opened the Lava Show in Reykjavik. How is that working out?

We are very pleased with how the Lava Show in Reykjavik has been received. Ever since we opened Lava Show in Vík back in 2018, we have received incredible reviews and it seems that word is spreading fast that Lava Show is now also open in Reykjavik.

We are also very happy with how the show itself has turned out. We were a little nervous since the show in Vík has been such a great success. I guess it’s always a little nerve-wracking when you do a sequel to a successful debut, no matter what it’s for.

Free flowing lava indoors at the Lava Show in Iceland
Opening the dragon’s mouth.

Storyline inspired by family history

The storyline in Vík is quite dramatic and intimate on a personal level. It mostly focuses on the volcanoes in the vicinity of Vík, with special emphasis on the Katla volcano. And although the flowing lava is always the main attraction, the video and the story we tell in the Vík show seem to strongly affect a lot of our visitors, which is why we felt the pressure of making sure the new storyline for Reykjavík would be equally powerful. And I think we’ve managed that. Here in Reykjavík, the focus is on the most catastrophic volcanic events in Icelandic history and how living with this constant threat has affected the Icelandic people throughout the ages, all the way back from when the Vikings first arrived until today.

Things don’t get more immersive than this.

The Lava Show is all about the audience

According to the reviews and the feedback that we’ve received, it seems that people are just as impressed with the Reykjavik show as the one in Vík, which is a relief. The most important thing for us is customer satisfaction and always maintaining the highest possible quality of the show. Therefore, seeing and hearing firsthand how happy and awe-inspired our guests are, not only in Vík but also in Reykjavík, is a great blessing.

You and your husband, Júlíus, got the idea for the Lava Show when watching an eruption in 2010, and I know it has been a lot of work setting up the Lava Show. Did you imagine back then that you would be running two venues for the Lava Show a decade later?

Haha! Well, yes and no. No, because we honestly didn’t have the faintest idea what we were getting ourselves into. When we had the initial idea, we knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to create the most entertaining geology class in the world. And we roughly knew how the end result should look. But we had no idea how to make that happen. We didn’t even know how to create the lava-melting process! We were absolutely clueless. And that was probably a good thing because if we would’ve known of all the challenges and difficulties we’d have to face, we would probably never have decided to go ahead with this crazy idea. It’s true what they say. Ignorance is bliss, which is why I also say yes. Because due to our cluelessness, we were not limited by the boundaries of how to get there. So we were free to dream big. We even talked about taking Lava Show to Las Vegas. Imagine what kind of production that could be.

Lava flows freely at the Lava Show in Iceland
Let the lava flow

Have you always been interested in geology and volcanoes? Or did this interest start during the Fimmvörðuháls eruption?

As long as I can remember, I have always been interested in geology. The same goes for my husband. We are geology enthusiasts, that’s for sure. But honestly, I think that goes for a lot of Icelanders. I mean, we live on a volcano island. Volcanism is part of our upbringing as there hardly goes a decade without an eruption or three. It’s hard not to be affected in some way.

In Iceland, the floor is lava

For me, it was as much the landscapes as it was the associated stories. As a child, my summers were spent traveling around Iceland with my parents. That had a profound effect on me. Iceland is a sparsely populated country, with most of the inhabitants concentrated in the Capital Area and the rest along the coastline. So it doesn’t take a lot of time driving – or walking, for that matter – to feel like you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded only by magnificent raw nature. Just by taking a good look at your surroundings, you will already be able to understand a lot about the history of the landscapes if you know what to look for. The signs of the ice and fire that Iceland it is known for are everywhere. If you think about it, literally every inch of Iceland is associated with volcanism. You could say that in Iceland, the floor really is lava!

Lady Lava is inspired by Icelandic history of volcanic eruptions

Growing up surrounded by these telling landscapes and the underlying stories fascinated me. I could easily picture the catastrophic events from the time these landscapes were formed. In my mind, I made up dramatic stories of how the people living in those times had to flee to save themselves. Some of these stories were the figments of my imagination, However my parents and my grandparents also told me a lot of stories of past volcanic eruptions and how they affected people. I’m sure some of them were mere folktales, but I was hooked. This undoubtedly influenced me and is a large part of the reason why I have such an easy time linking the science behind geology with the history of the Icelandic people. This fact came in handy when making scripts for the videos and storylines in the two Lava Shows. It combines my love for geology and storytelling.

The lounge at the Lava Show in Iceland
Chill out at the Lava Show

Iceland has many active volcanoes that seem to be on the cusp of erupting. This is an unfair question but what volcano do you think will be next to go off?

Haha! Good question. There are many volcanoes in Iceland that are long overdue from their typical rhythm in the past few centuries. Katla is of course a favorite example. In the last millennia she has erupted roughly twice every century.  She has stayed silent for over 100 years. Katla is my favorite Icelandic volcano in Iceland. After all, she is the focus volcano of the Lava Show in Vík where we tell a personal story about my husband’s great grandfather. He was caught in the 1918 Katla eruption. Other volcanoes that are overdue are Hekla and Grímsvötn to name a few. Askja has been showing clear signs that she is ready to burst and of course we have the Reykjanes peninsula that now has awoken from its 800 year long slumber so there are a lot of choices.

I’m going to put it down to odds and name the volcanic system that is historically the most active in Iceland. Grímsvötn. I’ll even predict that Grímsvötn will erupt in October this year. Now if that actually happens, everyone will think I’m a volcano witch!

You always get a lot of questions from the audience. What is the most memorable question you have had?

That’s a good one. We love getting questions from the audience. It makes it so much more interesting and interactive.

We’ve done over 3.000 Lava Shows since 2018, and there are some questions that we almost always get, which is perfectly normal as they have to do with how we melt the lava, how it acts as it flows and cools down during the demonstration, and many also ask about how we clean it up afterward. Sometimes, we get new questions. These are always memorable. Most of the time, we know the answers. However, sometimes we’ve had to look the answers.

The kids ask the best questions

It’s often the kids that come up with the most and fun questions. We’ve been asked if the sun is covered with glowing lava. Whether Iron Man would sink into lava. What practical uses there are for lava, and how we transport the lava from underground to our show.

I think my favorite question is: “Why does lava glow?” It was a 10-year-old girl who asked that question. She wasn’t looking for the obvious answer of it being because of the heat but the more scientific reason behind that fact. And the answer was a complex, it involves molecular friction but she totally got it. I was impressed.

Creating 'Witches hair' from molten lava at the Lava Show in Iceland
Creating ‘Witches hair’ from molten lava.

Watching the Lava Show is such a family-friendly activity and you have three young boys. What other family-friendly activities or places do you recommend here in Iceland?

What I really love about our show is that it combines education with entertainment. And yes, the show is indeed very family-friendly, and kids tend to love it.  Many adults are  surprised by how much they enjoy it. They think it is just a show for kids.

In terms of other family-friendly activities, there are so many but I will mention some of the attractions that are very close to the Lava Show in the Grandi Harbour District here in Reykjavík, such as FlyOver Iceland and Whales of Iceland. As for Vík, I would highly recommend Zipline Iceland for family-friendly fun before or after the Lava Show.

What advice do you have for those visiting Iceland for the first time?

It can take some time to get from one place to another. The roads and the weather conditions change rapidly. So if you are driving, make sure you are paying attention to travel conditions at safetravel.is.

Plan time for enjoying each place. Avoid sprinting from one place to another and spending most of your time in the car. Each place has so much to offer. It is much more enjoyable to savor the moments. Plan ahead but leave enough room for some flexibility.

Fet advice from locals if you can and read other people’s reviews for things you are considering. But most of all, just enjoy everything Iceland offers, from our amazing nature, and delicious food to excellent attractions.

And what kind of brand ambassador would I be if I didn’t end with the most important recommendation of all. Make sure to add the Lava Show to your itinerary. It truly is one of a kind.