GLACIER ACTIVITIES IN ICELAND
It is always fun to tour Iceland, but your trip wouldn’t be complete without checking out glacier activities in Iceland. Glaciers are a body of thick ice that always moves under its weight. Glaciers generally form over centuries in areas where there is heavy snowfall compared to melting. Over time, the snow will compress into a single icy layer. These glacial structures are usually formed on high altitude highland ranges. Around these areas, the temperatures that support this formation are generally below the freezing point. In Iceland, glaciers are 11.1% of the earth’s surface. They play a vital role in Iceland’s meteorological and geological landscape. The cold and wet conditions in Iceland produce the perfect situation for the formation of glaciers. There is so much to do on a glacier tour and before we delve into it, here are the most popular glaciers in Iceland.
Most popular glaciers in Iceland
Iceland boasts of the two most massive glaciers in Europe, Langjokull glacierand Vatnajokull glacier.Iceland glaciers are unique for a lot of reasons. The biggest one is the fascinating coloring. They are not the natural white color that you find around the world. Instead, the ice formation is under a lot of pressure, making it produce a beautiful blue color. Just above this coloring is a layer of black. However, it is not a result of air pollution. Instead, it settled from years of volcanic activity on the island, some of them dating back to almost a hundred years ago. Here are some glaciers to look out for:
Vatnajokull glacier is not only Iceland’s largest glacier, but it is also the largest in Europe by volume. It makes up for 8% of the land area in Iceland, has an average ice thickness of 380 meters, and some areas are 950 meters thick. This impressive glacier is located in the southeastern part of Iceland. Skaftafell National Park is the hub for most activities in Vatnajokull.
Langjokull is the second-largest glacier in Iceland. It is located in the west of the country, near Reykjavik and the famous Golden Circle. The largest artificial ice cave is in Langjokull. In recent years, natural ice caves have also formed in Langjokull, which present the perfect opportunity to experience the deep blue colors found within the glacier.
You can find Solheimajokull in southern Iceland between the volcanoes Eyjafjallajokull and Katla. It forms a part of the great Myrdalsjokull glacier. Solheimajokull is a popular tourist site to visit thanks to its relative ease of access.
Snaefellsjokul is a stratovolcano covered with 700,000-year-old glaciers. It is located in western Iceland, near Reykjavik. The last eruption of Snaefellsjokul occurred about 1,700 years ago.
Eyjafjallajokull was the famous volcano that erupted in March 2010, causing a significant disruption of air traffic throughout Europe. It is one of the smallest ice sheets in Iceland that is located at the southern end of the island and covers a stratovolcano.
Myrdalsjokull’s ice sheet may be smaller than Langjokull and Vatnajokull, but it is still a marvel to behold. Myrdalsjokull covers Katla,a volcano that is known to erupt at intervals of 80 years. Scientists have been carefully monitoring Katla for her next eruption as the last time was in 1918.
Types of glacier activities in Iceland
Now that we have a fair idea of what to expect, there are many different ways to experience glaciers in Iceland. From walking through icy landscapes to flying over glaciers and volcanoes by helicopter, each experience is unique. Here are a few:
1. Glacier hiking and ice climbing
Many visitors to Iceland are interested in hiking on the glaciers. It is perhaps the most popular tourist activity on the island. Nor is it surprising why, since it is one of the best ways to have an exciting adventure while enjoying all that the stunning scenery has to offer. Hiking on glaciers is not something you can try on your own. Not only do you need the right gear to walk on the ice, but you must also go to the glacier with people who are familiar with the area and have the necessary training to face any unexpected situation that may occur. Glacier hiking is an activity that is available throughout the year. You can find a variety of walking tours of the glaciers in summer and winter. There are several places where you can go hiking in Iceland. Here are the most popular:
✔ The Solheimajokull glacier is an outgoing glacier from the Myrdalsjokull glacier. This is one of the most common options for glacier hiking due to its proximity to Reykjavik. It is also located in a central area enroute to the most popular places on the south coast of Iceland, such as the Vic beach. You can book a tour of the Solheimajokullglacier at any time of the year.
✔ The Svinafellsjokull glacier in the Skaftafellnational park is another popular option that is available year-round. It is the glacial tongue of the enormousVatnajokull glacier with more than 8100 km2. It is more than three times the size of the country of Luxembourg.
✔ Jokulsarlon/Glacier Lagoon: Many visits to ice caves begin here even though the actual location of the ice cave is generally in the Skaftafell National Park. The ice caves inside the glacier can be visited in winter only at the end of October until March.
Several unique hiking trails are offered, and whichever one you decide to participate in will depend on the glacier you are interested in seeing, as well as your skill level.
2. Glacier Ice Caving
Another popular glacier activity in Iceland is caving. Being surrounded by thick, sapphire blue ice walls is another great way to experience Iceland’s nature up close. It is crucial to keep in mind that ice caving is best performed in the winter months. The only accessible ice cave during the summer months are those found in the vicinity of the Katla volcano, on the Myrdalsjokull glacier.Iceland is an ice cave paradise! With all its glaciers and ice formations, the natural ice caves are not lacking, and its blue ice roofs make the scene fascinating and extremely photogenic. Some different ice caves have been visited in recent years, and we will talk about each one to explain the difference and uniqueness of each of them. You can visit most of them by taking part in the day trips and, like the glaciers, most of the ice caves are located in southern Iceland.
Visiting a natural ice cave is really a once in a lifetime experience, especially now that glaciers are melting due to climate change.The feeling of being in a glacier is fantastic, and the colors and history found in the glacial layers are remarkable. The glaciers of the ice cave are the Langjökull, Kötlujökull glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull, Falljökull of Vatnajökulland Breiðamerkurjökull.
✔ The ice caves of Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cave in Europe and covers about 8% of Iceland’s surface. This voluminous glacial wonderland is located in the central and southern and southeastern region of Iceland, and its outgoing glaciers extend to the ring road one in the south. The melting water of a glacier of this size is incredible, and with climate change and the movement of the glacier, more and more ice caves are formed in the area. The most famous ice caves are found in the output glaciers of Vatnajökull,Falljökull, and Breiðamerkurjökull. Falljökull has new caves and ice tunnels that appear, but the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier has the Crystal Ice Cave.
✔ The crystal ice cave
The crystal ice cave is known for its incredible turquoise colors. You can find this ice cave in Breiðamerkurjökull, which moves outwards from Vatnajökull. Vatnajökull is the largest ice sheet in Europe, and this beautiful glacier leads to theJökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The advantages are that the ice roof is very thin, which makes it easier for the light to shine,creating the most spectacular view of blue ice. However, this also means that it depends more on the weather. A cold but bright day spent in this cave will give you the most extraordinary experience.
✔ Skaftafell glacier tour
It is a hike on glaciers and an ice cave that explores the adventure on the Falljökull glacier, a glacier that is an outlet from Vatnajökull. This glacier ice cave is stunning, and it is no wonder that it remains a winter attraction in the famous Skaftafell National Park area. The ice cave is not always the same, but the glacier has not failed yet in creating one wonder after another. This is the picture-perfect tour for those who wish to walk on a glacier and also visit an ice cave.
✔ Katla’s Ice Cave
This ice cave is located in an exit glacier of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier cap called Kötlujökull, which got its name from the active Katla volcanothat lives inside the glacier. The ice cave is relatively new, but it is magnificent and unique. The landscape that leads to the glacier is extremely rugged, so you must join a route from Reykjavik or Vík to get the proper trip. The area surrounding the glacier opening is known to be extraordinarily lunar and beautiful. The hike to the glacier is short, and you will need the appropriate glacier equipment since you should not take any risk when entering an ice cave. This is offered by tourism companies that offer trips to the Ice Cave, adding another reason why people should not try to explore the Ice Cave on their own.
The first part of the trip involves walking through a narrow ice tunnel, after which you will enter the “dome” of the Ice Cave, where an openingstaring down from the roof has formed that makes you feel like you are in a vast cathedral glacier. Two years ago, another opening was found in a second ice cave located within the first, adding more excitement to the experience of visiting the glacier under the volcano. This is one of the unique experiences one can have.
✔ Langjökull ice caves
This only glacier bigger than Langjökull glacierin Iceland is the Vatnajökull glacier. You can find this beauty in the West Midlands, and if you look closely, you will realize that its shape bears a striking resemblance to the image of Africa on the map when turned upside down. The glacier feeds into the Barnafoss,Hraunfossar, and Gullfoss waterfalls, with breathtaking views from Langjökull. In Langjökull, there is an artificial ice tunnel that came into existence a few years ago. Just on the other side of the glacier are natural ice caves of immense beauty that have formed over the past two years. You can visit this natural ice cave using snowmobiles or a jeep tour of the Gullfoss waterfall right next to Reyjavík. You can visit the human-made one ontour from Reykjavík or Húsafell.
✔ Ice tunnel in Langjökull glacier
The terrain is like another planet while heading from Húsafell to the camp. Once there, you will move to a huge Monster Truck that will take you to the opening of the Ice Tunnel, where you will receive crampons, and you can explore the impressive glacier from the inside. You will see the layers of the glacier and get to a history lesson about why and what caused these lines to form. There is a chapel inside the glacier. There are cracks in the cave so you can see even better the core of the glaciers, and there will be many moments to take some great photos. The creation of this ice tunnel required a lot of planning, enthusiasm, and handling. The results are beautiful.
In 2016, one natural ice cave was found shining like a diamond everywhere, and the silence inside was without comparison. It was a magical time to slide into the ice cave since it was only accessible through a natural glacier channel. This cave, unfortunately, did not last long, and in the winter of 2017-18, the cave was no longer safe. There are several others in existence in Langjökull, and a guide can take you through the experience of discovering them.
However, in 2017, nature created another cave, and this time it was even more beautiful. From the sapphire blue roof to the excellent colors radiating all around, you could tell that it was filled with a rich history of its volcanic systems. Upon entering the ice cave of the glacier, you will have the option of going left or right. The left will take you to the narrow part of the glacier, where small frozen posts seem to be retained. Climb up the roof of the glacier, and the beautiful aquatic colors blend with the snow or just where there is a large hole where you can enter. This is where you can stand and admire the glacier and its shape. The frozen river on the roof is the widest in this part, and during the coldest months of winter, frozen waterfall forms on the right-wing. You may have to slide down to explore this part, but getting up is easy.
3. Glacier Boat Tours
Now, you may be thinking, how is it possible to take a tour of the glacier by boat? Well, given the volume of ice sheets found in Iceland, water melting from glaciers has accumulated in certain lagoons at the base of ice sheets. In the kingdom of Vatnajökull is an isolated glacial lagoon called the Fjallsárlón. Getting to see this lagoon is like entering a dream world that offers remarkable views. The highest volcano in Iceland, the Öræfajökull glacier, looms over the lagoon and reaches the water where the icebergs break in the lake and float serenely before melting.
On this glacier boat tour through the isolated glacier lagoon, you can get a glimpse of theVatnajökull glacier tower just above the mountains as you navigate among the icebergs on the icy lake. This tour is for those who want to experience the surreal but magnificent landscapes of Iceland.After you put on a warm suit and a life jacket, your guide will take you through the green, mossy landscape to the lagoon where you will find the boats. There, your guide will drive your boat through this glacier lake and discuss its rich history. The boats will take you near the glaciers and give you spectacular views of the blue and white icebergs and the glacial tongue that breaks. Thanks to its magnificent landscape, Fjallsárlón stands out. Photographers will have some fun with this incredibly picturesquelagoon. The Vatnajökull glacier creeps down a steep slope towards the Fjallsárlón lagoon. The glacier is part of the Vatnajökull National Park, one of the three national parks in Iceland. The park has a wide variety of unique landscapes.
4. Glacier Helicopter Tours
If you’ve never been before a helicopter, do it for the first time as part of your glacier activities in Iceland. Experiencing the natural beauty of glaciers, volcanoes, and all that Iceland has to offer from a bird’s perspective is something you will never forget. You can see things from a completely different perspective than when you are on the ground.
Start your adventure from Reykjavik National Airport and head towards the Risrisjökull Glacier. The landing on this tour is in the Þórisjökull glacier, next to the Langjökull glacier. Enjoy the almost unreal view and the magical feeling of walking on a glacier. The glacier itself is covered with snow throughout the year, so you can take a deep breath of fresh alpine air.
From the top of the glacier, you can see the distinctive features of Iceland’s wild highlands. Then head over to the Skjaldbreiður volcano and fly over its ancient crater. On the way back,you can hover over the Þingvellir National Park, a beautiful valley where the historic site of parliament is located and where you can find Iceland’s largest natural lake. There you can see the continental drift of the North American and Eurasiantectonic plates, one of the wonders of nature. There is no better way to see the middle Atlantic ridge than from a helicopter as you will be between Europe and North America.
5. Glacier Jeep Tours
Another fun glacier activity is to take a tour on a super jeep. These rugged vehicles can board any topography, so your driver will climb the slopes of the famous Langjokull glacier if the weather allows it. Keep in mind that this is not off-roading, as this is illegal in Iceland to protect the fragility of Iceland’s ecosystem. Vatnajökull is close to some of the most beautiful sites in that area. On a bright day, you can even see the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnjúkur. Under the ice sheet, there are valleys, mountains, and active volcanoes.Depending on the weather, you will continue towards the glacier in your large jeep, which can easily climb snow-covered hills with a little help from an expert. Alternatively, you can leave the automobile in exchange for a snowmobile.
You can explore the vast empty white of ice and snow on this glacier while running on the mounds of snow or flying over the icy hills in the jeep. You will have the opportunity to go out and stand on the old ice with a volcano under your feet and incredible views in front of you. You will see mountains, deep valleys, the interior of Iceland, and the beautiful southeast region around it.
Whichever glacier activity you choose for your next tour of Iceland, you will definitely have a lot of fun.