Exploring Iceland's Glaciers - South Coast Skip to content
glaciers iceland
Photo: photo by Golli.

Exploring Iceland’s Glaciers – South Coast

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Iceland is home to many breathtaking natural wonders, including the glaciers that carve their way through the raw lava fields, providing the magnificent contrast Iceland is known for; fire and ice. 

In this guide you will find everything you need to know about the glaciers on the south coast of Iceland. We will provide essential information and tips for making the most of your icy experience.

Eyjafjallajökull glacier

Famous for its eruption in 2010, that disrupted air travel all across Europe, Eyjafjallajökull is a glacier with a big and well documented past. Eyjafjallajökull is the first glacier you will come across when travelling from Reykjavík city to the South Coast. It is not advisable to hike on Eyjafjallajökull itself without an experienced guide, but you can easily admire it while driving along the South Coast. If intrigued you can pay a visit to Eyjafjallajökull Visitor Centre to learn about the volcano´s history and its impact on the local environment. 

At the root of Eyjafjöll mountain you can also enjoy a relaxing, warm bath in Seljavallalaug nature pool before moving on to the next pitstop. 

glaciers iceland
photo by Golli

 

Sólheimajökull glacier

Sólheimajökull is a popular destination for glacier hiking and ice climbing adventures. From Reykjavík city it takes approximately two and a half hours to drive to the glacier, making it an ideal day trip for those looking to experience Iceland’s glaciers without venturing too far from the capital. Sólheimajökull glacier lies between two volcanos; Katla and Eyjafjallajökull and is close to the town of Vík. Its relatively easy to access the glacier but never venture on the glacier without proper preparation and equipment. 

Mýrdalsjökull glacier

Mýrdalsjökull is another impressive glacier worth exploring. This glacier is an ice cap covering the volcano Katla, which usually erupts every 40-80 years. Guided tours offer the chance to venture onto the glacier’s surface, where you can marvel at its ice formations and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Between Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull you will find the popular Fimmvörðuháls pass. The 24 km [15 mi] hike of Fimmvörðuháls is very popular and takes you from Skógar to Þórsmörk national park through the highlands. 

 

photo by Golli

Vatnajökull glacier

Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland and one of the largest glaciers in Europe. Covering an area of approximately 7,900 km2 (3,100 sq mi), it dominates the southeastern part of Iceland. Within Vatnajökull National Park, you’ll find many opportunities for glacier exploration, including guided ice cave tours, glacier hikes and even private tours through the famous Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.

Nestled beneath the glacier is Skaftafell, an oasis of greenery where you will find a beautiful camping spot with a view of the glacier, an array of hiking trails and a visiting centre. 


Langjökull glacier

Even though Langjökull glacier is not really one of the south coast glaciers, it is well worth the extra journey. Langjökull glacier is located in the remote highlands of Iceland and is the second largest ice cap in the country, with ice that is up to 580 m thick. Under the ice are two or more volcanic systems and during an Ice Age some volcanoes of this system covered the plains with lava. The lava field in question is about 7,800 years old and is called Kjalhraun lava field.

The access to Langjökull glacier may be limited during the winter months due to rough conditions. That being said, no matter the conditions, it is always advisable to visit the glacier with a guided tour as an experienced guide will know all safety precautions and be able to provide the necessary equipment. 

Tips for glacier exploration

  • 1. Safety first
    Glaciers can be unpredictable and dangerous so the safest way to enjoy everything the glaciers have to offer is with an experienced guide. Always make sure you have the right equipment and follow rules and guidelines. 
  • 2. Dress appropriately
    The weather in Iceland is known for its unpredictability, even during the summer. Before heading out for any adventures make sure you dress accordingly. This means layers and being prepared for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions. 
  • 3. Respect the environment
    This is a good rule to follow no matter what kind of adventure you embark on. Help preserve Iceland’s pristine landscapes by following the “Leave No Trace” principle. Read and follow signs, don´t leave trash, do not vandalise anything in nature you stumble upon and stay on designated paths and roads. 
  • 4. Book in advance
    Glacier tours and activities can fill up quickly, especially during the busiest tourist season. Make sure you book your tours, activities and accommodations in advance. 
  • 5. Stay informed
    When travelling to Iceland the best thing to do in order to keep safe is to stay informed. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and road conditions, especially if you’re planning to venture into more remote areas or plan on longer hikes.

It is certain that exploring Iceland’s glaciers will be an unforgettable experience. Whether you´re taking it slow while hiking across the ancient fields, venturing into ice caves or racing across the glaciers on a snowmobile, make sure to take it in and you´ll be left in awe of the wonders of nature. 

 

photo by Golli

 

 

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