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The Icelandic Glacier Guide: Ice Caving, Snowmobiling and Glacier Hiking

By Lára Borg Lárusdóttir

A man rides a snowmobile across a glacier in Iceland
Photo: Snowmobiling in Iceland.

In Iceland, there are numerous glaciers all over the country, perhaps explaining the country’s descriptive name. There are approximately 269 glaciers in Iceland, which cover about 11% of the country’s surface.

The Icelandic glaciers are not solely a stunning work of art for the naked eye, but they also provide a glimpse into the effects of climate change and how it has shaped nature in Iceland. Like many glaciers worldwide, the glaciers in Iceland are receding rapidly, leading to changing landscapes and rising sea levels.

Despite this, the Icelandic glaciers have been a symbol of the country’s stunning nature, with visitors from around the world getting drawn to them. Glacier-related activities have, therefore, become a key part of visiting Iceland with activities such as glacier hiking, snowmobiling and ice caving. 

People hiking in Skaftafell glacier
Photo: Skaftafell Glacier Hike

 

Glacier Hiking in Iceland 

Hiking on a glacier in Iceland is truly an unforgettable experience, allowing visitors to explore the mesmerizing icy landscapes of the country’s glaciers up close. Several glacier hikes are available in Vatnajökull, Sólheimajökull and Skaftafell glaciers.

 

Sólheimajökull Glacier Hiking and Walking

Hikes and walks on Sólheimajökull glacier have become immensely popular attractions in Iceland. The experiences range from relaxed glacier walks to more strenuous hikes.

 

Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike

The Sólheimajökull Hike is moderately difficult, lasting for about 3 hours. The tour is comprehensive, and guides will lead you through the experience, explaining the natural wonder of the Icelandic glaciers. Sólheimajökull glacier is part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which is one of the largest in Europe. Once the ice is reached, hikers get to bask in the beautiful views, which might reach the famous Eyjafjallajökull glacier on a clear day. Participants can also gaze deep into the glacier moulin, a vertical ice cave which can lead all the way to the glacier’s bottom.

 

Sólheimajökull Glacier Discovery Tour

The Glacier Discovery Tour is an easy walk on Sólheimajökull glacier’s tongue. The walk is family-friendly, and everyone from the age of 10 can participate. The walk lasts for about 2.5 hours, with plenty of stops and photo opportunities on the way. The guides will educate the group on the glaciers and their ever-changing landscapes.

 

Glacier Hike, Waterfall and Black Sand Beach

The Glacier Hike, Waterfall and Black Sand Beach Tour is a whole-day trip that takes participants to see the top attractions on the south coast of Iceland. The main sights of the trip are the well-known Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, Reynisfjara black sand beach and finally, a glacier hike at Sólheimajökull glacier. The hike offers the opportunity to gain an understanding of the glacier’s formation and its movements and changes, along with exploring glacial features.

 

South Coast and Glacier Hike

The full-day Small South Coast and Glacier Hike Tour takes a smaller group of a maximum of six people on an excursion of Iceland’s south coast, visiting two of the country’s most famous waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and to Reynisfjara black sand beach. The tour then ends with a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull glacier. The tour is more intimate as it is meant for a small group.

People hiking on sólheimajökull Glacier
Photo: Golli – Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike

 

Vatnajökull Glacier Walk

Vatnajökull is one of Iceland’s most spectacular sights and a unique phenomenon to experience as it is not only Iceland’s largest glacier but also Europe’s largest glacier by volume. 

During the Vatnajökull Glacier Walk, participants explore a piece of Vatnajökull National Park, Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which extends from Vatnajökull. During the walk, participants will explore the icy world of the glacier with sights such as small caves, waterfalls, tunnels, and other stunning ice-related matters.

 

Ice Climbing and Glacier Hikes

If only hiking on a glacier is not enough, various tours offer additional challenges, such as ice climbing. 

The Skaftafell Glacier Hike and Ice Climbing Tour and the Sólheimajökull Ice Climbing and Glacier Hike Tour take participants to another level. After hiking on the glacier, the guides will set up a climbing rope where the group will be taught how to ascend a vertical wall using ice axes and crampons. So, having the skill to flaunt ice axes isn’t just a cool party trick; it’s the secret to unlocking the frozen wonders of Iceland’s glaciers.

 

Zipline and Glacier Hike

To add even more adventure into a glacier hike, doing a Zipline and Glacier Hike Tour is possible, giving it a bit more zest. The tour takes participants on a hike on Vatnajökull glacier. Afterwards, tired hikers have the opportunity to slide across the glacier over a vertical ice cave and enjoy the breathtaking views as they swing across. The experience is quite unique as it is the first and only glacier zipline in the world. 

 

Ice Caving Tours in Iceland

Visiting ice caves in Iceland is a multisensory experience, truly immersing visitors in the raw beauty of the country’s nature. It is an experience that could be described as stepping into a giant, frozen disco ball where the beats come into existence with the echo of the footsteps. The adventure offers a glimpse into the unfiltered beauty of natural formations found countrywide in Iceland. 

 

Enter an Ice cave on Vatnajökull Glacier

The Vatnajökull Ice Cave Tour lets visitors enter an ice cave on Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The ice cave comprises the ice’s blue crystal colours, creating a fantastic opportunity to catch the perfect image. The glacier tour takes about three to four hours and is an unforgettable experience in nature’s icy disco ball. The ice caves are formed naturally, letting Mother Nature decide their shape and location.

 

Visit the South Coast and Enter a Volcano Ice Cave

The South Coast and Katla Ice Cave tour is an immensely special one as participants get to enter an ice cave located on one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, Katla. 

After visiting the ice cave, the group will visit two of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. The group will then drive and walk on a black sand beach where sand derives from the Katla volcano.

 

Visit the Golden Circle and an Ice Cave in a Monster Truck

The Golden Circle and Ice Cave Tour combines two enjoyable adventures in Iceland, the famous Golden Circle and a visit to an ice cave in Langjökull Glacier. The tour takes participants on a journey to Iceland’s most popular attractions, Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal area. Afterwards, the journey leads to another world, inside an ice cave on Langiökull’s glacier. Not only that, but participants get to embark on this adventure in no other than a monster truck.

A man inside an Icelandic ice cave
Photo: Ice Caving and Glacier Hiking

 

Glacier Snowmobiling Tours in Iceland

Taking part in a snowmobiling adventure in Iceland is both an adrenaline-filled experience and an opportunity for participants to connect with the unique nature and, nonetheless, on top of a glacier.

 

Snowmobile Adventure on Mýrdalsjökull Glacier

The Mýrdalsjökull Glacier Snowmobile Tour is an adrenaline-fueled adventure on Mýrdalsjökull glacier on Katla volcano. The tour starts with a glacier truck taking participants up the mountain. Afterwards, the true fun begins roaming the glacier and rejoicing in the breathtaking scenery.

 

Hot Spring and Snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier

The Hot Spring and Langjökull Snowmobiling Tour is a contrasted experience between hot and cold, tranquillity and thrill. The tour brings participants to Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull, for a fun adventure riding on the ever-changing landscape. After the snowmobiling, participants can relax and rejuvenate in the hot geothermal water of the Secret Lagoon.

 

Snowmobile Adventure on Europe’s Largest Glacier Vatnajökull 

The Vatnajökull Snowmobile Tour gives participants the opportunity to tell their loved ones back home that they have ridden a snowmobile on Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The journey starts with a jeep drive towards the glacier, and subsequently, the snowmobiling begins on the famous glacier.

Snowmobilers in Iceland pose in front of the Northern Lights
Photo: Snowmobiling adventure

 

Other Glacier Adventures in Iceland 

There exists an ocean of extraordinary glacier trips and tours in Iceland: hikes, climbs, helicopter tours, snowmobiling, jeep tours, ice caving and much more. These activities can be taken independently or combined with other classic Iceland tours. 

Iceland’s stunning glaciers offer calm, breathtaking and thrilling adventures, depending on what participants want, need and dare to. The Icelandic glaciers represent a complex interplay of nature, climate and human connection, making them a cornerstone of Icelandic tourism and identity. 

Here, you can see all available glacier adventures.

 

What to Wear on a Glacier in Iceland?

When glacier hiking, snowmobiling or ice caving in Iceland it is important to prepare well. With Iceland’s unpredictable weather, it is essential to dress in layers with long wool underwear, wool or fleece thermal mid layers and water- and windproof external layers. A warm hat or a balaclava, warm gloves and socks are also a must, where wool is a good option. 

It is also a must to wear proper winter shoes and quality hiking shoes for glacier hikes and walks. 

When needed, tours provide items such as crampons and helmets.

 

What is the Largest Glacier in Iceland?

Iceland’s largest glacier is Vatnajökull, located in the country’s southeast, covering over 8% of the country. The glacier is not only Iceland’s largest but also Europe’s largest glacier, with a size of 8,100 km². 

 

Is it Safe to Hike on a Glacier in Iceland?

All tours have specially trained guides who are well-educated and experienced in exploring and navigating these complex landscapes. Therefore glacier hiking, snowmobiling and ice caving in Iceland is a safe option when done with a guide. Nonetheless, participants should always remain cautious and alert, stay with the group and listen to instructions. 

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