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Ice Caves in Iceland: Your Complete Guide

Think of Iceland and you’ll likely picture flowing glaciers and vast expanses of ice. While it’s pretty impressive from above, the ice also hides a secret world below: ice caves.

13. desember 2023

Ice Caves in Iceland: Your Complete Guide

Think of Iceland and you’ll likely picture flowing glaciers and vast expanses of ice. While it’s pretty impressive from above, the ice also hides a secret world below: ice caves.

13. desember 2023

What are ice caves?

Among all of Iceland’s compelling sights, ice caves offer something special. In a tunnel of gorgeous, glistening blue ice, you’re seeing a world that very few people have ever seen before.

When it comes to Iceland’s ice caves, you have many different options to choose from. There are as many as 269 glaciers across Iceland, including ice caps and mountain glaciers, each with their own unique network of ice caves. You’ll find most near the south coast of Iceland, or in the rugged Icelandic highlands. But every ice cave has its own unique character.

There are two main types of natural ice caves. First up are the glacier ice caves. These are probably the most famous type, forming beneath the moving sheets of ice. In these marvellous spaces, you’ll experience the monumental mechanics of glaciers, feel them move, drip, and release their rocky loads. Perhaps most importantly for visitors to Iceland, these are the caves with the characteristic blue ice.

The other type of natural ice caves are a little different. Instead of caves formed within the ice of glaciers, these are actually caves of rock that are covered in ice due to low temperatures. So, while in glacier caves you are completely surrounded by ice on all sides, in these caves you won’t be.

That gives you one of the key differences: glacier caves are covered in ice all year round, but ice caves are likely to change form and appearance.

Of course, we should mention a third type of ice cave. These are caves that aren’t technically natural caves at all. Instead, they are carved from the ice by hand.

How are ice caves formed?

To understand how glacier caves are produced, you need to know a little about the complex life of glaciers.

Glaciers are formed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Snow falls on older snow that hasn’t melted and, as a result, that snow becomes heavy and compressed. Ultimately, it turns into very dense ice, which begins to “flow” due to its weight.

That’s the thing about glaciers. While they look like they are stationary, they’re actually streams of ice that flow downhill at a pace of roughly 30cm (a foot) a day. As they melt, accumulate more snow, and scrape against the surface of the earth, they’re constantly warping and changing shape.

That’s where ice caves come in. Due to the cycle of changing temperature and shape, air pockets can be trapped in the flow of ice. It’s these that become ice caves. Depending on how quickly the glacier is moving, they can last for a few years, or much longer. And new ice caves emerge all the time.

That means, when we’re looking at the ice in glacier caves, we’re seeing ice that’s potentially thousands of years old. That’s because snow takes so long to settle, accumulate, and flow. Over that time, all sorts of different shapes, colours, and forms can appear—from crystal ice patterns to smooth blue sheets. As a result, every cave is unique.

It’s the blue ice that captures the imagination of most visitors. The colour is produced by the oxygen that is trapped in the frozen ice.

What are the best ice caves to visit in Iceland? There are many to choose from, but these are some of our favourites.

Skaftafell Ice Caves

One of Iceland’s most iconic landscapes, and the ultimate gateway to glacier hikes and ice cave tours, no visit to the island is complete without an exploration of Skaftafell National Park. You’ll find it in southeast Iceland, around 330 km from Reykjavik. Before it was swallowed up by the larger Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell was a national park in its own right.

Deep in the heart of the Skaftafell National Park, you’ll find glaciers and ice caves of all shapes and sizes. You can explore the natural ice cave on foot, to enjoy its many colours and glistening forms.

Langjökull Ice Cave

For a different experience of the ice, visit the Langjökull ice cave, a tunnel built into the ice of the Langjökull glacier—one of Iceland’s most spectacular and largest ice caps.

It’s an amazing experience to stand on top of a glacier that descends 200 metres below your feet. Here, in the heart of the country’s icy wilderness, you’ll descend below the ice into the cold blue tunnel dug out by hand. You’re able to walk as far as 550 metres (1,640 feet) into the ice, in the longest ice tunnel on earth.

A Langjökull ice cave experience is possible all through the year, thanks to its remote location at the very top of the ice cap. Temperatures remain low enough in all seasons.

Iceland Newest Discovery: The Epic Askur Ice Cave on Myrdalsjökull

One of the newest glacier caves on the south coast of Iceland is Askur. Here, you’ll see a beautiful tunnel of glacial blue and volcanic black ice, a testament of Iceland's volcanic and glacial history.

You’ll find the ice cave on Myrdalsjökull glacier, a bit more than 2 hours drive from Reykjavík, making it the closest natural ice cave to the capital. But it’s not recommended that you go alone. As glacier caves are changing al l the time, you shouldn’t visit an ice caves without an expert guide who can tell you whether it’s safe to enter. Also, getting there requires a rugged all-terrain vehicle and of course the knowledge where to find it.

Find out more about the Askur ice cave tour here. We offer an exhilarating South Coast day tour with return trnasport from Reykjavík, visit to Iceland's two favorite waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss and an adventurous visit to the new ice cave on this South Coast & Mýrdalsjökull Ice Cave Tour from Reykjavík


Glacier activities in Iceland


blue ice cave iceland

Ice caves aren’t the only wonderful experience that Iceland’s glaciers offer. With their strange forms and vast expanses of white snow, glaciers promise a range of different adventures.

Take a boat ride between floating icebergs on Iceland’s deepest lake, take a glacier lagoon kayak tour, go hike on the surface of the glacier or climb up to Iceland’s highest peak, Öræfajökull, a volcano that reaches 2,110 metres (6,922 feet) above sea level.

Or, book a ride on a monster truck or a snowmobile to explore a mighty glacier from the back of an off-road vehicle. It’s a high-octane thrill in a truly breathtaking location.


What to Wear on an Ice Cave Tour?

Let’s talk about practicalities. On an ice cave, you’re heading deep below the ice. So, what should you wear?

It might sound obvious, but in the caves your priority is to keep warm. That means thermal layers and a warm jacket are necessary in all seasons. A hat as well as gloves to touch the ice with are more than sensible too.

By the way, we recommend picking up some Icelandic woollen socks too, as they are perfect for the cold (as well as comfy and traditional too!).

Don’t forget a waterproof jacket. In ice caves, you are walking beneath melting ice, which can drip. It’s recommended if you want to stay dry. Here is an entire article dedicated to this question.

What is the Best Time o Explore Ice Caves?

Exploring ice caves is an experience that is usually best left for the winter.

The winter is when ice caves are safest to visit, as the low temperatures make them more structurally sound. At other times, if temperatures are volatile or just too high, they can become unsafe and have been known even to collapse.

However, there are some ice caves—such as the man-made Langjökull ice cave—that are open all year round. You just need to go with a trained guide.

This final point is really important. You should never walk on or beneath a glacier without an expert. It takes training and experience to identify whether the ice is safe, and without that skill you can risk coming into serious harm.


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon


jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

One of the most incredible spectacles associated with Iceland’s glaciers is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Set in the heart of the south coast of Iceland, Jökulsárlón is a vast lake of melted glacial ice, where icebergs gently float.

You might have seen this incredible scene in movies such as Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, or Batman Begins. But it must be said: with its icebergs and sea life, it’s much more awesome in real life.

Explore the glacial lagoon on a boat tour, or visit the area on a 7-day tour of southern Iceland. It’s a must-see sight on a visit to Iceland.


Frequently Asked Auestions about Ice Caves in Iceland

Do you have more questions about Iceland’s ice caves? We answer some common queries here.

How cold is it in the ice caves?

Ice caves can be really cold. During the winter they can go down to -10°C (14°F), and even below that. They are made of ice after all!

That’s why it’s really important that you wrap up warm when visiting the caves. If you suffer too much from the cold, you just won’t enjoy the experience as much as you could.

Is it safe to explore ice caves?

When is the best time to go on an ice cave tour?

The best time to go on an ice cave tour is the winter. This is when the ice is coldest, most stable, and safest. In fact, during the summer, the ice caves are often not there at all.

That means the vast majority of ice cave tours in Iceland run through the autumn and winter, from October to April. However, if you’re here in summer and want to visit, don’t despair. Try a tour of an artificial cave, such as Langjökull, to see the blueish colours of ice for yourself.

How deep are ice caves?

Every ice cave differs in depth. While some are tiny pockets in the ice, others stretch for hundreds of metres underground.

Take the Langjökull ice cave, for example. Here, you can walk inside the ice for 550 metres (1,640 feet), making it the longest ice cave in the world.

What equipment is needed for a safe ice cave exploration?

Often, no special equipment is needed to explore ice caves by yourself—just sturdy boots, warm clothes, and gloves.

However, many tour operators will encourage you to wear a helmet, to protect you from the risk of falling ice. And depending on the conditions and the journey to the ice cave, you may need to wear crampons, special shoes for walking on ice.

Do you need to be fit to explore an ice cave?

No, you don’t need to be particularly fit to explore Iceland’s ice caves.

Many caves are accessible by vehicle or a short walk. However, while you don’t need to be in top physical condition, you will need to be stable on your feet.

It’s worth being aware that if you suffer from claustrophobia, ice caves are probably not the experience for you.

Can you visit ice caves on by your self?

Due to ever-changing conditions and weather, you shouldn’t visit an ice cave without a guide. That’s true even if you’ve stumbled across one on your own solo adventure.

However, there’s nothing stopping you from booking a tour on a self-drive trip or adding a guided ice cave experience tour to your itinerary. It’s truly one of the experiences that are unique to Iceland, and so if you haven’t tried it yet, we encourage you to do so!

Experience Iceland’s Ice Caves with Reykjavik Excursions

A visit to Iceland’s ice caves is one of the most incredible experiences the country has to offer. With their gorgeous blue hues and their ancient ice, experiencing these caves is like stepping into a fantasy world.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we offer a range of ice cave tours that take you to the heart of these magnificent places. We’ll provide the guides, the transport, and any specialist equipment you might need, meaning all you have to do is stand back and be amazed.

Start your glacier adventure by exploring our ice cave tours in Iceland.

Blogg

Fáðu innblástur! Upplýsingar og góð ráð, áhugaverðir áfangastaðir, skemmtilegar staðreyndar og margt fleira. Bloggið okkar er á ensku en það er stórskemmtilegt engu að síður!

Litli-Hrútur Eruption 2023 - The New Eruption near Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Once again, the enthralling spectacle of Iceland's Reykjanes volcano is back in the limelight! After 11 months of peaceful dormancy, the volcano is now alive and kicking, treating locals and tourists to another captivating visual performance. If you've been yearning for an adventure that's truly out of this world, this might just be your calling!

Lesa blogg

Ice Caves in Iceland: Your Complete Guide

Think of Iceland and you’ll likely picture flowing glaciers and vast expanses of ice. While it’s pretty impressive from above, the ice also hides a secret world below: ice caves.

13. desember 2023

Ice Caves in Iceland: Your Complete Guide

Think of Iceland and you’ll likely picture flowing glaciers and vast expanses of ice. While it’s pretty impressive from above, the ice also hides a secret world below: ice caves.

13. desember 2023

What are ice caves?

Among all of Iceland’s compelling sights, ice caves offer something special. In a tunnel of gorgeous, glistening blue ice, you’re seeing a world that very few people have ever seen before.

When it comes to Iceland’s ice caves, you have many different options to choose from. There are as many as 269 glaciers across Iceland, including ice caps and mountain glaciers, each with their own unique network of ice caves. You’ll find most near the south coast of Iceland, or in the rugged Icelandic highlands. But every ice cave has its own unique character.

There are two main types of natural ice caves. First up are the glacier ice caves. These are probably the most famous type, forming beneath the moving sheets of ice. In these marvellous spaces, you’ll experience the monumental mechanics of glaciers, feel them move, drip, and release their rocky loads. Perhaps most importantly for visitors to Iceland, these are the caves with the characteristic blue ice.

The other type of natural ice caves are a little different. Instead of caves formed within the ice of glaciers, these are actually caves of rock that are covered in ice due to low temperatures. So, while in glacier caves you are completely surrounded by ice on all sides, in these caves you won’t be.

That gives you one of the key differences: glacier caves are covered in ice all year round, but ice caves are likely to change form and appearance.

Of course, we should mention a third type of ice cave. These are caves that aren’t technically natural caves at all. Instead, they are carved from the ice by hand.

How are ice caves formed?

To understand how glacier caves are produced, you need to know a little about the complex life of glaciers.

Glaciers are formed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Snow falls on older snow that hasn’t melted and, as a result, that snow becomes heavy and compressed. Ultimately, it turns into very dense ice, which begins to “flow” due to its weight.

That’s the thing about glaciers. While they look like they are stationary, they’re actually streams of ice that flow downhill at a pace of roughly 30cm (a foot) a day. As they melt, accumulate more snow, and scrape against the surface of the earth, they’re constantly warping and changing shape.

That’s where ice caves come in. Due to the cycle of changing temperature and shape, air pockets can be trapped in the flow of ice. It’s these that become ice caves. Depending on how quickly the glacier is moving, they can last for a few years, or much longer. And new ice caves emerge all the time.

That means, when we’re looking at the ice in glacier caves, we’re seeing ice that’s potentially thousands of years old. That’s because snow takes so long to settle, accumulate, and flow. Over that time, all sorts of different shapes, colours, and forms can appear—from crystal ice patterns to smooth blue sheets. As a result, every cave is unique.

It’s the blue ice that captures the imagination of most visitors. The colour is produced by the oxygen that is trapped in the frozen ice.

What are the best ice caves to visit in Iceland? There are many to choose from, but these are some of our favourites.

Skaftafell Ice Caves

One of Iceland’s most iconic landscapes, and the ultimate gateway to glacier hikes and ice cave tours, no visit to the island is complete without an exploration of Skaftafell National Park. You’ll find it in southeast Iceland, around 330 km from Reykjavik. Before it was swallowed up by the larger Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell was a national park in its own right.

Deep in the heart of the Skaftafell National Park, you’ll find glaciers and ice caves of all shapes and sizes. You can explore the natural ice cave on foot, to enjoy its many colours and glistening forms.

Langjökull Ice Cave

For a different experience of the ice, visit the Langjökull ice cave, a tunnel built into the ice of the Langjökull glacier—one of Iceland’s most spectacular and largest ice caps.

It’s an amazing experience to stand on top of a glacier that descends 200 metres below your feet. Here, in the heart of the country’s icy wilderness, you’ll descend below the ice into the cold blue tunnel dug out by hand. You’re able to walk as far as 550 metres (1,640 feet) into the ice, in the longest ice tunnel on earth.

A Langjökull ice cave experience is possible all through the year, thanks to its remote location at the very top of the ice cap. Temperatures remain low enough in all seasons.

Iceland Newest Discovery: The Epic Askur Ice Cave on Myrdalsjökull

One of the newest glacier caves on the south coast of Iceland is Askur. Here, you’ll see a beautiful tunnel of glacial blue and volcanic black ice, a testament of Iceland's volcanic and glacial history.

You’ll find the ice cave on Myrdalsjökull glacier, a bit more than 2 hours drive from Reykjavík, making it the closest natural ice cave to the capital. But it’s not recommended that you go alone. As glacier caves are changing al l the time, you shouldn’t visit an ice caves without an expert guide who can tell you whether it’s safe to enter. Also, getting there requires a rugged all-terrain vehicle and of course the knowledge where to find it.

Find out more about the Askur ice cave tour here. We offer an exhilarating South Coast day tour with return trnasport from Reykjavík, visit to Iceland's two favorite waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss and an adventurous visit to the new ice cave on this South Coast & Mýrdalsjökull Ice Cave Tour from Reykjavík


Glacier activities in Iceland


blue ice cave iceland

Ice caves aren’t the only wonderful experience that Iceland’s glaciers offer. With their strange forms and vast expanses of white snow, glaciers promise a range of different adventures.

Take a boat ride between floating icebergs on Iceland’s deepest lake, take a glacier lagoon kayak tour, go hike on the surface of the glacier or climb up to Iceland’s highest peak, Öræfajökull, a volcano that reaches 2,110 metres (6,922 feet) above sea level.

Or, book a ride on a monster truck or a snowmobile to explore a mighty glacier from the back of an off-road vehicle. It’s a high-octane thrill in a truly breathtaking location.


What to Wear on an Ice Cave Tour?

Let’s talk about practicalities. On an ice cave, you’re heading deep below the ice. So, what should you wear?

It might sound obvious, but in the caves your priority is to keep warm. That means thermal layers and a warm jacket are necessary in all seasons. A hat as well as gloves to touch the ice with are more than sensible too.

By the way, we recommend picking up some Icelandic woollen socks too, as they are perfect for the cold (as well as comfy and traditional too!).

Don’t forget a waterproof jacket. In ice caves, you are walking beneath melting ice, which can drip. It’s recommended if you want to stay dry. Here is an entire article dedicated to this question.

What is the Best Time o Explore Ice Caves?

Exploring ice caves is an experience that is usually best left for the winter.

The winter is when ice caves are safest to visit, as the low temperatures make them more structurally sound. At other times, if temperatures are volatile or just too high, they can become unsafe and have been known even to collapse.

However, there are some ice caves—such as the man-made Langjökull ice cave—that are open all year round. You just need to go with a trained guide.

This final point is really important. You should never walk on or beneath a glacier without an expert. It takes training and experience to identify whether the ice is safe, and without that skill you can risk coming into serious harm.


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon


jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

One of the most incredible spectacles associated with Iceland’s glaciers is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Set in the heart of the south coast of Iceland, Jökulsárlón is a vast lake of melted glacial ice, where icebergs gently float.

You might have seen this incredible scene in movies such as Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, or Batman Begins. But it must be said: with its icebergs and sea life, it’s much more awesome in real life.

Explore the glacial lagoon on a boat tour, or visit the area on a 7-day tour of southern Iceland. It’s a must-see sight on a visit to Iceland.


Frequently Asked Auestions about Ice Caves in Iceland

Do you have more questions about Iceland’s ice caves? We answer some common queries here.

How cold is it in the ice caves?

Ice caves can be really cold. During the winter they can go down to -10°C (14°F), and even below that. They are made of ice after all!

That’s why it’s really important that you wrap up warm when visiting the caves. If you suffer too much from the cold, you just won’t enjoy the experience as much as you could.

Is it safe to explore ice caves?

When is the best time to go on an ice cave tour?

The best time to go on an ice cave tour is the winter. This is when the ice is coldest, most stable, and safest. In fact, during the summer, the ice caves are often not there at all.

That means the vast majority of ice cave tours in Iceland run through the autumn and winter, from October to April. However, if you’re here in summer and want to visit, don’t despair. Try a tour of an artificial cave, such as Langjökull, to see the blueish colours of ice for yourself.

How deep are ice caves?

Every ice cave differs in depth. While some are tiny pockets in the ice, others stretch for hundreds of metres underground.

Take the Langjökull ice cave, for example. Here, you can walk inside the ice for 550 metres (1,640 feet), making it the longest ice cave in the world.

What equipment is needed for a safe ice cave exploration?

Often, no special equipment is needed to explore ice caves by yourself—just sturdy boots, warm clothes, and gloves.

However, many tour operators will encourage you to wear a helmet, to protect you from the risk of falling ice. And depending on the conditions and the journey to the ice cave, you may need to wear crampons, special shoes for walking on ice.

Do you need to be fit to explore an ice cave?

No, you don’t need to be particularly fit to explore Iceland’s ice caves.

Many caves are accessible by vehicle or a short walk. However, while you don’t need to be in top physical condition, you will need to be stable on your feet.

It’s worth being aware that if you suffer from claustrophobia, ice caves are probably not the experience for you.

Can you visit ice caves on by your self?

Due to ever-changing conditions and weather, you shouldn’t visit an ice cave without a guide. That’s true even if you’ve stumbled across one on your own solo adventure.

However, there’s nothing stopping you from booking a tour on a self-drive trip or adding a guided ice cave experience tour to your itinerary. It’s truly one of the experiences that are unique to Iceland, and so if you haven’t tried it yet, we encourage you to do so!

Experience Iceland’s Ice Caves with Reykjavik Excursions

A visit to Iceland’s ice caves is one of the most incredible experiences the country has to offer. With their gorgeous blue hues and their ancient ice, experiencing these caves is like stepping into a fantasy world.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we offer a range of ice cave tours that take you to the heart of these magnificent places. We’ll provide the guides, the transport, and any specialist equipment you might need, meaning all you have to do is stand back and be amazed.

Start your glacier adventure by exploring our ice cave tours in Iceland.

Blogg

Fáðu innblástur! Upplýsingar og góð ráð, áhugaverðir áfangastaðir, skemmtilegar staðreyndar og margt fleira. Bloggið okkar er á ensku en það er stórskemmtilegt engu að síður!