Stunning. That’s one word to describe ice caves. Iceland is home to many of these natural wonders. You will find ice caves in different areas of Iceland, even in Reykjavík. If you venture out to an ice cave, remember to dress warmly, wear proper waterproof outdoor clothing and bring hiking boots. Don’t head out alone, always go with a certified tour operator. But most importantly, enjoy this unique experience.
The most well-known region for ice caves is Europe’s biggest glacier, Vatnajökull. Vatnajökull is 8,100 square kilometres, with an ice thickness of up to 950 metres. Ice caves naturally form at the edges of glaciers, and therefore many are hidden within the glacial tongues of Vatnajökull. A famous and easy-to-reach glacial tongue with accessible ice caves is Svínafellsjökull, part of Skaftafell National Park and close to the ring road. The view of Svínafellsjökull flowing into a small glacial lagoon is worth a visit by itself.
Distance to Reykjavík: 450 km
In North Iceland, close to Lake Mývatn, you will find Lofthellir Cave. This is a natural lava cave, and because it’s always below freezing inside the cave, it contains the most amazing ice sculptures. They are formed by dripping water that freezes over. The dark red and black colours of the lava contrast beautifully with the white and glassy ice. Tours are offered between 1st of May till the 31st of October.
Distance to Reykjavík: 480 km
Langjökull – Into the Glacier
Langjökull is Iceland’s second largest glacier. Since 2015 people can walk straight into the glacier, through a man-made tunnel going 30 metres down into the ice and stretching over half a kilometre. The tour starts with a spectacular ride in an eight-wheel drive glacial truck to the entrance of the tunnel. The tunnel is easily accessible and offers an amazing opportunity to explore the glacier from within. Even though it’s man-made, nature takes over quickly, which results in the tunnel slowly but constantly changing. Crevasses form and ice sculptures shape without human intervention. A difference with natural ice caves is that the tunnel has been made deep inside the glacier where the ice is most stable, instead of at the edges.
Distance to Reykjavík: 125 km (to Húsafell Base Camp)
In 2017, Perlan Museum designed a replicate of an ice tunnel, made with real ice. It’s the first indoor ice cave in the world. For this ice cave you don’t have to travel far, as it’s right in the middle of Reykjavík. The temperature inside the ice cave is -10 °C and it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk through it. It’s easily accessible and you don’t need special boots, but It’s recommended to dress warmly. Inside the cave you will read information about glaciers, while at the same time looking at and touching real ice. At the end of the tunnel there is an exhibition about glaciers in Iceland. A free shuttle bus drives between Harpa Concert Hall and Perlan. It departs twice every hour, every day.
Ice caves change constantly under influence of the weather and movements of the glacier. Tours are heavily weather dependent and might be cancelled based on weather conditions. Caves are sometimes narrow, and the cave floor might be slippery. Tour operators will make sure you have the right clothes and equipment. Always be careful, and only go into an ice cave with a certified guide.