Visiting Iceland Ice Cave was on my bucket list for a very long time and finally, I managed to do it! In this guide, I share with you my experience of visiting Iceland ice caves, as well as all the information that you might need when you plan your ice cave tour in Iceland.
Iceland, a land of ice and fire, is one of the best places in Europe to visit ice caves. Iceland ice caves and glacier caves form every year and offer a magical experience. Imagine actually not only walking on top of it but also being inside the biggest glacier in Europe while on an ice cave tour in Iceland. How cool is that? (no pun intended ;))
ICELAND ICE CAVES
After visiting Iceland for 7 days a few years ago, I knew I wanted to go back to the country and explore it even more. The erupting volcano was a good excuse to travel to Iceland in October (even though it kind of stopped when we were there), and when I found out that the Iceland ice cave season has already started, it was a no-brainer.
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Table of Contents
- ICELAND ICE CAVES
- The best Iceland ice caves
- The best ice cave tour in Iceland
- FAQ for ice caves in Iceland
- # Can you visit ice caves in Iceland on your own? Ice caves safety tips
- # How to access ice caves in Iceland
- # The best time of year to visit ice caves in Iceland
- # Can you visit Iceland ice caves in the summer?
- # What to wear on an ice cave tour in Iceland
- # How much does it cost to see the ice caves in Iceland?
- # Ice cave photo opportunities and tips
- # Where to stay near ice caves in Iceland
Planning a trip to Iceland? Have a look at these posts!
- Best 7 days Iceland itinerary
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- Iceland off the beaten path
- Iceland on a budget
Where are the glacier ice caves in Iceland located?
Iceland ice caves are actually the glacier ice caves since they form within the glacier ice. Every year, they are created all over again, and therefore their location changes. Some of the caves, such as the crystal ice cave in Iceland, tend to form at the same place for several years now, but there are many other ones that change the location or the new ones that appear.
The most popular ice caves are located in Vatnajokull National Park. It’s the biggest glacier in Europe, positioned in Southeast Iceland, around a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik. There are also some ice cave tours at the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell National Park and in the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
On top of it, you can also find a man-made ice cave in Iceland, carved inside the Langjökull Glacier.
How do Iceland ice caves form
The ice caves in Iceland are formed when the melting glacier ice water runs through the glacier. During the summer, due to warmer temperatures and sunlight, parts of the ice on top of the glacier melt.
The meltwater drains down through the ice crevasses and descents to the bottom of the glacier. There, it carves tunnels under the glacier and comes out as a glacier river. In the autumn and during winter, the river flow is lower, so the tunnels left behind are the caves that can be visited by tourists.
Ice caves in Iceland in the glaciers are also sometimes formed by the combination of meltwater and subglacial flows from geothermal activity.
The best Iceland ice caves
Some of the ice caves in Iceland reappear in the same or similar place year on year. Here are some of the best Iceland ice caves you can visit.
Crystal Ice Cave Iceland
Location: Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier
Season: October – April
Best tour for Crystal Ice Cave: Crystal Ice Cave Tour from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Crystal Ice Cave is the most popular ice cave in Iceland. It’s the largest ice cave in Vatnajökull National Park, it can fit up to 100 people. It’s located in Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, and hence it’s also known as Breiðamerkurjökull Cave. It usually can be found in the same place every year, and its name comes from its shiny blue and transparent ice interior.
I took a Crystal Ice Cave Tour and I was really happy with my choice. First, we drove for around 20 minutes in a big jeep on a rough road, which had a sign “only 4×4” in front of it. There, we crossed rivers and huge boulders. Afterward, we walked for around 15-20 minutes on a relatively flat path to get to the cave. It wasn’t a difficult walk. In fact, I was expecting it to be much harder, and like a proper hike, which it wasn’t.
From the car park, we could already see the Vatnajökull glacier in the distance, and its arm, Breiðamerkurjökull. It was huge! With every step we were getting closer and closer to the glacier, walking alongside tall mountains and the glacier landscape.
When we finally reached the entrance to the Crystal ice cave, at first it wasn’t that impressive. All we could see was grey-ish ice and a small entrance.
But then, we got inside, and WOW!
The array of green, turquoise, blue and black colors appeared in front of my eyes. I carefully examined the shiny surface of ice carved by the water, I listened to the rushing glacier river in the middle of the cave, and I watched the different shapes of ice. All of that made a huge effect on me. The cave felt very big inside, and I just wandered around it in awe, admiring nature’s creation.
The vivid blue colors of the ice inside the crystal ice cave are a result of the compression of snow into ice. Because the glacier where the cave is located is so old, the ice had a lot of time to squeeze the oxygen out and therefore create a blue clear ice. Some of the ice can date back around 1200 years.
If you want to visit this cave, you can book a tour to Crystal cave in Iceland here.
Katla ice cave
Location: Kötlujökull Glacier
Best tour: Ice Cave by Katla Volcano Super Jeep from Vik
If I didn’t go to Crystal ice cave, I would choose Katla ice cave next time! Especially after watching Katla on Netflix.
The Katla ice cave is located under Kötlujökull Glacier and was formed by the Katla volcano, the most active volcano in Iceland. It’s a lava cave and an ice cave in one. Katla cave has blue and black ice walls and is smaller than a crystal ice cave. You can visit it all year long. Book tour to Katla ice cave here.
Langjökull Ice Cave
Location: Langjökull Glacier
Best tour: From Reykjavik: Langjökull Glacier Ice Cave Tour
Langjökull Ice Cave is the only man-made ice cave in Iceland. It’s supposedly the world’s largest man-made ice tunnel. This is where you can walk 550 meters deep inside the glacier.
It reminds me a little bit of Ice hotel in Alta in Norway, where you can actually also stay the night! Book Langjökull Glacier Ice Cave Tour here.
The best ice cave tour in Iceland
Some of the most recommended and the best ice cave tours in Iceland include:
FAQ for ice caves in Iceland
# Can you visit ice caves in Iceland on your own? Ice caves safety tips
Because the ice caves are heavily affected by weather conditions and the stability of the glacier ice, it might be dangerous to visit them on your own. They change every year and some of the ice caves don’t appear in the same place as they were before. Therefore, I recommend taking a guided tour to ice caves in Iceland. When you enter an ice cave, remember to always have a helmet on. The guides will provide that as a part of the tour.
# How to access ice caves in Iceland
Most ice caves are located away from Ring Road, so you either need to hike or have a super jeep 4×4 car to drive closer to the entrance. To get to the Crystal Ice Cave we drove on a rough road in a super jeep for 20 minutes, crossing small rivers and huge boulders. That would have been impossible, even with a normal 4×4 car, especially in winter.
# The best time of year to visit ice caves in Iceland
The usual season to visit ice caves in Iceland runs from November to March when temperatures are low enough. However, depending on the year, it can start earlier. I managed to visit ice caves in Iceland in October – Crystal Ice Cave.
There are two ice caves which can be visited all year round. The Katla ice cave under the Katla Volcano, in Myrdalsjokull glacier, and the man-made Langjökull Ice Cave at Langjökull Glacier.
# Can you visit Iceland ice caves in the summer?
No, ice caves in Iceland cannot be visited in the summer. The temperatures are too high and the glacier is melting, causing the river flow to be very high. It also creates instability in the glacier which makes it unsafe to visit.
# What to wear on an ice cave tour in Iceland
Depending on which time of the year you visit, you might need to take more or less warm clothes. When I was visiting in October, temperatures were still mild, and I could walk inside the cave with just a sweater on. In winter, you would need warmer clothes. For tips on what to wear in Iceland in winter check out this Norway winter clothing post – the packing list would be the same, as the weather is very similar. Your tour operator should provide you with a helmet and spikes if it’s icy on the hike.
As a minimum wear the items listed below to your ice cave tour in Iceland (and adjust according to the weather conditions – for warmer weather you don’t need all of the below):
- The base layer – thermal underwear like merino wool top and merino wool bottoms.
- Mid-layer – fleece or woolen sweater
- Top layer – Parka jacket or Windproof and waterproof outer shell jackets.
- Warm hat covering ears – a woolen hat or a hat with fleece lining
- A scarf
- Gloves – I usually have thin thermal glove liners that I put underneath the bigger woolen mittens.
- Wool socks – I prefer merino wool, so they are not itchy, keep me warm or cool me down when needed. Here are similar ones to the ones I have.
- Winter boots like Soler winter boots, or just hiking shoes with woolen socks.
- Camera and wide lens – I have a Fuji X-E1 camera, which is affordable, small, and has a great quality of pictures – Check the price here. I also have Samyang 12 mm lens which has an affordable price from the lower end but provides really good photo quality. Check price here.
- Tripod – Essential for long exposure shots inside the cave. I have a Manfrotto tripod, which also many other people recommend – Check the price here.
# How much does it cost to see the ice caves in Iceland?
The tours to ice caves in Iceland are not particularly cheap. But what in Iceland is? (apart from a few things that let you travel Iceland on a budget, not much). The crystal cave tour is around 130€. You can compare the prices here.
# Ice cave photo opportunities and tips
I highly recommend taking your camera and tripod with you to the ice cave. It is a little bit dark there, so a long exposure time helps to brighten up the shots, and also smooth out the water (if you are there before it freezes).
# Where to stay near ice caves in Iceland
For the crystal ice cave in Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, and Skaftafell, which is not far from Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon, you can find accommodation in that area, or near Hof. Some of the options include:
- Skyrhúsid Guest House – located only 10 min drive from Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon, this charming farm guest house offers bright and basic rooms with free Wi-Fi, wooden floors, and mountain views. Check availability and price here.
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – located 29 km from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the Fosshotel is a luxury property with spa and sauna access included. Check availability and price here.
- Hotel Skaftafell – this hotel offers views of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnjukur, and Vatnajökull glacier. It’s located a 40-minute drive from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Check availability and price here.
- Lilja Guesthouse – located a bit further, around 50 km from the glacier lagoon, near Höfn, offers glacier and mountain views, and also glacier tours from the area. Check availability and price here.
For Katla cave in Kötlujökull Glacier, you can stay in Vik. Some of the recommended hotels are:
- Hotel Katla by Keahotels – a beautifully designed hotel with views of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. Guests have free access to the outdoor geothermal hot tubs and a fitness center. Check prices and availability here.
- Hótel Dyrhólaey – this suitable hotel offers impressive views of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel has a gym a bar and a restaurant. Check prices and availability here.
- The Barn – it’s a hostel with probably some of the best prices for a budget stay in Iceland. There are dormitory rooms, as well as private rooms with a communal kitchen. Check prices and availability here.
For Langjökull Ice cave in Langjökull Glacier, you can stay in Hótel Á in Reykholt. Check prices and availability here.
I hope this guide will help you when planning your own ice cave in Iceland tour! If you have any more questions, let me know in the comments.
Have you been to any of these ice caves in Iceland? Do you know some other ones worth trying? Share in the comments!
More Iceland read:
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Iceland food – what to eat and what to avoid
How to travel Iceland on a budget
Must-see places in South Iceland
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