The Ultimate 2020 Guide to Ice Caving in Iceland
Having been to every country in Europe, I can understand why people can get a little jaded with European travel, all the 49 countries can seem a little samey. A church here, a museum there. But then comes Iceland. Iceland, in my opinion, is the best country to travel through in all of Europe, with Malta probably coming second. Northern lights, snorkelling between two continental plates, waterfalls, snow-mobiles and one of my favourite activities I’ve ever done, ice caving in Iceland.
During the start of winter each year it’s possible to go glacier hiking and ice caving along the Southern coast of Iceland, in the Skaftafell national park. Generally speaking there is one large ring road that runs around Iceland, and a great way to see the whole country is to take ten days or so and go road trip around the ring road. Skaftafell would be one of your first stops during your loop, around four hours or so from Reykjavik, the Capital. Public transport, especially in winter, is limited so it’s much better to rent a car from the capital and self-drive. Luckily I did this trip with a couple of my best friends which keeps the costs down, otherwise, Iceland can get pretty pricey travelling solo.
I explain all about ice caving in Iceland below, but if you don’t want to read it all, here’s how to organise your trip to the ice caves (PS you need to book a tour, you have no choice)
What Is Ice Caving in Iceland?
Iceland has some of the biggest glaciers in the world. These glaciers melt in the summer each year, the meltwater forms rivers that cut through some of the glaciers in the form of tunnels. The winter comes, the water freezes but the tunnels remain. The bright sun then shines through the thinner sections of glaciers, giving birth to those amazing blue photos that makes you want to visit these ice caves in Iceland. Done!
When Is The Best Time to Visit Iceland’s Ice Caves?
November to March ONLY.
During the summer, the ice caves melt once more and are unsafe. So you can only visit when it’s cold and the tunnels and caves are frozen solid.
Where Are the Ice Caves in Iceland?
There are 3 places that people go ice caving in Iceland, all within 3-5 hours of Reykavik. They all offer the same experience, none are ‘better’ than the others APART FROM the fake ice cave in Reykavik, it’s not anywhere near as cool as the real 3 I’ve listed below.
- Vatnajokull National Park
- Mýrdalsjökull glacier (visit as a day trip from Reykjavik)
- Skaftafell National Park
How Do I Visit the Ice Caves in Iceland?
2 options really. Either self-drive to the park entrance and meet your tour guide there, or take a tour to the ice caves directly from Reykavik. I think meeting at Skaftafell is the best option, on the ice caves and glacier hike tour.
Can I Do An Ice Caving Trip as a Day Trip from Reykavik?
Yes, you can. It’s certainly the easiest way to do it (you can book that here for $160). BUT if you want to go to the biggest, most famous ice-caves at Vatnajokull, then it’s not possible from the city, as it’s about a 5 hour drives each way (technically still ‘possible’ but the area is cool and better to explore that area for another day when you’re already there.
Do I need to Book A Tour to visit the Ice Caves?
Yes, 100%. You CANNOT visit them independently. They are in national parks, and legally require guides.
Which Tour Should I book for the best ice cave experience?
Don’t book the tour to Langjokull (the man-made cave). Apart from that, any of the tours will offer the same, or similar, experiences. For me, I booked an ice cave tour and a glacier hike. I think that’s th best combo, you get more bang for your buck. And you get 2 experiences instead of one. THIS IS THE TOUR I BOOKED.
How Much Does it Cost to Go Ice Caving in Iceland?
Depends on if it’s a single day/multi-day tour. How long you’re in the caves, how far you have to walk etc. But roughly, the prices are between $120 to $200USD for a one-day experience. Mine was $160.
Do I need to Book going to the Ice Caves in Advance?
YES! They sell out every year. BOOK BEFORE YOU COME!
Can Anyone Go Ice Caving in Iceland?
Pretty much. As long as you’re somewhat mobile, you can do it. You don’t have to be ‘fit’ to do it, but it does involve some walking, and it’s quite slippery etc, so as long as you’re comfortable falling on your ass and picking yourself back up, then you can go ice caving in Iceland! You don’t need ANY experience climbing/hiking/on ice. Complete beginners can do it.
What Should I Wear and Bring when I go Ice Caving?
It’s winter in Iceland, so be prepared with your cold-weather gear. The crampons (little spikes for your shoes to stop you falling), the helmet and the torch/flash-light are supplied as part of the tours. You can rent hiking boots from the operator too, but you’ll probably have your own as you kind of need them for Iceland in general anyway. Other than that, warm stuff! Hat, gloves etc. That’s all on you.
My Personal Experience Ice Caving in Iceland
Personally, I choose to visit the ice caves at Skaftafell. My tour last about 5 or 6 hours in total, from 10am to about 4pm. This was the tour I booked.
The first three hours are spent gallivanting around frozen lakes, epic landscapes and traversing a glacier. It’s so beautiful out there but you have to watch your step, glaciers are no joke and there are gaping chasms everywhere. Your guide will make sure you’re alright of course.
For me though the real highlight is getting to the ice caves. Once you enter the cave though – WOW. The most brilliant electric blue colours come shooting out from huge solid ice walls, the sun shines in through the mouth of the cave illuminating the entire place with colours you thought you could only see through an Instagram filter. It’s truly one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. Again, you don’t spend too long in the caves as there have been tragic occurrences of caves collapsing, so we probably got around fifteen minutes inside. And what a fifteen minutes it was.
After that, on our tour, it was a walk across a glacier back to the main road and my tour was over, checking your photos at night brings it all right back though. What a day. This is what you earn your money for. I hope you guys make it to Iceland, and if you have a choice, go in the Winter. Ice caves and Northern Lights will be two of your best travel experiences ever, I promise you that. Happy travels.
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