Glacier Hiking in Skaftafell | Moderate difficulty
Join this otherworldly tour of glacier hiking on top of Svínafellsjökull in the Skaftafell nature reserve, ideal for anyone looking to escape to the wide open spaces of authentic Icelandic nature.
The beautiful area of Skaftafell has been under preservation since 1967. Belonging to the larger Vatnajökull National Park since its establishment in 2008, the Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue is what is known as an outlet glacier, creeping inland from the vast Vatnajökull glacier itself.
Vatnajökull is the largest and most voluminous ice cap in the whole of Iceland, as well as being the second largest glacier in the entirety of Europe. It covers more than 8 percent of the country and Svínafellsjökull is but one of over 30 outlet glaciers descending from it.
Departing from Skaftafell a designated vehicle will take you up to your destination. An expert glacier guide will then teach you the ropes of ice hiking, provide you with the proper equipment and safely guide you through the crevasses and glacial sculptures of Svínafellsjökull.
You will also be following in the footsteps of the cast and crew of various big film and television productions. Be it John Snow of the Night’s Watch in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Batman or the daring explorers of the science fiction epic Interstellar; you too shall witness this beautiful scenery and grasp just why it is such a popular shooting location.
Get ready to be surrounded by the most majestic of landscapes and participate in the challenging activity of hiking on ice. You will have to bring your own hiking boots to wear, while your guide will provide you with ice crampons for attachment and support.
A living glacier is a powerful phenomenon and the surest way of experiencing that power is by walking on top of its ice. Remember to dress accordingly, for even though the area is known for its sunny summers, it is always quite cold on the glacier itself.
Don’t hesitate to join this excursion for a chance to witness all of the above and more. Check availability by choosing a date
- Available: All year
- Duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Hiking, Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum age: 10 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Vatnajökull,
Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe, covering 8% of the island's landmass. Vatnajökull Glacier can be found in the south west of Iceland and is a popular spot for glacier hiking and ice caving tours.
Facts about Vatnajökull
- Surface: 8,100 km2
- Average thickness: 400 - 600 m
- Maximum thickness: 1,000 m
- Height: 1,400 - 1,800 m
- Highest peak: 2,200 m (Hvannadalshnjúkur)
Information about Vatnajökull
Vatnajökull Glacier belongs to the greater Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the former national parks Skaftafell, in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur, in the north. Vatnajökull's highest summit is Hvannadalshnjúkur which rests on top of a stratovolcano known as Öræfajökull.
Underneath the glacier rests some of the most active volcanoes in the country, the most notable being Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull and Bárðabunga. Volcanic activity in the region has occurred on and off throughout the centuries, and many geologists believe that such a period is overdue for immediate future. If their calculations are correct, it would mean significant volcanic activity for Vatnajökull over the scope of the next half century.
The glacier boasts of over 30 outlet glaciers, which are channels of ice that flow out of ice caps but remain constrained on the sides of the valley. The major outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull include Dyngjujökull in the north, Breiðamerkurjökull and Skeiðarárjökull to the south. To the west, one can find the outlet glaciers Síðujökull, Skaftárjökull and Tungnaárjökull.
Glaciers are in constant motion underneath their weight; as they form over the centuries, the accession of snow exceeds its melting, creating a constant "push" on the ice cap. Each year, due to the melting ice water, new ice caves form that disappear come spring.
- Click here for a selection of Ice Cave tours
Numerous rivers run out of Vatnajökull, making up some of the greatest glacial rivers in Iceland:
- Tungnaá (west)
- Köldukvísl (west)
- Þjórsá (west)
- Jökulsá á Fjöllum (north)
- Skjálfandafljót (north)
- Jökulsá á Brú (north east)
- Jökulsá í Fljótsdal (north east)
- Jökulsá í Lóni (south)
- Hornafjarðarfljót (south)
- Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi (south)
- Skeiðará (south)
- Núpsvötn (south)
- Hverfisfljót (south)
- Skaftá (south)
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park, in its current state, was established in June 2008. The park now covers an area of 14.141 km2, making it the second largest national park in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park has 14% coverage over the whole island of Iceland.
Rivers divide the highland plateau to the north of the park; an area that sees massive glacial flows in the summertime. The volcanic table mountain Herðubreið towers over this particular region, along with volcanoes Askja, Snæfell and Kverkfjöll.
The canyon Jökulsárgljúfur was carved out by glacial floods centuries ago. At the upper end of the canyon, you'll find Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Further north, the horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi is believed to have formed when Óðinn's horse, Sleipnir, stepped his foot down from the heavens.
East around Snæfell, one can find wetlands and ranges, home to roaming herds of wild reindeer and abundant birdlife. Steep mountain ridges make up the south side of Vatnajökull, where outlet glaciers crawl in between the ridges onto the lowlands. The sandy plains of Skeiðarársandur also lie to the south as they reach out to sea. The glacial river Skeiðará runs through this vast desert.
One of Iceland's most visited landmarks is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which sits at the head of outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. There, large icebergs that have broken off the glacier gather to float in the lake before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean, or on the nearby Diamond Beach.
- Click here for a selection of Jökulsárlón tours
The Future of Vatnajökull
The volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak around 1930 but has since been in a steady process of decline. Because of rising levels of global temperature, approximately over the last 15 years, Vatnajökull has on average lost about a metre of its thickness annually.
If temperature levels continue to rise, the glacier could be all but gone nearing the end of the next century, leaving only small ice caps on top of the highest mountain summits.
Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón in Popular Culture
- HBO's Game of Thrones (season 2, 2012)
- Batman Begins (2005)
- James Bond: Die Another Day (2002)
- James Bond: A View to a Kill (1985)
Skaftafell is a nature preserve in Oraefasveit. It used to be a national park of its own but joined the larger Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Skaftafell is notable for its rich flora, growing between sands and glaciers, and overall for its amazing and contrasting scenery. You can take short and easy trails to the waterfalls Svartifoss and Hundafoss, as well as Skaftafell glacier, with the mountain Kristinartindar and Morsardalur valley further off.
Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those seeking to climb Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnukur.Svínafellsjökull
Svínafellsjökull in an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe, found within the Skaftafell Nature Reserve in Iceland's south-east.
It is one of the most popular glacier tongues to hike, with some tours upon it lasting throughout the year; ice climbing is also possible here. Because of its dramatic ridges, plunging crevasses, spectacular views and vivid blue and white colouration, it was used in Game of Thrones Season 7 to represent the harsh lands North of the Wall.
Photo above from Svinafellsjokull Glacier Hiking Tour
Departure time : 10:00, 13:00, 16:00
The meeting point for this tour is at the Glacier Guides booking office in Skaftafell. You should arrive at least 30 minutes before the departure time.
Transfer to & from Skaftafell
Transport from Reykjavík
What to bring:
Waterproof & warm clothing
Hiking boots (available for rental upon request)