Glacier Walk on Vatnajökull | Away from the Crowds | Medium Difficulty
Come with us on this incredible visit to Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. With local guides, without the crowds, and with that little something extra, this is not an experience to be missed by anyone drawn to Iceland's diverse natural beauty.
The meeting place is Hólabrekka farm, located 30 km to the west of Höfn, where you will be introduced to your guide and the rest of your group. Each participant will receive a backpack with all the equipment needed: a helmet, harness, ice axe, first aid kit and a pair of crampons. Other than that, it is recommended you bring sunglasses, as the reflections of rays off the ice can be quite dazzling and a camera for the many wonders you will see.
From Hólabrekka, you begin your tour towards the glacier. The first part of the trip is taken in a bus along the south coast. The surrounding landscape, of picturesque hills and dramatic cliffs, is absolutely stunning, so keep your cameras ready. Once parked, you take a short walk across the countryside to a RIB boat, for an exciting ride to ice. Here, the real adventure begins!
As you hike across Vatnajökull, your guide will inform you about the glacier's history, and the changes it has undergone over the past decades. You will pass plunging crevasses and beautiful ice sculptures, and admire the glacier’s incredible colouration. Much of it is the pristine white of untouched snow, but the deeper ice swirls with an electric blue and black veins of ash from centuries-old eruptions snake all around.
You should keep your camera on hand throughout the entire hike; the beautiful desolation of the untouched, ancient landscape is awe-inspiring, and you will want your memories of it enshrined for years to come.
Don’t miss your chance to see Vatnajökull from this unique and exciting perspective! Check booking availability now, by choosing a date.
- Duration: 4 hours, 30 minutes
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Hiking
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum age: 12 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)
Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki.
Fláajökull ("Sloping Glacier") is a small glacier tongue found on the east side of Breiðabunga volcano, stretching down from Iceland's largest ice cap, Vatnajökull.
In the past, the glacier has been referred to as Hólmsárjökull, Mýrajökull and Hólsárjökull.
In the last century, Fláajökull has receded two kilometres, causing growing concern amongst locals that climate change will continue to melt and destroy Iceland's glaciers in the upcoming decades.
To access Fláajökull, follow the signposts outside of Hólmur guesthouse, travelling down the Ring Road before turning off for 8 km down a gravel road. This track leads to a car park and walking trail to the glacial tongue. Guided glacier hiking tours operate from this area, making for an excellent alternative to glacier walks in the Skaftafell area.
Hólabrekka 30 km west of Höfn and 50 km east of Jökulsárlón (Glacier lagoon). GPS location:Latitude: 64.299328 | Longitude: -15.418947
English-speaking, local guide
A back pack for you with all the gear inside Helmet, crampons, ice axe, harness and first aid kit.
Transportation to the Hólabrekka meeting point
What to bring:
Sturdy shoes for walking/hiking (with a thick sole, that cover the ankle), we rent shoes if needed
Clothing and outerwear for rainy or chilly weather (waterproof recommended)
Hat & gloves
Good to know:
The weather in Iceland changes quickly in Iceland, so don't be caught unawares. It is always better to bring a sweater or dress in layers that you can remove if you get too warm. Jeans are not recommended for this tour because denim absorbs moisture easily and takes a long time to dry, leaving the wearer very cold.