Small Group Ice Caving & Glacier Hiking Adventure in Skaftafell
Behold the frozen wonders of Iceland on this two-in-one tour where you’ll embark on a thrilling glacier hike before descending into an authentic ice cave. Get ready to go above and below the island’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull, on an adventure ideal for anyone looking to make the most out of their stay in the land of ice and fire.
Your journey begins in Skaftafell National Park, a magnificent nature reserve located in southeast Iceland. The alpine landscape of the park was created over thousands of years with the help of volcanic eruptions and glacial floods; creating otherworldly outwash plains and rocky cliffs with cascading waterfalls.
You’ll meet up with your friendly and qualified guides who will educate you on the journey at hand and provide you with all the necessary equipment. Make sure to dress in warm layers and to wear sturdy hiking boots, which you will then upgrade with specialised ice crampons.
Then, it is time to start your hike where you will witness the incredible scenery of the winter wonderland at hand. A glacier is a living thing in constant development, and there might be no better way to grasp its power than by descending to its surface.
Allow your guide to lead you through the frozen landscape of deep blue crevasses, snowy cracks and ravishing ice formations, all the while getting closer to your destination of the ice cave opening high up on the glacier.
Ice caves are natural phenomena of a strictly seasonal nature. After the meltwater of spring freezes over each fall, a group of experts start hunting down the ice caves that are safe to explore. Come spring, the caves will yet again fill with meltwater, meaning that to visit one is a unique and privileged experience.
Nothing can prepare you for what you’ll see inside; a dazzling display of different shades of blue, coated in white snow and shimmering ice formations. There is a reason ice caves are fast becoming the most sought-after Icelandic attraction of them all.
Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity—reserve your spot on this tour now and enjoy the double endeavour of hiking a glacier and exploring an ice cave. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Dec. - Mar.
- Duration: 4 hours
- Activities: Glacier Hiking, Ice Caving
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 10 years.
- Languages: English
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.
Skaftafell Visitor Center
At the Skaftafell Visitor Centre, local and foreign travellers will find answers to virtually any questions they might have about the greater Skaftafell area, its history and geology, along with information about nearby hiking trails, recreational options and accommodation.
Departure time : 09:00 09:20, 09:40, 10:00, 10:20, 10:40, 11:00, 11:20, 11:40, 12:00, 12:20, 12:40, 13:00, 13:20, 13:40, 14:00, 14:20, 14:40, 15:00, 15:40,
Glacier Guides Booking Hut located in Skaftafell National Park
Small group guarantee
Guided glacier hike and a visit to a natural ice cave
Certified glacier guide
Crampons and other necessary glacier gear
Meals and refreshments
Transport to/from Reykjavík
What to bring:
Warm and waterproof clothes, wear layers
Hat and gloves
Good to know:
It can happen, in the case of extreme weather, that an activity is cancelled. If your chosen activity is cancelled, we will assist you with rearranging or booking other activities when possible, and any potential price difference will be refunded to you.
Please note that this tour starts from Skaftafell, a little over 400 km outside Reykjavík. It is recommended in winter that participants overnight the night before in the surrounding area.