Snowmobile Tour on Vatnajökull Glacier
Come along on a thrilling snowmobile adventure on the ice of Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. This tour is for anyone who wants to make it an active day and do more than sightseeing!
From 1. March - 15. June. You’ll first make your way to Vagnsstaðir HI Hostel (Suðursveit, A-Skaftafellssýsla, Þjóðvegur, 781 Höfn) between Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the fishing village of Höfn, where you will meet up with your excellent guides and the rest of your group. From 15.June - 15.October. The meeting point is Junction of road number 1 and road number F985. From there, you’ll hop in a superpowered Jeep capable of handling the topography of a volcanic island and make your way through the countryside to your destination.
After receiving some driving instructions from your guides and all the necessary safety equipment, you’re off! Don’t worry if you are a beginner to snowmobiling. Your tour guides have more than 20 years of experience and you can make your experience whatever you’d like. Race over the pillowy mounds of snow, whoosh over the icy ridges in the ground cover, or go slowly to admire the view and take many photos.
Vatnajökull is centrally located near many of the most beautiful sites of the south coast. The highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnjukur, is located nearby. Under the ice cap are valleys, mountains and plateaus as well as active volcanoes.
These volcanoes include Grimsvotn and Bardarbunga as the largest and most active. Bardarbunga famously erupted recently, ending in February 2015 and sending up clouds of ash and sulfurous gas.
On the glacier, you can explore the vast, white emptiness of the ice with only the muffled sounds of your snowmobile to accompany you. You can stand on this ancient ice with a volcano below, feeling the same awe of nature as the first settlers surely did more than 1,000 years ago at the sight of it.
Don’t miss this chance to explore the beautiful and temperamental Vatnajökull glacier! Check availability by choosing a date!
Duration: 3 hours including 1 hour on the Skidoo snowmobile
- Available: Mar. - Oct.
- Duration: 3 hours
- Activities: Snowmobile, Super Jeep
- Difficulty: Easy
- 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)
Departure time : 09:30, 14:00
From Vagnsstaðir Hostel from 1. March - 15. June and from Junction of road number 1 and road number F985. From 15.June - 15.October
Safety equipment (overalls, boots, helmets)
What to bring:
Sturdy shoes for walking/hiking
Warm clothing and outerwear suited for chilly or rainy weather (waterproof recommended)
Good to know:
The weather in Iceland changes quickly, so don't be caught unawares. It is always better to bring a sweater or dress in layers which you may take off if you are too warm. Jeans are not recommended for this tour because denim absorbs moisture quickly once wet and takes a long time to dry, leaving the wearer very cold!