No matter where you decide to spend your time in Iceland, the chances are you’ll come across a glacier or two. These gigantic hulks of moving ice are hard to miss after all, especially when Iceland has approximately 269 named glaciers! That accounts for 11% of the entire land area of the country. The largest by far is Vatnajokull, which covers 8,300 sq. km. 3 times the size of Luxembourg! There’s no doubt that glaciers are a huge part of the country’s tourism and plenty of Iceland glacier tours are available to explore these natural wonders. So, what’s on offer?
First of all, there are two main formats for glacier tours in Iceland. Tours will either begin from a meeting point in Reykjavik or on location. Tours which begin in Reykjavik are great if you don’t have a means of transport or don’t feel confident navigating the Icelandic roads. If you’re not staying in Reykjavik or you’re ready to get out on the open road, choosing a tour that starts right on location may give you more freedom!
1. Walking Tours
The idea of walking or hiking a glacier might not get your adrenaline pumping. But it’s a great way to get to grips with a glacier and really appreciate the sheer size of it. Day tours are the most popular, though multi-day and private tours are also available.
A walking tour on Sólheimajökull, an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull, will let you explore stunning ice sculptures, ridges and crevasses as you walk along the glaciers bulk. You’ll also have a chance to learn about glaciers in Iceland and how global warming is causing them to recede. An Iceland glacier tour such as this is also available year-round, making them the perfect activity for summer or winter visits.
For a walking tour with added oomph - try a Northern Lights tour. Tours such as this combine a walk along Sólheimajökull with a search for the Aurora Borealis. Usually, these tour last around 12 hours in total (including travel time) and participants will trek the glacier, see the beautifully lit up Seljalandsfoss waterfall and witness the awe inspiring Northern Lights. Northern Lights glacier tours run from September to April. All glacier equipment such as crampons will be provided and guides will inform you of safety precautions to be taken on the ice.
2. Adrenaline Tours
If you want to get the adrenaline pumping, there’s no better way than Iceland glacier tours! There are a bunch of activities well-suited to adrenaline junkies that will let you explore Iceland’s glacier in a thrilling way.
Ice climbing isn’t for the faint-hearted but is a great way to push yourself while on the ice. The Vatnajökull glacier is popular for ice climbing, where the outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull has some great climbing spots. All activities from walking along the glacier to actual climbing are moderated to your level, so even beginners can try it! Guides gear you up, provide all safety instructions and will teach you how to master the art of ice climbing in one day trip. This is a tour best suited for summer and children over 14 years of age can participate. Groups are generally kept small.
A little easier, but no less fun is snowmobiling. These machines are quick and agile and surprisingly easy to maneuver, letting you see more of the glacier in less time. Most snowmobile tours take place on the top of glaciers, so you’ll also get to explore on your way up! Snowmobile tours can take as little as 2 hours on Myrdalsjokull glacier in South Iceland or whole days exploring Langjokull glacier and the Golden Circle from Reykjavik to the southern highlands and back. Availability of snowmobiling tours depends on the time of year. Some operate year-around while some are only available during the summer or winter months, depending on location.
3. Transport Tours
Walking isn’t the only way to explore Iceland’s glaciers. All means of transport can be taken including super jeeps, boats and planes! What’s more, transport tours make exploring more accessible for lower ability participants.
Super Jeep glacier tours are an exciting way to traverse the vast icy planes of a glacier. Explore Vatnajokull glacier and all it has to offer. Reach the summit of Europe’s largest glacier and the depths of it’s natural steam baths. See geysers and waterfalls, volcanoes and ice caves. A 4x4 or super Jeep tour is a fantastic way to pack as many must-sees as possible into a small time frame, all interspersed with short hikes so you can get closer to the action. The best time to experience a 4x4 glacier tour in Iceland is February/March. Prices vary depending on the length of your tour.
See a whole new side to glaciers and tour a glacial lake such as Fjallsárlón. This recently formed lagoon (a product of global warming) sees huge ice blocks constantly fall from Breiðamerkurjökull into the water. This results in large icebergs floating through the water. You can opt for a 30-40 minute or a longer excursion that provide more in depth tour. Tours can be taken during May - October and are suitable for children.
Finally, see glaciers from above in a flying tour. Flying tours will take you over mountains, volcanoes, lakes and of course, glaciers where you can see the interplay between thermal heat and ice. These are available from approximately from May to September, are weather dependent, and usually last for 2 hours.
All safety equipment for tours will be provided and but it is wise to pay attention to safety instructions. Glaciers are beautiful yet dangerous landscapes that require professional knowledge to navigate safely, so always book glacier tours in Iceland with a qualified guide.
No trip to Iceland is complete without exploring the wondrous sweep of a glacier. With all of the different Iceland glacier tours available, you’re sure to find one that fits your needs and abilities, while simultaneously exceeding your wildest expectations. If you want to see the heart of a glacier then why not check out some of the best spots for ice cave tours in Iceland?