- 1.5k views
In the dead of winter, when everything appears as a seamless blanket of white, cathedrals of blue crystal are formed deep within the heart of Iceland’s glaciers. Ice caves in Iceland are forever changing caverns of ice blue light. Created every winter, before they begin to drip in the spring sunlight, you can never step into the same ice cave twice.
With such a short window of time in which to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of these crystal structures, ice cave tours in Iceland can fill up quickly. So make sure you book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Ice caves are sure to create lasting memories of a frozen world tinged in cool blue light. As the massive bulk of the glacier compresses the ice and it travels further away from the sunlight, air is pushed out and ice crystals become shockingly clear blue in colour.
We recommend some of the best places to go see ice caves in Iceland.
Being the largest ice cap in Europe, covering 8100 square kilometers, Vatnajokull glacier is home to stunning ice caves. The ice of the glacier is up to 1000 meters thick in some places. This creates impressive walls of ice that hide the sought-out ice caves. Get there by travelling east along the south coast road where you can access Vatnajokull National Park. Depending on which part of the glacier you head to, the drive can take up to 7 hours in winter conditions.
Sitting on the shore of Iceland’s south coast, the Svínafellsjökull Ice Cave is accessed by a 22-foot entrance on the shoreline. The incredible bulk of the frozen ice mirrored in the waves of the ocean create an image of reflection and refraction like no other. The huge entrance slowly tapers as the cave digs deeper into the glacier, finishing at a mere 4 feet in height. Located on the edge of the Skaftafell National Park, get there by heading east along the south coast road for approximately 5 hours.
In the north east highlands of Vatnajokull are the Kverkfjoll ice caves. This mountain range reaches as high as 1,764 m and active volcanoes in the region create geothermal activity, resulting in beautiful ice chambers. Witness the rare natural phenomenon of a hot river flowing beneath a glacial cave. Please note, however, that the Kverkfjoll ice caves are quite far away and the closest landmark near is the Sigurðarskáli hut (GPS location is 64.44.850 N / 16.37.890 V). You need to hike for 3km from Sigurðarskáli hut to reach the ice caves.
Though Lofthellir is technically a 3,500 years old lava cave, it boasts some of the most stunning lava cave ice sculptures in the entire world. This world of ice and darkness is found on the edge of Lake Myvatn in the northeastern part of Iceland. It's 500 km from Reykjavik, so you'd have to travel there by car or plane.
A fjord in the Westfjords region of West Iceland, interesting ice caves can be found within this remote and wild landscape. At only 156 km from Reykjavik, Álftafjörður can be reached in under 4 hours via car.
For an ice cave with a difference, visit Langjokull glacier's man-made ice tunnel. Travel 30 meters down into the glacier and explore the 5 different chambers awaiting, including a wedding chapel! Getting there is also an adventure, as you travel up to the mouth of the tunnel via a monster truck! Langjokull is approximately 3 hours from Reykjavik by car travelling northwest on Road 1.
An outlet glacier of Vatnajokull glacier, Falljokull also offers some great ice caves adventures. Getting to the cave will include a guided drive from the Skaftafell National Park office and then a short hike to the ice cave. From Reykjavik to Skaftafell National Park will take approximately 5 hours by car via the south coast road.
It’s also possible to explore the ice caves of Skaftafell itself. Also departing from the Skaftafell National park tourist office, the ice caves are typically closer in proximity than others in the area. From Reykjavik to Skaftafell National Park will take approximately 5 hours by car via the south coast road.
Breiðamerkurjökul ice cave is another glacial tongue of the larger Vatnajokull glacier. It travels south from Vatnajokull glacier, down to the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón. As the glacier is in constant movement, creeping down to the ocean and then retreating, large chunks of ice break off into icebergs that float into the lagoon. Ice caves are also formed along the edges. This is a very popular spot for tourists to explore the ever changing waters of Iceland. Travelling by car from Reykjavik will take just under 5 hours. Take the south coast Road 1 east for approximately 380 km. You will pass Skogafoss waterfall, Myrdalsjokull glacier and many other sites on the way, so it's a great excursion in itself!
In the East Highlands of Iceland, the Eyjabakkajokull glacial tongue sits. Drifting down into luscious wetlands of wondrous natural beauty, the area is a fantastic yet remote place to visit in Iceland. Ice caves are hidden within the depths of the Eyjabakkajokull glacier, a striking addition to the beauty of the area. Eyjabakkajokull can be reached by car, air or bus. By car, head to Snaefell, where you can then hike to Eyjabakkajokull. From Reykjavik, take the south coast Road 1 east. The paved road 910 leads towards Snaefell, followed by a mountain track F909 which leads to the Snaefell visitors hut.
- Ice caves in Iceland are temperamental structures that are at the mercy of their parent glacier. As the glacier moves, the ice caves shift and change, eventually collapsing during the spring thaw. As a result, they can be volatile areas and should be treated with respect.
- Never head out onto a glacier without a professional guide and never enter an ice cave without safety instructions or equipment. Crampons, ropes and helmets will be provided by your tour guide.
- Warm, adequate clothing should be worn, including hiking boots.
- Ice caves are generally accessible only during winter, when weather conditions are harsh. This may also affect driving times and conditions.
- Always be aware of incoming weather before undertaking a long car journey in Iceland and adapt your driving style to suit the weather. This often means journeys take much longer in winter than in summer, so allow enough time to reach your destination.
Ice caves in Iceland are stunningly unique structures that will mesmerise all who visit them. Don’t miss out on the chance of a lifetime to see a one-off ice cave that will never be replicated again. If ice cave tours piques your interest, then don't miss out on these aweinspiring ice cave tours in Iceland, or even these glacier tours in Iceland.
Travelling to Iceland? Chat with a local travel specialist in Iceland who can help organize your trip.
Adrien Heriaud Travel Expert in Iceland & Norway
Harpa Groiss Travel Expert in Iceland
Lára Ósk Hafbergsdóttir Travel Expert in Iceland