Back from Iceland for the 2nd time , all I can say that Iceland truly amazes me. It always has some things up its sleeve , that are bound to leave you dazzled. This special visit to Iceland for second time was targeted for 2 reasons. One I wanted to see northern lights and second ice caves. While I was not very lucky to catch the glimpse of northern lights as it was raining the entire time , but I did get the opportunity to see the ice caves and can I say ( in Barney Stinson Style ) , it was – LEGENDARYYYYYYY. Now , many of you have asked me about my experience in ice caves. I will not lie . For me entering inside an ice cave for the first time was a bit scary. Specially because I could hear ice crackling on top of my head and knowing that many other ice caves got flooded with water that week because of rains , I was scared it might not collapse on my head. That being said , it is an absolute must see of Iceland. You cannot – should not -must not miss the opportunity to see ice caves. If you need any help with planning , here is Iceland Ice Caves – All you need to know.
What are Glacier Ice Caves and how they form?
A glacier cave is generally formed at the bottom edge of a glacier.These glaciers are situated on top of mountains, under which there are some active volcanoes emitting hot vapours and hot streams of water . When water flows down toward the sea it takes the material it finds along its course there by forming natural galleries, the ice caves. In turn these galleries probably are continuously modelled by the action of the wind and the rain, and their blue color is the consequence of the high compression of the ice, caused by the heavy weight of the glacier itself which eliminates the air bubbles, producing a darker and more intense ice color like that of the deep water of the sea .
Where are the Ice Caves?
Most of the Ice caves are located in southeast Iceland in Vatnajokull Glacier. There are 3 other glacial sites Eyjafjallajokull, Myrdalsjokull and Solheimajokull , yes do not try to pronounce these names ;). There is no precise way to know where the caves are , as new caves are formed every-year. So each fall, the glacier guides head out in search for them and once they’ve found caves that have everything needed for the travelers to safely visit them, they have the location for the season. It does take a lot of hard work to find them and they might not be easily accessible. So allow for some flexibility in your timings. Generally all the tour guides offer a trip to ice caves from 2.5 hrs – 4 hrs , but depending on location it might take half day or even full day in some cases.
Note: It took us 2 hours hike each way to reach to the ice- cave. Though hike was not very tedious but it was a bit tricky at some places.
When to visit Glacier Ice Caves?
The best time to visit Iceland to see ice caves is winters -> early December to mid – March.
How to get to the Ice Caves ?
Since most of the ice caves are in Vatnajokull and it is about 4- 5 hrs drive from Reykjavik , it is advised that you plan carefully. Iceland offers limited daylight in winter time and most of the glacial ice tours start around 9:30 am , so it is highly advised that you plan your stay in some area nearby. Some of the glacial ice cave tour companies do offer hotel pick but for most of the others , they will ask you to meet at Jokursalon bay area near Diamond beach. Either way you need to book a local tour to visit the caves as glaciers can be very dangerous and you must visit them with a professional.
Who Took us to Ice Caves?
We booked our trip with Glacier Trips. I will highly recommend them. Our guide Sindri Ragnarsson was a true professional and was very knowledgeable. He is a local Hofn guy who was very safety conscious and told us about many local myths and legends. These guys keep an eye out on weather and the condition of ice – caves everyday. While I was visiting , the biggest ice cave of vatnajokull got floodied with water and Sindri was prompt enough to find an alternate for us as we were too keen to visit an Ice cave. I think I enjoyed this new Ice Cave much more as we had the entire cave to ourselves.
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Tips to Visit the Ice Caves
1) Book ASAP. These tours are sold out months in advance. To give you an idea , I was planning a trip to Ice caves in February and in December when I was trying to book the tour , most of them were sold out.
2) Do not try to go to ice caves without any professional guide. It is too risky.
3) As I said , this place is far from Reykjavik , so stay nearby.
4) Be flexible , these trip may get cancelled because of weather conditions. It is not in anybodys hand.
5) Wear hiking shoes or snow boots (these are not provided).
6) Dress warm but in layers. It’s cold outside but once you start hiking and crawling in the cave, it will get warm.
7) Pack light and do not bring big bags. These caves have tight spaces and with many people in the cave , it will get tough to move.
8) Be prepared to get a little dirty and dress appropriately.
9) For photography lovers , wide angle lens is the way to go. You might want to bring in some protective gear for your camera as well , as water might drip on your camera in cave.
10) If photography is your prime motive , book photography tour to the ice caves. They are expensive , but you will have cave to your self ( not entirely though 😉 )
Visiting Ice Caves was a long cherished dream and I was ready to spend money on it. So yes it is a bit pricey but I will say you have to visit such natural wonder once in a life time. Wondering how much does it cost?? A visit to vatnajokul glacial Ice caves costs around 180$ -200$ per person. Is it worth it ?? I will say TOTALLYYYYY
Have you been to Ice caves yet? How was your experience?
PhotoCredits : PHOTOSTAINS