When we think about exploring an ice cave, Iceland pops up in our mind. This country has an abundance of mesmerizing ice caves, glaciers, glacier tongues, ice tunnels, and frozen structures. Tour a naturally-made ice cave and cross it off your bucket list as ‘been there, done that’. Do you know why? Unfortunately, due to the phenomenon of global warming and its impact on the climate, the glaciers are melting away each passing day. Before climatic change melts away this glorious treasure of nature, you need to experience the thrill while standing inside an ice cave. The subtle colors, the structure, and the feeling of witnessing a wonder that survived for so many generations – you just cannot explain this phenomenon in words.
Around 11% of Iceland has glaciers and you can rent a car in Iceland to find out how these crystal caves and glacial ice positively impact the lifestyle and culture of Icelanders. Travelers from all around the world visit this Land of Fire and Ice to see some of the most wonderful ice formations present on earth.
Formation of Ice Caves
Many factors impact the formation of an ice cave. Seasonal changes, increased sunlight, as well as heat from geothermal activities, melt the glacial ice. When this ice melts, the glacier moves down creating a hollow space just like an ice tunnel. The melted water (especially in the summer and spring seasons) flow within the glaciers eroding the ice and hence ice caves are formed.
When the temperature drops in the autumn and winter, everything freezes again. The process of melting and freezing takes place throughout the year, which leads to the everchanging shape of ice caves. This is the reason why travelers often like to take the same ice cave tour they took the previous time to see how the ice formations have gorgeously changed over time.
The Ice Caves of Vatnajokull
The massive Vatnajokull ice caves are located in the Highlands, South as well as the southeast regions of Iceland with the outlet glaciers spreading down to the south of the Ring Road. Taking up around 8% of the country’s surface, they are the largest ice caves in Europe. You can only imagine how large the volume of meltwater will be, giving birth to many ice caves in the area. Some of the most prominent caves on Vatnajokull glacier are Breioamerkurjokull and Falljokull. The Breioamerkurjokull is famous for its Crystal Ice Cave, whereas Falljokull is known for its constantly evolving new ice tunnels and caves.
The Blue Crystal Ice Cave
The Crystal Ice Cave is located in Breioamerkurjokull glacier and is a prominent ice cave Iceland is famous for. You can explore it from an ice cave tour that departs from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Even if you have not heard about this cave, chances are that you have already seen its pictures on the internet when searching for the Iceland cave tours, glacier cave Iceland, or something along the same lines. Since the Blue Crystal Cave has a very thin ice roof, the sunlight creates the most amazing view. But this also means that its beauty primarily depends upon the weather. When it is nice and bright, you have a postcard picture to take back home. However, make sure you contact your tour operator for bookings as a limited number of travelers are allowed inside the cave, giving everyone ample room to look around and enjoy.
Skaftafell’s Glacier hiking and Ice Cave Tour
A famous tour in Iceland is the Into the Glacier tour which takes place in the Skaftafell National Park area. It facilitates the travelers to go hiking on the Falljokull glacier (which is an outlet glacier of the enormous Vatnajokull glacier). But the tour does not stop here. You also get to enjoy the thrill of an ice caving adventure. Due to the continuous natural cycle of melting and freezing, this magnificent glacier keeps its regular visitors glued to it as they find it changing structures in every visit. So, no monotonous photographs, guaranteed!
Ice Cave Tour from Reykjavik
If you are intrigued about touring an ice cave which is under a volcano, Iceland offers you the Katla ice cave experience. It is the only natural ice cave tour that you can do from the capital Reykjavik. The ice cave is in Koklujokull which is an outlet glacier of the majestic Myrdalsjokull icecap and is named after the active volcano Katla. Instead of going on your own, it is better to join an ice cave tour from Reykjavik as the driving conditions are quite rough. Also, make sure you have the proper gear to visit the glacier which your tour company will provide you with. This is one of the main reasons why going solo is not recommended in this adventure and you should contact one of the cave tours in Iceland. But once you see what lies ahead, you will realize all the groundwork was worth the trip. The mesmerizing moon-like terrain of the region around the glacier was used to film the Star Wars: Rogue One.
The good part is that there is not much walking into the glacier that lies underneath the volcano Katla. There is a narrow ice tunnel that will take you to a magical dome with an opening in the ceiling. It looks like a gigantic winter wonderland cathedral! In 2018, there was another opening found in a second ice cave adding more excitement to its visitors.
Ice Cave and Ice Tunnel of Langjokull
It is impossible to figure out the one ice cave Iceland is famous for among its visitors. This is a land of ice cave glaciers, crystal caves, and man made ice tunnels. The Langjokull is one such enormous glacier with out-of-this-world views (keep your cameras fully charged!) and is located in the West Midlands. It is the second-largest glacier of the country (after the Vatnajokull glacier) and graciously feeds the amazing waterfalls of Gullfoss, Barnafoss, and Hraunfossar.
On one side of the glacier, you will find naturally created ice caves formed over the years (one was termed unsafe due to constant melting) and on the other side, there is a manmade ice tunnel that was created a few years ago. You can explore the stunning ice caves on a snowmobile or from Super Jeep Tours from the Gullfoss waterfall. You can visit the ice tunnel with the help of a Super Truck Tour from Husafell or Reykjavik.
Ice Cave of Langjokull
You can visit an ice cave of Langjokull through a Super Jeep tour or a snowmobile in the form of day tours from the country’s capital. This ice cave is a gorgeous example of the harmony between the glacier and the volcanic activities. It has a sapphire blue cover and contrasting colors of ice. Once you enter, you have two directions to explore. Entering the left zone of the glacier takes you to a narrow area with a natural construction of frozen poles as if the ice poles are holding the roof up. The frozen river at the ceiling will leave you awestruck.
Ice Tunnel of Langjokull
If you are thrilled about visiting an ice cave, Iceland has carved out some of the most enchanting tunnels for its visitors, and the man made ice tunnel of Langjokull is no exception. All you have to do is to go from Husafell to the camp where you will be taken into a huge Monster Truck. You will be given crampons to provide you with proper mobility on ice and snow. A guide will help you understand the history and architecture of this manmade piece of art. There is even a chapel inside the glacier where couples have taken their vows. Talking about freezing time and making memories!
Ready for your ice cave Iceland adventures?
It is crucial to have the right clothes for your adventures to the glaciers, ice caves and ice tunnels. When you are heading out, put on thermal undergarments, sweaters, and coat, along with a waterproof jacket and pants. Pack a scarf, neck warmer, and a pair of gloves will also be required to keep you safe and well-protected. Make sure you take lots of photos with light at the right angle (your guide or tour operator can assist you with the tips and tricks) and return home with warm memories of Iceland.