Glacier hiking in Iceland offers an amazing display of natural beauty and invites you to an adventure you won’t get elsewhere. You can choose to either start and finish in Reykjavik for a day tour or camp out on a majestic glacier for a multi-day adventure.
Glaciers are astonishing wonders of nature that are sadly disappearing due to climate change. Within 200 years, most of them will be completely (or almost completely) gone which many learn about from the guide on their glacier walk in Iceland. It has become increasingly popular to pay a visit to these giant ice sheets, so let’s dive deeper into what the options are.
Things to Know About Iceland’s Glaciers
When taking a look at the glacier hiking options Iceland has to offer, you’ll soon realize that this might just be the promised land in terms of giant sheets of ice.
Iceland has almost every type of glacier, including ice caps, mountain glaciers, cirque glaciers, outlet glaciers, and so many more. This means that glacier guides Iceland provides will cover the brunt of glacier experiences that can be had around the world. You will struggle to find a country that can match the glacier walks Iceland provides.
Glacier Hiking in Iceland
So, you’re looking up what is on offer in the “glacier hiking Iceland” aisle? Getting the facts right before you embark on your glacier walk is essential to make it the best of the best.
When to Go on an Iceland Glacier Hike
Contrary to popular belief, the opportunities for glacier hiking Iceland offers are mostly in the warmer months. It is during the summer in Iceland when the weather is calm enough to properly enjoy this experience without having to wonder if you will make it back alive. We’re talking tourist-level excitement. Hot chocolate, the sun is shining, and the snow looks like it came straight out of a Christmas movie.
On the glaciers in the winter months, the weather is volatile at best, so people tend to avoid them if possible. Since glaciers are cold and icy all year round, getting on them in the summer will still be cold, we promise.
The Best Glaciers to Hike in Iceland
Roughly 11% of Iceland is covered in these glaciers, making it a cornucopia of adventures for the ice-loving adventurer. Below you will find some of the best and most exciting options:
Vatnajökull is located in the southern part of Iceland and is very hard to miss, as it is the largest glacier in Europe, and covers roughly 8% of Iceland’s surface. You can easily get there with a rental car from Reykjavik or using the country’s extensive bus network.
At Vatnajökull, you can enjoy the best glacier tour Iceland has to offer. Ranging from kayaking in the glacier lakes to guided tours in the ice caves and climbing ice walls, you could easily spend a week here, filled with tours and still not have time to explore everything. If you rather want to go hiking on your own, you can simply camp in the Vatnajökull national park and use these maps to be the master of your own adventure.
A smaller glacier walk you can do in Iceland is on one of the cold tongues coming out of Vatnajökull. Svinafellsjökull is in the Skaftafell-part of Vatnajökull national park. This is one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones, making it a perfect place to feel how it is “north of the wall”.
Svinafellsjökull competes with Sólheimajökull for the price as the best glacier hike Iceland can provide. Here you could find ice caves in the winter that are safe to enter, and you can see across the vast Vatnajökull national park from the peaks.
Located only 160 kilometres from Reykjavik, Sólheimajökull is one of the most accessible glaciers to both get to and get on. You can take Iceland glacier tours from Reykjavik if you’re not in the mood to rent your own car.
Being an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull, Sólheimajökull is probably the easiest glacier walk Iceland can offer. Still, when practicing any extreme sport in Iceland, you still need the right equipment and should definitely opt for a guide. Like in many other situations, even the best glacier tours Iceland offers can still turn into a life-and-death situation if not done correctly.
Underneath the glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, just 160 kilometres southeast of Reykjavik, lies the most explosive and active volcano in Iceland: Katla. On top of this powerful geological force of nature lies a thick sheet of ice that you can experience an adrenaline-thrilling glacier hiking experience on.
Unfortunately, finding a glacier hiking tour is hard for this particular area. It’s extremely remote and the terrain makes it very hard to reach and very unsuitable for most tourist activities.
This glacier has a wonderful combination of being the closest glacier to Reykjavik and the second largest one on the island. This makes this a great option if you want to live an unforgivable Icelandic adventure without having to travel long distances from the capital.
Is Glacier Hiking Strenuous?
As with most things in life, the difficulties of glacier hiking in Iceland are anything from an easy afternoon hike to a multi-day freezing adventure.
Even though some hikes might seem easy, it’s important to remember that some hikes are not suitable for young children. Therefore, the guides and companies will put age restrictions on their tours. It often starts around 12 years, with some particularly tough hikes requiring participants to be of at least 18 years of age.
Can You Go Glacier Hiking On Your Own?
Yes, you absolutely can go on a glacier hiking trip on your own, but we strongly recommend against it. Many people have had accidents, and many have died when going on their own. The only way to have a safe trip is to joing a glacier hike tour with an experienced guide.
What to Wear For a Glacier Walk in Iceland
One of the most essential parts of making it a good glacier hiking in Iceland experience is making sure you wear the right stuff. Even though a lot of equipment will be included in most glacier walks, it’s important to get the basics down. See our packing list for what to bring and what to think of:
Fitted underlayer to keep you warm.
A warm layer of clothing in-between.
Wind- and waterproof clothing as the final layer.
Well-fitting and waterproof hiking boots. We suggest you do not use newly purchased boots, since they will likely give you proper abrasions.
Warm scarves or similar.
Sunglasses (the sun is strong and reflects off the ice).
Sunscreen (once again: the sun is strong and reflects off the ice).
Water or your liquid of choice.
Glacier Tours in Iceland
With knowledge of where to go on an epic glacier hiking adventure in Iceland, it’s time to get to the ‘what’.
What is a Glacier Tour?
Simply put, a glacier tour is a guided hike across a glacier. There are different levels of tours depending on your fitness, confidence and experience. So, it’s certainly possible to complete an easy glacier walk in Iceland, where no previous experience is required.
Having said that, it’s very important to listen to your Icelandic mountain guides, because the conditions can be tricky. These glacier guides of Iceland’s phenomenal natural features will instruct you on the correct technique for your adventure. You’ll be told all about the glaciers, how they came to be and their current state. Be ready with questions, because if there’s ever a time to learn about glaciers, it’s when you’re standing on one.
Types of Glacier Tours in Iceland
As stated earlier, the glacier hiking options Iceland can provide will be anything from calm and serene kayaking in a glacier lagoon, to tough glacier climbing on tall, ice walls. Below, we list the most common types of tours that you can take:
Glacier hike – This is the most common type of tour. You’ll take a couple of hours traversing a magnificent glacier while the tour guide tells you all about it and answers all your questions.
Glacier ice cave adventures – Glaciers form ice caves that you can safely go through and marvel at the beautiful spectacle that the ice offers.
Ice climbing – Why walk when you can climb? Combine the best glacier hike Iceland has to offer with climbing up and down the icy walls. Unbeatable.
Boat tour – These glacier tours take you on a boat in a glacier lagoon so you can safely observe the water without risk.
Kayaking tour – Instead of going in a boat, you’ll be piloting your own kayak and get closer to the freezing experience (safely, of course).
Snowmobile tour - Snowmobiling on a glacier is one of the most adventurous activities the island can offer. Luckily, the possibility of snowmobiling in Iceland is available all year long!
Best Tour Companies for Glacier Hiking in Iceland
Below are some companies that operate tours on the larger glaciers in Iceland. Keep in mind that all tours are subject to weather. A little rain won’t cancel them, but if the conditions are deemed to be unsafe the tour will be rescheduled.
Glacier Adventure Tours
One of the most comprehensive options for a glacier hiking tour in Iceland is the Glacier Adventure Tours. With this tour company, you can get everything listed above and then some.
This company is all about Vatnajökull and you can book on their website, contact them via email, call them for a nice chat, or simply pop them a WhatsApp if that suits you better.
Adventure Point Iceland
If you are looking for Iceland glacier tours from Reykjavik, this is your best option. This tour company will pick you up in Reykjavik and take you on day tours with the actual glacier hiking experience lasting anywhere from 2,5 to 16 hours!
You can either book on their website, give them a call, send in a question with a form on the site, or simply talk to their virtual assistant: Thor.
Into the Glacier
If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, try getting into the world’s largest man-made ice tunnel. Into the Glacier will pick you up in Reykjavik and drive you to Langjökull where you can explore the glacier, from the inside!
You can easily book their tours on the site, but if you have any questions, you can either send them an email, call them, or send them a message via the website.
Get Your Glacier Adventure Started!
The world is your oyster. Or, Iceland is your oyster, at least. You can choose to take a day trip to the long and beautiful Langjökull from Reykjavik or go to any one of the other 290 glaciers on the island.
Vatnajökull offers up a wide variety of tours, as it is the largest glacier in Europe. Here, you can experience pretty much anything in the way of what glacier hiking in Iceland can offer. Since it is located in a quite remote area, you might want to rent a car from Reykjavik to get there in the first place.
You can look up any other glacier too, but regardless of where you go, you should keep to our packing list to ensure a successful trip!