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Katla Ice Cave: An Otherworldly Experience in Iceland

The majority of visitors to Iceland expect some sort of icy adventure. And if you want to have a moment of awe and a new-found respect for the power of nature, then Katla Ice Cave needs to be on your Iceland trip itinerary.


In this article, we tell you precisely what makes Katla Ice Cave so special, including the fact that it’s not really a cave. So, if you want to find out more or start planning a visit to this remarkable natural wonder, read on.


Katla ice cave

Katla Ice Cave in a Nutshell


Katla looks more like an icy portal to another world than what you probably envision when hearing the words ‘ice cave’. In a sense, Katla might be a portal to the past because of how it was created and the fact that the black streaks that can be found in its bright blue icy walls today are remnants of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.


This should come as no surprise since Katla Ice Cave sits underneath Katla Volcano, that’s still active today. But don’t worry, Icelanders are pros at monitoring volcanic activity here on the island, and Katla hasn’t erupted since 1918.


How was Katla Ice Cave Formed?


The Katla Ice Cave is caused by melting glacial water. The melting used to only occur during the warmer months of the year, but the current status is that the glaciers in Iceland are constantly melting due to global warming. The melting water then runs inside and through the Kötlujökull Glacier, slowly carving pathways and tunnels through the ice.


The more the water runs through these little pathways and tunnels, the more they expand. Needless to say, Katla Ice Cave has been expanding for many, many years. During extreme cold, melting water freezes again. This constant melting and freezing throughout its existence makes Katla Ice Cave ever-evolving, and the cave you visit this year may not look the same next year.





Where is Katla Ice Cave in Iceland?


Katla can be found at Kötlujökull Glacier, an offshoot of Myrdalsjökull Glacier, underneath Katla Volcano on the south coast of Iceland. Katla Ice Cave’s location is very convenient to those traveling from Vik (just an hour’s drive away) or the capital city of Reykjavík (a 2.5-hour drive away).


How to Get to Katla Ice Cave in Iceland


There are a few ways of getting to Katla Ice Cave:


You Can Book a Spot on a Tour


Katla is one of the most popular destinations here on the island, so you will find plenty of tours that include it as a stop. These tours range from day trips to multi-day holiday tours that depart from some of the major cities and towns on the island.


Tours inside the cave usually take 3–4 hours and can have age restrictions, so please inquire if you have children in your party. If you really can’t find a tour you like, you can always arrange a custom private tour by one of our local tour operators or private guides. These are a few Katla Ice Cave tours that come highly recommended:


Katla Ice cave tour

You Can Drive Yourself


This can be a bit misleading because when we say drive yourself, it only means to a place where the tour departs (whether you make Katla a self-drive day trip or a part of your road trip). Although one can technically visit Katla Ice Cave by yourself, we would never recommend it – the safety concerns without a knowledgeable guide by your side and all the right gear are simply too many.


That being said, driving to your departure stop will be very easy. If you’re in Reykjavík, it might only take you a few minutes, and if you need to get to Vik, it’s just a 2.5 hour drive down the coast from the capital city on Route 1 (aka the Ring Road). If you must drive to Vik for your tour, you may want to ensure you get there the day before and spend the night.



When is the Best Time to Visit Katla Ice Cave?


The best time to visit Katla Ice Cave will depend on your preferences and when you’ve planned your trip. Katla Ice Cave is one of the few ice caves in Iceland that is open all year round. That means that, quite counterintuitively, Katla Ice Cave is open even in summer. Just keep in mind that summer is considered peak season here in Iceland, and you may experience increased foot traffic and tour bookings during this time.


What to Wear on a Visit to Katla Ice Cave


Your tour operator or guide will provide most of the gear needed. But there are a few essential items you’ll need to wear or at least bring with you. These are:


  • Warm gloves and a hat (beanies work well)

  • Thermal underwear

  • Warm clothes, layered

  • Waterproof outdoor clothing (the cave is constantly melting water dripping everywhere, not to mention the water always running through it, so you will be getting wet)

  • Hiking boots

Ice cave equipment

Other Things to See & Do Near Katla Ice Cave


Suppose you would like to explore the area further after you visit the cave or are on a road trip through the region, you should consider adding the following attractions and activities to your trip itinerary:


  • Reynisdrangar Rock Formation

  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

  • Diamond Beach

  • Hiking Myrdalsjökull Glacier

  • Gigjagja, aka the Yoda Cave

  • Quad Biking the Black Sand Beaches of Vik

  • Hjorleifshofoi, the Viking Burial Site 

Katla Ice Cave: A Highlight on a South Coast Tour


Many visitors opt for a road trip along the south coast of Iceland. That’s because it doesn’t take too long, making it perfect for those with limited time on the island or a tight budget, yet you will get to see some of our most famous sights, one of which is Katla. So, for an unforgettable icy adventure on the south coast, rent a car in Iceland and take a self-drive trip.

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