Ice caves of Iceland, the Land of Fire, and Ice are mostly located in the southern part of the country and offer a unique experience of going deep inside the glaciers formed thousands of years ago.
The exact location of glacial ice caves in Iceland varies from one year to another and depends mainly on the volume of water that flows inside the glaciers due to higher temperatures during summertime.
This article will tell you everything you have to know about ice caves Iceland, when to go, which are the most beautiful ones, and many other interesting facts about these amazing places.
Iceland is packed with many glaciers and breathtaking icy landscapes including crevasses, glacier lagoons, snow-covered plains, and of course natural glacier ice caves.
What I like most about Iceland ice caves is that each cave is unique and its shapes and ice caves form change from one year to another.
Here are some interesting things about Ice caving Iceland:
- most Iceland ice caves are open for the public between November and April, especially the stunning blue glacier ice caves
- glacier ice caves and ice caves are not the same things
- not all the caves are blue; they can be black, blue, or white
- always go into a glacier cave accompanied by a guide as these places are quite dangerous
- always check the weather before going into an ice cave tour
- severe weather conditions might force you to cancel or postpone your tour
How did the ice caves of Iceland form?
Iceland’s glaciers are extremely old as most of them had been formed 2,500 years ago and they continue to accumulate snow year after year.
All these layers of snow had been compressed and formed the glaciers that are located at high altitudes where the temperatures are lower.
What is interesting about glaciers is that these landforms are in a continuous movement and they change their shape from one year to another being influenced by temperatures, wind, and the pressure of their own weight.
The speed of their motion often causes the glaciers to turn and twist in very different ways and all these movements give birth to crevasses.
When these crevasses are filled with water produced by the snow and ice that melt when outside is warmer, they create vertical shafts also known as moulins.
Bear in mind that most of the glacier hides beneath the thick layer of ice volcanoes with volcanic vents and hot springs that produce a lot of heat.
This heat causes the ice to melt so that the glacier moulins and tunnels go deeper into the ice.
The tunnels formed in this way are also known as ice caves or glacier caves, as they are called scientifically.
Are glacier caves and ice caves of Iceland the same thing?
Most people when they say ice cave automatically think about glacier caves, a deep tunnel beneath the ice cap with incredible forms and shapes modeled by the water rivers that come from the glacier.
Actually, an ice cave is a cave that has some ice inside, it should not be made completely from ice or located beneath a glacier.
A cave that is fully made from a huge block of ice as glaciers are is scientifically known as glacier cave and Iceland is one of the best countries to see these caves.
Some glacier caves have an amazing blue color of ice while others are white or even black, reddish, or other beautiful colors.
Most of the ice cave Iceland tours refer to the glacier caves located in Vatnajokull National Park, some of the most stunning caves in the whole country.
The colors of the glacier ice caves
The glacier caves of ice caves as they are commonly called might have different colors of the ice, colors that are generally dictated by the thickness of the ice.
Generally, the ice inside the caves is so thick and dense that it absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except for blue color, so that is why most of the glacier ice caves are blue.
The ice that is completely free of white air bubbles has a more intense blue color, as the bubbles of air reflect visible light.
There are also ice caves that are black or reddish or even green, but the most spectacular ones are the blue caves.
The dark color generally appears in the caves that are covered by snow and are constantly in the shade so no sunlight enters the cave.
Where can you find the best ice cave in Iceland?
There are ice caves all across the country but the area with the highest density of ice caves from the whole country is Vatnajokull National Park located in the southern part of the country, where you can find an impressive collection of unique caves with beautiful ice shapes and unique forms.
Most of the caves from the Vatnajokull area are blue ice caves, amazing formations that are located at different distances from the entrance of the park.
The most visited caves are the ones that are located close to the entrance of the park, and the easiest way to get to them is with a special 4×4 vehicle.
There are also natural ice caves that can be reached after 2 or 3 days of glacier hike and these are generally open only to scientists and visitors are not allowed here.
There are also caves located near Katla Volcano also in the southern part of the country and within a few hours drive from the capital city of Reykjavik.
So, remember that for the largest density of ice caves on the square meter you should head to the southern part of the country, inside and around Vatnajokull National Park.
Best time to explore ice caves in Iceland
Ice caves are there all year round, but certain periods of the year make them extremely dangerous to visit so that is why you should know which is the best time to explore these ice caves before planning your trip to Iceland.
There are two types of Iceland ice caves:
- The ones that are open all year round, and generally here are the man-made caves
- The ones that are open during the cold season and here I am talking especially about the caves located in Vatnajokull Glacier
The increased temperatures from the summer season make the ice caving activity a dangerous sport as the ice is melting and the ceiling of the caves might collapse anytime.
So that is why the best time to visit to explore the glacier caves is from November to April when outside is cold enough, the glaciers stop melting, the rivers that flow inside the caves freeze and you are safe to enter this magnificent world.
What I like most about ice caving is that the shapes of the caves change from one season to another, so each time you enter the cave you will see new and different shapes and beautiful ice sculptures never seen before.
As glaciers are in a continuous movement, the exact position of the caves changes from one year to another.
So if you go two years in the row to the same ice cave you might find the entrance to the cave differently located than the year before.
Most beautiful ice caves in Iceland
There are more than 270 glaciers spread all across Iceland that are home to an impressive number of caves of different sizes and shapes.
Choosing the most beautiful caves is quite difficult as all these tunnels are unique and worth a visit.
Some of them are man-made while others are natural, but each has its own charm and beauty.
I drop below a list of the most impressive ice caves from Iceland so to be easier for you to pick your favorite:
Vatnajokull ice caves
Vatnajokull is the largest glacier from Europe with a total surface of 8.105 square kilometers (3,128 square miles) and a layer of ice of more than 385 meters (1,250 feet).
So you should not be surprised that this is the place with the highest density of ice caves from all over Iceland.
This park is so large that it covers more than 12% of the total surface of the country and nobody knows for sure how many ice caves are inside the park.
Beneath the thick layer of ice is an impressive corridor of ice caves, some of them connected with each other while others are isolated.
These impressive corridors are known as the Anaconda Ice Cave and Crystal Ice cave, all filled with pure blue ice and beautiful shapes.
Everything inside these caves is blue and shiny, with an impressive ceiling like glass, thick walls, and clear floors, one of the most impressive landforms you can ever see on Earth.
Vatnajökull Glacier: Ice Cave Tour a unique expedition inside the Vatnajokull Glacier blue caves that starts from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon with a 4×4 vehicle that leads you to the entrance of the cave.
The drive is a great experience itself not to mention the glacier cave tour guide that will last for about 1 hour.
Sapphire and crystal ice caves
These crystal caves are among the most visited ice caves of Iceland and are located in the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.
The name comes from the main characteristic: translucent ice and unique colors that can be seen reflected on the ceiling, floor, and walls.
Due to its imposing interiors and cavern-like look, the Crystal Cave has rapidly become one of the most visited ice caves from Iceland.
The Sapphire ice cave is in the full process of formation and today it has three different spaces divided with a moulin, and because of its beauty and unicity, its popularity increases from one year to another.
Unfortunately, in recent years the conditions are not suitable for visiting this cave as entering inside it is considered too risky, so all the guided tours here had been suspended.
Langjokull ice cave
Located in the second largest glacier in the country, Langjokull ice cave covers a surface equally with almost 1,000 square kilometers ( 375 square miles) and translates in English as “the Long Glacier”.
This is a man-made cave that was opened to the public after many years of preparation and has 5 carved rooms with the deepest point of about 300 meters (990 feet) below the surface.
The cave is conveniently located close to Reykjavik so it is the perfect destination for a day trip from the capital of Iceland.
From Reykjavik: Langjökull Glacier Ice Cave Tour is a day tour that starts early in the morning in front of your hotel that lasts for about 10 hours.
You will spend about one hour inside the ice cave and you will be transferred from the parking lot up to the glacier with a modified 8WD vehicle.
Until a few years ago, it was a total mystery what stands beneath the thick ice of Langjokull Glacier, but now because of the scientists and technology we learned many interesting things about this place.
The inside temperature of the ice cave is around 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit so pack with you some thermal clothes as helmets and crampons are included in the tour rate.
Katla Ice cave
Some people think that this is the oldest cave from Iceland, while others say it is not true. The true thing about this beautiful cave is that it is 800 years old and it is one of the most amazing caves in Iceland.
It is located in Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, about a 2-hour drive from the capital city of Reykjavik, and is a naturally formed cave with beautiful frozen interiors formed over many years.
The ice cave is located right underneath the Katla volcano so that is why it is known as Katla ice cave.
The centerpiece of the cave is the “dragon glass”, an interesting fusion of volcanic ash and ice blue, quite unique in Iceland.
Ice Cave by Katla Volcano Super Jeep from Vik is a beautiful experience on the most beautiful ice cave at Myrdalsjokull Glacier, located close to Katla volcano.
You will be equipped with a helmet, crampons, and warm hiking boots to explore these natural wonders.
You will be amazed by the unique combination of gray, black, and blue colors of the ice inside the cave and you will find out how this magnificent cave was formed.
Most popular ice cave glacier tours in Iceland
We strongly recommend you to start your ice cave tour with the following caves from Iceland, one of the most stunning and beautiful in the whole world:
- Vatnajökull Glacier: Ice Cave Tour a unique expedition inside the Vatnajokull Glacier blue caves that starts from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon with a 4×4 vehicle that leads you to the entrance of the cave. The drive is a great experience itself not to mention the glacier cave tour that will last for about 1 hour.
- Skaftafell: Ice Cave Tour & Glacier Hike is a magnificent tour that combines two of the most spectacular ice adventures from Iceland: glacier hiking and glacier caving in Skaftafell National Park which today is part of the largest park from Iceland, Vatnajokull National Park. The whole adventure lasts for about 4 hours and you will be accompanied by a professional guide that will provide you with all the information you need about this magnificent place.
- Ice Cave by Katla Volcano Super Jeep from Vik is a beautiful experience on the most beautiful ice cave at Myrdalsjokull Glacier, located close to Katla volcano. You will be equipped with a helmet, crampons, and warm hiking boots to explore these natural wonders. You will be amazed by the unique combination of gray, black, and blue colors of the ice inside the cave and you will find out how this magnificent cave was formed.
From Jökulsárlón: Crystal Blue Ice Cave Super Jeep Tour, a 3 hours drive that starts with a scenic drive with a 4×4 vehicle and continues with a unique experience, that of entering a blue ice cave from Iceland.
What to wear when exploring the ice caves of Iceland
I know it is clear for everyone but I just want to point out the fact that in order to form these ice caves they require low temperatures, 0 or beneath 0 degrees Celsius.
So, what I can tell you for sure is that you need to wear comfortable and warm clothes, multiple layers of clothes with good thermal isolation and some waterproof clothes on top.
Warm weather makes these places very unsafe as the glaciers melt, there is water everywhere on the floor and the whole Iceland ice tunnel is unsafe for visitors.
This is the main reason why ice caves tours are generally organized during the cold season, from November to April.
Pack with you the warmest clothes that you have including some woolen jumpers, extra pairs of socks to change them if necessary, waterproof trousers and of course gloves, a hat and a scarf.
It is also very important to wear good and comfortable hiking boots as you need to put on them the crampons needed to walk on ice.
If you don’t have good quality hiking boots don’t worry as most tour companies rent boots but you have to pay extra for them.
How long last an ice cave tour in Iceland
Well, the length of the tour might vary from one company to another, and from one cave to another.
There is nothing regulated by laws, but generally, an ice cave tour lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
To the time spent inside the ice cave add the time needed to reach the cave and you will have the total length of your trip.
Today it is much easier to reach an ice cave as there are special 4×4 vehicles that are specially modified to drive on ice so everybody can have access to the magnificent experience of ice caving.
So you don’t need to be in perfect shape to have access to such an interesting experience but a few years ago you had to walk on the ice to the glacier cave.
If you choose to take a guided tour with transport to your hotel then you have to add up the time spent on the road to the ice caving tour and 4×4 drive experience which might end up with more than 10 hours on the road.
Where to sleep close to the best ice cave in Iceland
Most of the glacier caves are located up in the glaciers and you can get there only with a special vehicle that has a special permit as they are driving inside the national parks.
There are no hotels or guesthouses in the vicinity of the ice caves and the closest places where you can sleep are located around the entrance of the national parks.
For the best ice caves of Iceland, we strongly recommend you to head to the southern part of the country, in the area known as Vatnajokull National Park.
We carefully picked for you 3 of the best hotels that can be found in the nearby area, each hotel addresses a certain type of budget:
- luxury: the luxurious rooms from Fosshotel Lagoon awaits its guests with clean and cozy rooms with huge windows overlooking the mountains, a great restaurant, and a bar. The glacier lagoon and Diamond beach are half an hour away from the property.
- mid-level: nestled in the middle of the wilderness Seljavellir Guesthouse Hofn is a great place to spend your night and observe the Northern Lights as the place is far from any light pollution but close enough to the entrance of Vatnajokull National Park
- budget: the simple but clean Laekjarhus Farm Holidays Iceland located just 15 miles from the Glacier Lagoon is run by an Icelandic family of farmers, a great place to set up your camp and explore the area.
Iceland is a country full of natural wonders and surprises with a long list of activities to try while there.
The good thing about this country is that everything is packed in a small distance and you can combine two or more outdoor activities in a single day.
You can go ice caving but also do a glacier hike while in Vatnajokull Park or you can book your seat in a boat and sail along the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon before go deep into the glacier, where water sculpted many unique and beautiful shapes and forms.
It is very important to dress in warm clothes, take some hot tea with and check the weather forecast before you start the ice caving adventure in Iceland.
Can you visit ice caves in Iceland on your own?
Unless you are a scientist or a professional climber, we strongly don’t recommend you to go ice caving on your own.
There are not only the risks associated with ice melting but there is also the glacier hike up to the ice cave.
That is why we strongly advise everyone to take a guided tour to fully enjoy the experience and the beauty of these natural wonders.
Where are the Iceland ice caves?
There are almost 290 glaciers all across Iceland with a plethora of ice caves hidden beneath the thick layer of ice.
The best area to go for an ice caving experience is in the southern part of the country, especially in Vatnajokull National Park.
Can you see ice caves in Iceland in summer?
Some of the ice caves from Iceland are open all year round, including during the summer season, while others are open for the public from November to April.
The man-made ice cave Langjokull ice cave is open all year round, while the spectacular blue ice caves from Vatnajokull National Park can be visited only during the cold season.
Is Katla ice cave worth it?
Located beneath the volcano with the same name, Katla ice cave is one of the most beautiful caves from Iceland.
Inside the cave, you will find a unique natural design made from ice and ash from the last eruption.
It is a unique place in Iceland that is definitely worth paying a visit because of its grandiose interior chambers, beautiful colors, and interesting history.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.