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Vatnajokull: Exploring Europe’s Largest Glacier in Iceland

Iceland is one of the countries I would like to visit again. It has something special in the air I guess! It is the ideal destination for mountain lovers and adventurers! I am sure you already know that!

But also it is home to the largest glacier in Europe! When you look on a map on the southeast part of the country you’ll see a huge white spot! That spot is Vatnajokull Iceland, one of the most eye-catching places from the area!

You have no idea what I am talking about!? Well, let me try different! Do you remember that a few years ago there was a huge plume of ash and sulfur dioxide and air traffic was disrupted for a few days? That happened because of a volcano that sits beneath this huge glacier.

Just think about how huge is the volcano and how big it should be the glacier to cover not just one but more volcanoes of the same size with ice! It is just incredibly huge! I will try to resume in a figure the dimensions of this spot of ice to be sure everyone understands what I am trying to say!

Vatnajokull Iceland the largest glacier in Europe

The largest European Glacier

General information about the largest glacier in Europe

The glacier covers more than 8% from Iceland surface, measuring 8.100 sq km. It is huge! A giant white spot near the Arctic Circle!

The average thickness of the ice on Vatnajokull Iceland is 400 m with places where ice could reach 1.000 m deep. In total, the place contains about 3.300 cubic km of ice!

These data are quite impressive! No wonder it is the largest European glacier! The figures from above are just mind-blowing!

Probably you wonder what is beneath that thick layer of ice except for volcanoes! Plateau of valleys and gorges are hidden underneath the ice! Nobody could see with his own eyes that gorges and valleys but we know what is underneath thanks to high-performance instruments.

Another interesting fact is related to volcanoes buried under the ice! More exactly is about volcano eruptions! When eruptions occur beneath the largest glacier in Europe, the ice is lifted like a blanket and enormous quantities of water escape. Major floods follow the volcano eruptions and so the consequences could be devastating.

Vatnajokull Iceland has an important word to say when we speak about landscape changes. In 1996, for example, after an eruption, the flood caused by that event washed away part of the Ring Road. The landscape was not the same after that event. Even if the Ring Road was rebuilt the natural elements from the area changed and signs of the devastating event could be seen even today. Nature was remodeled by the force of water.

How to get to the largest glacier in Europe

The nearest town is Hofn, located few kilometers east of the glacier. From Hofn you can take a trip with custom made cars up to that vast ice stretching.

You also can rent a car or take a tour from Reykjavik. It is a long drive from the capital of the country; it took you around 8 hours but worth the time.

Do you like to travel without any worries that a car accident might ruin your holiday? Stay on the safe side and buy extra insurance for your car rental!

There are also internal airplanes from Reykjavik to Hofn, but their take-off and landing are linked to weather conditions and the prices are pretty high.

I would recommend you to go to Hofn, book a simple but clean and beautiful room at a hotel, take a good night’s sleep and early in the morning start your tour to the glacier.

When to visit Vatnajokull Iceland

The most suitable months to visit this unique place are from May to August. During these summer months, the weather is more friendly with humans and the trip is not that risky. Actually, I think during winter months there are no trips to the glacier. I guess you can book a few hours tours which lead you a few kilometers away on the ice. But everything depends on the weather! The difference is that during summer you have more chances to catch a good day for a hike.

It is a long and hard way up to the largest glacier in Europe but worth the effort! Don’t worry if you don’t have specialized equipment! If you book a tour up to the glacier you will receive everything you’ll need!

Unfortunately, these wonder of nature is affected by the global warming process. The ice is melting year by year leaving behind a desolate landscape. We have to do everything that we can to stop this irreversible process! Vatnajokull Iceland is one of the most beautiful and impressive places I have ever seen and it is a pity not to keep it as it is!