Iceland is the Land of Fire and Ice because of stunning contrasts like active volcanoes found underneath frozen ice caps. The glaciers of Iceland definitely add timeless beauty to the sweeping landscape. They bring many adventurous travelers who want to go on glacier hikes and be close to nature. Now before your glacier hike picture walking through a long stretch of pristine snow. Then imagine reaching the top of a glacier and seeing astounding views. The safest way to achieve this is experience is to book a tour or excursion.
On your tour, you will see many different types of glaciers such as outlet glaciers, stunning glacier lagoons, and glacier tongues. In this guide, you will learn about common glacier forms, where to find glaciers and glacier hikes.
Common Glaciers in Iceland
Since Iceland has the best climate for the snow to freeze about 11% of this country is covered by glaciers. Glaciers develop when cold temperatures encourage snow to pile up and thicken into ice. The ice gets thicker over long periods of time in locations like the tops of volcanoes forming ice caps. Common glaciers are gorgeous glacier lagoons, outlet glaciers, and ice caps. Glacier lagoons develop when a large glacier melts and the resulting water forms a lake around the base. The lagoon is then filled with floating icebergs broken off from the parent glacier.
Snow white ice caps are thick layers of ice typically seen with a dome-shape. The size is usually less than 50,000 square kilometers (19,000 square miles) in surface area. Ice sheets are ice caps but cover more land area. Some glaciers like outlet glaciers also known as valley glaciers are shaped by characteristics of the land. Outlet glaciers grow when ice caps melt and the water flows into the space between mountains and freezes.
Where Are Glaciers In Iceland?
Since you are now ready to plan your trip lets answer the question, where are glaciers in Iceland? The first place you should explore is Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland that spans 8% of this island nation. It is also the largest ice cap in Europe. It is located in Southeast Iceland and the thickness is roughly1300 feet (400 meters) and (8100 square kilometers) in area. The impressive Vatnajökull glacier has over 30 outlet glaciers and some of the most scenic ones include Skeiðarárjökull, Svínafellsjökul, and Falljökull. Vatnajökull is surrounded by a national park that has the tallest volcanic glacier in Iceland called Öræfajökull. The highest peak for this mountain is 7000 feet (2100 meters). There are also many beautiful glacial rivers derived from this formidable glacier.
The next location should naturally be Langjökull, the second-largest glacier in Iceland. It is situated in the Western Highlands and can also be accessed from the Golden Circle. Langjökull It is called “Long Glacier” because it is 361 square miles (935 square kilometers) long and upwards of 1900 feet (580 meters) thick. It is the closest glacier to Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital city, making it a convenient day drip.
Fun fact, without the Langjökull glacier the three iconic attractions from the Golden Circle would not be the same. The water supply for the cascading Gullfoss Waterfall comes from Hvítá, a glacial river coming out of Langjökull. The Geysir Area also known as the Great Geysir receives underground glacier ice melt-water for the famous hot springs. The Þingvellir national park also has many fresh springs supplied by glacier melt water. These historic locations are a perfect addition to your itinerary when visiting Iceland.
You cannot mention glaciers without exploring Jökulsárlón, the “Crown Jewel of Iceland” located in South Iceland. This unique glacier lagoon also called “Glacier’s River Lagoon,” is filled with gleaming icebergs akin to jewels. Close by is a beach called Diamond beach because it also has beautiful iceberg gems contrasting against its black sand. The icebergs have varying colors from rich blue, pure white, clear, and even streaked with black from volcanic ash. The natural works of ice art comes from the glacier Breiðamerkurjökull found in Vatnajökull national park.
Jökulsárlón is also the deepest lagoon in Iceland and measures at an estimate of 814 feet (248 meters) deep. It has a surface area of 7 square miles (18 square kilometers). The jewels in the Crown Jewel of Iceland are constantly changing because the icebergs shift in size and color. This glamorous lagoon is world-famous and brings many excited tourists to witness the natural beauty in person. Fortunately, you can travel to Jökulsárlón year-round and take as many picture-perfect moments as you wish. You may even have a happy seal in the background.
This lagoon is also unique because it mixes freshwater and seawater together giving it a vibrant blue color. The combination attracts fish and seals to swim in the water as well as seabirds to fly overhead. After you are done exploring, you can be picked up for a super jeep tour to go inside a natural blue ice cave. This cave is located within the massive Vatnajökull glacier.
Glacier Hike Iceland
When you reserve a glacier hike Iceland excursion you are in for a real treat. You can experience these majestic structures up close on a glacier hike, ice climb, boat, ice cave, and snowmobile tour. In popular films, they show the dangers of unskilled adventurers exploring rugged terrain. But if you follow these three tips you will be sure to enjoy your adventure safely. Rent proper hiking gear, book a reputed tour guide, and use caution during your trip. Listen to the guide and you will be fine. Also, bring a camera so you can capture these beautiful moments to reminisce about later.
Main glacier hiking locations
There are many stunning locations for a glacier tour. Here are five places to get you started, Glacier Lagoons, Vatnajökull, Langjökull, Hekla, and Snæfellsjökull. Glacier Lagoons have formed throughout Iceland. You can see many of them on a lovely boat tour where the first stop is to the glittering Jökulsárlón. Other lesser-known lagoons are Fjallsárlón and Grænalón.
You can leave from Jökulsárlón in a super jeep to reach Vatnajökull for your glacier hike tour. The walk to the peak of this colossal ice cap will be rewarding. Not many tourists trek to the top and you will feel like you have captured a small slice of heaven. Langjökull is the perfect location for snowmobiling tours and other tours. You can even visit the man-made tunnel in an ice cave tour.
Hekla earned the title of Gateway to Hell because it is the largest active volcano in Iceland. It has many eruptions and produces extremely high amounts of lava compared to other volcanoes in the world. The latest eruption was in 2000. Snæfellsjökull or “Snowfall Glacier” is another active volcanic glacier but has not erupted since 1700 years ago. It is located in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and has stunning views.
Make Lasting Memories
When you visit Iceland you are guaranteed to make lasting memories. These timeless glaciers are a wonder to behold and when you finally scale the top the view is astounding. Make sure to take a moment and enjoy the experience. Then take stunning photos to capture your memories forever.