Iceland is known around the world for having incredible views and landscapes. One way the Nordic island stands out from the rest of the world is how many glaciers the country has. We may be tiny, but glacial masses make up about 11% of the country’s landmass. This number sadly changes year by year due to global warming. The frozen ice floes in Iceland are stunning. If you get the chance, you need to go and experience the majesty of these ancient monoliths. I’m going to give you some quick insights into Iceland’s glacier caves and ice caves. You will be up to speed before your next trip to Iceland.
Hikers and visitors can only visit glacier caves between November and March. Even then, you must travel with a certified guide who can determine if the tunnel is structurally sound. There can be slight fissures that the average person cannot see, and this is the difference between life or death. The beauty of these ice caverns justifies the risk. Glacier caves are so incredibly unique due to their color and the originality of each cave. You will never see the same cave twice. The most famous caves usually appear in the Vatnajökull Glacier (which, by the way, is the largest glacier in Europe). New caves pop up each year so you will have to wait until November to find the newest and bluest one!
What is an Ice Cave?
Ice caves and glacier caves are similar, yet they are very different. Both are ostensibly caves formed by ice. Both are frequently found in Iceland. And both are stunning to walk through. While both are extremely beautiful, ice caves are generally less exciting and much safer (funny how they go hand in hand). When a cave becomes filled with ice during the winter months, it technically becomes an ice cave. The cave will be there once the ice is gone. However, during the winter it may fill up with colorful ice from ceiling to floor. Ice caves are fascinating, but glacier caves genuinely take the cake.
What is a Glacier Cave?
I find glacier caves to be captivating. Glacier caves form when a cave or hole is carved out of the glacier by the runoff meltwater that courses through the glaciers during the summer months. When the weather begins to cool, and the glacier takes back on some of its size, the caves will freeze allowing visitors to walk through them. It should be noted that it is never recommended to go inside one alone, no matter the outdoor experience you have. Glacier caves can change from day to day, and it takes the trained eye of a professional to determine if they are safe to enter or not.
Stunning Blue Hues and Natural Sculptures
Glacier caves are most interesting due to the unique blue hue they take on. When a glacier cave forms there are little to no air bubbles inside the ice of the glacier. As such, the ice absorbs all colors on the light spectrum except for blue. So, if you have ever seen pictures on social media or in magazines of someone in a cave surrounded by impossibly blue ice they are in a glacial cave. These icy caves make for perfect photo opportunities, and given the current state of our environment, there is no time better than the present to visit one.
Iceland’s Ice Caves and Glacier Caves
If you find yourself in Iceland, you must take a trip to visit one of these natural wonders. They are nature’s unique creations, and you will never see the same construction twice. Ice caves differ from glacier caves, in that, a lot of them can be visited throughout the entire year (depending on the structural integrity of the cave). Also, the ice in the ice caves tends to take on copper, red, or even dark brown hues. The glacier caves of Iceland are the real attraction, but along with that, they are much more dangerous. Happy exploring!