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Discover Iceland’s Ice Caves

Iceland is renowned for its spectacular scenery, from thunderous waterfalls and geothermal pools to soaring volcanic mountains and black sand beaches with rock formations thrashed by cobalt waves just offshore. In this land of fire and ice, there are also many glaciers, resulting in some fascinating landscape features you’ll want to see on your Iceland vacation. The flowing glaciers and vast expanses of ice are impressive from above, but the ice also hides a secret world below. Not only are there glacier lagoons and towering cliffs of ice visible above ground, but ice caves beneath. One of the best things to do in Iceland, discover Iceland’s ice caves with the help of our guide which reveals all you need to know.

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Make sure you follow all instructions given by your guide. They are there to keep you safe and ensure the preservation of the caves. Once inside, take your time to enjoy the stunning beauty of the ice caves. While taking photos is important, don’t forget to immerse yourself in the experience.

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European Specialist
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Overview: Iceland's Ice Caves

Glaciers are formed over thousands of years with snow falling atop packed, older snow, becoming compressed and heavy. It flows downhill due to the weight, approximately a foot every day. Air pockets become trapped in the ice flow which ultimately becomes ice caves with new ones emerging all the time, in different shapes and forms from smooth blue sheets to crystal ice patterns, with each one unique. When you step inside you’ll be standing in the heart of a glacier with ice that’s potentially thousands of years old. The blue hues that captivate are produced by oxygen trapped inside the ice. Listen for the creaking sounds as it shifts, a reminder that an ice cave is a living, moving force of nature.

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Best Ice Caves to Visit

Vatnajökull Ice Cave

Vatnajökull Ice Cave is located on Iceland’s largest glacier of the same name near Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon. Also called the Crystal Ice Cave after its crystal-blue ice and Anaconda with a long and winding shape similar to a snake, it’s one of the most famous. Sanding at the entrance, the surface of the ice sparkles in the sun while the tunnel displays nearly endless shades of blue, descending to what appears to be a hole of darkness. A magnificent blue ice arch runs below a small stream that surrounds vibrant blue chunks of ice. After entering you’ll look up at the crystal ice ceiling while your guide reveals the reasons why the ice appears that way and how it was formed.

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Langjökull Ice Cave

Less than a two-hour drive from Reykjavik in the highlands of Iceland near Husafell with tours departing from the capital city, Langjökull Ice Cave is man-made, one of just two that are accessible year-round. Your guided tour starts with a ride in a monster truck that will bring you to the entrance near the top of Langjökull glacier, the second-largest in Iceland covering approximately 320 square miles and reaching a maximum height of roughly 4,700 feet. You’ll trek through the 1,640-foot-long ice tunnel which features separate frozen halls to view remarkable, brilliant blue ice formations and crevasses. Be mesmerized by its beauty with the walls illuminated by LED lighting. Tours often combine other activities like snowmobiling or ice climbing.

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Katla Ice Cave

Located on Iceland’s south coast less than an hour from the village of Vik on one of the country’s most active volcanoes, Katla can be found in the Kötlujökull glacier. It’s a natural ice cave and the only other besides Langjökull that can be visited in every month of the year. Once inside you’ll be able to explore the oldest part of the cave featuring clear blue ice while feeling the power of the glacier. The cave is both blue and black, with the black due to ash from volcanic eruptions. Although Katla is active, it hasn’t erupted in over a century. Like all Iceland volcanoes, it’s closely monitored for activity and tours will be suspended if it’s stirring.

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Skaftafell Ice Cave

Skafatell includes multiple ice caves like the Blue Dragon Ice Cave with its dimpled walls that look like a dragon’s scale. Located on the frozen lagoon of the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell, you’ll embark on a short hike up a Vatnajökull glacier tongue to reach it while learning how glaciers and ice caves are formed. Stepping inside the narrow entrance, the brilliant blue frozen ceilings with stalactites hanging over the icy paths are revealed. In the end, it tapers down to just a narrow squeeze, no more than four feet high. The vivid blue color, the melting ice, and the tranquility make it a particularly magnificent experience. Back on the surface, you’ll walk through the ever-changing glacial landscape, with more incredible photo-ops.

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What Time of Year Can You Visit Iceland’s Ice Caves?

The best time to visit Iceland to explore the ice caves is between November and March as the temperature must be low enough for the walls of the ice caves to remain solid, allowing for safe entrance. When the ice starts to melt, typically in April, they aren’t safe to enter. That said, as previously noted, there are two that are open to visitors on guided tours all year round, including the man made Langjökull Ice Cave and the Katla Ice Cave. For the best experience, come during the long, dark days of winter when you’ll have the chance to catch Mother Nature’s most breathtaking show, the northern lights. Temperatures probably aren’t as frigid as you might imagine, with highs around 37 degrees.

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Top Tips for Visiting Iceland’s Ice Caves

Visiting an ice cave on a guided tour is a safe activity. In fact, that’s the only way you can enter one as doing so independently is extremely dangerous. Joining a tour means you’ll be given a safety briefing and will be equipped with the right gear before heading out with an expertly trained guide. The chilly conditions mean you’ll want to dress appropriately. The key to staying warm is layers, with your first layer ideally a long-sleeved merino wool top and leggings. Avoid jeans as when they get wet, they stay wet. Instead, wear a pair of waterproof pants along with a waterproof jacket, gloves, a hat, and wool socks. Most tour operators will provide you with warm, studded boots.

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