top of page

Your Complete Guide to the Glaciers in Iceland

Updated: Apr 18

The glaciers in Iceland make up half of why the country is called the Land of Fire and Ice. There are 269 (official!) glaciers in Iceland, and they make up 11% of the country’s landmass.


These frosty phenomena are not just aesthetically impressive but give visitors plenty of opportunity to take part in fun and unique experiences and adventures.


In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about these icy giants.




Most of Our Glaciers are Actually Glacier Tongues


The first thing you need to know is that most of what we call glaciers are actually glacier tongues. A glacier tongue is an icy extension of a glacier that generally extends into a body of water (even floating on it).


Here in Iceland, we have the second-largest ice cap in Europe called Vatnajökull, and this is also the main glacier from which most (over 30) of our “glaciers” originate from.


The Difference Between an Iceland Iceberg and an Iceland Glacier


An iceberg is not the same thing as a glacier. Most of Iceland’s icebergs were once part of one of the famous glaciers mentioned below.


For various reasons, including glacial melting because of global warming, volcanic activity, and erosion by the elements, huge pieces of ice will break off from a glacier and either float off into the ocean, stay bobbing about in a fjord or lagoon, or wash ashore on the beach (Diamond Beach is a great example of this here in Iceland).


Diamond beach, Iceland


The Best Time to Visit the Glaciers in Iceland


Many who are planning a trip to Iceland and would like to visit the glaciers want to know when the best time would be for an Icelandic glacier excursion. The answer is two-fold. Whilst it may seem counterintuitive, one can actually visit the glaciers all year round (yes, you can even visit Iceland’s glaciers in summer!).


In fact, many would recommend visiting during the summer season since one can take advantage of boat tours (such as the ones at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon) to get up close to these majestic giants.


However, if you were planning on exploring an ice cave or two whilst visiting a glacier, you will need to plan your trip for the colder months of the year as the majority of the ice caves are kept closed during the warmer months because of safety concerns.


Glacier tours, Iceland


How to Visit the Glaciers in Iceland


If you just want to see a glacier, it will be pretty easy to do here in Iceland. You can opt to go on one of our hikes which will take you within viewing distance, but even just driving on the road, soaking in one of our hot springs, or walking around in one of our cities or towns can afford you a view of a glacier.


But if you would like to explore a glacier or participate in some of the exciting excursions or activities offered, you will need to get in touch with one of the glacier guides in Iceland. The icy glacier terrain can be quite treacherous.


Not only because of the obvious slippery reasons but also because glaciers have other safety concerns such as deep crevasses. Going on one of the glacier trips in Iceland promises to be quite a unique experience.


Not only will you have an experienced and knowledgeable guide who will keep you safe and give you valuable insight into the glacier and the surrounding area, but you will also be able to choose from a wide variety of ways to explore the frozen landscape.


Glacier boat tour


Things to Do at the Glaciers in Iceland


As we mentioned, glacier activities are legion and you will find plenty of interesting glacier tours to choose from. Here are a few things one can do on the glaciers that you might want to consider adding to your trip itinerary:


Glacier Walks in Iceland (aka Glacier Hikes)


Glacier walks are incredibly special. During these tours, you hit the ground, well, hiking, but with all sorts of nifty gear to be able to traverse the icy surface and see all the interesting natural wonders that go along with it. All gear will be provided by the tour operator.


Ice Climbing


If it’s icy and on the glacier, you can climb it. With the help of some rope and axes, you’ll be able to scale any icy body. For those visiting during the wintertime, there’s an extra treat in the form of climbing frozen waterfalls.


glacier climbing in Iceland


Exploring a Glacier via Super Jeep


Super Jeeps look like a strange cross-breed between a limo and a 4x4 vehicle. But these can get you across most terrain here in Iceland, and make the perfect sightseeing vehicle on glaciers. So, if you don’t want to walk, why not just ride?


Cruising Across a Glacier on a Snowmobile


If you want to ride across a glacier whilst getting the blood pumping a bit – this one’s for you. During these tours, everyone in the group is their own driver, with the guide at the helm.


Ice Cave Exploring


As we already mentioned, this is a seasonal activity, and can mostly be done during the colder months of the year. Ice caves are extraordinary places to visit. They have bright blue, yet transparent, glossy walls that still have streaks of black ash from volcanic eruptions of thousands of years ago.


Ice cave exploring in Iceland


Go on a Glacier Truck Tour


This is a similar experience to the Super Jeep tours except for the fact that the glacier truck is gigantic, and its sides are more transparent to give you a better immersive experience.


The Most Famous Glaciers in Iceland


The following are some of the most famous glaciers in Iceland and where you’ll find most of the glacier tours and activities:


Vatnajökull Glacier


Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in the country and the second-largest glacier in Europe, covering a staggering 8100 square kilometers, and reaching a thickness of up to 400 meters at places. Vatnajökull can be found in Vatnajökull National Park in the southeastern part of the island.


Vatnajokull Glacier


Langjökull Glacier


Langjökull is the second-largest glacier here in Iceland, and quite literally translates to ‘long glacier’. It covers roughly 935 square kilometers and can be found in what is known as the Highlands, in the western part of the island.


Langjökull Glacier


Myrdalsjökull Glacier


Myrdalsjökull is Iceland’s fourth-largest glacier, stretching out across 600 square kilometers. This glacier is situated just north of the village of Vik I Myrdal in the south of Iceland.



Myrdalsjökull


Eyjafjallajökull Glacier


This glacier covers one of our volcanoes, known as a troublemaker here on the island. During one of its eruptions, it not only led to the urgent evacuation of locals but the smoke and ash were so extreme that it left flights stranded all across Europe.


This is probably one of the highest glaciers with the summit being 1666 meters high. It’s also the sixth-largest glacier in Iceland, stretching over 100 square kilometers. It lies just west of Myrdalsjökull Glacier and north of Skogar in the south of Iceland.


Eyjafjallajökull Glacier


Snæfellsjökull Glacier


Snæfellsjökull is yet another glacier covering the top of a volcano, but don’t worry, this one’s been pretty quiet for a long time now. The Snæfellsjökull Glacier is 700,000 years old, and sits at the tip of the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula, at a height of 1446 meters. On a good day, one can spot the glacier from the capital city of Reykjavík.


Snæfellsjökull


Solheimajökull Glacier


This is one example of what we refer to as a glacier, which is really a glacier tongue. Solheimajökull originates from Myrdalsjökull. This is also why the location is so similar, being located near Vik I Myrdal in the south of Iceland.


Solheimajökull glacier in Iceland.


Svinafellsjökull Glacier


Svinafellsjökull can be found on the southern edge of the Skaftafell National Park, which now forms part of the bigger Vatnajökull National Park. This glacier is a favorite when it comes to glacier hikes since it boasts incredible views and all sorts of interesting formations.


Svinafellsjökull


Falljökull Glacier


Falljökull is one of Vatnajökull’s “babies”. It lies just northwest of the town of Höfn, on the east side of the Breidabunga Volcano in the eastern part of the island.


Falljökull Glacier


Fjallsjökull Glacier


Fjallsjökull is another one of our glacier-topped volcanoes and another glacier that’s really a glacier tongue. Fjallsjökull originates from the bigger Oraefajokull Glacier and can be found in the southeastern part of the island.


Breidamerkurjökull Glacier


This glacial tongue originates from Vatnajökull and is the glacier you can get pretty up close and personal with during a boat tour on the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Breidamerkurjökull Glacier is located in Vatnajökull National Park.



Breidamerkurjökull Glacier


Drangajökull Glacier


Drangajökull holds the title of the northernmost glacier in Iceland and can be found southwest of the Hornstrandir Peninsula in the Westfjords. The glacier covers just about 160 square kilometers but still makes for an impressive sight and is one of the glaciers that can be spotted on one of our day hikes.



Drangajokull


Skaftafellsjökull Glacier


Skaftafellsjökull is another of Vatnajökull’s “babies” and can be found in Skaftafell National Park now located within Vatnajökull National Park.


Skaftafellsjökull Glacier


Eiriksjökull Glacier


Eiriksjökull is a pretty interesting glacier. It stretches over 22 square kilometers on top of a mountain, clocking in at 1675 meters, making it the largest table mountain in the country, and the highest in west Iceland. It’s situated just east of the Langjökull Glacier in the Borgarfjordur district.


Eiriksjökull


Kviarjökull Glacier


Kviarjökull Glacier is another Vatnajökull “baby” situated on a mountain at a height of just 150 meters. Kviarjökull Glacier is located in the south of Iceland.


Hoffellsjökull Glacier


Yet another of Vatnajökull’s “babies”, Hoffellsjökull Glacier can be found in Hornafjördur in Vatnajökull National Park in the southeastern part of the island. The glacier is named after Hoffell, farmland, and mountainous area.


Skeidararjökull Glacier


Skeidararjökull Glacier also originates from Vatnajökull and can be found close to Skaftafell. If you want to see this glacier, you had better start making a plan since it’s officially the Icelandic glacier that is retreating the most (an average of 400 meters per year!).



Skeidararjökull Glacier


Sidujökull Glacier


Sidujökull is probably one of the most beautiful of all Vatnajökull’s “children”. It is surrounded by a wide variety of completely contrasting terrains which include lakes, mountains, valleys, streams, and volcanoes. This glacier can be found in the south of Iceland.


Bruarjökull Glacier


Bruarjökull is one of Vatnajökull’s biggest “babies”. It stretches over 1600 square kilometers and is located in southeast Iceland.


Steinsholtsjökull Glacier


Steinsholtsjökull Glacier is our “troublemaker junior”. And just like its “dad”, it’s already been the culprit of some local drama. In January 1967, a big part of the Innstilhaus Mountain broke off and fell onto Steinsholtsjökull Glacier which caused massive glacial flooding.



Steinsholtsjökull Glacier


Dyngjujökull Glacier


This is another “big baby” of Vatnajokull and can be found inside Vatnajökull National Park about 20 kilometers from Vatnajökull itself in the southeastern part of the island. Dyngjujökull Glacier is directly responsible for the Jökulsa a Fjöllum River being the second-largest river in Iceland due to all the glacial meltwater running into the river.


Glaciers in Iceland are Magnificent Icy Adventures Waiting to Happen


Glaciers in Iceland are reminders of how powerful nature can be and they play a big part in our rivers, streams, lagoons, etc. here on the island. These breathtaking giants also offer visitors the opportunity to take part in all sorts of unique and exciting activities such as ice cave exploring, snowmobile tours, ice climbing, and more.


The best way to see and explore the various glaciers here in Iceland is by renting a campervan in Reykjavík upon your arrival on the island, and then adding the glaciers and whichever glacier activities as stops along a road trip.


To explore most of what the island has to offer and its various regions, you should opt for a Ring Road road trip. You can start your journey from the capital city, where you can already tick off Snæfellsjökull Glacier if you’re lucky.


142 views

Comentarios


bottom of page