My road trip along the South Coast of Iceland reached its furthest point as I arrived in the world-famous glacier region and national park. I met the Glacier Adventure team at the Hali Country Hotel, just a short drive from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
We boarded what I would call a ‘monster truck’ (although these seem to be the standard 4WD in Iceland) and set out for the national park down an off-road trail.
Along the way, we spotted an arctic fox and wild reindeer roaming the plains, so we pulled over to get a better look and take some photos. Apparently it is quite rare to spot these animals – especially two different kinds in one trip – so it certainly was an awesome addition to the tour.
After the 4WD journey across the valley, the mighty glacier came into view. We could spot the intricate patterns that had formed in the ice, revealing the layering that had occurred over hundreds of years – including periods of volcanic activity with layers of ash breaking up the stark whites and blues of the thick ice.
Safety is important when adventuring into this harsh landscape so we geared up in a harness, crampons and helmet prior to heading out onto the glacier.
The 45 minute walk across Breiðamerkurjökull – one of Vatnajökull’s biggest outlet glaciers, was an adventure in itself. The ever-changing natural conditions had formed glacial lakes and rugged ice formations, which we were able to truly appreciate as we began our climb up hill and looked out over the valley below.
After navigating our way across the glacier, we climbed down toward the entrance of the ice cave. From the outside, you have no idea of what you are about to encounter from the inside. The exterior is covered in thick white ice and rock although after you enter the cave, an entirely different world appears.
I spent the first few minutes just being in complete awe of its natural beauty. Hundreds of different shades of blue featured throughout the ice, and as the light from outside filtered through, it illuminated the thinner sheets and revealed the most vibrant blue hues.
The sound of glacial water flowing through a creek along the cave floor also brought a real sense of peace and tranquility to the setting – it was just us and nature.
We had about an hour to spend in the caves which was ample time to get some photos and just appreciate the natural surroundings.
The remoteness of this landscape is what makes this experience so unique. There is another blue ice cave found relatively nearby, although many more companies have consent to visit and the crowd numbers can be quite large at times which makes for a less authentic experience – not to mention the difficulty trying to get a photo without people in it. We felt so isolated and completely immersed in nature on this trip which was such an amazing feeling.
Each year the glacier retreats and reforms, although there is a general pattern of glacial retreat over time which was quite disheartening to hear. Our local guide Vésteinn showed us where the previous years’ ice cave was about 100m away, and how much closer it once was to the ocean. So if you are wanting to experience this for yourself, the sooner the better, as one day it may all disappear!
I’d like to thank Vésteinn and the team at Glacier Adventure for this amazing experience, it was the highlight of my trip to Iceland! I loved that the family running the adventure tour company had occupied the region for many generations and that locals were running the tours. It made you feel that you were in very safe hands, having someone that had grown up in the region and spent years observing the changes, dangers and patterns that came with this harsh but impressive landscape.
The Blue Ice Cave Adventure tour operates from mid-November to mid-March. The groups were small and personal, with a maximum of 8 people per trip. If you’re visiting Iceland over the summer, you can still experience the glaciers on one of the ice climbing or glacier walking tours run by Glacier Adventure.