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Glacier access

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Glacier access

The glaciers are a part of the powerful mother nature, they can be dangerous. Reasonable equipment and clothes should be a first priority before entering the glaciers. We strongly recommend that vistors contact local guides or tour operators for information before visiting the glaciers.  

About 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers that contain the equivalent of twenty years of rainfall for the entire country. The main characteristic of glaciers is that they move. As a glacier glides forward at a rapid pace, its surface cracks. This happens because the top layers of ice (about 20-30 meters deep) are brittle, resulting in many deep cavities and fissures. At lower depths the ice is more solid. Changes in the atmosphere affect the glaciers’ expansion and movement. Iceland has many sub glacial volcanoes. The melting ice from an eruption can cause devastating floods. Approximately one third of Iceland’s excess water, which is returned to the sea, is glacial water. The glaciers are generally accessible barring restrictions due to current conditions.

Langjökull is the countries second largest glacier. Its accessibility is as good as it gets, however no one should attempt driving up a´glacier on their own. Many agencies offer tours where they take you up the glacier in specially equipped vehicles with exsperienced glacier guides. You can choose from jeep excursions, glacier hiking and snowmobiling. Gígjökull is a sliding glacier which moves north from Eyjafjallajökull. After the eruption in 2010 there is not much left of the glacier and no organized trips. It can however be admired from a distance on the way to Þórsmörk. Sólheimajökull is a part of Mýrdalsjökull. It´s very accessible and reachable by normal car. Right at the glaciers edge there is a parking lot. Hiking tours are available year round. The glacier is reasonably easy to cross and suitable for most people over the age of ten. Svínafellsjökull is part of Skaftafell national park, which is also the departure point. Trips are available year round and should suit people aged eight and up. Fjallsárjökull is part of Vatnajökull. Trips are available and the departure point is at Skaftafell national park. The bus drives to Fjallsárlón and from there you hike up to the glacier. Jökulsárlón is right by the main ring road (highway one) and there you will also find a service center which is open year round. Boat tours on the lagoon are available from March to November. Fláajökull is one of the gliding glaciers which move south from Vatnajökull. It´s possible to walk up to Fláajökull from highway one. The Hike starts at Brunnhólsá and is about 6 km long. It is also possible to shorten the trip by driving up to Sandatún and walk from there. Heinabergsjökull is part of Vatnajökull. The Heinaberg area is located between Höfn in Hornafjörður and Skaftafell national park and is easily accessible by car. There is a parking lot by the glacier. Another part of Vatnajökull is Hofsfellsjökull and it is steadily decreasing in size. The depression left behind has filled with water and will, in time, turn into a lake. Hofsfellsjökull is close to Höfn and can be reached by four wheel drive jeeps.

A glacier trek can be an unforgettable adventure but one should be mindful of the precautions to be taken while traversing this unfamiliar terrain. No one should attempt venturing upon a glacier without being accompanied by an experienced glacier guide. Several firms in the area provide glacier tours, more detailed information may be found on the internet, at tourist information centers and hotels.

Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon

The main lagoon measures about 7 square miles (20 km2) and until 1932 was covered in thick glacial ice. Then the glacier started to retreat, and nowadays more than 300 feet (100 m) of ice breaks away each year to reshape the lagoon and fill it with spectacular icebergs.

The lagoon is open to the sea and so contains a mixture of salt and freshwater, giving it a unique blue-green color. There are hundreds of seals here in the winter and the lagoon supports many species of fish including krill, herring, trout and, occasionally, salmon.

Hoffell glacier

Driving or hiking north from Hoffell along the sands of Hoffellssandur you will enjoy the spectacular scenery of mountain slopes carved out by earlier glaciers. Along the way, there is also a borehole, constructed to extract geothermal water. Finally, you reach the ice of the glacier-tongue, Hoffellsjökull, skirted by the numerous hiking trails of the Geitafell mountain.

Along the sands of Hoffellssandur you will enjoy the spectacular scenery of mountain slopes carved out by earlier glaciers. Along the way, there is also a borehole, constructed to extract geothermal water. Finally, you reach the ice of the glacier-tongue, Hoffellsjökull, skirted by the numerous hiking trails of the Geitafell mountain.

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

The Eyjafjallajökull glacier is a 1666 m high glacier-capped stratovolcano. It is one of the smaller glaciers of Iceland. It is situated to the north of Skógar and to the south and west of the bigger glacier Mýrdalsjökull. The icecap of the glacier covers a volcano (1666m in height) which has erupted relatively frequently since the Ice Age. The crater of the volcano has a diameter of 3-4 km and the glacier covers an area of about 100 km². In June 1994 an earthquake swarm lasting for nearly a month occurred below the active volcano Eyjafjallajökull in South Iceland. It is otherwise a relatively quiet volcano - although it is not listed as being inactive. Eyjafjallajökull erupted last in 1821-1823. The south end of the mountain was once part of the Atlantic coastline. As the sea has since retreated some 5 km, the former coastline has left behind sheer cliffs with a multitude of beautiful waterfalls, the best known of them being Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. In strong winds, the water of some of the smaller falls can even be blown up the mountain. It is one of the three glaciers that surround the Thorsmörk area - the other 2 being Myrdalsjökull and Tindfjallajökull. Specialized tours are arranged on the glacier for both skiing, superjeep tour and hiking. One should never venture onto the glacier without guides and good knowlege of these kind of activities as this is a very dangerous area for unexperienced visitors.

Myrdalsjokull glacier

Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and Katla Volcano

Mýrdalsjökull is a glacier located in the south of Iceland. It is situated to the north of Vík í Mýrdal and to the east of the smaller glacier Eyjafjallajökull. Its peak reaches 1493 m in height and in 1980 it covered an area of 595 km². The view on a clear day is one of the prettiest in the world.

Guided snow scooter, snowmobile, Super Jeep, dog sledding and iceclimbing tours are offered on the Myrdalsjökull glacier. Travelers on the glacier have to be extremely careful about crevasses and inexperienced travelers should not go there alone. Weather conditions shift very rapidly and high winds and snowstorms can appear in a flash all year round.

The volcano Katla, in the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, has erupted on average every 40 - 60 years. Sixteen eruptions have been recorded since the settlement of Iceland, the last in 1918, but there have probably been more. Katla is one of the most famous volcanoes in the country, and its eruptions usually have very serious consequences. It can actually be regarded as one of the most powerful volcanoes in the world and probably the largest active volcano in the northern hemisphere.

During the eruption, the glacier above the volcanic vent melts and the melted water collects under the ice-cap until it makes its way out under the edge in a violent flood. These are called "Jokulhlaup". Huge amounts of ice, rocks, silt and sand carried along by the floodwater. Most of the Mýrdalssandur sand plain has been formed by deposits in past floods.

Katla has been showing signs of unrest recently and some geologists suspect that it might erupt in the near future, since it is way overdue to erupt.

Eruptions of Katla have taken place (since known and recognized human settlement): 1918, 1860, 1823, 1755-56, 1721, 1660-61, 1625, 1612, 1580, 1416, 1357, 1311, 1262, 1245, 1177, 950.

South Iceland

Towns & Villages

The south of Iceland has several towns and villages, each with its own style, charm and points of interest. Selfoss is the largest town and has a variety of shops, services, many restaurants and fast food places. Most towns are close to the main route, making them accessible and enjoyable.

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