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Glaciers and glacier activities

glacier-activity_litil.jpg
Glaciers and glacier activities

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. In South Iceland it is possible to do glacier walks, ice climbing, snowmobiling, ice cave tours, super jeep tours and boat tours on the glacier lagoons.

Ice Climbing and Glacier walk

It is unlikely that anyone will ever forget the first time they tried ice climbing. Agencies in many parts of the country offer ice-climbing tours.

Jeep- & Glacier Tours

Many travel agencies specialize in different kinds of jeep exhibitions. A jeep tour on a glacier with breathtaking views is an unforgettable experience.

Snowmobile & Snowcat Tours

Many agencies offer snowmobile or ATV tours. They are suitable for anyone looking for a little excitement and adventure while on vacation.

Cave Exploring

For spelunkers and potholers,Iceland has scores of caves, large and small, deep and shallow, to be explored. Some caves may be explored without a guide and many agencies offer cave exploration tours for others.

Boat Tours

From whale watching to puffin tours to northern light cruises, coast hugging trips and more, they each provide an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Kayak Tours / Paddleboarding

Kayaking is an exhilarating experience and many agencies throughout the country offer kayak tours on lakes, ponds and the ocean.

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 visitors 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 experienced 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 centre 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 centres and hotels.

Eyjafjallajökull Glacier

The Eyjafjallajökull glacier is a 1651 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 (1651m 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 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 knowledge of these kind of activities as this is a very dangerous area for unexperienced visitors.

Eyjafjallajökull featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe. An ice cap with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull with a crater diameter 3-4 km wide. The outlet glaciers, Steinholtsjökull and Gígjökull, descend from the main glacier and can be visited by 4x4 trucks along the F-road to Þórsmörk. The area between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull with volcanic craters, Magni and Móði, created in the first stage of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April 2010.

Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Katla

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.

Vatnajökull Glacier

Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Iceland, and the largest glacier by volume in the whole of Europe. It covers over 8 percent of Iceland measuring an area of 7,800 km², with an average thickness of 400 m and the highest point, Hvannadalshnúkur, measures at 2,110 m (6,921 ft.). Vatnajökull has around 30 outlet glaciers flowing from the ice cap, all of which bear a name; glaciers and outlet glaciers all have names that end in "jökull" in Icelandic. Vatnajökull belongs to the Vatnajökulsfljóðgarður (Vatnajökull National Park) and covers a large area surrounding the glacier, including the glacier itself. The National Park offers numerous interesting sites to visit and is a must for all who are interested in Geology and beautiful, natural vistas.

Öræfajökull glacier

Öræfajökull: Iceland's highest mountain
Extending south from the Vatnajökull icecap and towering to around 2,110 m (6,922 feet), Öræfajökull is Iceland's highest mountain. Its height actually varies with the season and the depth of snow and ice, since the peak itself, Hvannadalshnúkur, is topped by ice which is thickest in spring and thinnest in autumn.

The mountain and surrounding areas offer good skiing in winter, and are very popular with walkers and hikers throughout the year.

Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Scenic Fjallsárlón is a glacial lagoon located around 10 km. west of Jökulsárlón, at the southern edge of Vatnajökull glacier. With the steep glacier tongue, Fjallsjökull coming down from Vatnajökull and all the way into the lagoon, makes it a perfect peaceful place for photos as well as enjoying the untouched nature. Fjallsárlón also offers boat-tours on the lagoon as well as a bistro with fresh and tasty refreshments.

Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon by the ring road and was recently designated as a part of Vatnajökull National Park. It's still blue waters are a sight not to be missed, as it is dotted with the icebergs from the edge of Breiðamerkurjökull, a part of the Vatnajökull glacier. The lagoon flows through a narrow gateway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the spectacular sight of the large chunks of ice on the black sandy beach. In wintertime the fish-filled lagoon hosts numbers of seals, which visit the lagoon for an easy meal. Year-round
curious seals can be seen basking on the blue-tinted icebergs. The lagoon is accessible from the beach all year round, and so is the café on the banks of Jökulsárlón.
For hikers, a marked hiking trail between Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón is recommended as a scenic trip
through unforgettable surroundings.

Skálafell – Hjallanes

Skálafell is situated in the exact middle between the glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón and the town of Höfn in Hornafjörður. Skálafell offers access to beautiful, marked walking paths around the area offering a mere 45-minute walk to the edge of Vatnajökull glacier. Furthermore a new walkway bridge over river Kolgríma opens the hiking area of Heinaberg from Skálafell. This area is very popular when it comes to visiting glacial areas.

Heinaberg

Heinaberg is a beautiful area that consists of Heinabergsjökull glacier, the glacial lagoon Heinabergslón, where you can go kayaking among the icebergs during summer, and stunning landscape. The Heinaberg area is part of Vatnajökull National Park.

The gorgeous glacial lagoon of Heinaberg, Heinabergslón, is accessible by car and is often studded with large chunks of glacier that break off the Heinabergsjökull glacier. The area offers excellent conditions for hikers, as it has several interesting hiking trails, along which one can see waterfalls, ravines, volcanic intrusions, and even, on a lucky day, a reindeer.

Fláajökull Glacier

Fláajökull is an easily accessible outlet glacier from Vatnajökull. The area offers spectacular views of the ever-receding glacier that has receded 2 km during the last one hundred years, leaving a glacial lagoon in its wake. The area can be described as a hikers' paradise as it has several good hiking trails and offers a rich variety in birdlife. The area is therefore an excellent destination for bird watchers, hikers and all who are interested in witnessing how the movement of the glacier shapes the surrounding landscape.

Hoffell

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.

Langjökull Glacier

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 experienced glacier guides. You can choose from jeep excursions, glacier hiking and snowmobiling.

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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Map Höfn Kirkjubæjarklaustur Vík Vestmannaeyjar Hvolsvöllur Flúðir Laugarvatn Reykholt Laugarás Borg Brautarholt Hveragerði Árnes Selfoss Hella Stokkseyri Eyrarbakki Þykkvibær Þórlákshöfn