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Ice Caves in South Iceland

The South Coast is a great place to visit one of Iceland’s natural wonders, the ice caves. Ice caves form during the winter months in the outlet the glaciers. In the fall, professional local guides go scouting for the ice caves for the coming winter season.

The South Coast is a great place to visit one of Iceland’s natural wonders, the ice caves. Ice caves form during the winter months in the outlet glaciers. In the fall, professional local guides go scouting for the ice caves for the coming winter season. 

But how are they formed?

In some countries, you constantly have the same ice caves year after year, as the temperature there is constant, and they don’t melt. However, in Iceland the case is different. Each winter the weather cools and conditions change, and guides must go looking for new caves, that are both large and safe enough to explore on the inside.

Most of the ice caves are formed as canals where the water runs through from the top of the glacier, trying to find its way out at the bottom of the glacier. The water digs its way from underneath the glacier and forms the caves. Usually, they are formed in the summer when the flow of meltwater is at its peak. At that point, the caves are full of water and not accessible. When the shedding stops during fall, the flow of water in the cave greatly reduces and usually stops completely throughout the winter. The temperature becomes cold enough to strengthen the ice. As a result, what you have left is an ice cave.

During the winter there sometimes are warmer periods with strong wind and rain. Then the caves are flooded with water and become dangerous and impassable.

About the tour

The trip is an incredible experience. The best options are to book a tour with an experienced local company. Exploring an ice cave is a unique experience. This does mean it is very popular with tourists visiting Iceland in winter. We would recommend booking your tour in advance, to ensure you can book the time that suits you best.

There are three ice caves that are possible to visit in the South of Iceland. In the Southwest we have an unusual ice cave in Langjökull glacier, one is near Vik and goes by the name Katla Ice Cave, the other which might be more known is in Southeast of Iceland, called the Crystal Ice Cave. The activity is very popular among the tour companies in the area; therefore, the caves can be a bit crowded, but still, it’s a wonderful experience to be inside and enjoy this spectacular wonder of nature.

Find ice cave tours here. 

Langjökull Ice Cave
The Langjökull Ice Cave is the latest natural ice cave that was discovered in the autumn of 2021. Open only in winter, from October to April. It is a large cave compared to most others. The ice varies from being white and silver in color, to brown and golden with traces of blue ice in between.

To get there you either need to take a ride in a glacier monster truck or snowmobile from the edge of the glacier to the amazing ice cave which just adds to the adventure.

 

Katla Ice Cave
Katla Ice Cave is one of those caves that are available all year round. You’ll experience many natural wonders when visiting the 800-year-old Katla glacier, which is an outlet glacier from the famous Mýrdalsjökull glacier, the fourth largest glacier in Iceland.

When inside the cave you will see astonishing shapes and colors, which can be black, white, and blue. The volcanic eruptions of the Katla volcano caused the ash and sand to combine with the ice, to form the incredible shades of black and blue that appear almost like ‘dragon glass’. Visiting the ice caves is like walking through a tunnel of Iceland’s volcanic history.

 

Crystal Ice Cave
Crystal Ice Cave of Vatnajökull, located in the outlet glacier Breiðamerkurjökull. This is a seasonal ice cave that forms in the wintertime and can be visited from November until April. 

As evident by the name, these caves' ceilings are made with thick translucent blue colored glacial ice which lets a little bit of natural light pass through creating a wonderful view for the visitors. The blue color is a result of the compression of snow into ice. The weight of the ice presses out the oxygen.

You should always go with a certified guide!

The ice caves are accessible during the winter months, from October and usually throughout March, but it all depends on the weather. Except for Katla, that is accessible all year round. The beautiful ice caves are very dangerous if you are not accompanied by a trained guide that knows the glacier from inside out, so you should not go there by yourself. The caves should never be entered without a glacier guide and proper safety gear. Before going into the ice cave with a tour operator, you are provided with a safety helmet and crampons for walking on the ice.

The beauty of the caves is breathtaking, with all the fascinating ice formations, and colors. It’s a photogenic brilliant jewel and none of them look the same, pictures say more than a thousand words.