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Jennifer Cauli / © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli / © Culture Trip
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A Guide to Glacier Hiking in Iceland

Picture of Camille Buckley
Updated: 11 May 2018
Iceland is one of the rare places on earth where glaciers are abundant, making up 11% of the land surface. In Iceland, there is ample access to hike along the glaciers’ crevasses and walls. The immense beauty and force of this natural feature will take form beneath your feet on a glacier hike with guides who can advise you on traversing the ridges and shapes with safety.
Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip
Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip

Elements of a glacier

While some glaciers are shrinking, others are growing. Iceland includes the largest and the second largest glaciers in Europe, Vatnajökull and Langjökull. In Iceland, the glaciers have been created by compacted snow over a very long period of time, making their coloration extremely stark and stunningly white in places where it is not mixed with volcanic ash. Under intense pressure, glaciers are given an electric blue color where air particles have been forced out of it. While hiking, it’s likely you’ll find ice caves formed by water entering crevasses that erodes away the glacier.

Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip
Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip

Places to glacier hike

Svinafellsjökull is in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve which is also full of great mountain hiking trails and waterfalls and is also located close to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where you can see large chunks of ice flowing towards the sea. Svinafellsjökull is renowned for its impressive ridges and unbelievable views from the top. Check out this summer day tour of hiking.

Svínafellsjökull-Iceland Golden Circle Tour-Iceland
Svinafellsjökull | © Culture Trip

If you want a bit more of a challenge on your glacier hike, try Snæfellsjökull on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the most challenging glacier hike available as a day tour. Only recommended during the summer, a hike on this glacier will give you incredible views from the top that reach towards the Westfjords and Reykjanes peninsula. Check out this tour which allows you to be picked up in Reykjavik or to meet on location in Snæfellsnes.

Vatnajökull is actually Europe’s largest glacier making up 8% of the island’s surface. It is connected to other glaciers on which you can hike, including Svinafellsjökull. With fewer guided tours, the hikes offered on this glacier will be more remote and with fewer crowds. Check out this tour which starts at Hólabrekka Farm.

Vatnajökull National Park-Iceland Golden Circle Tour-Iceland
Vatnajökull | © Culture Trip
Vatnajökull National Park-Iceland Golden Circle Tour-Iceland
Vatnajökull | © Culture Trip
Vatnajökull National Park-Iceland Golden Circle Tour-Iceland
Vatnajökull | © Culture Trip

Sólheimajökull is open for glacier hiking year-round and is a few hours drive from Reykjavik which takes you along the south coast where you can see waterfalls such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss along the way. This is a great glacier for inexperienced hikers as its formation is very simple to climb and very enjoyable for taking lots of pictures of the surrounding landscape. Check out this easy hiking tour on Sólheimajökull.

Vatnajökull National Park-Iceland Golden Circle Tour-Iceland
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip

Glacier hiking is an increasingly popular activity in Iceland and offers many opportunities to explore the ice. Glaciers are actually consistently shifting with their own weight which makes traversing them with a guide and proper equipment a necessity.

Vatnajökull National Park-Iceland Golden Circle Tour-Iceland
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip