8 must-see glaciers in Iceland

Eyjafjallajökull

Meet the glaciers of Iceland! Hiking, climbing, snowmobiling, 4×4, boating: there are many ways to explore them.

Iceland’s landscapes are among the most beautiful in the world. So it’s hardly surprising that it’s a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts! The land of fire and ice lives up to its name, as it is home not only to volcanoes and hot springs, but also to numerous glaciers.

They cover no less than 11% of the country’s surface and shape some of its most spectacular scenery. We love admiring their immaculate surface and bluish reflections. But these giants are also very fragile. For several years now, scientists have been warning that the surface area of glaciers and their average thickness are shrinking as a result of global warming. So it’s a good idea to pay them a visit without delay, but always with the utmost respect!

For this, we recommend hiring a specialized local guide. On the one hand, this will ensure that your glacier trek or other activity is carried out in complete safety. He or she can also tell you all about the history of the great glaciers and their importance for the environment. Ready to discoverIceland’ s 8 most beautiful glaciers? We’re off!

What’s Europe’s largest glacier? The Vatnajökull!

Glacier Islande 1

Photo credit: Guetyourguide

  • 💙 We love: exploring the ice tunnels and admiring their bluish colors

It’s impossible not to start this selection with the Vatnajökull glacier! Europe’s largest glacier, it covers no less than 8% of the country’s surface area. Its thickness, meanwhile, reaches 1,000 metres in places. In other words, this giant has plenty of nooks and crannies to explore! The unique landscape of Vatnajökull National Park has even earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The sprawling Vatnajökull glacier rolls out a multitude of spectacular tongues. Located close to the south coast, it offers splendid panoramas. But it is undoubtedly its depths that are the most magical. Beneath the glacier’s cap lie a multitude of ice caves, best explored in winter. You’ll feel like you’re on a journey to the center of the earth.

The Vatnajökull glacier is naturally a great playground for hikers and novice cavers. From Skaftafell, you can easily reach its western end. Along the way, you can admire the incredible sand valleys created by the encounter between ice and volcanic activity. Like most of Iceland’s great glaciers, Vatnajökull covers several active volcanoes.


Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland’s most famous ice cap

Eyjafjallajökull

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Marc Stephan

  • 💙 We like: finally being able to pronounce the name Eyjafjallajökull, which gave journalists a hard time during the 2010 eruption

Like Vatnajökull and Iceland’s 11 other great glaciers,Eyjafjallajökull is a cap covering a volcano. In fact, it gained a rather sulphurous reputation when it erupted in 2010. Remember it? European air traffic was brought to a screeching halt by the Icelandic ash cloud.

Rest assured: Eyjafjallajökull has since calmed down and become a popular tourist destination once again. Its summit rises to no less than 1,666 metres and forms a caldera 3 kilometers in diameter. As you can imagine, the panoramic views are of the highest quality! On a clear day, you can even see the Vestmann Islands. The name of Eyjafjallajökull itself bears witness to this, meaning « the glacier on the mountains near the islands ».

Eyjafjallajökull is easy to get to, being on Route 1, which runs from Reykjavik all the way around the island. It’s not far from Vatnajökull and right next to Mýrdalsjökull, the ice cap of the Katla volcano. If you set out to discover it, don’t miss the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Its waters come directly from the melting glacier! You can also combine a visit to the glacier with one to the black sandy beaches of the south coast, for a memorable day out.


Jökulsárlón, the sublime glacial lagoon where you can see icebergs

glacier Islande 2

Photo credit: Guetyourguide

  • 💙 We love: approaching icebergs from a boat or Zodiac

Head for one of Iceland’s most magical spots: Jökulsárlón, or « glacier lagoon ». This lake, which opens out onto the sea, is filled with small, multi-colored icebergs, whose reflections are particularly enchanting at sunrise. The blocks of ice come from one of Vatnajökull’s tongues. When it melts, the icebergs break off, drifting towards the lagoon and then the ocean. In the process, they often run aground on a small beach of volcanic sand, which has thus inherited the pretty nickname of  » Diamond Beach« .

You can walk around Jökulsárlón, and even hike to its less touristy sister, Fjallsárlón. As Jökulsárlón is located in the Vatnajökull National Park, we can only recommend that you combine your visit with other glacier-related activities. Why not explore one of the giant glacier’s caves, for example?


The Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the Sólheimajökull tongue, on the Katla volcano

glacier Islande 3

Photo credit: Guetyourguide

  • 💙 We love: climbing Sólheimajökull by force of arms!

Also in southern Iceland, the Mýrdalsjökull glacier is a cap overlying the Katla volcano. The Katla volcano is renowned for its intense activity, and scientists warn that it could soon erupt. A good reason to explore the glacier before the landscape is completely turned upside down!

Nestled deep in the mountains just above the village of Vik, Mýrdalsjökull offers a spectacular backdrop. It’s also a popular playground for adventurers of all kinds. If you’re patient, you can explore it on foot or with snowshoes. Those in a hurry can make do with a jeep tour. As for the brave, they can take upice climbing and climb Sólheimajökull, one of the long tongues of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.


Langjökull and its ice cave

glacier Islande 5

Photo credit: Tiqets

  • 💙 We love: getting married in the chapel inside the grotto (or dreaming about it).

Langjökull is Iceland’s second-largest glacier, and its name simply means « long glacier ». It lies inland, north of the Golden Circle, about two hours’ drive from Reykjavik.

The long glacier can be explored on foot, by snowmobile, superjeep or even helicopter. But it’s the bowels of the glacier that we love visiting most! A spectacular grotto has been carved out of the ice by man. It even houses a small chapel where you can get married. Not your plan? No problem! Exploring the ice tunnel is an unforgettable experience in itself.


Hofsjökull, Iceland’s third-largest glacier

Hofsjökull

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Alicia Chaney

  • 💙 We love: admiring the caldera at sunset

Off to Iceland’s Highlands, in the heart of the island, to discover the country’s third-largest glacier: the Hofsjökull. Rising to 1765 metres, it proudly crowns the country’s highest active volcano, forming a spectacular caldera in the process. Hofsjökull is also the starting point for a multitude of rivers that carve their furrows in the mountain and surrounding fields of dried lava.

Hofsjökull can only be visited in summer. The trail linking it to civilization is closed in winter. In any case, we recommend that you hire a local guide to explore it.


Skálafellsjökull, the best view of the world’s largest glacier

Skálafellsjökull

Photo credit: Shutterstock – 365 Focus Photography

  • 💙 We like: the mysterious aspect of the glacier, which bears the trace of volcanic activity

Vatnajökull National Park is so large that it’s home to a multitude of « sub-glaciers », including Skálafellsjökull. The Skálafellsjökull is in fact a glacier tongue that sweeps up from the main ice cap into the cracks in the mountains. At its summit, it offers an incomparable vantage point from which to admire the surrounding mountains, as well as the immensity of the Vatnajökull glacier.

A small track follows the Skálafellsjökull to its summit. As it is particularly steep, we recommend that you use a driver who knows the terrain. This will enable you to take full advantage of the mysterious landscapes, where volcanic ash blends with ice.


The Drangajökull glacier, Iceland’s peaceful « glacier of needles

Drangajökull

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Jaroslav Jaroslavsson

  • 💙 We like: the change of scenery as you hike up to the glacier

Change of scenery with Drangajökull, theonly ice cap in the Western Fjords region. It’s the smallest of Iceland’s great glaciers, but also one of the few that hasn’t retreated in recent years! At less than 1,000 metres above sea level, the small glacier resembles a large snowfield.

To reach it, you’ll need to hike for around 3 hours, including a few slightly technical sections. The views from the summit will reward you for your efforts! The immaculate whiteness of the glacier offers a striking contrast with the green moors and dark blue waters of the fjords. If you’re in the mood for something a little out of the ordinary, it’s also possible to fly over Drangajökull in a helicopter.


Now you’re all set to discover the splendid glaciers that shape the Icelandic landscape! Which ones have you chosen to visit? What activities are you thinking of doing? Tell us all about it in the comments 🙂