Ice caves in Iceland – all you need to know

If you would like to find out what is the difference between an ice cave and a glacier cave or when is the best time to visit them – you‘re in the right place! Read on to find out the most helpful and interesting facts about these natural wonders and we hope you’ll join a guided tour to explore them ❄

How to tell the difference between an ice cave and a glacier cave?

Actually, most of us think of a glacier cave when talking about an ice cave. Ice caves usually are regular caves that contain a little bit of ice throughout the whole year. On the other hand, glacier caves are the ones fully made out of ice that amazes with different shades of blue. The term ice cave is used in Iceland on a daily basis and it usually refers to an actual glacier cave, but make sure to double-check if you happen to book a tour. We‘ll be happy to do it for you, so don‘t hesitate to reach out!

Ice Caves in Iceland – All You Need To Know

When is the best time to visit a glacier cave and how do they form?

The best time to go on an ice cave tour is definitely the heart of winter, usually between October and April. The best way to understand why, is to find out how they get formed.

Glaciers are constantly in motion. They move due to various reasons, but mainly because of their enormous size and weight. They crack, they‘re full of crevasses, and they happen to push the rocks and sand – that‘s why their edges are often black or grey in colors. You‘ll never see a glacier or an ice cave that would look the same in a year span!

During warmer months, there are huge, powerful, and impressive meltwater rivers flowing underneath the glaciers. The caves melt and break down during that time, and new ones get formed towards the colder time of the year thanks to the flowing, carving water. What‘s even more interesting, ice caves tend to change even daily, which makes each visit unique and memorable.

Since it‘s an extremely dynamic environment, so you should never, under any circumstances, visit a glacier cave on your own even if you‘re an experienced hiker. There are countless tours available in Iceland that are run by experienced guides, who will lead you safely while sharing their knowledge and interesting facts. If you like, take a look at the ice cave tours that we offer on our website. Many things can go wrong if you decide to do it on your own, such as falling into a glacier crevasse or having your car stuck in dead ice. Leave it to the professionals and let us take care of you, safely.

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Why are ice caves so blue?

The type of ice the caves are made of is much thicker and denser than the ice cubes we keep in our freezers. Due to its properties, it absorbs all of the colors except blue. And that‘s the shade we get to see! The fewer air bubbles in the ice, the bluer the color.

On the other hand, the ice caves can also be in the shades of white, brown, or even black. The tint varies depending on the presence of fresh snow on the surface, the lack of sunlight, or the presence of stones or volcanic ash inside the ice. All of these factors have an impact on the color of the ice, creating the most beautiful, natural patterns.

Do you want to know some more ice cave facts? There is another type of ice cave that‘s called a crystal ice cave. Its ceiling is translucent enough to let the light shine through them, giving you an impression it’s made from glass. All in all, each glacier cave is unique and has its special, amazing features. Why not visit them all?

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Which ice caves should you visit?

Most of the glacier caves in Iceland are found along the South coast, especially in the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest in Europe that covers 8% landmass of the whole country. The ice caves usually don‘t get to be named due to the dynamic changes that occur every year.

There are a few exceptions, such as the Katla Ice Cave, which is accessible all year round for the last few years. However, this site is known for its muted, black colors. The nearby volcano Katla, one of the most famous and scary ones in Iceland, is known for its ashy eruptions. The ash makes the ice blackish, along with other shades of blue, violet, and white.

If you‘d like to go through a full experience of a glacier crystal ice cave, we highly recommend checking out our Jökulsárlón Ice Cave Tour. If you are traveling through the south coast of Iceland during winter, this is a tour you should not miss. These caves are incredibly beautiful. If you wonder what it’s like to walk inside a big bluish crystal, this is probably as close as you can get! Make sure to bring a camera along, because your friends definitely won’t believe your described experience without any real evidence!

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Another tour that leaves from Jökulsárlón takes you on a journey through a classic, blue ice cave. It is like standing under a frozen blue ocean and the vibrant, blue shades of the ice are simply breathtaking. The guide takes you on an adventure with a super jeep, and then you take a little hike to enter the ice cave. Don‘t worry, the most necessary equipment, such as crampons will be provided. Dress warmly, wear sturdy hiking boots, and explore the natural wonder of a blue ice cave! It‘s that kind of thing that you‘ll never forget.

Last but not least, there are stunning ice caves located not far away from the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. And why not pairing it with a glacier hike to treat yourself even to a more wholesome experience?

Take a look at our Skaftafell Ice Cave Tour With Glacier Walk Included. During this adventurous tour, you will visit an ice cave that is located high up on the glacier and you will walk on the glacier as well. So, you do not have to book another tour for glacier hiking!

Visiting an ice cave is one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring things one can do among the most adventurous activities in Iceland. Do not miss the chance to see this unique phenomenon which will leave you with an out-of-this-world experience. Let us know if you‘re interested in any of the tours, and we‘ll be happy to be of assistance.

Agata Ryszkowska

September, 2021

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