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7 Ways to Experience Glaciers in Iceland

By: Jessica
Last Updated: 23/04/2021

If you're coming to Iceland, you expect to see some ice, right? It should be easy enough as roughly 11% of the country's landmass is covered by glaciers. This will give you plenty of opportunities to experience these icy giants.

Plan your ideal Iceland glacier getaway with our handy guide. We’ve compiled a list of excursions and day trips you could try to explore the ice caps during your stay.

Even better is that most of the experiences listed below are an easy day trip from the capital city, Reykjavík. This means, you could try them on your self-drive tour around the country or on a shorter city break.

Continue reading to find your favourite glacier activity.

1. Visit Reykjavík's Perlan Museum

If you’ve just arrived in Reykjavík and you're eager to see some ice, you can! Right in the capital, you could visit the Perlan Museum. It is the top attraction in the city and boasts a variety of exhibitions to experience the natural wonders of Iceland.   

Without leaving the city, you could attempt your first glacier exploration. Walk through the city's first and only ice cave, which is a detailed replica of the inside of a glacier.

The exhibition's other interactive, ultra-modern displays present you with more sides of glaciers. From the dangers of the volcanoes hidden beneath the ice caps to the effects of climate change, Perlan makes learning fun.

Here, you could also see the famous northern lights. Perlan hosts Iceland’s one and only planetarium to allow you to see this natural light show summer and winter alike.

ice cave at the Perlan Museum in Reykjavík

2. Step inside a glacier

After the Perlan, it’s time for the real deal. You’re ready to take your adventure Into The Glacier.

This excursion will take you deep inside Langjökull, Iceland's second largest glacier.

This 800-metre (half-mile) long ice tunnel is man-made. It was built by specialised engineers and geophysicists after nearly 5 years of research and planning.

In addition to the ice tunnel, there are special lighting effects, a few small glacier exhibits, a lounge area and a small chapel.

Guided excursions are available year-round, with departures from Húsafell in West Iceland or from Reykjavík.

people inside into the glacier tunnel

3. Experience blue ice on a caving tour

Do you want to walk inside a natural ice tunnel? Every winter, glacial rivers retract and the water freezes, leaving behind stunning natural ice caves in different locations in Iceland.

No two ice caves are ever alike. This means stepping foot inside one is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

The most popular place for ice cave tours is on the south coast. So make sure to visit the Skaftafell National Park, part of the vast Vatnajökull National Park. The latter is named after Europe's largest ice cap, the Vatnajökull glacier.

You and your travelling companions will be equipped with helmets, harnesses, ice axes and crampons. Accompanied by certified guides who will tell you all about glaciers, you’ll venture inside the ice cave and marvel at the stunning blue ice formations.

These tours are only available mid-November through late March and we advise booking well in advance. As Vatnajökull and Skaftafell are located 4-5 hours from Reykjavík, we recommend booking a night in the area. Or you could try this thrilling excursion on road trip around Iceland.

Ice cave at Vatnajökull glacier

4. Go on a glacier hike

Imagine walking on a glacier that's thousands of years old and still constantly changing. You get to witness the vast surface indented with crevasses, sink holes and ice ridges.

It's a lot easier than you think. Guided glacier walks are beginner-friendly and require only an average fitness level. You may find that the hardest part is simply to lace the crampons correctly around your hiking boots. Thankfully the expert guides are on hand to help you with all the details.

Guided glacier hikes in Iceland are available year-round.  They take place on either Sólheimajökull glacier, which is part of Mýrdalsjökull, or Svínafellsjökull, part of Vatnajökull. They are both outlet glaciers located in South Iceland.

People walking on glacier

5. Ride a snowmobile over an ice cap

If glacier walking tours aren’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to see the glaciers from up close. Keep the adrenaline pumping with a guided snowmobile excursion instead.

No experience is needed, and tours are available year-round on Mýrdalsjökull in South Iceland and Langjökull in West Iceland.

Snowmobiling on Langjökull is also a great add-on activity to tours around the popular Golden Circle route.

Snowmobile tour on a glacier

6. Sail among icebergs at the glacier lagoon

There's nothing quite like sailing among giant icebergs to witness the grand beauty of nature.

Board an amphibian boat on the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon for a memorable experience. This is an ideal way to see the icebergs from up close. If you're lucky, maybe you’ll even spot some curious seals swimming around.

These tours last around 30 minutes. As well as admiring the stunning backdrop, you’ll hear the first-hand knowledge from a local guide about the geology of the lagoon.

Bonus sightseeing tip: if you have time, cross the road and wander around Diamond Beach. This is another highlight of the area where you’ll see glistening pieces of ice clusters sitting on the black rocky beach.

Boat ride among the icebergs at Jokulsárlón

7. See the whole glacier from the air

If you want to see the glaciers in style, it doesn't get any better than a helicopter tour from Reykjavík.

Feel like a VIP on these sightseeing flights, many of which include landings on both glaciers and volcanos. Plus, you'll get a great bird's eye view over Iceland’s capital and stunning surroundings.

helicopter atop glacier

It’s good to note that except for the Perlan all of the experiences above require experienced, licensed tour guides. For your safety, it’s best you never walk on, or into, a glacier by yourself, and never try to stand on an iceberg at the glacier lagoon.  

Iceland’s nature is beautiful and worth exploring the right way.

Booking your Iceland glacier tour

Are you ready for your Iceland glacier adventure? To get you started planning your trip, take a look at these top Iceland holiday packages.

Our Iceland team is based locally in Reykjavík and will be happy to help you tailor an itinerary to your taste. Whether you want a road trip or shorter break filled with glacier excursions, we can help you make your dream a reality.

In fact, many of the activities listed above can be added as optional activities to your Nordic Visitor tour. If you're not sure what fits best, your dedicated travel consultant can help you find the right activities for your comfort level and travel dates. 

What’s more, when you book a trip with Nordic Visitor, you get your accommodation, transport, and activities booked for you. Simply relax and come admire the stunning glaciers and nature wonders of Iceland.

Get in touch with our local team to start planning your tour in Iceland.

Post by: Jessica

When not writing about Northern European tourist attractions, Jessica Bowe is busy daydreaming about her next trip or scouring Instagram for travel inspiration. Originally from Wisconsin (USA), she's lived in Iceland since 2008 and has since become fully immersed in Eurovision mania and Scandinavian coffee culture.

Find Jessica on LinkedIn.

More posts by Jessica

Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.