You're coming to Iceland 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.
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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 Reykjavík 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, even in summer when they aren't easily visible because of the midnight sun.
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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.
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3. 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.
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4. 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.
Picture yourself gliding your way up an ice cap or over a frozen lake. The vast, snowy landscape is yours for the taking.
No experience is needed, and it should be easy enough once you get the hang of it. Your tour guide will show you how to start so you can familiarise yourself before setting off.
Tours are available year-round, so you could even snowmobile at the height of summer.
Two of the best places to go snowmobile are within easy reach of Reykjavík. Snowmobiling on Langjökull, West Iceland, is a great add-on activity to tours around the popular Golden Circle route. Located further down the south coast, the Mýrdalsjökull snowmobiling tour is ideal for those touring the Ring Road.
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5. 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 of Iceland. So make sure to visit the Skaftafell, 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 National Parks are located 4-5 hours from Reykjavík, we recommend booking a night in the area. Or you could try this thrilling excursion when you’re driving around Iceland's Ring Road.
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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, so they are a great addition to your day of driving along the south coast. You'll get to admire the blue ice and the stunning backdrop and learn more about Icelandic geology.
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.
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7. Kayak through a glacier lagoon
Looking for a more active way to experience a glacier lagoon? Then this excursion is for you. Hop on a kayak and paddle along Heinabergslón in south-east Iceland.
This isn’t the glacier lagoon everyone is always talking about, but it is also nestled in the Vatnajökull National Park. You could always add both activities to your programme for a full day by the mirrored and glacial waters of Iceland.
Immerse yourself in the natural surroundings and be rewarded with striking views of the glacier and nearby mountains. Follow experienced guides as you take in all the ice floating around you.
On this adventure, you’ll even get the chance to step foot on the glacier to admire the lagoon from a different vantage point.
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8. See the whole glacier from the air
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 Iceland's famous volcanoes. Plus, you'll get a great bird's eye view over Iceland’s capital and its stunning surroundings.
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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 thrilling active tours of Iceland.
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 to your Nordic Visitor tour. If you're not sure what fits best, your dedicated travel consultant can help you find the right excursions 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 natural wonders of Iceland.
Get in touch with our local team to start planning your tour in Iceland.