Glacier Ice Caves
The ice caves under Iceland’s glaciers were sculpted by melt water during the Summer months. The blue ice walls and ceiling are carved by glacier rivers. There is no human involvement. These ice cave palaces are generally found near glaciers and conveniently they are usually at the edges of glaciers which means that if you have a Jeep with big tyres it can be possible to drive close to them.
Sometimes the rivers, that create the ice caves, can fill the entire cave in warmer weather. In the Winter months the glacier river will recede allowing access. Due to changes in the ice cave structure during warmer periods, they are only safe in the Icelandic Winter. Ice caves on the southern edges of the Vatnjökull glacier often have morning sunlight entering the caves during the ice cave season.
Vatnjökull Ice Caves
The ice caves we used to visit on our Photo workshops and Jökulsarlon Tours are on the Southern Edge of Vatnjökull Glacier in South East Iceland. They are a long way from Reykjavik, so recommended on a multi-day or fly-drive tour.
Ice Cave Tours
These tours depart from the carpark at Jokulsarlon. The meeting point is outside the cafeteria. The Ice Cave tours featured here will operate until mid-March.
The following tours are Ice Cave Adventures, they go to Ice Caves that are difficult to reach. These are better for photography because the caves are less crowded. These tours last 5-6 hours.
These adventure tours leave from the Hotel Hali (15km East of Jokulsarlon). Hotel Hali is the best hotel close to Jokulsarlon, so these tours will work well if you are staying there. The tours are run by Glacier Adventures. We always used them for our photo workshops because they are professional and fair.
These cheaper tours visit easy access Ice Caves. They are about 3-4 hours with about 40 mins at the glacier. The caves can get very busy making photography difficult at times.
The Ice Cave tours featured here will operate until mid-March.
These glacier tours leave from the Skaftafell National Park outside the visitor center. The last one leaves from the little airport just before you get to Skaftafell.
Freysnes is about a mile past Skatfafell on the ring road. It is easy to spot because there is a gas station and cafeteria at the site. There is a large house and the Hotel Skaftafell across the road. This summer ice cave tours requires physical fitness. It is led by an experienced glacier guide & photographer.
It might be possible to access the Kverkfjöll Ice Caves on the North edge of Vatnjokull Glacier. These caves are formed by volcanic hot water springs. It is easier to access the area in the Summer because you have a long drive on mountain roads to get there. These are open to 4×4 in the late Summer. These caves have claimed some lives in recent years. Please ask staff at the Sigurðarskáli mountain hut if access is safe. If in doubt, don’t enter.
Katla Ice Cave
The Katla ice cave can be access throughout the year and is great for a day tour from Reykjavik. There is an admission fee to access the cave. It is not really a cave, but has walls of blue glacier ice which resemble a proper ice cave.
Ice Cave Tours
These tours visit the Katla Ice Caves, but depart from Reykjavik.
Langjökull Ice Tunnel
These tours visit a man-made tunnel in the Langijokull Glacier. Tours depart from Reykjavik, Gullfoss waterfall or Husafell.
Multi-day Tours with Ice Caves
These South Iceland tours include ice caves. They depart from Reykjavik and include overnight stays near the ice caves. It is most likely that the ice cave tour will be to the easy access Crystal Cave unless otherwise stated.
Glacier ice caves are notoriously dangerous and have claimed the lives of many people who have made the wrong decision to enter ice caves that are melting. For this reason, you should always use Highly experienced Glacier Guides.
Local ice cave tours are run by experienced guides who spend many hours accessing the safety of a cave before entering. An experienced glacier guide will provide you with crampons for your feet, a helmet for your head, a helmet light and an ice-axe (if there are any challenging climbs. You could also be provided with a harness and karabiners for some ice cave tours.
Take a tripod because some images require long exposures in areas deep in the cave without much light. A wide angle lens is best because there is limited space inside but the ceiling can be massive. Think up-side-down in terms of composition and look for the foreground in the walls or ceiling. Polariser filters can have interesting results. Try to include a well placed human to show the scale.
In my opinion, your exposure should be optimised for the walls of the cave. This might mean losing the sky outside. You are in an ICE CAVE!! who cares what the weather is?
Shoot video clips as well because they can sometimes show the scale and contours better than a photograph.
Ice Cave Photos
Roughly translated, Vatnjökull is the “Lake Glacier” and it is not only the biggest glacier in Iceland, but it is Europe’s largest piece of ice that is more than 300 square miles .Read More
Where to stay
If you want to explore the Vatnjokull Ice Caves, then Hali Country Hotel would be my recommendation. It is the closest hotel to the Glacier lagoon and they have a family run business offering high quality ice-cave tours from the hotel.
Hotels Near Jökulsárlón
Use the sponsored links below to find and book hotels close to the Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. My strong recommendation is Hotel Hali.