Ice Caves – Iceland Glaciers

ice cave photo tour

Glacier Ice Caves

The Real Ice Cave tours on this guide are now closed for the Summer. They will reopen around October. Meanwhile it is still possible to visit the Ice Tunnel in Langjokull Glacier and the Katla throughout the Summer.

The ice caves under Iceland’s glaciers are the real deal. These are caves 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.

They 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. 

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.

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.

The Vatnjökull Ice caves are forged by glacier rivers and sometimes the rivers can fill the entire cave if there is enough melt water in warmer weather. It is the movement of the river that carve the beautiful scalloped walls in the cave. In the Winter months the glacier river will recede allowing access. These are only safe in the Icelandic Winter and often have morning sunlight entering the caves.

Ice Cave Tours

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

These tours depart from the carpark at Jokulsarlon. The meeting point is outside the cafeteria.

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. The last tour departs from the Hotel Hali (15km East of Jokulsarlon). 

Crystal Cave

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. 

Skaftafell National Park

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.

Vatnjökull North

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

Vik Departure

Reykjavik Departure

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 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.

Photo Tips

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. 

Ice cave photo tips
Ice cave photography – expose for the shadows.

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

Wire wool in he ice cave
Here, I am spinning wire wool under the glacier. Take advantage of the long exposures in the darker caves.
Ice cave model
Light coming through a hole in the ice cave ceiling. A well positioned model and some nice light.
Blue ice close up
Getting up close to glacier ice in the ice cave. Using a 500mm macro lens. Macro lenses are useful in the Icelandic Nature.

By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.