Visiting an ice cave in Iceland

Iceland is home to many natural wonders, ranging from incredible waterfalls, to beautiful national parks and stunning landscapes. There are many things you can cross off your bucket list in this beautiful country, and visiting crystal-blue ice caves is definitely one of those things.

During my week-long winter trip to Southern Iceland in March, we decided to book the unique experience of visiting an ice cave, as it is typically a winter activity. We chose a tour of the so-called “Crystal Cave”, which is part of the Vatnajökull glacier and is said to be one of the most beautiful glacier caves in Iceland.

Before giving more details about the specific ice cave that I visited, here is some general information!


What is a glacier?

Glaciers are huge blocks of ice, made of several layers of snow that have been compressed over centuries. They are only formed on land and do not melt in summer, at least not entirely. They are also moving masses and can be compared, in a way, to huge frozen rivers that very slowly move towards the edges of the land. In fact, they sometimes have an actual river running underneath or through them!

Iceland is home to more than 250 glaciers, the biggest one of them being Vatnajökull, an ice cap on top of a volcano that stretches out in the South Eastern part of Iceland. It is also the biggest glacier of Europe and you can see it from the road, visit its ice caves or even go on a hike on top of it!

Can you visit ice caves in summer?

A hole in the ice cave where you can see the sky

With the warmer summer temperatures, parts of the glaciers in Iceland start to melt, flooding some of the most famous ice caves, and creating cracks, crevasses and holes, making it extremely dangerous to visit them. For this reason, the best season to visit ice caves is undoubtedly winter, from November to March, when the temperatures have been cold enough for a longer period of time to ensure the safety of visitors.

However, there are apparently two ice caves that can be visited in the summer in Iceland: the Katla ice cave (next to a volcano) and the man-made ice caves in the Langjökull glacier.

Do you have to book a tour to visit the ice caves?

Contrary to the Northern Lights, that you can see by yourself without problems, the ice caves and all activities around glaciers in general have to be visited with an expert guide. Glaciers can be really dangerous and pose lots of threats and not only a guide will know whether it is actually safe to go there, but they will also be able to take you closer to the glacier – which is much easier said than done.

A guide will also provide useful information and guidance, showing you the best spots, giving loads of interesting information about glaciers and Iceland in general, but they will also ensure your safety throughout your visit. It can be frustrating if they prevent you from going somewhere specific, but it’s really better to be safe than sorry.

Why are glaciers so blue?

The deeper you get, the darker the blue will be

From the stunning Jökulsárlón glacier, to the chunks of glaciers spotted here and there and beautiful crystal-blue ice pools along the side of the road, we spent part of our trip in Iceland wondering why the ice was so blue. Well, if you were wondering too, here’s the answer: basically, the ice in glaciers is so dense that it absorbs all the “red” wavelengths of light, only transmitting the blue ones. That’s why the ice appears to be this gorgeous shade of blue!

A tour of Vatnajökull’s Crystal Ice Cave

Now that a few things have been said, here is more practical information about the specific ice cave that we visited, the so-called “Crystal Ice Cave”, part of the Vatnajökull  glacier. Since Vatnajökull is really large, you can access it from many different spots, and the closest point to Reykjavik is probably the Skaftafell National Park. However, our tour started a bit further East.

Credit: Guide to Iceland website. The Vatnajökull glacier is the large white area in the South-East of the island

How can you access the Crystal Ice Cave?

The Crystal Ice Cave is located in the South of Iceland, a few hours away from Reykjavik – a very scenic drive with many stunning spots along the way. To reach it, you have to go to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon first.

There, you can park your car in the huge parking lot, eat something from one of the food trucks parked there, use a public bathroom, and you’re good to start looking for the jeep of the tour organiser. There are many of them, so make sure to know which one you are looking for and don’t hesitate to ask around!

At the time set from your reservation, the guide will then take you closer to the glacier in a huge jeep, and after very bumpy ride – be prepared especially if you tend to have motion sickness – and a long walk on gravel, you’ll finally reach the glacier! You don’t need to be an experienced hiker, but there is a lot of walking involved on very unpractical ground, so I’d say that sadly it is not for everyone.

Do you need specific equipment?

You definitely need appropriate equipment, be it to visit the ice caves or to go on a glacier hike, but most tours will provide that for you – just make sure they actually do before booking!

We had crampons to attach to our shoes and a helmet to protect our heads. Then, warm but breathable clothes, ideally waterproof, are obviously recommended!

How was the tour?

A glimpse of the Vatnajokull's Crystal Ice Cave

There are many tour operators that offer a visit of this specific ice cave. We went with the “Crystal Ice Cave Tour from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon”, organised by Arctic Adventures, that we found on Get Your Guide, and loved it! Our guide was fun and knew so many things about Iceland and glaciers in general, offered to take some pictures for us and showed us all the most beautiful spots while explaining to us how glaciers are formed and raising awareness about the consequences of climate change on these fragile natural wonders.

Walking inside an ice cave is really a surreal experience, and you can clearly see all the layers of ice and snow while being surrounded by all these different shades of turquoise and deep blue. It was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip, and I will recommend it to everyone in a heartbeat!

Things to see nearby:

The Crystal Ice Cave is located near the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, a bit less than 5 hours away from Iceland’s capital with a car, so I would highly recommend booking at least one night in one of the nearby towns (we stayed at the Viking Café in Höfn and loved it). The good thing is that there are plenty of things to see on the way – which is all detailed in my 6-day South of Iceland itinerary!

The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

If you are already in the area, here are some things you can see nearby:

  • the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
  • the black-sand “diamond beach”
  • Skaftafell National Park
  • the Stokkness black-sand beach (near Höfn)
  • the Viking Village (near Höfn)

Have you ever seen an ice cave?

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Responses to “Visiting an ice cave in Iceland”

  1. Rebecca Avatar

    Wow, this is incredible! I’d vaguely heard about ice caves in Iceland, but I never got to visit one while in the country a few years ago…the brilliant blue and texture of these caves are surely something! One of these days, I’ll need to return to Iceland to explore these ice caves, to really experience the Land of Fire and Ice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      Oh, you should definitely try to see them if you go back! Though if you were there in summer the first time you couldn’t have seen them anyways! I found that so interesting that one ice cave was under a volcano – definitely the embodiment of a “land of fire and ice”! Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lyssy In The City Avatar

    That is so cool!! I’ve never been in an ice cave. I don’t like the cold, but I think I could survive it to see this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      I also hate being cold and was a bit worried when I went to Iceland but honestly everything is so gorgeous that you completely forget the cold! Wearing ski clothes helps too!


  3. shortgirlontour Avatar

    One word – stunning!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      Thank you! It’s absolutely a must-see!


  4. Bama Avatar

    I think people should see these ice caves themselves so that we can appreciate more of what nature has given us. With a planet that keeps warming, I wonder how much longer these caves will stay — long enough, I certainly hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      I completely agree! In fact our guide told us that each year the timeframe to visit the caves gets shorter, which is incredibly sad… It’s places like these that get affected by global warming first, and it’s something they definitely experience in Iceland!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ourcrossings Avatar

    Wow, what a wonderful post, Juliette! My travel bucket list just grew a bit longer. A visit to a naturally formed Ice Cave definitely looks like a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I very much love how the natural light seeping through the dense ice is unique and how it gives the cave an adventurous atmosphere. This is definitely a must-see for everyone and especially photographic enthusiasts! Thanks for sharing and inspiring! Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      You are absolutely right! Depending on the light and the thickness of the ice, the caves will look different and the blue of the ice will get darker or light – it really is a spectacular sight! Thanks for stopping by Aiva!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Travels Through My Lens Avatar

    Oh my, the different shades and layers of blue are phenomenal! I have to add this to my bucket list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      Yes, and the pictures absolutely don’t do it justice, it’s definitely something to see with your own eyes! I hope you get to one day!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pooja G Avatar

    How incredible, I really didn’t know anything about ice caves before but it looks beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      I also loved finding out more about these natural wonders! Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pooja G Avatar
  8. leightontravels Avatar

    A truly incredible experience, the ice is so mesmerising and beautiful. I have a list of natural phenomenon I’d like to see and experience in my life. Needles to say glaciers and ice caves are on the list, along with Aurora Borealis, geysers and the great blue hole. When I come to plan my trip to Iceland, I am definitely getting back to your pages to find the best tour companies and all the other logistical bits. I had no idea why glaciers are blue and loved finding the answer here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I really hope you’ll get to see those one day with your own eyes. and when you do I know for a fact that it will exceed your expectations! And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out as well if you need recommendations for Iceland!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. travelling_han Avatar

    WOW – absolutely beautiful photos and I can’t believe how blue and beautiful the cave is. What an exciting and bucket list experience to have 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      Yes, and I can safely say the pictures don’t do justice to the pure blue of the glacier ice! It was absolutely one of my favourite things about Iceland! Thank you for reading and stopping by!


  10. fleurdelailis Avatar

    Wow!! That is incredible. I’ve never been inside an ice cave, and would LOVE to visit Iceland one day. Sounds like your guide knew a lot and I’m glad he was fun. What a unique experience and your photos are absolutely stunning!


  11. AndysWorldJourneys Avatar

    what a great thing to explore! Thanks for sharing!


  12. Lashaan Balasingam @ Roars and Echoes Avatar

    Those ice caves are soooo gorgeous! You’re so lucky to have visited them and witnessed all of their natural beauty! 😀 It does seem a bit scary, especially when they’re on top of volcanos hahah I do like the sound of the Viking Café too. 😛 Thanks for sharing, Juliette! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      All of it was a bit scary in the sense that glaciers can be super dangerous, so we had helmets and everything to protect us in case something fell on us! The Katla ice cave is located right next to one of Iceland’s most explosive volcanoes that is “long overdue”, so it must be particularly scary to go there! The ice there is also darker and almost blue because it is mixed with ash, which probably makes for another really unique experience! The Viking Cafe was definitely amazing too! Thanks for stopping by, Lashaan!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Stuart Danker Avatar

    Breathable AND waterproof? That’s some specialist clothing right there. Lovely place you’re at, and what a unique adventure. Love that you’re continuing this theme, and are exploring so much of that part of the world. Not so much sunny days with Juliette in these caves, huh? 😛 Keep on keeping on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juliette Avatar

      Thank you! I’m actually closing this Icelandic series for now, but I might go back to writing about this beautiful countries as there are so many things to explore there! I loved writing more in-depth post about it too and reminiscing about all those wonderful memories! Not a lot of sunny days in Iceland, that’s for sure ahah! Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Iceland favourites | Sunny Days with Juliette Avatar

    […] If you want to visit an ice cave too, here’s a post about glaciers and ice caves with everything you need to know! […]


  15. Neha Chauhan Avatar

    Fantastic images and well written points , good to know the reason behind the blue colour:)

    Liked by 1 person

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