I am fascinated by glaciers in Iceland. Being up one one is like being on a different planet. The climate, the views and of course the stark landscapes. But the reality of Icelandic glaciers is a harsh one. The weather can turn in a blink of an eye. Crevices that could swallow a bus can hide under layers of snow. But that is the majesty of nature. It does not bend to the comfort or whims of man. And Iceland is in many ways the country of glaciers, 11% of the country is covered by glaciers.
If you are visiting Iceland you should definitely experience to be on a glacier.
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The Massive Vatnajökull glacier
The glaciers in Iceland are very different. The largest one is Vatnajökull glacier. It is the largest glacier in Iceland and also the biggest glacier in Europe. It is so vast that it is like a mini planet. Vatnajökull glacier has a large plateau that stretches on for miles and miles. In the South it has massive crawling glaciers and glacial tounges. The famous Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon on its southeastern flank and reminds us of how climate change is affecting us.
Vatnajökull glacier has several majestic peaks that are like a magnet for climbers and hikers. I have had the pleasure and the privilege of ascending Iceland´s highest peak, Mt. Hvannadalshnjúkur and to the top of Hrútfjallstindar peaks.
Eruptions under ice
Big volcanoes lurk underneath Vatnajökull glacier. These are Grímsvötn, Bárðarbunga and in the section of the glacier called Öræfajökull. This is where Hvannadalshnjúkur peak so if you ever go up there, remember you are trudging on a volcano. And it is massive. In 1362 it erupted with such violence that a peak called Knappafell close to Hvannadalshnjúkur was obliterated. The countryside which was the most fertile land in Iceland and called Litla Hérað (Literally ´Little Shire’) was devastated by ash and flooding. There was another similar eruption in 1727. Now the area is called Öræfi or ´The Waste Land´. It has never recovered and Mad Max would feel right at home in its desolate landscape.
Vatnajökull glacier and its vast surrounding area is a protected area as a national park. One gem at the southern edge Vatnajökull glacier is Skaftafell. If you do nothing else, go hiking to see the beautiful waterfall Svartifoss.
Ice tunnel and snowmobiling
Journey to the center of the Earth
In west Iceland is another popular glacier for tours. It is Snæfellsjökull glacier on the western edge of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It is of course world famous for being the gateway into the hidden hollow Earth in the ´Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.´ The glacier is impressive to see from Reykjavik. A place to see it is Öskjuhlíð or Grótta.
See the natural made glacial caves and tunnels
In the south of Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull glacier covers the Eyjafjallajökull volcano which erupted in 2010. I still shudder at the thought of the massive amount of ash emitted by that eruption. Its neighbour Mýrdalsjökull glacier covers Katla, the volcano that everybody is waiting for. It may, or may not erupt soon. You should consider joining the company Katlatrack but they specialize in the exploration of naturally made ice caves and tunnels in Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
Stay safe on Icelandic glaciers
I know it sounds dramatic but please never, ever go alone on an Icelandic glacier. It is super dangerous to do so. Join a Iceland glacier tour with a highly rated tour company or enlist an experienced guide. Do what the guide tells you at all times, no exceptions. It can literally make the difference between life and death. Icelandic glaciers are impressive and it is fun to explore. But they are not Disneyland!