Saturday, 10 March 2012

Ice cave exploring and glacier walking - Iceland's incredible south coast

After we'd booked our flights to Iceland, I spent hours trawling the web and travel magazines, looking for unique experiences to get the most out of our time. One site I hit up was Pinterest - my new obsession for gorgeous images and travel inspiration, and whilst browsing, one image stuck in my mind. It showed a cave with a crystal-clear ceiling of ice, light reflecting off and through its many facets, colours deepening before melting into the pools of water below. It was incredibly beautiful and unlike anything I'd seen before. A bit of searching later, and I'd discovered that it was indeed an ice cave - a result of glacial movement in the Snaefellsjokull national park. One final google search, and I'd found a small family business who organised private tours to visit those wonders. Every year our guide searches for new caves as the old are swallowed back up, and assesses them for safety before guiding groups. The temporary life of these fragile structures made them even more intriguing.

After driving through the night, we arrived both tired and excited at our guide's house, close to the national park entrance. A quick swap into his much studier car, and we began a bumpy journey across dirt paths, up rock mounds (and the crashing down that followed), before parking up, the glacier stretching wide in front of us. A scrambling kilometre later, and we were standing where the ice met the rocks, bathed in sunlight as the last of the clouds dispersed.

The rock walls around us swept high in a burst of ochres and reds, framing the ice below. The glacier itself was a creamy blue, the very edge mottled with black from the ash of volcanic eruptions past. Nestled at the bottom, hidden from view until you were literally standing next to it, was an entrance leading inside.

The cave was even more beautiful than I'd imagined. Light danced off the crystal-like entrance and ceiling, highlighting the many shades of turquoise and blue the ice contained. The colours were incredible - vivid and bright, almost glass-like, and structurally it resembled a honeycomb, some edges sharp, others rounded as the water melted away. The unusually warm winter had resulted in earlier melting this year - a gentle waterfall seeped through a hole in the cave, splashing off the rocks below and drenching us as we clambered past. At the end of the cave, we emerged to find a vast hole, and stood inside the glacier looking out at the now very bright blue sky. Photos could never do it justice, but I tried my best regardless, reaching into hidden nooks and aiming from every angle in an attempt to convey some of the range of colours.

Eventually we went back out, and as we'd made better time than expected, our guide asked if we wanted to try a little glacial walking. Never the types to say no, we quickly agreed and after a short lesson using crampons (which basically consisted of 'strap them on, walk like a cowboy, lean backward when going downhill'), we were a little nervously climbing up the side of the glacier, accompanied by the 'crunch' of every step. Walking over to the hole in the ice cave, we found ourselves looking down on where we had stood earlier. We wandered a little further before carefully making our way back down again (lean back, cowboy crunch...).

After saying goodbye to our wonderful guide, we hopped back into the car and drove the short distance to another famous Icelandic sight - Jokulsarlon, an iceberg lake. After falling for the beauty of these floating monuments to nature in Antarctica, I was keen to see some more. Although on a much smaller scale, the 'bergs were still lovely, glittering in the sunlight whilst being pulled gently along by the strong winds. A peaceful location, and perfect to re-visit later in the evening for the sensational Northern Lights display.


  1. Hi Victoria, love reading your blog :) .. I am planning to visit Iceland this February .. can i know which guide that you booked to visit the glacier and ice cave? Thanks!

  2. Hi, i would like to know which guide that you booked with to visit the glacier and ice cave? My husband and i are planning to go to Iceland next month. Much appreciate if you can send me the contact of the guide to my email.

  3. Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. I've sent the name of the company and their website to your email address, as requested. I hope you enjoy your trip to Iceland - it's an incredible country!