For the last couple of years I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about ice caves in Vatnajökull (The Crystal Cave), how to get to them and who to do it with. This is a fairly recent thing, tours to ice caves I mean, so I had never been to one and didn’t really know which company to recommend.
At the beginning of the month I had some time off so I planned a little vacation out of the city with the boyfriend and since we were headed towards Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon anyway I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to check out these caves and get answers to your questions.
Which lead me to the first lesson I learned about visiting ice caves in Iceland:
You don’t plan such a visit with short notice.
The company we talked to were all booked out. In fact, they were more or less booked out throughout February. Because the company was quite unresponsive answering my e-mails I didn’t find out they were completely booked out until it was too late to organize something else but I’ve heard it probably didn’t matter because most of the tours were booked out anyway.
You might be wondering why we didn’t just go check out the caves ourselves, I mean we’re locals after all so we should know where to go. The reason why is pretty simple: you never climb or walk on glaciers on your own, unless you know them well and you’ve had some training. There are crevasses in the glaciers that move and change and to the untrained eye they are easy to miss. So unless you have a death wish you go with a guide. When we visited Svínafellsjökull glacier for example we passed the memorial of two German hikers that got lost on that glacier a few years ago. Their bodies have not been found. If I remember correctly they were experienced hikers too.
So lesson number two about visiting ice caves in Iceland (and just glaciers in general):
You always go with a guide!
The ice cave season in Iceland is rather short or from November to March. Outside of that season it can be dangerous to go into the caves because they can collapse which is, well, dangerous. I’m guessing the reason is that its’ not cold enough. So if a visit to an ice cave is on the top of your Iceland bucket list the window is small.
There are a few companies offering tours to the glacier caves but some of them buy services from the others and therefore the availability is pretty limited. I wan’t to make it really clear that I have not done any of these tours nor have I done any tours with these companies so I can’t tell you whether they are worth it or which company is the best. All I can really tell you is that they exist and then you have to decide what you want to do with that. I’m a helpful one, aren’t I?
Ice cave tours you might want to check out:
2-day tour around the south coast – including the ice caves
If you don’t want to rent a car and drive yourself this 2-day tour around the south coast offers great value for money. It may seem pricey at first but when you look at what is included you quickly realize that it’s actually a pretty sweet deal. The reason we recommend this one is because it has plenty of departures and the company that runs it is good and reliable.
The accommodation in the 2-day tour above is simple but everything is clean and nice, which is fine for one night. If you want a little bit more luxury, another partner offers this 2-day south coast tour that includes accommodation in a nicer hotel and a glacier walk on top of the visit to the ice caves. We would recommend this tour before the other one if it wasn’t for the sad fact that they have a lot fewer departures.
3-day trip around the Golden Circle and the south coast – including the ice caves
If you like small groups and being with the same group for longer periods we also recommend this three-day tour around the golden circle and south coast that includes the ice cave. With the weather being all over the place in winter it’s just nice to know that there’s someone at the wheel that knows what they are doing.
You can also do a similiar 3-day tour with better accommodation but like before, for the time being at least, they just have fewer departures.
If you plan on renting a car you can also do an ice cave tour as a part of a your self-drive adventure in the south-east. We don’t recommend you try to do this tour as a day tour (in this post I explain a little bit about why doing an ice cave tour in one day from Reykjavík is a bad idea) and we always recommend you spend the night in the area, close to the starting point of the tour, the night before.
This ice cave tour is our first choice because we have a very good experience with this company but this one is a close second. Both of these companies are professional and care about the safety of their guests which is important to us and should be important to you too. It’s good to check both of them for availability because both of these tours book out all the time.
Both of our partners that offer self-drive options also offer extended versions of their ice caves tours that are more strenuous and designed with photographers in mind so if that’s something you are interested in, just be in touch and we’ll hook you up.