Glacier Hike in Iceland + Ice Climbing in Iceland | Ultimate Guide & Best Tours

Glacier tour Iceland

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Glacier hiking in Iceland & Ice Climbing in Iceland - Complete Guide

While planning a trip to Iceland, one of the first items on the “must-do list” is to go Glacier Hike in Iceland & Ice Climbing in Iceland. They are among many outdoor activities that Iceland is famous for and a must-do activity for any adventure traveler.

The Glacier Hike and Ice Climbing was the highlight of my 10-day road trip in Iceland. During the tour, you will have the chance to explore crevasses while walking on the crunchy ice with your crampons, have the exhilarating opportunity to go ice climbing and if you are lucky, explore one of the blue ice caves along the way.

There are many different options for glacier hike and ice climbing in Iceland – You can choose based on the area, if you want to go on a short or a long tour that may include visiting an ice cave, do only the glacier hike or the combo that also includes ice climbing.

Glacier hike in Iceland

In this detailed guide, you can find answers to your questions, where to do a glacier hike in Iceland, when is the best time to go, what to expect, what to wear, and much more!

Also, here you will find the best tours to go glacier hike in Iceland, and you can find which tour is the right one for you. 

Enjoy this guide for how to go Glacier Hike in Iceland and safe travels!

Jump to:

On this Glacier Hike in Iceland + Ice Climbing in Iceland guide, you will find:

  • My Experience Glacier Hike in Iceland + Ice Climbing in Iceland and what to expect
  • The Best Locations to go Glacier Hike in Iceland
  • Best Glacier Hike in Iceland and how to choose the right tour for you
  • Best time to go Glacier Hike in Iceland
  • What to wear when you go Glacier hike
  • BONUS SECTION: Frequent Asked Questions before you go Glacier Hike in Iceland

 

Glacier Hike in Iceland My Experience & What to Expect

I would like to start by sharing my experience and review of the Iceland Glacier hike. 

I chose to go Ice Climbing in Iceland with this group tour, based on their experienced guides and the great reviews.

GLACIER HIKE IN ICELAND - GETTING STARTED

During my 10-day road trip itinerary in Iceland. I decided to do the combo between Glacier hike + Ice Climbing at the Vatnajökull Glacier, because the location was convenient and on my route.

I booked it a few weeks in advance and reserved a half-day for the activity, starting at 12 PM and it lasts approximately 4- 5 hours.

I met my guide at the operator’s office in Skaftafell National Park, across from the visitor’s center.

Upon arrival at the Skaftafell, you will need to pay around $50 to park your car (for the day). Control of the parking lot is done by the camera, so your license plate will be recorded on entry and exit. You can pay at a kiosk in the parking lot.

Glacier tour office Iceland

GETTING GEARED UP

Glacier hike in Iceland is a group activity, but normally the groups are smaller (less than 10 people) and you will have more than one guide per group. 

You will receive your gear which is included in the price of the tour: crampons, helmets, ice picks and if you need them, you can even rent warm clothes (jackets and pants) and boots. 

Glacier hiking Iceland
Best glacier tour Iceland

After we received our gear, we left the parking lot and started to walk towards the Skaftafellsjokull glacier.

I was in awe of the view of that place during our 20-minute walk to the glacier.

The landscape transforms in front of your eyes like something from another world. Skaftafell is inside Vatnajokull National Park, between an array of spectacular mountains and the ice of the glaciers confront you with their size and unusual formations.

At the end of our 20-minute walk, we got face to face with the immense glacier. Before we continued our journey onto the glacier, it was time to gear up.

Our guides showed us how to put on our crampons and how to walk on the ice – it was my first experience, and I really appreciated the opportunity to learn something new.

Best glacier hikes

ICELAND GLACIER HIKE

After we geared up, we started to walk up the glacier.

Our guides led us across the top of the glacier while constantly monitoring the group’s safety. Blue ice and black volcanic rock appeared like a painting of colors upon the glacier.

The terrain transforms from a layer of volcanic sediment into a gleaming surface, and as you walk more onto the glacier, it starts to transform into blue ice. It was raining, but it did nothing to dampen my excitement at that moment.

It is amazing to learn that the glaciers are constantly moving, and it grows and shrinks every day, changing the ice formations. For example, if you visit the glaciers during wintertime, and go back in the spring it may be completely different.

Iceland Glacier tour

As you continue to hike on the glacier, all you can hear is the metal spikes crunching on the ice with our crampons – we passed glacier walls, waterfalls and could observe lines and cracks from thousand-year-old ice showing impressive formations.

It is very important to have qualified glacial guides for this type of activity, as it can be dangerous because of the crevasses.

Just to demonstrate how important is to have professional help, at one time I slid on the ice, and before I hit the ground, my guide came from nowhere and caught me. The guy was a ninja!

Glacier walk Iceland
Iceland ice cave tour

ICE TUNNEL IN ICELAND

During your ice hiking, you can also go explore some Ice Tunnels and Caves in Iceland during the winter months from November to March.

After hiking up the ice for about 30 minutes, we made a stop at an ice tunnel.

The light was shining through the ice making it appear bright blue. It was beautiful! My first thought was “this is so awesome, let’s do it!”

We did some more training, mainly on how to use the axes and I felt prepared and I had to go down the tunnel and rely only on the ropes, and my guide. 

To climb up the tunnel, I had to use a lot of strength in my arms with an ice pick in each hand and also with my legs to give me the support with the crampons sticking in the ice. I felt safe during the whole time, as the guide talked to me and gave me words of encouragement.

It was amazing! I just climbed down and up a V-shaped ice tunnel.

Ice caving Iceland
Glacier Hike in Iceland
Ice climbing Iceland

ICE CLIMBING IN ICELAND | 10 METERS WALL

We hiked for another 30 minutes and it was time to ice climb a wall.

Our guides prepared all the gear and it was time again to take turns. Again, all the activity is very safe and lead by very experienced guides.

I kicked my crampons into the ice wall and slammed my ice picks in until they felt strong enough to hold, and then I began my ascent to the top. It was surprisingly easy to maneuver the ice wall and I made it to the top without falling.

Glacier tour Iceland
Glacier hiking Iceland
Best Glacier tour Iceland

Glacier Hike in Iceland Overview

The whole exhilarating ice hiking in Iceland and Ice climbing lasted 4 hours, and the hours passed by so fast.

It was such an amazing experience and I highly recommend doing glacier hiking in Iceland and, if you are adventurous, to include ice climbing when you travel to Iceland.

After my first-hand experience of ice climbing – from the excitement to seeing that I could do it, combined with how safe I felt during the whole activity, with qualified and fun guides, it makes me want to go back to Iceland and try something bigger and more challenging next time.

Ice climb tours take you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful glaciers, providing you with the experience of scaling up and down naturally formed ice walls. Just make sure you choose a qualified company and experienced guides. 

Check below the review of the Best choices for Ice Climbing in Iceland Tour Operators.

Best glacier hikes in Iceland

Glacier Hike in Iceland Best Locations

Most ice climbing tours are conducted on Sólheimajökull and Vatnajökull Glaciers. It will depend on weather conditions, and occasionally the glaciers may be temporarily closed.

    • Sólheimajökull Glacier –  This is the most popular choice because it is only 2-hours driving from Reykjavik – which makes it a very convenient location. You can hike Sólheimajökull Glacier as a day trip from Reykjavik or if you are visiting the South Coast of Iceland: Skogafoss Waterfall and Vik Beach. You can book this tour on Sólheimajökull Glacier any time of the year.

    • Vatnajökull Glacier (Snæfellsjökull) – This is the largest glacier in Europe, and also part of the Vatnajökull National Park, with roughly 30 outlet glaciers. Snæfellsjökull Glacier is a glacier tongue of the huge Vatnajokull glacier where you can go hike. Most of the glacier hikes on Vatnajökull start in Skatafell – located a 4-hours drive from Reykjavik. While here, you can also add on kayaking or cruising Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon –  Check availability on this tour here.

Iceland Glacier

Sólheimajökull vs. Vatnajökull Glacier

Both are incredible places to go glacier hiking in Iceland – but it will depend mainly on your preferences and location.

I choose to go hiking on Vatnajökull because I was on the Ring Road road trip, so adding this activity to my itinerary was very convenient. 

Also, it is farther from Reykjavik and it tends to have lower crowds at this glacier. Plus, in Vatnajökull there are several outlets glaciers to hike, making the crowds lower and you can hike the largest glacier in Europe!

Glacier walk Iceland

Best Glacier Hike in Iceland Which Tours is Right for You?

There are many tour companies that offer Glacier hike Tours in Iceland – it can be hard to choose the best option for you, so I hope this review can help you to make the right decision.

Please keep in mind that Glacier hike in Iceland is very popular and they tend to sell out – therefore, doesn’t matter what season you are visiting Iceland, book your tour in advance. 

The prices are pretty much the same everywhere, therefore I recommend booking your tour through GetYourGuide because they work with high-quality tours and offer flexible cancelation policies.

Below you can find a selection of some of the best Glacier Hike Tours in Iceland: 

    • Find the right location for you based on your Iceland Itinerary – Sólheimajökull or Vatnajökull Glaciers 
    • Decide if you want to go on a Glacier Hike or on a Combo with Ice Climbing
    • BONUS: Find the best tours for the Ice Cave in Iceland and Glacier Lagoon Tours
Iceland Ice cave tour
Ice Caving Iceland

GLACIER HIKE:

Location: Sólheimajökull Glacier

Duration: 3-hours

Highlight: This is the most popular glacier hike in Iceland due to its proximity to Reykjavik. It is also conveniently located en-route to the most popular landmarks (Skogafoss and Vike beach) and you can book it any time of the year. Check availability here

 ICE CLIMBING + GLACIER HIKE COMBO:

Location: Sólheimajökull glacier

Duration: 4 hours

Highlight: This tour starts at the Sólheimajökull parking lot where you are provided with the glacier gear required for the trip. With this tour, you can learn basic ice climbing skills and also, explore glacier hiking. Check availability here.

GLACIER HIKE + DAY TOUR FROM REYKJAVIK:

Location: Sólheimajökull Glacier

Duration: 12 hours

Highlight: This is a great option for a day tour from Reykjavik. You have the chance to go on a Glacier hike plus visit the beautiful waterfalls of Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Check availability here.

GLACIER HIKE

Location: Vatnajökull glacier

Duration: 3-hours

Highlight: This hike is for anyone who wants to experience hiking on the beautiful glacier of Mýrdalsjökull. Located underneath the ice cap is one of the largest Volcanoes in Iceland, Katla who erupted last in 1918. Check availability here.

ICE CLIMB & GLACIER HIKE

Location: Vatnajökull glacier

Duration: 4 hours

Highlight: This is the tour I chose to do, and highly recommend. The Glacier hike experience is epic, plus the opportunity to learn basic skills and actually climb an ice wall is a must-do while in Iceland. Check availability here.

GLACIER NATURAL ICE CAVE TOUR:

Location: Vatnajökull glacier

Duration: 2.5 – 3 hours

Highlight:  You have the opportunity to experience the glacial landscape and the natural ice cave with incredible formations in a cave inside the largest glacier in Europe. 

GLACIER AND VOLCANO HIKE

Location: Vatnajökull glacier

Duration: 12-hours

Highlight:  With this tour, you can enjoy a beautiful hike to one of the highest glaciers in Iceland. Admire the breathtaking views of Snæfellsjökull, a 1446m high volcano covered with ice. Spend time at the summit to admire the stunning panoramas of the peninsula. Check availability here.

BLUE ICE CAVE, LAVA CAVE, GOLDEN CIRCLE 

Location: Vatnajökull, Þingvellir, and Snæfellsnes National Parks

Duration: 5-Days

Highlight:  During this PREMIUM tour you will discover the true magic of Iceland, visiting the three main national parks of the country; Vatnajökull National Park, Þingvellir National Park, and Snæfellsnes National Park. You will be able to relax in Krauma Geothermal SPA and Deildartunguhver Hot Springs and see many stunning waterfalls. Check availability here.

JOKULSÁRLÓN GLACIER LAGOON

Location: Vatnajökull, Þingvellir, and Snæfellsnes National Parks

Duration: 14-hours

Highlight:  Go on a full-day tour from Reykjavik and explore the highlights of the south of Iceland on a 14-hour sightseeing tour from Reykjavik. Travel along the impressive southern coast to the Glacier Lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Marvel at the waterfall Seljalandsfoss and much more. Check availability here.

KATLA NATURAL ICE CAVE TOUR

Location: Reykjavik

Duration: 14-hours

Highlight:  This south coast and natural Ice Cave tour is the perfect way to experience an authentic ice cave. You’ll visit a secret glacier area where you’ll have the chance to explore one of these magnificent natural wonders for yourself.

Glacier hike in Iceland
Iceland Ice cave tour

Glacier Hike in Iceland When to go

The good news is that the tour companies offer Glacier Hike in Iceland all year round. 

If you also want to explore an ice cave, the best months are between November and March, it is when the ice caves are open and safe to explore.

If you decide to go hike the Vatnajökull Glacier, you can also add a combination tour with a boat ride on Jokulsárlón Lagoon.

Ice Climbing Iceland

Glacier Hike in Iceland What to wear

Another good news – The Tour companies provide all the gears you need and they are included with your tour price: Crampons, helmets, and ice axes. They also rent boots and waterproof gear like jackets and pants.

I rented hiking boots and waterproof pants and a jacket for the tour. I didn’t pack anything for the ice climbing for my trip to Iceland because I really only needed them for this tour. Save the luggage space and rent what you need, unless you’ll need them for your whole trip.

Once you start hiking the glacier the temperature drops, and it is a great idea to wear layers, even during the summer months – You need to wear warm clothes and sturdy hiking shoes.

    • Portable water bottle: Remember to bring and drink a lot of water and if you need to refill, have a LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle is the best option.
    • Day-Backpack: It is great to carry all your belongs and if you need to keep some layers – Check here for the best backpack options.
    • Wear sturdy shoes for hiking: The most important thing is to protect your feet and avoid twisting your ankle and get injured. I recommend investing in a good hiking boots brand such as Teva, Salomon, or even Keens
    • Warm-Layers: It can very cold during your hiking so it is important to bring layers, a lightweight puffy jacket is a must! Also, check here for the best hiking jackets
    • Where warm hiking pants: Check here for weatherproof leggings 
    • Gloves, hat, and scarf: To help keep you warm.
Glacier Tour Iceland

Glacier Hike in Iceland FAQ

1. Is it ethical to ice climb the glaciers?

If, like me, you question the ethics of climbing on a glacier, fear not. Before I decided to go on this tour, my first question was how much damage to the glaciers these tours would make. The guides explained that walking and climbing on the glacier does not destroy the ice or have any measurable impact on the environment. The biggest enemy of glaciers is global warming, which is melting the glaciers at a rapid rate.

2. Do you need to be fit to add ice climbing on your trip?

You need some level of fitness, so good news, you can use Your next vacation as a fitness goal motivation.  But they will adapt the activity based on the fitness level of the group.

3. Do I need any equipment?

Yes, in order to ice climb you will need a helmet, crampons, a harness, and ice axes, which will be provided by your guide who will also take care of the ropes.

4. Do I need any experience?

Not at all! It was my first time and I felt super safe. The guides will train you at a safe place before they take you to climb, and no previous experience is required.

5. Can we do ice climbing at any time of the year?

When I woke up in the morning and saw a rainy day, I got all upset and thought that we would need to cancel the activity.  But they said that rain doesn’t stop the activity, and some operators run ice climbing activities all year round.

6. Is there any minimum age to do ice climbing?

I thought it was awesome that in my little group, this mom and 2 teenagers were doing ice climbing together. Some operators allow the minimum age of ten years old, while others set the minimum age limit at twelve years old.

7. Is there any minimum age to do ice climbing?

I thought it was awesome that in my little group, this mom and 2 teenagers were doing ice climbing together. Some operators allow the minimum age of ten years old, while others set the minimum age limit at twelve years old.

8. Do I need to have a professional guide?

YES! Absolutely yes! Do not venture onto the glacier without the right equipment (crampons and ice picks) and an experienced guide. The ice is incredibly slippery and you will not make it far. You don’t want to cut your trip short slipping on the ice or falling into a crevasse.

10. How long does this activity take?

It may take 4 to 5 hours, it depends on the weather conditions. But it is so much fun and so much to do and see that 5 hours just fly.

You can also do shorter tours (2-3 hours) that may exclude ice climbing, but include a glacier tour.he rest of your life!

11. And if I decided not to go ice climb during the activity?

It is not a problem at all. The ice climbing part is totally optional, so if you are scared or physically unable to climb, you can skip that part. Doing a glacier hike is just as exciting and memorable. You will take this experience with you for the rest of your life!

mY PACKING TOP PICKS

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

If you found this article useful, please share it on your social media and Pin to your Pinterest boards. Thank you!

Hi, I am Paula

Marketer, Blogger & Athlete

I'm a Brazilian native who calls U.S. home.

Travel & be healthy is my philosophy for a happy life balance, and for this purpose, I embarked on a journey to inspire and empower others to seek new adventures and live an active and healthy lifestyle..

Let's Pin the Planet together!

JOIN THE FAMILY

Subscribe to my newsletter and keep up with the latest blog posts, free trip resources & healthy lifestyle inspiration and tips

booking resources

PLANNING

For all travel resources click travel planning

HOTEL

Book your accommodation Booking.com

ACTIVITIES

Book your tours and avoid lines Get Your Guide

RENTAL CAR

Book your car rental with Rental Car

INSURANCE

Protect your trip with World Nomads

DISCLAIMER: Using my BOOKING RESOURCES provided an income to help Paula Pins the Planet to continue providing the best content.

4 thoughts on “Glacier Hike in Iceland + Ice Climbing in Iceland | Ultimate Guide & Best Tours

  1. Emma says:

    Some of these photos are seriously impressive. I would love to do this, a glacier hike sounds kind of intense but looks spectacular. Good to know the gear is all included as that’s one thing you need to plan for when doing activities like this while traveling and it’s not always the case. Definitely on the list for when I visit Iceland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.