Glaciers cover more than 10% of Iceland’s surface, and provide a natural classroom for people interested in learning about our numerous glaciers, ice caps and outlet glaciers. Glaciers are enduring objects of fascination and many people visit Iceland just for the ‘hands on’ interaction with these ancient ice forms.

Iceland is home to three of Europe’s largest glaciers, Langjokull and Hofsjokull in the central highlands, and Vatnajokull in the southeast which is larger than all of Europe’s glaciers combined. Measuring an area of 8,300 square kilometers (3,200 sq mi) it covers a number of volcanoes as is often the case with glaciers in Iceland.  Other ice caps that conceal fiery secrets beneath are Hofsjokull, Snaefellsjokull on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, the famed Eyjafjallajokull, and Myrdalsjokull in the South which covers the overdue Katla volcano.

Although many of Iceland’s glaciers are accessible for exciting adventure activities and may seem like an icy playground, there are dangers in hidden cracks, deep crevasses and sometimes quicksand at the outlying edges so travelers should only visit on organized tours with experienced operators and guides.

Glacier Acess

The glaciers are a part of the powerful mother nature, they can be dangerous. Reasonable equipment and clothes should be a first priority before entering the glaciers. We strongly recommend that vistors contact local guides or tour operators for information before visiting the glaciers.

About 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers that contain the equivalent of twenty years of rainfall for the entire country. The main characteristic of glaciers is that they move. As a glacier glides forward at a rapid pace, its surface cracks. This happens because the top layers of ice (about 20-30 meters deep) are brittle, resulting in many deep cavities and fissures. At lower depths the ice is more solid. Changes in the atmosphere affect the glaciers’ expansion and movement. Iceland has many sub glacial volcanoes. The melting ice from an eruption can cause devastating floods. Approximately one third of Iceland’s excess water, which is returned to the sea, is glacial water. The glaciers are generally accessible barring restrictions due to current conditions.

Information on some of Iceland’s glaciers:

Langjökull is the countries second largest glacier. Its accessibility is as good as it gets, however no one should attempt driving up a´glacier on their own. Many agencies offer tours where they take you up the glacier in specially equipped vehicles with exsperienced glacier guides. You can choose from jeep excursions, glacier hiking and snowmobiling. Gígjökull is a sliding glacier which moves north from Eyjafjallajökull. After the eruption in 2010 there is not much left of the glacier and no organized trips. It can however be admired from a distance on the way to Þórsmörk. Sólheimajökull is a part of Mýrdalsjökull. It´s very accessible and reachable by normal car. Right at the glaciers edge there is a parking lot. Hiking tours are available year round. The glacier is reasonably easy to cross and suitable for most people over the age of ten. Svínafellsjökull is part of Skaftafell national park, which is also the departure point. Trips are available year round and should suit people aged eight and up. Fjallsárjökull is part of Vatnajökull. Trips are available and the departure point is at Skaftafell national park. The bus drives to Fjallsárlón and from there you hike up to the glacier. Jökulsárlón is right by the main ring road (highway one) and there you will also find a service center which is open year round. Boat tours on the lagoon are available from March to November. Fláajökull is one of the gliding glaciers which move south from Vatnajökull. It´s possible to walk up to Fláajökull from highway one. The Hike starts at Brunnhólsá and is about 6 km long. It is also possible to shorten the trip by driving up to Sandatún and walk from there. Heinabergsjökull is part of Vatnajökull. The Heinaberg area is located between Höfn in Hornafjörður and Skaftafell national park and is easily accessible by car. There is a parking lot by the glacier. Another part of Vatnajökull is Hofsfellsjökull and it is steadily decreasing in size. The depression left behind has filled with water and will, in time, turn into a lake. Hofsfellsjökull is close to Höfn and can be reached by four wheel drive jeeps.