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Fortress Of Solitude: Visiting Iceland’s Crystal Ice Caves

Iceland Ice Caves
Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland

In the winter months, Iceland’s incredible ice caves can be explored. Walking through a brilliant cathedral of frozen crystal blue waves. Superman would feel right at home!

When the Man of Steel wants to get away from the hustle & bustle of Metropolis, he flies to his “Fortress of Solitude” hidden in the Arctic. A magnificent crystal castle built using Krypton alien technology.

What if I told you Superman’s crystal ice caves are real?

Deep under Iceland’s massive Vatnajökull glacier, beautiful caves of ice are formed by rivers of melt-water.

Too dangerous to visit in the spring & summer due to a threat of collapse, cold winter temperatures strengthen the ice and make exploration possible.

A fellow photographer convinced me to go during my Iceland road trip.

Driving to Glacier of Ice
Iceland Glacier View

Photographing Iceland’s Ice Caves

Iceland’s incredible glacier ice caves move or completely disappear with the shifting ice sheet each year. However one man seeks them out and guides people to their location.

Expert local guide Einar Sigurðsson has been running photography tours into these icy caverns for the past 20 years, and knows the glacier better than most. His family has a long history here.

Driving over rugged Icelandic terrain and through small rivers in Einar’s 4×4 van, snow covered Vatnajökull glacier appears in the distance. The ice has retreated a lot over the past few years, so it takes longer to reach the edge.

We begin our ice cave adventure by strapping on helmets and ducking into a small entrance, forced to crawl on the cold, black volcanic dirt.

Once inside though, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

Iceland Ice Caves
Ice Cave Tour

Amazing Blue Caverns Of Ice

A long tunnel of ice boasting many different shades of translucent blue, white, and inky black stretches out before us. Thousands of years of snowfall compressed into frozen sculpted waves over our heads.

Gradually the tunnel grows large enough with room to stand up.

This densely packed glacial ice glows blue due to a lack of air bubbles which normally scatter colors of the spectrum as sunlight filters down from above. Layers of black volcanic ash are trapped in these ice formations, a remnant from previous eruptions.

We spent a few hours exploring the cave, setting up our tripods for the perfect shot. It was nice to be in here with a group of fellow photographers who understand the importance of patience & attention to detail.

When Einar discovers a new ice cave, he names it. This happened to be called the “Northern Lights Cave”, named after ribbons of deep blue frozen water surrounded by black ash.

It looked very similar to Iceland’s aurora borealis dancing in the night sky.

Iceland Ice Caves
Ice Caves in Iceland

Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland

Covering 8100 square kilometers (5000 square miles) Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest icecap in Europe by volume. The ice is up to 1000 meters thick in some places.

Located in the South East, Vatnajokull covers over 8% of Iceland.

There are seven different volcanoes hidden underneath the glacier. I actually flew over one of them while it was erupting, called Bardarbunga Volcano. This unique combination of fiery volcanoes & icy glaciers is why Iceland is called The Land of Fire & Ice

Superman sure picked a great spot for his vacation home!

Exploring and photographing Iceland’s crystal ice caves was an incredible experience. If you’re traveling through Iceland in the winter, you really should’t miss them.

Nature’s phenomenal beauty never ceases to amaze me. ★

Where To Stay Near The Ice Caves

The closest town to the ice caves is Höfn, about an hour away. If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland for a trip to the caves, here are my recommendations:


WHERE TO STAY AROUND HOFN

Luxury

Aurora Cabins

Midrange

Hotel Höfn


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Travel Planning Resources For Iceland
Company: Local Guide Of Vatnajokull
Cost: 18,900 ISK (about $165 USD)
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I hope you enjoyed my guide to Iceland’s ice caves! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:


Have any questions about Iceland’s ice caves? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Erin

Wednesday 4th of January 2017

Ice caves like these are one of the reasons I'm a fan of traveling to Iceland in winter instead of summer. It would be such a shame to go all the way to Iceland and miss out on them!

Cynthia

Thursday 15th of September 2016

How did you get this tour for $175 USD? I looked up Einars tours and they appear to be more in the $1000+ range... Yikes. Stunning pictures though!

Matthew Karsten

Sunday 16th of October 2016

Hmmmm. I just looked, it's 18,900 ISK ($165).

http://localguide.is/ice-cave-tours/ice-cave-tour/

Linda

Tuesday 7th of June 2016

My son and I will be going to Iceland in November and he wants to do the ice cave tour, but I'm not sure which one to pick, since they seem to be offering full day and 2-4 hour tours…how long is the photography tour? My son wants to go more for the purpose of seeing amazing ice caves and capturing some beautiful shots so I think the photography sounds like the best option but any advice would be awesome :-) and do you think mid-November would be great for ice caves?

Esther of Local Adventurer

Friday 11th of March 2016

this looks amazing!! And way less crowded than the one we went to. :) Were you guys the only ones in there? In hindsight, a photography tour is definitely the way to go.

Ana W

Tuesday 15th of December 2015

I'm a big fan of your blog Matthew! I was already planning a trip to Iceland but decided to do it in the Winter after reading this post! I just had to make ice caves part of my Icelandic experience. Thank you for all the info and ideas :)

Matthew Karsten

Thursday 31st of December 2015

Awesome Ana! You won't regret it... the ice caves are something special.

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