Fortress Of Solitude: Visiting Iceland’s Crystal Ice Caves

Iceland Ice Caves
Crystal Ice Caves in Iceland
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 here!

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 meltwater.

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
Traveling to the Glacier
Iceland Glacier View
Massive Walls of Ice

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
Dazzling Blue Support Pillar
Ice Cave Tour
Exploring Glacial Ice Formations

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
Magic Ice Caves in Iceland
Ice Caves in Iceland
Northern Lights Ice Cave

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

Mid-Range
Hotel Höfn

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Travel Planning Resources For Iceland
Company: Local Guide Of Vatnajokull
Cost: 18,900 ISK (about $165 USD)

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. Also read my tips for driving in Iceland.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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Visiting the crystal ice caves in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Visiting the crystal ice caves in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE ICELAND TRAVEL TIPS

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!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (45)

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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 :)

  6. Breathtaking pictures! Such a great page to enjoy Iceland before planning.

    May I ask what camera lens you used Matthew, they almost look surreal.

  7. These pictures are absolutely Breathtaking. We HAVE to do this when we go! It looks so worth it even though its a bit expensive!

  8. Amazing photos, really are spectacular! Iceland is 100% on my agenda in the next year, will be visiting these caves for sure.

  9. Absolutely amazing photography for this post!

    I’m making this the first place I go for a short adventure when I’ve settled in the UK!

  10. That’s insane! I’m planning a trip to Iceland now so this is making me really really excited! That’s so awesome.

  11. That’s why Iceland has its name like that huh? The photos are so marvelous and breathtaking. I can’t really stand the cold weather but hope that I would have a chance to go there.

  12. Iceland is a real beaut. The country may be expensive but the glacier sites and volcanoes are a great view and worth every penny. Your photos of the ice crystal caves are just magnificent and I wonder how you feel as a visitor to be walking under tons of solid water.

  13. Wow, those are some amazing photos from an incredible adventure. I’m blown away that a single glacier covers 8% of the entire country. Seems a bit sad that the figure might be decreasing over time but looks like there is still plenty left to explore and discover in the land of fire and ice! Great post & photos.

  14. This. Is. Awesome! I’m contemplating another trip to Iceland this winter, and this will most definitely go on my list! Thanks for the info!

    • Seeing photos similar to this is what convinced me to stick around for longer than planned and visit the caves for myself. Totally worth it!

  15. Stunning! It’s hard to believe that such ice formation exists! It almost looks unreal!

    Excellent pictures! Thanks!

  16. Like you, I can’t get over Iceland. I’m going back for the second time this year in August, this time equipped with a much better camera. This looks thrilling – perhaps a third trip is in order come December!

    • Remember to bring a tripod too, one of the best things you can do to improve your photography. It forces you to pay more attention to details, as well as allowing for slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures (good for landscapes).

  17. When I started playing with the idea of travelling the world, I looked up the 100 most beautiful places in the world on Google, and I remember that this place was high on the list. I was so amazed with it and I still am, and I’m definitely going there! I bet it’s worth every penny.

    • The tour is a bit pricey, but considering you can’t really find these or explore them safely on your own, it’s worth it. Plus the photos & memories are priceless.

  18. I almost want to ditch my current trip and leave for Iceland, though it’s probably a bit too warm now. You pictures look surreal!

  19. Hey Matthew!

    I’m a big fan of your blog! :)
    I’m from Iceland and I truly think your photos are the most extraordinary photos I’ve ever seen of my country!

    Enjoy your stay! :)

    -Ása

  20. I wonder if the caves are still there in mid-March! That’s when I’ll be heading there next year… I’d LOVE to see them!
    Absolutely stunning post!

    • I’m sure they’ll still be there Sara, but it will depend on the conditions if you can visit them safely or not…

  21. That’s pretty damn amazing, but uh … no “House of El” sighting, then? :-) Yet another reason in a long line of reasons to go visit!

  22. Oh wow. I absolutely hate the cold but this looks amazing. I am definitely adding this to my bucket list, along with sleeping in an Ice Hotel and staying in an Igloo Village.

  23. I’m heading to Iceland in October and cannot wait! Unfortunately, timing won’t work out for the ice caves, but I guess that means I just have to go back in the winter! :-)