One of the things I wanted to do most when planning my trip to Iceland was to visit an ice cave. The photos I saw were incredible and I really wanted to have that experience too.
When I started my research, I saw that some agencies offered, in addition to this tour, another option including a trekking through the glacier, with one of the stops at the ice cave.
That is exactly what I wanted. After all, how many times will I have the opportunity to walk on a glacier of thousands of years old?
Which agency should I choose?
There are at least a dozen agencies that offer both the basic and the complete tour. The price is almost the same, with a maximum difference of Kr2000 between them.
Therefore, the parameters I used to choose were:
– Reviews on Google and TripAdvisor;
– Description of the tour;
– Agency size.
Why the agency size? Because the better known it is, the bigger the groups will be and therefore the worse the tour experience will be. Groups with fewer people always end up resulting in a more rewarding experience.
Analyzing all these parameters, our choice was Glacier Adventure.
Glacier Adventure is a local family agency that offers different tours, throughout the seasons, in the region of the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, always with small groups.
The agency’s meeting point is in Hali, a small village where you’ll find a hotel, an inn, restaurants and even a museum about the Icelandic writer Þórbergur (1888-1974), who was born there.
In addition, it is just 12 km (7,5 miles) from Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach, a huge lagoon with icebergs and a black sand beach full of huge ice rocks, two of Iceland’s most popular attractions.
Our experience with Glacier Adventure
All our contact was through emails, which were quickly answered. As soon as we confirmed the day we wanted to take the Blue Ice Cave Tour, they sent us the vouchers and all the information we would need for the day, such as which clothes and shoes to wear and what to take.
We only payed there, on the day of the tour. You can pay in Euros, Dollars or Icelandic Krona, by cash or by card.
As soon as we arrived, our guide Rick, a New Zealander who has lived in Iceland for the past 6 years, welcomed us.
We found it interesting that he left a beautiful country to go to another. I even asked which one he thought was prettier.Promptly he answered New Zealand (maybe there is a bias there)! I think I’ll have to get this road trip off the drawing board soon so I can compare!!
First, he checked our shoes to see if they were suitable for using the ice cleats.
Mine did not have a good sole. They were snow boots, but too supple. They wouldn’t be suitable for holding the crampons. For this reason, he supplied me with suitable boots.
Yu’s were also snow boots, but they were too wide to fit in the crampons. He also went with borrowed boots. Very comfortable, by the way.
At the agency, you will find everything you might need, both for rent and for purchase, including shoes and clothing.
Then he gave us the harnesses, used to hang on to pre-fixed ropes in places with a higher risk of falling, and the helmets.
It was only after we had all the safety equipment in that he gave a brief summary of how the day’s activity would be.
Our group consisted of 5 people, plus the guide.
There is free parking, toilet, tea, coffee and hot chocolate at the agency!
Off to the glacier!
All of us properly equipped, we headed to our offroad vehicle with huge snow tires.
Our journey started following a very bumpy road between the mountains for about half an hour. The scenery is incredible, like everything else in Iceland! There was no snow on the way, but Rick told us that during winter it is not even possible to know where the road is, you just go by guessing.
After parking, we walked for another 20 minutes to reach the glacier. Due to the winds of the previous week (which exceeded 200km/h – 124 mph), the glacier was completely covered with dark volcanic ash, to the point that we were left in doubt if that was really ice!
On that day, it was very windy, so much that Rick had to carefully assess whether it would be safe for us to walk on the glacier. If not, we would go straight to the ice cave.
Luckily the wind was strong, but not to the point of being unsafe, at least not at that moment. Wait for it!!!
Ice ice, baby!
It was time to place our ice cleats. Rick is super didactic and no one in the group had any major difficulties. Before we climbed onto the ice, he explained to us how to walk, never dragging our feet and with our legs not too close together.
Yu learned the reasons for that the worst way, he scraped one leg over the other when jumping and ripped the bottom of his brand new snow pants with the ends of the crampons. At least it ripped just the pants.
The first step on the ice with the crampons is awkward. However, once you get the hang of it, it is just fine. Then, you just go walking like a duck through the mountain of ice.
We thought we would just walk for a few minutes on the glacier until we reach ice cave. But Rick told us that recently an ice canyon had appeared on the glacier and we would go there first!! That is one of the amazing things about the glacier, every year it unveils new surprises.
Imagine if we weren’t excited about that!
Then it came another important piece of information: how to get down on the ice! In this case, you have to walk with your legs slightly bent, without throwing your body forward and hitting your foot hard on the ground for the crampons to hold well. In the first attempts, it was almost a disaster, but with Rick’s guidance, and understanding what to do, we got used to it!
We arrived at the canyon and then we used the harness and climbing carabiners to reach its base. Before heading inside, we waited for another group to leave, while Rick gave us a lecture on glacier formation.
There we were, at the base. Guys, you have no idea what this place was! A strong waterfall hidden in the middle of the ice, forming a small river that meandered through tall and blue walls, sometimes so transparent that we could clearly see our colleagues on the other side.
Rick took us as far as he could go when it started to get too narrow. It was much more than we imagined!
Facts about canyons and ice caves
First thing: it’s wet. Very wet. Go with a raincoat, waterproof pants and everything else you have to stay dry. And a little detachment, in case you stick your foot into an ice cold river.
As glaciers are constantly moving and melting, not only in Iceland, a canyon or an ice cave will never be the same. Between seasons they already change, imagine between years.
Some completely disappear during the summer, to the point that every year agencies have to look for new ones to visit.
In other words, what I saw on this tour none of you will see when you go. It will be something totally different!
The ice cave!
Leaving the canyon, we headed towards the ice cave, a common spot with the basic tour, not only from Glacier Adventure, but from other agencies as well. Those who go only to the ice cave, follow a footpath. Since they don’t go through the glacier, they don’t use crampons.
As on this tour you first climb the glacier and then go to the cave, many of the groups that arrived there early have already left. The guide, then, keeps an eye on the arrival and departure of groups to choose the ideal time to enter.
With all this planning, we had the ice cave just for our group for about 20 minutes and we were able to admire all its beauty without rushing, crowds and noise, and with enough time to take pictures in all the poses and places, until we got tired. It was magical.
More points for Glacier Adventure! Thinking about those details makes all the difference!
As we left, several other gigantic groups arrived. Then we gave even more value to our small group.
In a small group, in addition to enjoying more, it is also safer, as the guide manages to pay attention to everyone. On this type of tour, safety must come first.
Suddenly, we were in a pickle!
Do you remember I said it was windy that day? Well, when leaving the ice cave, without the crampons, on the footpath back to the car, we started to face strong gusts of wind that literally pushed us, very common in Iceland.
Seriously, I felt scrawny that day, as there were moments when the wind pushed me in such a way that I was slipping both feet on the ground. I held onto Yu so firmly that my arm hurt. When we got to the car I said that this walk had been the most thrilling thing I had ever done!!!!!
Luckily, these gusts only started after we already had left the glacier, so it didn’t thwart us from having that incredible experience!
According to Rick, there were gusts of about 30 m/s (over 100 km/h or about 67mph) that were not in the forecast. Still, he kept us calm and safe until we got to the car.
If you have the time, the full tour takes about 6 hours, I think it is worth including it in your itinerary. A unique experience that will make your trip to Iceland even more amazing.
Even if you prefer another tour, or the ice cave one is offseason (which runs from October to April in Iceland), I still recommend Glacier Adventure, a company with great level of professionalism and that made us fell safe.
Prefer small and local businesses like Glacier Adventure and be sure you will have many amazing experiences!!