Iceland’s Main Glaciers
A Brief Summary of Iceland’s main Glaciers.
Iceland has multiple glaciers and some of them have become very famous. Glaciers have formed on our island over an extended period of time and are receding heavily.
Iceland got its name from all the ice in and around the country at the time of settlement. Some of the same ice caps still remain even today and in this article, we will be covering some of main Iceland’s glaciers.
We will start off with Langjokull Glacier since it’s our favorite one and our base of operations. With an area covering about 953 km² and a volume of ice of about 195 km³, it is Iceland’s 2nd largest glacier. The highest point of the ice cap is called Baldjokull, which is 1,450 m above sea level. Langjokull reaches a maximum ice thickness of about 580 m. Another reason we love this glacier so much is its proximity to Reykjavik. It only takes about 2 1/2 hours to reach our glacier hut on the east side, making it closer to the capital than any other glacier. To top it all off, it is only about 45 min. drive from Gullfoss Falls, one of the main attractions of the famous Golden Circle. Hence, it is an ideal add-on to Iceland’s most popular travel route. For more info, please see Meet us at Gullfoss and Snowmobile and Ice Cave Tour in Iceland.
Our next glacier will be Vatnajokull Glacier. Covering about 8,100 km² and with a volume of about 3,000 km³, it is not only Iceland’s biggest glacier but the largest in Europe. Its thickest part is about 950 m and it has an average thickness of about 400 m. There are 30 outlet glaciers stretching from Vatnajokull and it is located on a very active volcanic area, namely Grimsvotn, Oræfajokull, and Bardarbunga Volcanoes (try these as tongue-twisters). In wintertime, snowmobile and modified super 4×4 tours are operated on the ice cap. It also contains Iceland’s most beautiful natural blue ice caves, such as the Crystal Ice Cave. Finally, the popular Jokulsarlon, a connected glacier lagoon, is located south of Vatnajokull with its magnificent floating icebergs. Several films and TV series have used Vatnajokull as a setting, for example; James Bond: A View to a Kill, Games of Thrones, and Amazing Race.
Our 3rd and coincidentally, 3rd largest glacier in Iceland is called Hofsjokull Glacier. Its ice cap covers around 925 km² and its highest peak is 1,765 m. It is located on a seemingly active central volcano, yet it is not known when it last erupted. There is regular seismic activity which indicates that the volcano might still be active. Hofsjokull is located between Langjokull and Vatnajokull, in the west of the Icelandic highlands. It has an attractive round shape which measures about 35-40 km in diameter. Its thickest point of ice is 750 m which is explained by its deep volcanic crater. It is possible to do snowmobiling there in the wintertime, though there are no scheduled daily departures.
Our 4th and final glacier is Snæfellnesjokull Glacier. It might not be one of Iceland’s largest ice caps, but it is certainly one of the most impressive ones. The reason for this is the beautiful triangular shape of the mountain underneath, Mt. Snæfell, which resembles Japan’s famous Mt. Fuji (please Google for comparison). The glacier became iconic when Jules Verne used it as a highlight in his novel Voyage au Centre de la Terre or Journey to the Centre of the Earth. In the story, the party starts the journey by entering the ice cap’s crater but under Snæfellsjokull, lies an active stratovolcano. Its highest peak stands tall at 1,446 m. For the past years, the ice cap has been receding and there is a fear that in some years or decades, it may suffer the same fate as the ex-glacier OK, no longer holding the title “glacier.” Snowmobile tours are sometimes operated in the wintertime and so are scheduled hiking tours. Though the latter need to be organized as group tours with lifelines connecting hikers due to the danger of crevices. It is a great hike and well worth your time and money. Not to mention all the other great sites that the Snæfellsnes Peninsula has to offer; Arnarstapi, Hellnar, Lóndrangar, Vatnshellir Cave, Djúpalónssandur, Skarðvík White Beach, Well of the Irish, Mt. Kirkjufell (also featured in Games of Thrones), the Berserk Lava Field and Natural Heritage Site Gerduberg Basalt Columns. A highly recommended accommodation would be Hotel Budir, an old, rustic yet luxury countryside hotel.
So, that concludes our article on some of Iceland’s main glaciers. We sincerely hope you get a chance to visit some of them in the future and of course, we would be delighted to take you on a trip on Langjokull Glacier. Do not forget to add them to your bucket list on things to do when in Iceland. Good journey!