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Frequently Asked Questions

About Glacier & Ice Cap Tours in Iceland

Glaciers and ice caps cover approximately 11% of Iceland's surface area. On glacier and ice cap tours, you can explore these natural marvels in numerous different ways, such as on a snowmobile, in a super jeep or by foot. There are also various options that allow you to explore the inside of a glacier, either by visiting natural ice caves or a man-made ice tunnel.

1. Are the glaciers accessible throughout the year?

Numerous tours—from snowmobile and super jeep excursions to glacier hikes—run onto some glaciers throughout the year, such as the glaciers Sólheimajökull and Langjökull. Other glaciers, such as Snæfellsjökull and Drangjökull, are only accessible during summer.

2. Will I be provided with all the necessary glacier hiking equipment?

Helmets, crampons and harnesses will be provided. You must, however, bring or rent sturdy hiking boots and wear warm, waterproof clothing.

3. Is previous glacier hiking experience required?

No, although the more difficult glacier hikes should only be undertaken by those confident in their fitness.

4. Is there an age limit for glacier tours?

Yes, in accordance with Icelandic law, the age limit is set at eight years. Some tours have a higher age limit, so please contact a travel planner for further information.

5. Can I wear normal shoes?

No, hiking shoes are a mandatory requirement for glacier hiking; they should reach above the ankle, and they must be thick-soled so the crampons can clamp onto them.

6. Must I bring my own hiking boots or can I rent a pair?

Most glacier hiking operators rent out hiking boots, and you will be able to select a renting option from the menu when you make your reservation.

7. How long does a glacier hike last?

That depends on the tour you choose. A short glacier hike lasts between 60 and 90 minutes; longer excursions can last between six and seven hours.

8. What is the difference between a glacier and an ice sheet?

An ice sheet is a glacier that is larger than 50,000 km² (19,000 mi²). There are no ice sheets in Iceland.

9. What is the group size on glacier hiking tours?

That depends on the operator, but there will always be at least one guide for every twelve people. You can book private tours for a more intimate experience.

10. Am I insured in case of an accident?

No, you will need to organise all insurances yourself. Please contact your tour planner for more information.

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What are Glaciers?

What is a glacier, and under what conditions does it form? A glacier comes into existence when the snow of winter exceeds the melting of summer; multiple years of this accumulation result in compaction of the lowest layers of snow, turning them to ice. The weight of the top layers of snow, causes the bottom layer of ice to move downhill.

Glaciers normally start to form in an area known as a corrie, or ‘Cirque’; a stretch of land that is shaped like an arm-chair with two slopes on either side, allowing the ice to sit and gather without flowing away.

Vatnajökull is the largest glacier, not just in Iceland, but in the whole of Europe, covering a total area of 8,100 km² (3,100 mi²).

Glaciers cover approximately 10% of the earth’s landmass, which is very reflective of Iceland itself, which has 11.1% glacial cover.

The Icelandic word for 'glacier' is 'jökull'—hence it’s addition to the end of each glacier’s name; Vatnajökull (“Water Glacier”), Langjökull (“Long Glacier”), Hofsjökull (“Temple Glacier”), etc.

Glacier hikers will be exposed to a number of incredible and captivating features on the ice cap, including deep crevasses and sinkholes, as well as countless examples of naturally-formed ice sculptures. That’s to say nothing of the incredible, panoramic views of the surrounding areas that open up with a high vantage on the glacier peak.

The diminishing size of glaciers is one of the biggest threats and clearest indicators of climate change we as a species face today. With measurements made each year, and new steps in aerial and satellite photography, the diminishing stature of glaciers is clearly visible—not only putting into question the longevity of many of Iceland’s greatest attractions but also the future of planet Earth.


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