When you travel to the land of fire and ice, it's difficult not to be tempted by a glacier hike.
There are several spots where you can go on a hike: the departures are either from Skaftafell, or from the Sólheimajökull parking lot. From Skaftafell hikers normally go to the Svínafellsjökull glacier (a part of Vatnajökull glacier), but Sólheimajökull is a part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
It is, of course, also possible to book a tour from Reykjavik, check the tips below. I must warn you that you should only ever book with an agency and not go alone onto the glaciers, as they are dangerous and you need to know your way around.
During your stay, and if you drive on the ring road, you will see a lot of glaciers, especially in the south of the island. Nevertheless, it remains difficult to hike on all the glaciers, some of them have very impressive crevasses (like the Skaftafellsjökull for example which is in Skaftafell National Park).
- Book a tour from Reykjavík:
Most of the agency excursions you will find will offer tours combining glacier hike and sightseeing tours. Here are some tours I find really interesting and which are available from Reykjavik:
- A visit to the South Coast and a glacier hike (available all year long) : in this tour, you will visit all the most emblematic sites of the South Coast including the magnificent waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the site of Dyrhólaey, Vík and its beautiful beach of Reynisfjara. Of course, you will stop at the Sólheimajökull glacier for a glacier excursion. For a trip of the same kind click here (it's almost the same description as above - it can be useful if the first one is fully booked).
- ´South Coast Elements (not available during winter time (november to march)) is another tour which will combine the excursion above (discovery of the most beautiful waterfalls of the south, Vík and its beach) but also a stop on the site of the DC-3, a wrecked plane that lays on the beach since the '50s, as well as a swim in the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, Seljavallalaug. Finally, you will end your excursion by visiting a volcanic cave on the way back to Reykjavik.
- Book a tour and meet the guide on site:
If you want to do an easy hike but enjoy the glacier to the max, I recommend this tour (available all year long). You will stay, as for glacier hikes in Skaftafell, about 2h30 on the glacier. If you feel more adventurous, you can book a glacier climbing tour (available all year long). I personally have not had the opportunity to test it but according to my friends, it's quite a unique experience.
Regarding access to Sólheimajökull parking lot, you will find below more information:
Like Skaftafell, Sólheimajökull is on the ring road (route n°1). From Reykjavík, it takes approximately 2h driving without stops. The main road is accessible all year round, subject to weather conditions.
After the Skógafoss waterfall (you can't miss it, it's a big waterfall by the road), you will have to take the road n°221 on your left: you will see quite clearly the sign indicating "Sólheimajökull". You can access the road with any car. It is for now the only way to access the parking lot: there is no bus stopping at the parking lot. For a car rental, click here. During winter time, you will definitely need a 4x4.
Unique solution: Book a tour and meet the guide on site!
If you have never done a glacier hike before, I strongly suggest you start with the easiest hike, like the "Blue Ice Experience" (available all year long). This is the excursion I made the first time. It allows you to enjoy the glacier without having to have the physique of an athlete.
The agencies offering the hikes are located near the visitor centre. Note that glacier tours are all year round! However, I strongly advise you to book in advance to make sure you have a place for the tour.
If you are coming to Skaftafell, I advise you to spend a few days there. You can have a look at my blog on the activities to practice and especially the hikes.
Regarding access to Skaftafell, you will find the information below:
Skaftafell is on the ring road (route n°1). From Reykjavik, it takes about 4h15 driving without stops. The road is accessible all year long, subject to weather conditions. Beware, Iceland is the most capricious place in terms of weather but also the most dangerous. Always check the Icelandic weather website before hitting the road.
A piece of advice, or rather a warning, stick to the instructions on the roads and those that can be given to you while you drive (or for example when you talk to a local).
To go to Skaftafell, the car rental remains the best option (for a car rental, click here. During winter time, you will definitely need a 4x4). Note that if you choose to rent a car, you will have to pay parking fees in Skaftafell (about 5€ regardless of the time you will stay).
Another option: the bus! You only need to check the bus schedules. There are more buses running between June and early September but a few still run when fall arrives. For more information, you can have a look at the websites of the bus companies:
- Sterna: possible departure from Reykjavík and many other stops on route n°1.
- Strætó: choose the line 51 - be careful it is necessary to consult the schedules.
For other propositions, feel free to send me a message!
Some tips for you to enjoy your hike:
- NEVER go on a glacier hike ALONE, always book a tour with an agency. There are a lot of affordable tours and moreover the guide who will supervise you will ensure your safety.
- Choose a hike of a difficulty that corresponds to your level: if you have never worn crampons or are dizzy, do not attempt ice climbing! Several hikes are accessible to everyone - having a level of difficulty that suits you will allow you to fully enjoy your experience.
- Listen and pay attention to the safety instructions: it is really important to understand all the rules (follow the guide, stay in his steps, walk like a "cowboy" with the crampons...) to be safe. After all, you will still walk on ice, that's not something you do everyday!
- As usual, take the "survival kit": windbreaker, waterproof jacket, gloves, hat... even in the sun, you can quickly get cold on the ice.
- Before your trip, check these websites : weather forecast / road conditions / safety during your trip (on this website, you will find information about your security and you can also register your trip and itinerary).
- You cannot fly a drone without any autorisation, please find information on this website.
Have a nice trip ! Góða ferð !