Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

Visiting an ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier is a fantastic experience. I had seen some beautiful photos from inside the ice caves and very much wanted to see the caves for myself. I got the chance to visit them in January 2016 when the staff of Guide to Iceland went on a 2-day-trip to visit two beautiful caves.

So off we went to South-East Iceland to experience the ice caves. We spent the night at Hotel Smyrlabjörg, which is a lovely country hotel in the Vatnajökull region.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

Early next morning we were driven to Fláajökull glacier where we met our glacier tour guide. Fláajökull glacier is an icefall from Breiðabunga glacier in the eastern part of Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland's largest glacier.

We were given crash helmets and crampons for the tour and for safety reasons we were given a harness - so that the tour guide could fasten us together if needed, f.ex. in bad weather with poor visibility. Fortunately the weather was perfect, sunshine and just below freezing point.

The Icelandic Met office had predicted rain and wind so we were very happy that their predictions were wrong. We started the one hour long hike by passing a long foot bridge and headed for the ice caves. I was very excited about seeing them!

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

The hike to the ice caves is 2.5 km long (5 km back and forth) and parts of it are uphill by a canyon. That is where the harness would come in handy in bad weather.

The hike is rated as being of moderate difficulty as there are some rocky trails with elevation gain up to 160 meters, so parts of the hike are somewhat steep. We had been walking pretty briskly so at the highest point I was happy that the tour guide made a stop.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

From there we had a fantastic view of the canyon and the glacier so we stopped and took photos. The tour guide gave us a geology lesson on how the glacier has developed. Fláajökull glacier is retreating - it has shrunk ca 2 km in the past hundred years!

In the canyon I could see beautiful basalt columns. I was so glad that it was sunny as the sunshine, even though it is low in the sky in January, beautifully lit up the canyon and the glacier.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

When we arrived at the mouth of the ice cave we were divided into two groups. My group entered an ice cave into which we had to crawl!

I was a bit worried about crawling on all fours with a glacier on my back as I am a bit claustrophobic, but it was a breeze and we only crawled for a very short distance. The rewards were breathtaking - the blue of the ice is out of this world making this visit a true WOW-moment!

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

We were all acting like kids, touching the ice and taking photos left and right and asking others to take our photo! In this small ice cave was a group of very excited visitors :)

There were some beautiful ice formations and icicles in the cave. One is not supposed to touch them as they can break. And you don't want anything breaking inside an ice cave!

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

We spent half an hour inside this beautiful cave and by now it was time to visit the other ice cave.

To enter that ice cave we had to walk through a narrow crevasse and again I thought I would be claustrophobic, but it turned out to be great fun walking in this beautiful aquamarine crevasse. I felt like the glacier was hugging me. On this spot there are some very good photo opportunities.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

The ice cave we now entered was much wider and higher than the other one and it was like entering a fairytale world - with a roof of aquamarine ice and lots of beautiful ice formations and icicles hanging from the ice roof.

It was absolutely breathtaking and again the whole group was acting like kids, touching the ice, repeatedly saying "WOW" and taking photos left and right :)

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

We spent half an hour in this beautiful cave before we joined the other part of the group. The tour guide took a photo of each and every one of us in one corner of the cave - where the ice formation had taken the shape of a seat!

The tour guide told us that the ice cave acts like rubber and prolapses and the cave disappears after a while, so every year the tour guides have to look for new caves.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

It was now time to head back as the plan was to visit yet another ice cave in Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. We left the ice caves, totally satisfied with this unique experience, and headed back. The hike back seemed to be much less strenuous than the hike to the ice caves.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

Good hiking shoes are required for the hike and the ice caves. Dress in layers as it will be cold by the glacier. It is necessary to wear additional windproof (waterproof) trousers, especially for the crawling and sitting on the ice, but they will also keep you warm during the hike. I was wearing woollen tights, trousers and lined windproof trousers, which made me so padded that I was unable to bend down and tie my shoes ;)

As we have to wear helmets a hood is a good idea or a thin cap. I was wearing a thick faux-fur cap and it was too big for the helmet so I had to leave it on the bus. And don't forget to bring water and snacks to keep your strength up.

Amazing aquamarine Ice Caves in Vatnajökull glacier in South-Iceland

The ice caves are only open for 5 months in winter time from November-March and are not to be visited without a professional glacier guide. Our guide, Sindri, was very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.

This being nature we never know though if these caves will be formed and accessible each year.  Unfortunately the ice cave in Fláajökull glacier didn't form in year 2016-2017.  The ice cave guides go look for caves every winter and sometimes they don't find any. And if it is a warm winter then these caves get flooded, so it is impossible to enter them.  Fingers crossed for next winter!

Now we had yet another ice cave to visit and headed for the ice caves in the Breiðarmerkurjökull glacier, which I have written about in my next blog on the Chrystal ice cave

Check out the top ice cave tours and lava trips in Iceland!

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