I am doing this for fun and one of the greatest perks of being an Iceland travel-blogger is being able to join various guided tours around Iceland. I then write a travel-blog about the tours to show you what they are like.
The latest tour I joined is the Glacier Super Jeep and Ice Cave Tour - Langjokull and The Secret Lagoon with Mountaineers of Iceland.
Opening photo: inside the ice cave in Langjökull
Snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier
On a cold winter day in December, when the days are at their shortest, I was picked up in Reykjavík in a specially modified super jeep, and experienced an exhilarating ride on a snowmobile on Iceland's second-largest glacier, visited one of the extraordinarily beautiful glacier ice-caves and took a relaxing dip in one of the oldest natural geothermal pools in Iceland!
It is not bad being able to accomplish all this considering that we only had 4.5 hours of daylight.
Langjökull glacier in the winter sun
It was cold on the glacier - minus 15°C (5° Fahrenheit), but we were in luck that the sun was shining, or at least trying to rise above the horizon, and cast a golden hue on the glacier.
Seeing that the Mountaineers of Iceland, who have their base camp by Langjökull glacier, do not want their passengers to freeze, everybody was offered a snowsuit, which you put over all your clothes, even the parka. We also got special gloves, a buff, and a big helmet, which was necessary for the snowmobile ride. And we were provided with crampons for walking inside the ice-cave.
This equipment made all the difference and we didn't even feel the cold.
The Mountaineers of Iceland operate a myriad of snowmobiles on Langjökull glacier. Photo taken at their base camp
The snowmobile ride from the base camp to the ice cave is around 25-minutes; in a convoy riding at a speed of some 30 km. Many of my fellow travellers had never been snowmobiling before so we got a lesson in how to maneuver the snowmobile, and off we went.
This was the first time I had been on a snowmobile so my father-in-law, who joined me on this tour, steered the snowmobile and I joined him as a passenger. It was a rather bumpy ride and I felt like I was holding on for dear life the whole trip to the ice cave, bouncing back and forth in the passenger seat ;)
The snowmobile ride
Fortunately, it was just growing pains as the ride back was much easier and quite exhilarating, and I wanted more :) You will for sure get your adrenaline pumping on this ride!
I took as little with me as possible as I could only carry one of my cameras with me on the snowmobile, strapped around my snowsuit. I saw that my fellow travellers were taking photos left and right on their phones during the short stops we made, but my big camera was wrapped around me so I had to skip taking photos during the ride.
Instead, I add an awesome video from Guide to Iceland, which shows exactly what my experience on this ride and the ice cave was like:
Snowmobiling on the white slopes of Langjökull glacier in the winter sun is amazing. The air was crisp and visibility was endless; it felt like we were floating on a white cloud, well, apart from when the glacier was bumpy ;)
I took the photo below when I got back to the base camp. We were so lucky that we got some sunshine on this tour as the sun and shadows make the glacial features and snow-covered mountains look very dramatic - and ever so beautiful, don't you agree?
The view from the glacier base camp - the sun cast its golden rays on the mountains, ever so beautiful
After 25 minutes of riding the snowmobile, which passed incredibly quickly, we stopped right by the ice cave. I could not believe that we had arrived at our destination so quickly.
The ice cave is also very dramatic and beautiful, beyond words really, there are very few winter activities in Iceland which surpass visiting the ice caves. It is quite a unique and surreal experience.
The entrance to the ice cave
The ice caves get formed by glacial rivers coming from under the huge glaciers, in this instance Langjökull, which is second in size only to Vatnajökull glacier, Europe's biggest glacier.
Last year such a natural ice cave was discovered in Langjökull. Now, note that we are on the east side of Langjökull, but from the west side of Langjökull glacier, the man-made ice cave tunnel can be visited, as I have shown you in 2 of my travel-blogs.
The entrance to the ice cave
The glaciers are retreating and the natural ice cave had disappeared the following year. The clever people at Mountaineers of Iceland, well aware of how precarious the glaciers and the ice caves can be, decided on digging into the glacier, thus creating a beautiful ice cave. This they did last May, and already in December, some 50 metres had disappeared from the glacier.
Just to show you the difficulties they encountered then during heavy rain a couple of days prior to our visit, a river had appeared severing parts of the ice cave, which we could see on the other side of the river.
The river which appeared and a part of the ice cave on the other side of the river
We now entered the ice cave and I was blown away, I love Icelandic nature, but in the wintertime when everything is covered in white snow, the ice caves stand out big time!
The ice caves vary according to the level of ash in the ice; some are aquamarine and sapphire blue, like the ones I visited in the glacial outfalls of Iceland's largest ice cap Vatnajökull; Breiðamerkurjökull and Fláajökull glacial tongues.
While others are almost black from the ashes from the nearby volcanic eruptions, like Kötlujökull ice cave in Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which contains ash from the most notorious volcano in Iceland, the massive Mt. Katla.
Inside the ice cave in Langjökull
The ice in the Langjökull glacier, which can be over 400 years old, contains layers of ash from various volcanic eruptions, including the Eyjafjallajökull glacier eruption in 2010, which almost stopped all air traffic in Europe. The ice varies from being white and silver in colour, to brown and golden with traces of blue ice in between.
It had snowed so the light from the ceiling of the cave didn't shine through as much as usual, the guide told me, so the beautiful blue colour could not be seen very clearly. Light had been put inside the ice in some locations to add to its beauty and make the blue colour pop out more.
The ice was shimmering from the light as you can see in my photo below.
The ice is so smooth, it is amazing touching it <3
A wedding has taken place inside the Langfjökull ice cave and the cave has been consecrated. In the photo below you will see the ice altar which was hewn for that occasion.
I have seen such an altar in the ice cave tunnel on the other side of Langjökull. It is a lovely addition to the ice caves for those who want to get married inside a beautiful ice cave :)
By the altar in the ice cave - my father-in-law, Jakob, took all my photos on this tour
Hjörleifur, who has dug out the cave, which is now some 100 metres long, has got many ideas of what can be done to make the cave more interesting, apart from expanding it. One of the ideas is to make an ice throne, which would be a perfect photo opportunity.
And to add more narrow corridors and even move the entrance a little so it would be bent. I have to go back next year to see the new changes :)
The ice cave is quite dramatic looking
After spending some 25 minutes inside the cave it was time to head back the same way on the snowmobile.
While driving back I thought to myself: "Now, this is the real McCoy" - this is the real deal, snowmobiling in -15°C and visiting an ice cave during the shortest time in Iceland! These glacier guides, who operate on the field every day under these extreme conditions, have my greatest respect!
With Hjörleifur by the glacier hut of Mountaineers of Iceland after the visit to the ice cave
The ice cave in Langjökull is located some 900-950 metres above sea level, with the highest points of Langjökull glacier being around 1,450 metres above sea level. At that height there are some huge crevasses, the guides told me.
You can see the deadly crevasses in my photo below. It is due to the crevasses that an experienced glacier guide is needed when visiting the glaciers. Deep crevasses can be hiding beneath the snow on the glacier so never venture on a glacier without an experienced glacier guide by your side.
See the crevasses in the distance? We stayed well away from them
Several fatal accidents have happened on Langjökull glacier and I lost one of my college mates back in 2010, when she fell down a deep crevasse with her son on Langjökull glacier :( Other fatal accidents happened on Langjökull back in 2000 and 2013.
So never venture away from the snowmobile convoy as the glacier guides are the only ones who know where it is safe to drive. This is of utter importance.
This huge truck picks up people from the Gullfoss location of the Mountaineers of Iceland. Photo taken at the glacier base camp
Mountaineers of Iceland operate two tours on Langjökull glacier. The tour I joined Glacier Super Jeep & Ice Cave Tour | Langjokull & The Secret Lagoon starts from Reykjavík, where a super jeep picks you up from your hotel and drives you to the glacier. Included is the snowmobile ride from the base camp on the glacier and a visit to the ice cave.
Included in my tour was also a dip in the old geothermal pool at Flúðir, the Secret Lagoon (see my next chapter below).
This truck operates from the upper level of Gullfoss waterfall. Photo taken at Gullfoss
You can also choose to drive yourself to Gullfoss where you can meet your guide on the upper level by Gullfoss café, and be driven to the Langjökull glacier base camp in a monstrous super truck. That tour lasts 4 hours, vs my tour which lasted 10 hours.
Here you can see the 4-hour tour Snowmobile and Ice Cave on Langjokull Glacier from Gullfoss. If you want to take the shorter tour then you can reach Gullfoss by renting a car in Reykjavík.
Photographing the Mountaineers of Iceland super trucks in October
I visited Gullfoss waterfall in October with a foreign friend and she was in awe of how big the truck in the photo above is. So we took her photo by it and I told her that I had been wanting to join this tour to the ice cave for the longest time.
Funnily enough, I got a letter from the Mountaineers of Iceland inviting me on their ice cave tour only 2 months later :)
Yngvi reflating the tires at Gullfoss after our visit to Langjökull glacier
Seeing that I was picked up in Reykjavík then I didn't get to ride in the huge truck, but instead, I got to ride in the specially modified super jeep in my photo above.
You can see our guide, Yngvi, readjusting the pressure of the big tires. For driving on such snow-covered roads as the Kjölur route and the glaciers in the wintertime, the pressure of the tires has to be lowered from 29 psi to 10 psi, which gives the tires a wider grip and makes the super jeep almost float on the snow.
We made a half an hour stop at Gullfoss café to have late lunch and to have a look at this our most famous waterfall, Gullfoss. Gullfoss - the Golden Waterfall, gives the name to the Golden Circle, which contains Iceland's most famous tourist attractions; Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir geothermal area.
The water creating this massive waterfall is glacial water coming straight from beneath Langjökull glacier.
It had snowed a lot and the path down to the waterfall was icy, so it was closed for the day. But we could have a look at it from above.
I have written another travel-blog about Gullfoss waterfall and how one woman saved it from being all but ruined:
The Secret Lagoon - soaking in the warm pool
Our next and final stop was at the ever so lovely and tranquil Secret Lagoon at Hverahólmi at Flúðir. "Gamla laugin" - the Old Pool or the Secret Lagoon as it has been renamed in English, is most likely the oldest geothermal swimming pool in Iceland, built in 1891. Swimming lessons started in this old geothermal pool back in 1908.
The water at the Secret Lagoon is 38-40° Celcius (100° Fahrenheit) and it is equally lovely visiting it in the summertime when daylight is almost unlimited, as in the wintertime when you might see the Northern Lights while soaking in the hot lagoon.
Steam coming from the geothermal area by the Secret Lagoon
You will notice the greenhouses next to the lagoon, but in these greenhouses, vegetables are grown all year round by utilizing geothermal energy. Flúðir is well-known for its mushrooms, but cucumbers, salad, and tomatoes are also grown in the greenhouses at Flúðir.
I had visited the Secret Lagoon only once before, back in 2015 when it was just opening again after restoration. Here is my travel-blog: The Golden Circle and Floating in the Secret Lagoon at Flúðir in South-Iceland. It was during the summertime and I took a video to show you how serene and lovely this old swimming pool "Gamla laugin" is:
In the background, you will see the old changing facilities by the Secret Lagoon, which I think add some mystery to the pool. After the restoration new changing facilities were added, a lovely restaurant and a bar.
By the Secret Lagoon, you will find a geothermal area with bobbling and steaming fumaroles and hot springs. One of which is Vaðmálahver hot spring - the Homespun cloth hot spring, which is the biggest hot spring by the Secret Lagoon. In the olden days, the hot spring was used for washing clothes, like in so many other locations in Iceland.
When I last visited it I boiled an egg in Vaðmálahver, that is how hot the water is!
Vaðmálahver hot spring - daylight vanishing
Another hot spring is called Litli-Geysir, as it erupts with a small eruption every 5 minutes! Let's be very careful in geothermal areas and never step within the boundaries. Accidents have happened here, the last one 3 years ago.
I checked out the geothermal area before dipping into the Secret Lagoon. We were losing light so it was better to get the photos before entering the pool.
The Secret Lagoon - it was almost too dark for taking photos
We stayed for a good half an hour in the warm geothermal water, and it was heavenly soaking after several hours on the glacier. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit! I can tell you that everybody was very relaxed and tired in the super-jeep on the way back home to Reykjavík having experienced both the ice and fire side of Iceland.
Yngvi, our driver-guide, told us that he didn't join his passengers in the hot pool any more as it makes him so relaxed and sleepy that he had a hard time staying awake while driving, and all his passengers were asleep. We appreciate that he stayed awake and alert while driving us back ;)
This had been an absolutely thrilling day and goes to show that the winter activities in Iceland can be equally as much fun as the summer activities in my country.
I have written another travel-blog about my visit to the man-made Ice Cave Tunnel in Langjökull Glacier in Iceland - Into the Glacier, which departs from the west side of Langjökull glacier, whereas the tour I joined now Glacier Super Jeep & Ice Cave Tour | Langjokull & The Secret Lagoon departs from the east side of Langjökull glacier.
Have a lovely time visiting the Langjökull ice cave and the serene Secret Lagoon :)