Svínafellsjökull is an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe. It is one of the country’s most popular places for glacier hiking due to its incredible formations and excellent views.
The best way to visit Svinafellsjokull glacier would be on a self drive tour in Iceland.
Svínafellsjökull is part of the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, a place of popularity amongst hikers, photographers, and those with a passion for raw natural beauty.
This reserve was even a National Park in its own right, before the creation of the enormous Vatnajökull National Park which absorbed it.
The reserve is easy to reach throughout the year if travelling from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, as it is located just off the Ring Road which encircles the country. Travelling on this route east for four hours, you will come to a left turn onto Route 998, which will take you to the car park and visitors’ centre.
Most tours onto Svínafellsjökull start here, although some go from Reykjavík and the village of Vík. Reaching the glacier requires a short hike.
If travelling yourself, the villages of Vík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur are good for stopping off for fuel, rest and refreshment. There are also many significant attractions en route to admire, such as the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and the black sand beach of Reynisfjara.
Svínafellsjökull competes with Sólheimajökull for the country’s most popular glacier for hiking. While Sólheimajökull is closer to Reykjavík and has better walls for ice-climbing, Svínafellsjökull has distinct appeals of its own.
Firstly is in its surface. While Sólheimajökull, as mentioned, has walls, Svínafellsjökull is made up of many sharp ridges that, while not possible to climb on, are much more beautiful to behold.
Secondly, it boasts even more beautiful views from its heights. From Sólheimajökull, you can achieve magnificent panoramas over the wastelands of Sólheimasandur and the black sand beaches of the south coast, but from Svínafellsjökull, you are able to see across Vatnajökull National Park with its many other glacier outlets and mountains, the forested beauty of Skaftafell, and the ocean.
Both glaciers, however, are matched when it comes to surrounding attractions, meaning a visit to them can incorporate many other sites. Svínafellsjökull, for example, is near to Jökulsárlón, a magnificent glacier lagoon filled with giant icebergs, while Sólheimajökull is close to the aforementioned waterfalls.
Both also have beautiful colouration, with deep blue ice, gleaming white snow, and veins of black ash, memories of eruptions centuries past.
If glacier hiking in summer, the colouration is less vivid but the journey easier and the views usually clearer. If hiking in winter, the intensity of the blue ice is mesmerising, and there is a greater chance of finding an ice cave on the glacier that is safe to enter.
Svínafellsjökull’s beauty has not just been appreciated by Icelanders and visitors; it, like many other destinations in the country, was noticed by the producers of Game of Thrones.
Many of the scenes filmed ‘North of the Wall’ in Season 7, during the dramatic battle of the penultimate episode, were shot on Svínafellsjökull. The greater Vatnajökull was used throughout the series as the base to which the Wall itself is built with CGI.