9 Types of Ice Caves in Iceland

Ice Caves in Iceland

Likely if you’re taking a trip to Iceland during wintertime, you have exploring ice caves on your token “to do” list.  So as you plan your adventurous trip throughout the dynamic landscape, you might be curious as to where in Iceland may be the very best areas for seeing ice caves.  South Iceland is hands down the answer.  There are countless glacier outlets and secret areas that are home to many different types of ice caves.  Vik Expeditions is extremely lucky that one very beautiful area is in our backyard of Vik Iceland.  So come along with us as we share with you the Top 9 Types of Ice Caves in Iceland!

Vik Ice Cave Guide:

Our Vik Expeditions team is Vik Iceland based and is excited to share with you potentially year-round ice caves!  Previously, it was thought that ice caves in Iceland were only stable to go into during the months of late November to mid-March (official ice cave season).  For instance, this is when the temperatures in Iceland allow for safe exploration.  But the good news is because of the growth in tourism and our little town of Vik, there are those of who work in  creative solutions.  We scout ahead of time and access the areas with strategy and great care.

First, if embarking on a Vik ice cave expedition, you’ll get an education before heading to the glacier area on what to expect.  Second, if needed, there may be the creation of steps, a ladder fastened, handrails (via ropes and ice screws (as needed). Third, you’ll be equipped with top of the line gear to explore in (IE, helmet with headlamp, crampons, axe).  Fourth, this will make your experience the best, most enjoyable, and safest possible!

Please Note: Due to the nature of how the glaciers in Iceland are changing daily and constantly receding, we can never guarantee what type of ice cave you will see on an ice cave expedition booked with us, but you’ll see something crazy cool!  Meanwhile this is especially true if coming in summer (May-September).

How Long Do Ice Caves Last?

The longevity of an ice cave can vary depending on conditions.  For instance, the season, temperature, rain, sun can all make the glacier area change rapidly.  However, we have had some last for 6-16 months to others that only last 4 weeks.

Furthermore, the interesting thing about our side of the Vik Iceland glacier caves is that they are often insolated by sand (creating a “black ice” look) which in turn allows them to thrive longer.  Many times if an ice cave recedes back, it transforms into a different type of ice cave in Iceland so it can be a really cool experience no matter what!

Top 8 Types of Ice Caves in Iceland:

One thing you must know and remember is that all glaciers are alive.  In fact, they ebb and flow so from day to the next it will never be the same.  But that is one of the most exciting things about exploring one.  Because your friend may have seen an ice cave but on the day you go it will look totally different.  Truly supplying you with a once in a lifetime experience!

1- Waterfall Ice Cave:

Waterfall ice caves are typically the most interesting to explore because they keep evolving each day.  They grow in height and recede back because of the glacier river running through it.  Typically inside you will find many different textures and tones from white ice, to black and the famed blue ice.

Many times this type of ice cave will require you to be fearless (IE, Not scared of heights or claustrophobic) as it will likely require you to wear crampons and crouch down (not standing tall) in order to explore.  Sometimes it even requires ropes, a harness, standing on an ice ledge, or ice climbing too!  Talk about elevating your adventure with a Ice Caves in Iceland!

2- Tunnel Ice Cave:

More often than not, the ice cave that survives the longest throughout the summer months (and most often found) is a tunnel ice cave.  However, if you tend to be claustrophobic this may not be a easy experience for you, but may be an excellent opportunity to conquer that fear!

Entrance heights and overall ice cave tunnel heights can vary from 3 feet to 6 feet and can grow bigger as the cave recedes.  The caves offer incredible textures though once inside.  As you will see the grooves and divots of the walls and likely witness blue, black, and white ice.  Will this be the type of ice caves in Iceland you will experience?

3- Moulin Ice Caves in Iceland:

Next, a sinkhole ice cave is created by a moulin which in geo terms means that water powerfully ran over that surface spot until it had enough pressure to “sink in.”  As the glacier begins to break part and recede back the area merges into one massive ice cave!

These types of ice caves in Iceland is a personal favorite of our team too.  Why?  Because there are so many options for exploring. For instance, you can go in traditionally but those who seek more adventure can elevate by rappelling through the sinkhole!

4- Arch Ice Cave:

As big caves (all types) begin to recede and break apart, they often leave fantastic and almost artistic ice arch caves!  Although, they are stable enough to be photographed under, you can often stand in front!  Some may say an arch ice cave is the most picturesque type of Ice Caves in Iceland to photograph.  What do you think?

5- Crevasse:

A crevasse ice cave happens when the glacier begins to move.  It forms a deep crack or can be views as a break in the ice that starts to open.  They are very exciting to visit because you feel like you are part of history, witnessing all of the layers of different types of ice.

6- Ponded Water Ice Cave:

The most photographed type of ice cave worldwide is the traditional “ponded water” ice cave.  It is the clearest, pure, and creates the illusion of a crystal look many seek.  This is not a super common type of ice cave to witness at our offbeat / non-touristy side of the glacier, but it does happen.  The conditions at the glacier area have to be right…

The creation of a ponded water ice cave in Vik Iceland begins with partly how the sinkhole ice cave is created with that water melting a hole into the glacier.  Once it has done that the water redirects itself to drain to the lowest point of the glacier where the glacier “spring water” begins to freeze and grow out.  These type of ice caves are only viewable during the formal ice cave season of December – March and are dependent upon freezing temperatures to remain stable.

7- Iceberg Ice Cave

Winter is a really exciting time in Iceland because with the large amounts of snow at the glaciers and freezing temperatures often allow for new and unique ice caves to be born.  But wait, what could that mean?  It means that when our glacier lagoon freeze, there is a chance that we may find an ice cave within an iceberg that use to be floating?

Kinda blows your mind a little bit, right?  Once floating iceberg is now frozen but perfectly positioned into an ice cave.  These kind of ice caves in Iceland are rare and all of the stars need to align to make it work…

First, you need an iceberg to exist with an ice cave in it.  Second, the lagoon in which it calls home needs to freeze.  Third, it needs to be under freezing temps for many days (if not weeks).  Fourth, you go on an expedition with a guide that knows the area and the safest route to it.  Best chance for this would be in late January to mid-February (from our experience).

8- Blue or Black Ice Caves in Iceland:

Light overall creates the effect of blue or black ice so this can actually happen in any type of ice cave in Iceland.  But it begins with snow falling onto the glacier, being compressed, as the ice crystals and divots enlarge over time, they squeeze out air bubbles.

This can make the ice appear colorless (clear / crystal), blue when lots of light is coming in or black on our glacier mainly because of the black volcanic sand.  The size of the blue or black ice caves can vary depending on the glacier and season.

9- Man Made Ice Caves

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on who you are or how you look at things we have man made ice caves in Iceland.  Which is fabulous for those of you not interested in hiking or putting on gear.  In fact, they are even accessible from Reykjavik with ease too!  First, the closest one is at the Perlan.  Second one is found in Langjökull (glacier closest to Reykjavik) and is run by the team, Into the Glacier.

Word of Warning about Glacier Ice Caves in Iceland:

Please remember that it is never safe to enter into an ice cave by yourself.  You need proper gear, local knowledge of how the area shifts, skill going in and out, and maybe even a gas meter too depending on the area.  It is always best to hire a local guide who is both capable in driving a super jeep to get you there and also competent on the glacier itself.

Quicksand is very real and dangerous along with ice falling or not knowing how to use crampons correctly.  Please look to booking a custom ice cave expedition from Vik Iceland, before considering an adventure on your own.

Love this list of 9 Types of Ice Caves in Iceland blog post?  Our Vik Expeditions team would love to take you out on an offbeat ice cave adventure during your South Iceland self-drive journey!  Feel free to contact us to get started elevating your adventure!

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