No matter the time of year you visit Iceland, did you know you can ice climb? So if you are an extreme sports enthusiast or someone who loves trying new things, this may be a wonderful journey to embark on. Ice climbing in Iceland is an activity that can really challenge you on all levels. Today we walk you through the best things to know about ice climbing throughout Iceland’s 13 glaciers!
Iceland has 13 Glaciers
Believe it or not only 11% of Iceland is covered in ice! Additionally within that percentage there are 13 main glaciers that are speckled throughout the tiny island in the North Atlantic. For example here are the names of the glaciers and the region of Iceland they can be found in.
Vatnajökull is the largest glacier and can be found in South to East Iceland.
Langjökull can be found West Central Iceland and is the second largest glacier in Iceland.
Hofsjökull is within the middle of the country.
Mýrdalsjökull can be found in Southern Iceland and our personal favorite glacier!
Drangajökull is found in the Westfjords region of Iceland.
Eyjafjallajökull is not only famous for the 2010 eruption that held airline travel hostage but it’s Iceland’s 6th largest. Find it in South Iceland.
Tungnafellsjökull is a highland glacier in Southern Iceland.
Þórisjökull is the closest glacier to Reykjavik.
Eiríksjökull is a small glacier outside of Reykjavik and near to Langjökull.
Þrándarjökull is the furthest East glacier in Iceland.
Tindfjallajökull is magical and can be spotted on a clear day while driving through Southern Iceland.
Torfajökull can be found north of Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
Snæfellsjökull is by far Iceland’s smallest glacier which can be found in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Which glacier intrigues you to do ice climbing in Iceland?
Glacier Outlets in South Iceland
Over 250 named glacier outlets are apart of the 13 larger glaciers. Don’t worry we won’t bore you with naming them all but we will give you a fantastic example of how that idea works!
To illustrate, Sólheimajökull is the primary and most easily accessed glacier outlet of Mýrdalsjökull. Then there are the lesser known ones Katlajökull, Sandfellsjökull, Oldufellsjökull and a few unnamed others. However, those are only accessed via an super jeep or hiking. Furthermore, you cannot do ice climbing in Iceland on all of them so it’s important to hire a local who knows the area well.
In short, Mýrdalsjökull is a really incredible glacier in Iceland. Why? Because there is a sub-glacier volcano lurking underneath it. Meanwhile another reason is that the glacier is dynamic and often referred to as a “black glacier” because of the black sands that surround it and pummel it.
Types of Iceland Ice Climbing
Meanwhile, when you think about ice climbing what do you think it entails? Likely, you know you’ll be harnessed in, have crampons on your feet, ice axes in your hands, and someone experienced belaying you. On the other hand, what type of ice climbing in Iceland will you embark on?
Ice Climbing Waterfalls can be an option if the wintertime is cold enough but it can be rare.
Glacier Ice Climbing in Vik is the most common throughout all of the glaciers in Iceland. Typically you hike for anywhere between 15 minutes to 2+ hours to find the right kind of wall to climb.
Cavern Ice Climbing is an interesting one. In fact, it is where you repel down into a hole in the glacier and you ice climb out. Can you get more #badass than that? Fun Fact: Most times there isn’t a bottom to the cavern if the temperatures are above freezing.
Ice Cave Climbing could mean you are climbing the walls inside of an ice cave.
Which type of Iceland ice climbing excites you most? Vik Expeditions would love to help you elevate your adventure!
Gear You Need for Ice Climbing in Vik
Preparing to do ice climbing in Iceland is easy if you have hired a local guide. For example, Vik Expeditions takes time and great care in preparing for your adventure. Hence the wonderful lists below…
What gear Vik Expeditions brings:
Ice Climbing crampons to fit your boots
Helmet graded for climbing
Ice Climbing Axes (there is a difference!)
Experienced local Vik ice climbing guide, Davíð Geir Jonasson. He’ll even bring jokes 😉
What Gear You Bring for Ice Climbing in Vik:
Insulated stiff hiking or ice climbing / mountaineering boots (ideally).
Eye protection (optional)
A “can do” positive attitude!
Year Round Ice Climbing in Vik
A common question we get asked often is. if ice climbing in Iceland is year round. The answer a bit fat YES! Although you may not be able to climb all 13 glaciers, or the countless outlets, you can give it your best try.
In Vik, our favorite glacier, Mýrdalsjökull actually has options for year round ice climbing that is 100% safe. The only difference between seasons is in winter, you may hike in snow and / or need a 4×4 as transport.
Truly, there is no better feeling than digging your toes into the side of a glacier and working your way up to the top! At the top you enjoy the view and the feeling of being oh-so accomplished! Bravo! Once you’ve conquered that wall a few times and it’s pitches, are you ready to try another?
How to Book Ice Climbing in Iceland
Often people are intimated or scared when they think about booking an ice climbing experience in Iceland. And you know what? That’s okay! Hiring a local guide in Vik for ice climbing will help take all of your worries and anxieties away.
Davíð, the owner of Vik Expeditions makes you feel not only comfortable but empowered as you learn how to ice climb in Iceland. He will take the time to patiently teach you techniques and encourage you as you scale up! Feel free to get in touch for more information on booking your private ice climbing in Iceland and specifically in Vik!
Vík í Mýrdal is a small town within the heart of Southern Iceland’s coastline. Typically has around 300-600 people (depending on the time of the year) who call it home. You may think it is small in population size compared to the rest of Iceland. But it truly boasts some of the most dynamic unforgettable landscape features! Also extremely rich in geology and local folklore!! Come along with me today as I share with you the very best guide to Vik Iceland!
History of our Connection with the town of Vík
Fun Fact: The direct translation of “Vík” actually means, bay. So as you travel around Iceland when you see places that end with “vik” then you’ll know it’s likely near water. Another fun tidbit is that this town has always been on my top places to explore in the world, not just Iceland. It all begins in 1994 when I’m 7 years old and I spend several weeks there with my mother wrangling horses for the Scandinavian television show, The Black Rider.
Next time turns into me scaling Mýrdalsjökull (Iceland’s 4th largest glacier) with ice climbing gear. Then finding myself on countless film sets creating special effects. For example, did you know Hollywood movies like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Noah, and Beowulf & Grendel, were all filmed around gorgeous town and glacier area that sits above it?
Come to Vik to Fall in Love
Furthermore, while actually on a film project… I met my wife just outside of the town of Vik. I was on the 2015 Bollywood film Dilwale. On the backside of the mountain named Hjörleifshöfði we met while she was photographing an Iceland wedding ceremony. Turns out our film team were the party crashes as my wife’s team had permission to be there and we didn’t. Later, we met formally back at Hotel Vik later that night and had a good laugh about her kicking us out!
Both of us having decades of admiration for the town of Vik and surrounding highland areas, we decided to purchase a summer house just outside of the town. As our love for glacier hiking, climbing, and extreme sports runs deep in us both so we needed to be closer to it! Currently, we are also venturing down the path of building our year round home at the top of the town (near to the hillside church). And of course getting the word out over this passion project of Vik Expeditions too! So let us begin with this inclusive guide to Vik…
How to Get to Vik Iceland
Getting to the town of Vik is easy if you rent your own car. From the KEF International Airport you can expect a travel time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. Furthermore, if coming from downtown Reykjavik you should plan for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Your guide to Vik will lead you to be driving on Route 1 (also called Þjóðvegur).
As soon as you pass Skogafoss Waterfall, you’re heading into the area of Vík í Mýrdal (or some refer to it has Mýrdalshreppur). Which is the entire area and not just the specific town. Certainly there is such a sense of mystery about journey there, the town itself, mountains, and coastline so savor it!
The best time to visit Vik Iceland would be year round. Additionally, it’s best to have a more flexible schedule during the winter months because of road closures (for extreme wind / snow). Summer months between June-August are very popular so it is best to have things booked at least 6 months in advance to ensure first choices.
Where to Stay in Vik
Once you have found your way to Vik, you’ll need somewhere to stay. I suggest you base yourself for 2-4 nights of your stay and longer if you want to elevate your adventure with Vik Expeditions! Likely, you will book this before you arrive but here is a short list of the best places to stay in and near to the town of Vik:
All cottages come with twin beds, desk and small bathroom.
Vik Iceland Restaurants
Where to eat in Vik may be your next question! Especially if you are a token “foodie” and want to explore the local food in Iceland. Allow this best guide to Vik to educate you! Special Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic occurring when this post was written, please be aware locations may have limited menus, hours, or days for opening. Therefore, it is best to contact the locations in advance to ensure no disappointments!
Interested in a 5 senses foodie experience for your dinner after trekking around all day? Iceland is a bit new to fine dining especially in the countryside. But you’re in luck! One of our favorite restaurants in Southern Iceland, just so happens to be in Vik…
Inside of Hotel Vík í Mýrdal, you’ll find a beautiful Scandinavian chic restaurant that is light and airy. From serving delicious things like locally caught Arctic Char, Pasta, local lamb and vegetarian dishes, you’ll find something for everyone here. Although it is a 4-5 star type dining experience in Vik, you can get away with wearing jeans and a sweater for attire. And if you’re tired after a long day of discovering, they can bring it to your room if staying in the hotel! Guide to Vik Tip: They are only open for dinner (and breakfast for guests).
Maybe instead of changing out of your hiking clothes you want to head to dinner right from your adventure… Casual dining options in Vik could be any of the following:
Sudur Vik sits up on the hill near to the church. They offer 2-3 levels of dining (including a bottom bar where they often show sporting events). In my personal opinion this is the best place in town to eat wood fired pizzas or a casual home cooked traditional meal. For example, they have all the favorites like Lamb, Arctic Char, Ribeye, Chicken, and even some Asian fusion dishes. Guide to Vik Tip: Highly suggest an in advance reservation before arriving.
Smiðjan Brugghús is relatively new establishment to the town. For you beer lovers, make sure this is a stop on your visit to Vik. They offer 10 beers on tap, a selection of 30 craft beers, burgers, ribs, and hot wings. Most days you can walk in, but if coming in as a group you need to have in advance reservations.
Strondin Pub is behind the N1 fuel station in the heart of the town. Offering true to form, “pub” food you’ll have a stellar view as you delight!
Drangar Restaurant can be found within Hotel Kria. Expect the unexpected with their menu. If you’re a picky eater, we do not recommend.
Halldórskaffi has simple tasty options such as a lamb sandwich, pasta, local fish and lamb. Know, it’s a super small old Icelandic house so space is very limited.
In hurry to get on to your next adventure or head to bed early? The best fast food options in Vik follow below. However, do not think just because they are “fast” doesn’t mean they lack quality or taste!
Víkurskáli is a cafeteria dining (inside of the N1 Fuel Station). Contrarily though, don’t let that discourage you! My wife and I eat weekly there often getting the Magistrate Burger, Marinated Lamb, Chicken Curry and Meat Soup! Super nice view of the Reynisdranger formations in the see too!
Ice Cave Bistro is another cafeteria style where you can order up wraps, salads, and other quickly made dishes.
N1 Gas Station for a traditional Icelandic Hot Dog! Iceland Travel Tip: If you want to go all in traditional, also grab a can of Coke and a Prince Polo Bar. This is the “road trip” food of Icelanders!
Top Nature Sights in Vik to See on Your Own
Nature is likely what will call you to this guide to Vik in the first place! In fact, countless editorials have boasted about the beaches here being the most dynamic and picturesque in the world! Allow me to share with you some of our favorite nature sights in Vik (and near to) that are a must see…
Dyrhólaey Sea Arch and Lighthouse (Guide to Vik Tip: The road leading up is often closed while birds are nesting between mid-May to mid-June).
Reynisfjara Black Beach (Note: Do not go near the water, they are riptide waves and are very dangerous!)
Hiring a local guide, tour, or embarking on an expedition is a fantastic way to elevate your experience in Vik. To illustrate, we will share with all of the local experts of their trade. Guide to Vik Tip: Always try to book directly with company versus one of the big box tour operators who just “sell” the tour. That way, the local guide doesn’t pay commission and you get a direct no-middle-man experience from start to finish!
Adventure Tours in Vik
The original ice cave tour company in Vik are our friends at Katlatrack. They offer an abundance of tour types to discover ice caves year round. We suggest booking the full “Katla Ice Cave Tour” for the best experience of Mýrdalsjökull.
Ready to challenge yourself to a day of ice climbing around Vik? I’m ready to craft a custom adventure to your skill level.
Still find yourself obsessed with Game of Thrones (GOT)? Vik was actually a film site and the team at Katlatrack are happy to share where they were on the GOT Hidden Mountains Tour!
Love cross country skiing? I’d be happy to show you our favorite routes around Vik during the snowy winter months!
Find yourself more in love with the idea of planning a trip here after this complete Vik Iceland Guide? You will not be disappointed if you take our advice. The town is also an awesome “base camp” for all of your Southern Iceland adventures.
For example, it makes seeing all of the large waterfalls in the south easy, Vatnajökull National Park, and the famed Glacier Lagoon area within a nice daily driving distance. Lastly, are you looking to elevate your adventure? We’ve love to hear from you if so! Contact us for more information!
Planning a trip to Iceland is often an adventure many look forward to for months or even years! So when you head down the road yourself, it’s important to understand the difference between choosing tours versus expeditions in Iceland. If you’re a more adventurous person or group the latter is likely going to be way more fun for you!
Tours versus Expeditions in Iceland
Are you a person who just loves to see highlights of a place and then move on to something else? Or are you a person who thrives on exploring, discovering, being in the moment, and witnessing things few have? Likely, if the last, choosing to embark on an expedition in Iceland will be way more beneficial to you. Either way it’s good to be aware of your limits both physically and mentally. Today we would love to educate you on the difference between tours and expeditions.
Tours in Iceland:
1 Day and typically between 1-6 hours.
Visit tourist locations or popular locations.
If booking a seat on an “open tour” then you are with who knows how many other folks. Most times tour company’s book slots for 6-35 people at one time. Maybe more too, especially if you choose to book a big box tour company (and not a local).
Rigid schedule, likely because they have another tour booked before or after yours.
Guides who may not care about your experience or enhancing it.
Not flexible to any personal requests.
Lunch nor any additional amenities are included.
No inclement weather reschedules.
You’ll feel rushed when you’re trying to explore.
Likely the van, bus, or super jeep you’ll be transported in will be packed with people you don’t know.
Expeditions in Iceland:
One to multi-day, typically between 6-12 hour days.
Local guide that 100% knows the area and how it changes to ensure they are prepared no matter what happens.
Mode of transport could be via super jeep, 4×4, or by power of your own two feet!!
Likely discovering more offbeat areas of Iceland where usual tourists do not venture. For example, the highlands or private property locations.
Expeditions are tiny and between 1-6 people maximum.
If booking with Vik Expeditions, you are guaranteed an private journey with your group by the owner!
Iceland expeditions into the highlands can involve other exciting adventures such as the following: Cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice climbing, glacier walking, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, zip lining and crossing rivers in a 4×4 or super jeep!
Personalized thoughtful service from start to finish.
Flexible schedule to ensure plan b, c, or d happens in case of weather challenges.
Intimate education of local geology and folklore from your driver-guide or hiking leader.
You’ll feel at ease when you explore the areas, not rushed! Plenty of time for photos, drone, and being 100% in the moment!! Possibly the biggest difference in tours versus expeditions.
Packing list included!
Unique amenities included!
Choosing the right Company
The differences in tours versus expeditions in adventure companies in Iceland can be huge so selecting the right one is important! To illustrate, the following topics will help you in choosing a company that would be a good fit:
The company having experience specifically in the area of the Icelandic highlands you want to discover.
Keeps the groups small (especially in the age of Covid-19).
Guides who are prepared to handle any truck problems, ensure your safety, and react carefully with weather changes.
Well maintained and prepared trucks. For instance, not leaking oil, falling a part, GPS, radio, shovel, winch / tow rope, tire repair kit, etc.
Intact gear (IE, helmets, headlamps, crampons, hiking poles, and ice axes are safe and cleaned).
Flexible schedules or re-booking if extreme weather (or road closures) challenge the days plan.
First aid trained drivers / guides.
Reviews, speak for themselves so read them!
What Kind of Adventure in Iceland Will You Have?
Endless adventures await you in Iceland. In comparing boring tours versus expeditions… What gets you excited? Here are few things that makes us smile at Vik Expeditions…
Ice climbing to remote ice caves or tunnels.
Walking on Iceland’s 4th largest glacier.
Taking a super jeep into the highlands of Iceland and cross county skiing out.
Hiking and then wild camping.
Abseiling down into a cavern in the glacier and ice climbing out.
Trekking to remote waterfalls or non-touristy hot springs.
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) in a glacier lagoon exploring glacier edges and then embarking on a hike to a canyon very few have ever explored!
Having a BBQ at a glacier, highland waterfall or beside a roaring river.
Witnessing the illusive Northern lights or wildlife in Iceland (think arctic fox and countless bird species.
Waterfall hunting in the highlands.
Taking a zip-line over a fiercely powerful glacier river!
Having a helicopter take you to the top of a mountain in Iceland that takes 10 hours to hike up, seeing the view, and hiking back down!
The possibilities for expeditions in Iceland are endless and we would love to craft an unforgettable custom adventure for you!!
Booking Vik Expeditions
Being based and local to Southern Iceland, means that Davíð Geir at Vik Expeditions knows how the glacier areas ebb and flow. Furthermore, with his 14+ years of service to the SAR team and being an avid mountaineer he can skillfully get you in and out of areas flawlessly! Not only all that, but he thrives on discovering and exploring, which in turn then sets the stage for you to have the best experience driven adventure day! Feel free to contact us for more information!
Searching for a trusted fun local guide in Iceland can be tough to fine among all of the big box tour operators. Some of those may even lead you to believe they offer “personalized” service and tours but when you show up it’s just another random guide and cookie cutter tour. < Insert sad face > But don’t fret, allow Vik Expeditions to come to the rescue!
Who is Vik Expeditions?
Vik Expeditions is the passion project of Davíð Geir Jonasson, turned business. Best way businesses are born, eh? Need to niche! It was his belief that Iceland lacked a local adventure company which focuses on crafting UNIQUE experience driven tours. Not offering cookie cutter “open tours” which fall short in time and flexibility.
Rather, it’s the mission to provide a list of ideas / options and he further creates your own unique EXPERIENCE within! After all, you’ve come all this way to Iceland to do something super memorable and DIFFERENT than the rest of your friends and family may have done. Why not book an adventurous day with a local to the area who will offer a very different kind of adventurous day for you!
Davíð’s love for mountaineering and sharing moments with people runs deep… To say you’re in good hands would be an understatement! To illustrate, he has been a part of the Icelandic SAR team (search and rescue) for 14+ years. During those years he participated in countless training’s, specific educational courses, and been a part of some of the most challenging rescue missions in Iceland’s history. Feel free to read more on our about page to understand further why Vik Expeditions is so different!
Fun Facts About Your Expedition Leader Davíð:
Born in Reykjavik but always drawn to the mountains in the South of Iceland (hence being based in Vik)!
He has hiked 100’s of mountain ranges across 6 continents (still needs Australia under his belt)!
Spent over 10 years in the film industry creating special effects for Hollywood films such as the following: Walter Mitty; Prometheus; Interstellar; Thor; Aqua-man; Noah; Star Wars, etc!
Some people refer to him as a “Human Dictionary.”
Had legally performed a wedding ceremony in Antarctica!
Ice Climbed on more glaciers than he can count!
His jokes and sarcasm will keep you laughing!!
Has mad awesome super jeep driving skills!
Can problem solve his way out of any situation.
Also has an entrepreneur wife and 2 bengal cats!
Why We are Here for You:
Vik Expeditions mission is to share with you a side of Iceland that will give you goosebumps and leave you inspired on all fronts. Providing you a true unique experience you cannot buy with any other big box tour company. It only comes from a local guide who is your everything on a tour and understands the reasons as to why people choose adventure.