When you go to Iceland, it seems like there are a million outdoor activities to choose from. Which waterfalls are the most beautiful and which hiking trails in Lanmannlaugar should you trek? When planning an Iceland itinerary, one thing is for sure. You definitely need to include a glacier hike on your list of excursions. Taking a tour where you go walking on a glacier is going to be one of the highlights of your trip. If you’ve ever seen those pictures of trekkers making their way across the crevices of an icy giant on TripAdvisor, you know what I’m talking about.
Iceland’s Skaftafell Glacier
Skaftafell glacier is located in Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in Iceland. Skaftafell Nature Reserve used to be its own separate entity but it was absorbed a few years back and now falls under Vatnajokull’s jurisdiction. It’s currently considered a zone within the larger national park.
Skaftafell is a part of Vatnajökull glacier, the colossus from which the park gets its name. The icy mammoth is great for the ultimate adventure of hiking a glacier in Iceland. Nature lovers will want to explore this massive ice caps during their trip. There are actually three separate activities when it comes to Iceland glaciers. They are glacier hikes, which we will discuss today, ice caves, glacier caves.
Guide to Iceland’s Skaftafell Glacier Hike
Skaftafell glacier is massive, and hiking it can be a bit of a challenge. I would put it at between an easy to medium difficulty. Check with the glacier tour you want to do as some are recommended for adults with a good fitness level. Others are rated easy and can be completed by children as young as eight. The glacier treks tend to last between three and four hours. There also might be some steep ice climbs involved, so be sure to build up your stamina.
Safety and Preparation
When you go to hike Skaftafell, it’s important to dress warmly. Be sure to pack the right winter layers and types of clothing so that you can stay warm and dry. Waterproof pants are a must, in addition to wool thermal underwear and insulated layers.
You need to be able to peel them off as you heat up during your hike. Something that doesn’t occur to many people is to bring sunscreen with them. Just as with skiing, if you’re doing your hike on a sunny day, the sun’s rays can bounce off the ice and give you a sunburn after several hours of exposure. If you go on a half-day glacier hike in nice weather, you’ll be happy you packed your sunscreen.
Glacier Hiking Gear
When you show up at the tour office, you’ll be given a helmet and ice crampons to attach to your hiking boots. Your boots need to be real, waterproof hiking boots with a thick sole. If you don’t have this special type of footwear, you can rent it from the tour provider when you show up for the excursion.
Depending on the glacier tour you take, you might also get a harness with rope and an ice axe. It all depends upon the difficulty of your hike and the terrain you will encounter.
Are There Glacier Hikes All Year Round?
Glacier hikes in Iceland are typically considered one of the more common winter activities. This is because in the summer, temperatures rise above the freezing point and many parts of the glacier start to melt. This creates slippery conditions for hikers who might fall down onto the hard surface if they’re not careful. You’ll be doing a lot of ascending and descending, so you want to make sure you have steady footing.
That being said, glacier hikes are offered all year long in Iceland. The tour operator and your guide will always pay attention take care to make sure they’re taking you places that are safe. They inspect the ice and only take you to zones where your safety is guaranteed. They also care that you’re not going beyond your comfort zone or level of ability, so just communicate with them if you need a break. These knowledgeable professionals know that we are dealing with some pretty extreme elements, and completely have your safety in mind.
Hiking Iceland’s Skaftafell Glacier
Hiking a glacier in Iceland is a once in a lifetime opportunity. These beautiful mountains of ice are not found in many places around the world. It’s man (or woman) versus nature as you trek across the frosty expanse before you. The unforgettable views from Iceland’s glacier are one reason they chose to film Game of Thrones here. And if it’s good enough for Jon Snow, it’s good enough for you.
Remember to book in advance so that you reserve your spot on a glacier tour. You wouldn’t want to miss out for one of the few opportunities you’ll have to hike Skaftafell glacier. Happy trekking!