Iceland – Glacier Caves or Ice Caves

Iceland – Glacier Caves or Ice Caves

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One of my reasons for visiting Iceland in the winter was to visit the beautiful Glacier Caves of Iceland. I had seen photos of the blue caves and had become fascinated. Visiting Iceland would solve two items I had really wanted to do. See the Northern Lights and Visit a Glacier Cave.

I wrote a post on shelter/food and transportation in Iceland if you require some feedback on these items: http://www.financegirltoronto.com/?p=10

We had originally planned to visit the Glacier Caves the second day of our trip. You need to drive approximately 5 hours from Reykjavik to reach either the office of the tour company or the Jokulsarlon Lagoon where you are picked up from for most of the Glacier Cave Tours.   We had bought tickets (4 of us) ahead of time from Canada from one of the tour companies for the 2nd day of our trip in February of 2015. We choose to do this, because it appeared most of the Ice Cave Tours in January and February were sold out. We wanted to visit in one of these months to maximize our chance of seeing the Northern lights, and as such needed to buy the tickets ahead of time.

As we explored the town on the day we landed we heard of a wind and snow storm warning for the next day for the area south east of Reykjavik. The area we would need to drive past to get to the Jokulsarlon Lagoon for our tour the next day. This made us sad, and the four us debated back and forth on whether we can drive through the storm to get to the Lagoon. The four of us were from Toronto and Ottawa in Canada. We were comfortable driving in heavy snow and in slippery conditions. We also had a 4 wheel rental.

We tried calling the tour company to see if they will be able to give us a different day tour (we were planning to be in Iceland for 7 days) . They didn’t have any other openings and they mentioned they may not be able to provide us a refund. This made us even further depressed. The tour cost approximately $200 CAD each. We decided we will wake up the next morning and see how the weather is.

The Day of the Storm

The next morning we got up early and tried driving toward Jokulsarlon Lagoon from Reykjavik. It was quite windy and it was snowing. We were used to the snow, but we were not used to winds of that speed. The combination of snow and wind made driving treacherous. Also the road was blocked. We were only able to drive out for 20 minutes before we found the road to be blocked. I guess the Icelandic authorities trying to protect the silly tourists who drives around in unsafe conditions? So we turned back and did other activities closer to Reykjavik that day. I also called and emailed the tour company explaining the situation and requesting a refund. We did get a refund, but it required a lot of follow through and negotiations on our part. I don’t think you would normally get a refund for a missed glacier tour. Most companies highlight when you book one line, that you will not get a refund due to bad weather conditions near where you are staying. This is because Iceland has different type of weather for different regions. You can drive in and out of a storm in an hour, and you may run into summer like conditions driving out of the storm. One of our fascinating discoveries during our time in Iceland.

That day I looked up other Glacier Tour companies to see if I can find another spot for the 4 of us. Luckily for us there was another opening with a different company. This time around we booked our tour with : http://www.iceguide.is/ . I had initially wanted to book with them based on all the reviews and research I had done, but at that time they didn’t have any openings. Luckily for us we were able to find a time slot for the 4 of us after we had to cancel our tour with another operator due to weather.

Our plan was to drive to Jokulsarlon Lagoon from Reykjavik early morning, do the tour and came back in the evening. This is what we did. I would actually recommend staying near the Lagoon for one night. This way you can do the drive at a slower pace and enjoy the drive itself more, and it gives you the opportunity to plan around bad weather conditions. Lesson learned for next time.

The Day of the Ice Cave

The drive between Reykjavik and Jokulsarlon is beautiful. It is one of the most diverse and beautiful drives I have done. The day of our tour, the weather was sunny which made the drive much more enjoyable. We saw beautiful snow covered mountains, stunning coast line, pulled over at waterfalls, black beaches, glacier pieces on a beach and just rugged, undeveloped scenery all throughout the drive. I think I enjoyed the drive as much as I enjoyed the blue glacier caves!

The photos below were taken by my very talented friend: Jessie G

On the way to Jokulsarlon

 

On the way to Jokulsarlon

 

On the way to Jokulsarlon

 

On the way to Jokulsarlon

 

On the way to Jokulsarlon

 

On the way to Jokulsarlon

Our glacier tour was around 3:15 pm. We left Reykjavik around 7:30 am so we could have some time at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon prior to the tour. We made some stops along the way, and made it to the lagoon. The Lagoon itself is stunningly beautiful. See some photos below. The Lagoon is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a road and a bridge. We crossed over the road to the beach on the other side. The beach with big chunk of ice is one of the most unique sights I have seen. Photos below.

We drove back toward west to the iceguide office. It is about 15 minutes from the Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Ice guide is a family run company owned by Oskar Arason and his wife Heiour Johannsdottir. Heiour registered us and provided us with the equipment needed to walk on the glacier. Oskar picked us up and another six people and drove us to the Crystal Cave on the Vatnajokull glacier.

Black Beach

 

Black Beach

 

Jokulsarlon Lagoon

 

Seals @ Jokulsarlon Lagoon

 

Black Beach

 

Glacier Piece on Black Beach

 

Jokulsarlon

It was a beautiful drive, and the crystal cave was just magical. It was worth going all the way to Iceland. Inside the cave it is actually blue with so many patterns in the ice. The ice has been frozen for thousands of years.  It is a truly unique sight and a must do if you have the opportunity to do so. I believe glacier caves like this where you have guided tours are rare! At least based on my searches. What we visited was a glacier cave. A glacier cave is formed by water flowing through the melting glacier in the summer. An Ice cave is a normal bedrock cave with ice inside it. I didn’t know this till I started researching the glacier caves in Iceland.  The brilliant blueness is only seen in a glacier cave.

See below for some photos of the beautiful glacier caves. We walked/crawled into the cave for about an hour and half and went back to our tour vehicle for the drive back to the office.

Vatnajökull Glacier

 

Crystal Glacier Cave

 

Crystal Glacier Cave

 

Crystal Glacier Cave

 

Crystal Glacier Cave

 

Crystal Glacier Cave

We thanked everyone, and headed back to Reykjavik. That night we were lucky enough to see the Northern lights! More on that in another post!

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