Last updated: 26 June, 2023
Glaciers – vast sheets of permanently frozen ice – are remnants of the last Ice Age which have never melted – at least not yet. Sadly, due to climate change, many of them are now retreating at an alarming rate.
With more than 11% of its land surface covered, and over 269 named glaciers, Iceland is probably the best destination in the world to explore these wonders of nature. They are relatively easy to access here too, and served by plentiful, well-run tours for adventure enthusiasts.
There are many different ways to explore the ice: on a glacier walk, by snowmobile or via a scenic flight.
Hiking on a glacier is the best way to see the ice up close: using crampons and ice-poles, you’ll trek out onto the glacier in the company of an experienced guide to see crevasses, seracs, ice caves and other formations.
Snowmobiling is a much more high-octane activity: wrapped up in polar-style suits, you’ll race over the ice at surprisingly fast speeds. It takes time to master, but it’s hugely thrilling fun.
Ice cave tours
Iceland is also one of the best places to see ice caves. These magical subterranean spaces glint and dazzle with polar colours, while strange ice sculptures adorn the walls, floor and ceiling. Little wonder they’re often featured in Icelandic myths as the homes of trolls, elves and other creatures.
Some of them are actually rock caves that are coated with ice, but there are also pure ice caves (usually located inside glaciers). Some are semi-permanent, while others only exist for short spaces of time before the ice swallows them up again.
These can usually only be reached on a guided glacier hike; many glacier tours include a tour of one or more along the way.