Complete guide to glacier hiking in Iceland

Glacier Hiking in Iceland (Review & Practical Tips)

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If you are reading this then you probably already know that a glacier hike is one of the must-do activities in Iceland. Summer or winter, a walk on the ice is an unforgettable experience.

This practical guide should answer all your questions about glacier hiking in Iceland: when and where to go, what to expect, what to wear, and where to book the best glacier tour at any time of the year. Find out!

At the bottom of this article, you can also find a map indicating all the best locations where you can do a glacier hike in Iceland at any time of the year.

 

Glacier Hike in Iceland – Our Experience

First, let me start by sharing a short review of our experience of the glacier walk we did on the Solheimajokull glacier in winter. Solheimajokull Glacier is only 2 hours drive from Reykjavik and can easily be visited as a day trip from Reykjavik (check availability here).

Alternatively, you can book a tour that starts at the glacier itself. This is what we did – the glacier hike was a part of our 7-day winter road trip in Iceland.

We started our glacier hiking tour by meeting our guides at Sólheimajökull Café. Two certified guides accompanied us on the hike. They helped us to fit the crampons and the helmets and explained what to expect on the glacier and how to stay safe.

Glacier hiking is not something to be attempted on your own! Not only do you need special equipment to walk on the ice, but you should also only go on the glacier with people who are familiar with the area and have the necessary training to deal with any unexpected situations that may occur.

Glacier hiking guides in Iceland
Our glacier hike guides
 

Glacier hiking is a group activity. So unless you are lucky enough to book a tour on a very quiet day you will not be hiking on your own. Not that it matters much, there is plenty of ice for everyone ;).

After everyone in the group received the right equipment we started our hike towards the glacier. A few years ago the glacier used to be close to the café, now it’s a 30-40 minute walk before you even reach the ice.

Once you get to the glacier you have to put on the crampons and then the actual glacier hiking starts. But not before you take an obligatory picture with an ice ax of course ;).

Glacier hike tour in Iceland - review and practical tips
Ready for the adventure

The first part of the hike is a bit steep as you have to climb onto the glacier. You definitely need those crampons and ice axes here! In general, the glacier hike is really not strenuous and once you understand how to use the equipment it’s really fun.

The first thing that strikes you is that the glacier is covered in black ash – this is a result of various volcano eruptions.

Hiking on the Solheimajokull glacier in Iceland
Landscape at Solheimajokull glacier

The guides told us more about the glaciers and showed us some deep crevasses where you could also do some ice climbing. They also took us to some beautiful glacier formations – I had never seen so many shades of blue!

TIP: If you are interested in ice climbing, you should consider this popular tour.

We spent about an hour – an hour and a half on the ice. After the glacier hike we took off the crampons and walked back to the car parking. The whole experience from the start to the end took us about 3 hours.

Hiking on Solheimajokull glacier in Iceland
Hiking on Solheimajokull glacier
 

Practical Information for Glacier Hiking in Iceland

Below, you can find some practical information and useful tips you should know when thinking of hiking on a glacier in Iceland. Read on!

Who can do a glacier hike?

A regular glacier hike that doesn’t involve any ice climbing is a relatively easy family-friendly activity. Everyone in a reasonable physical condition can do a glacier hike. We had a couple of 70-year olds in our group and they managed just fine.

Children have to be at least 8 years old to participate. I think it has more to do with the minimum shoe size for the crampons than with their actual age. Just a few years ago, this age limit was 10 years, so maybe they all acquired some smaller crampons in the meantime…

When is the best time to do a glacier walk in Iceland?

Glacier hiking is a year-round activity. You can find a variety of glacier walking tours in summer and in winter.

Best places to go glacier hiking in Iceland + MAP

There are several places where you can go glacier hiking in Iceland. Below are the most popular locations for glacier hiking in Iceland. I also included a map to help you plan your trip. You can either book a tour from Reykjavik or directly at one of these locations (see further down for more information).

  • Solheimajokull Glacier is an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull glacier. This is one of the most popular choices for glacier hiking due to its proximity to Reykjavik. It’s also conveniently located en-route to the most popular landmarks of the South Coast of Iceland (Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, Vik beach, etc.). You can book a tour on Solheimajokull glacier at any time of the year.
  • Svinafellsjokull Glacier in Skaftafell National Park is another popular choice that is accessible the whole year. Svinafellsjokull is a glacier tongue of the huge Vatnajokull Glacier (with over 8,100 km² it’s more than three times the size of the country of Luxembourg). Here you can find tours that start here.
  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Many ice cave tours start here even though the actual ice cave location is usually in the Skaftafell National Park. Ice caves inside the glacier can be visited in winter only (+- late October to March). Here you can book ice cave tours in this area.

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse to zoom in or out. Click on the icons on the map to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

What to wear for a glacier hike in Iceland

You don’t need to bring any special equipment for a glacier hike. The helmets, crampons, ice axes, and all the other necessary equipment is provided by the tour organizers.

No matter when you go walking on the glacier – in summer or in winter – you need to wear warm clothing and sturdy hiking shoes.

Depending on the season, you will need more or fewer layers of clothes for the glacier hike. But the items I listed above are a must in any season.

We did the glacier walk in November and it was freezing cold. In the beginning, it was so cold that some people even wore a thin hat under the helmet. I didn’t have one that would fit under the helmet, so I used my polar buff at first. However, you quickly warm up by walking. By the end of the hike, it was even too warm.

Here you can find more information on what to wear in Iceland in winter and what to wear and what to pack for Iceland in summer.

Complete guide to glacier hiking in Iceland including tips on what to wear
You need sturdy hiking shoes to be able to fit the crampons

Best glacier hiking tours in Iceland

There are many companies offering glacier tours in Iceland. Glacier hiking is very popular and the tours often sell out. So no matter which season you go, you best book them in advance.

Below you can find a selection of some of the best glacier hike tours in Iceland. The prices are the same everywhere, therefore I recommend booking the tours through GetYourGuide because of their most flexible cancellation policy.

If you are planning a winter trip to Iceland, you may also want to check this article for more unforgettable Iceland winter day trips from Reykjavik and this one for the most amazing winter activities in Iceland.

Below, you can also find some practical information for visiting Iceland. Take a look!

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Glacier hike in Iceland: our experience and practical tips for your trip
 

Comments

  1. Hi Jurga, amazing article, Just planning a day trip to south coast and glacier hiking. I’m currently looking at dates and based on the weather I have two options, a sunny day and a partly cloudy/cloudy day. Does it matter? The sunny day I need to make a separate booking outside of GYG because it’s sold out on the sunny day already (maybe just coincidence?). I’m getting the weather forecast from the Iceland Met Office. Thanks for your help!

    1. Author

      Hi Fernando, I really wouldn’t book this based on the weather because, well, it’s Iceland and in generally, the weather will change at least five times a day anyway. It can change five times while you’re walking on the glacier… 🙂
      Just book the day that best suits your schedule, dress appropriately for the weather, and enjoy it!
      Hope this helps.

  2. Do you use your arms for climbing and pulling yourself up or is it more a flat path that you hike/walk? I had shoulder surgery and will be in PT at the time of our trip, but I would hate to miss this opportunity. I am 44 and in decent physical shape…..workout 3 times a week. I will have no limitations from my doctor. I am just curious to know how much I would need to use my shoulder. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Laura, the hike is actually really easy and most of the time you just walk. It’s only in the beginning that you need to get up on the ice, and for that you have to use the ice axes. It’s not that you have to pull yourself up or anything, it’s more an extra support in case you’d slip. It didn’t strike me as being physically challenging in any way.
      But I’m not really sure what to tell you in your specific situation. I guess it also depends on which shoulder it is and which hand you’d normally use…
      Hope this helps a bit, but it’s only you who can decide if it’s something you can do at this time.
      Enjoy your trip!

  3. I was a little intimidated to do it, but I had the experience of a lifetime.😁

    1. Author

      Good to hear that, Nancy. Glad you enjoyed the glacier hike.
      Happy travels!

  4. Great advice! Now I really want to go to Iceland and do a glacier walk 🙂

    1. Author

      Thank you, Emily. Glad to hear this post inspired you to visit Iceland!

  5. I did this last December and the day I went was terrible weather. It was SO COLD and wet. I regretted not having waterproof pants. Your pics are breathtaking.

    1. Author

      I can definitely imagine how cold it would be if it’s raining and there is lots of wind on the glacier, Cherene. As for everything, and definitely in Iceland, right clothing can make or break your trip. Thanks for sharing your experience – I am sure it will help the other readers!

  6. This is just amazing .I am sure it must be difficult also. I wish I get such an opportunity to explore Iceland. Thanks for sharing

    1. Author

      It wasn’t really difficult, Madhu. You walk a bit funny though, but it’s not really physically challenging. I haven’t tried ice climbing – I think that would be much more of a challenge. Someone said they tried it and it was ‘hard, boring, and cold’ 🙂 Glacier hiking is none of the above 😉

  7. A glacier hike was one of the thing on my list of things to do in Iceland, but I missed out on it because my knees were far too stiff from my previous hikes. Really should’ve done the glacier first!

    1. Author

      Sorry to hear that, Anne. Maybe next time – here’s a good reason to return to Iceland 😉

  8. This would have been an incredible experience! We missed out on the opportunity of a glacier hike when visiting New Zealand some years ago, but I guess this just gives us a good excuse to go back or even visit Iceland next time.

    1. Author

      Absolutely! It’s always good to have something to look forward to and an excuse to travel more 😉

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