Your Ultimate Guide to Sólheimajökull

discover iceland , adventure ground
Panoramic views over Sólheimajökul outlet glacier
Björgvin Hilmarsson

All right stop, collaborate and listen. Because this blog post is all about ice ice, baby. And not just any ice — sorry, cubes — but the massive and majestic Sólheimajökull glacier, where Icelandic Mountain Guides has an epic base camp for you to use as a jumping off point for all your adventures in the area.

So zip up your parka and clickity-clack over on your crampons to learn all about Sólheimajökull.

All about Sólheimajökull

Sólheimajökull is one of Icelandic Mountain Guides’ favourite places in the country. That aforementioned base camp of ours is practically second home for many of our guides, who spend just as much time atop the glacier as they do down on less frozen ground. but rather than wax poetic about all the reasons we think you should plan a visit to Sólheimajökull when you’re in Iceland, we’re going to use this space to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the glacier to impart some Sólheimajökull facts.

Um, how do I even pronounce that?

Sólheimajökull is pronounced like “soul-hey-ma-yo-cull.” But, the “ll” in Icelandic actually makes an airy clicking sound that’s hard to explain, but sounds kind of like Donald Duck saying the letter ’t’. Easy peasy, right?

Perhaps easier to grasp is what “Sólheimajökull” translates to. In English, it is “Home of the Sun Glacier,” which sounds just about as dreamy as the glacial landscape is in reality.

What type of glacier is Sólheimajökull?

Sólheimajökull is actually an outlet glacier of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier. An outlet glacier is a valley glacier branching off an ice cap or ice sheet. As it is sitting prominently atop the volcano Katla, Mýrdalsjökull is an ice cap. Sólheimajökull, meanwhile, trails off Mýrdalsjökull to its southwest into the adjacent valley. It measures around 8 km long and 2 km wide.

The shapes of outlet glaciers, like Sólheimajökull, are dictated by the mountainous landscape beneath all that ice. But the glacier is also changing the land beneath and around it. For example, the lagoon at the base of Sólheimajökull is growing at the rate of one Olympic size pool per year as the glacier melts as a result of global warming.

How far is Sólheimajökull from Reykjavík?

Driving along Iceland’s iconic Ring Road, Sólheimajökull is 165 km from Reykjavík. That would take you around 33 hours to walk, but luckily Icelandic Mountain Guides’ offers a selection of tours starting in Reykjavík. Or you could, you know, drive yourself. That’ll take around two and a half hours and the amazing views don’t quit.

What direction are you driving (or walking) in? Sólheimajökull is almost smack dab in the middle of Iceland’s south coast. So, if you’re coming from Reykjavík, head southwest, and if you’re coming from Vík, Kirkjubæjarklaustur or Höfn, head east. If you’re coming in from Reykjahlíð, it’s dealer’s choice. Just make sure you head out in time to start your adventure at our Sólheimajökull Base Camp.

How long to spend at Sólheimajökull glacier?

Sólheimajökull is part of Icelandic Mountain Guides’ Adventure Ground, a stunning swath of terrain in South Iceland marked by outlet glaciers, black sands, glacial lagoons and hiking trails. There are so many ways to experience Sólheimajökull and the surrounding area, that you could easily spend a few days there hiking, ice climbing, kayaking and riding ATVs.

A single activity on or around Sólheimajökull will run anywhere from 2.5 to 10 hours, depending on what you choose to do. Check out your options here.

Can you hike Sólheimajökull glacier without a guide?

The short and sweet answer to this question is a resounding “no.” Sure, nobody will be standing guard to make sure you don’t clamber up onto the glacier, but there also won’t be anyone there to ensure you don’t fall into a crevasse. It’s just not a smart idea to venture onto Sólheimajökull or any other glacier without adequate training or the guidance of one of Icelandic Mountain Guides’ experts.

In addition to keeping you safe, a guide will regale you with fascinating stories about the glacier while you explore, elevating the activity from a basic walk to a real experience.

So, where can I park?

If your biggest concern during your trip to Iceland is where to park when visiting Sólheimajökull, we’d say you’re doing pretty well. Luckily, parking is no problem, either. Just follow the signs to Icelandic Mountain Guides’ Sólheimajökull Base Camp and you’ll see where to safely leave your trusty vehicle while you’re off having the time of your life.

People exploring the glacier close up.
Björgvin Hilmarsson

IMG's top reasons to visit Sólheimajökull

The guide standing on a rock with the glacier in the background

Beauty

There really are few things as incredible to experience as a glacier. Sólheimajökull is a living mass of ice, dazzling in its shades of white and aqua and displaying its long history in its sometimes visible alternating layers of ice and ash. The beauty of a glacier is something you can only really appreciate in person.

Accessibility

One nice thing about Sólheimajökull for visitors to Iceland is its relative accessibility. The outlet glacier reaches down from Mýrdalsjökull toward the Ring Road as if handing out an invitation for passers by to come closer and explore. Our Sólheimajökull Base Camp makes an adventure on the glacier that much easier. We’ve even got all the equipment you need to do check out the ice safely and in style.

The guide helping a girl stepping over a small crevasse
A group of people paddleing between the ever-changing icebergs of Sólheimajökull.

Varied Experiences

Hand in hand with the accessible location of Sólheimajökull is the variety of ways there are to experience it. You can join us for an easy-going glacier walk, try out some ice climbing, or even see the glacier from the water while kayaking in Sólheimajökull’s lagoon.

Disappearing Landscapes

Sorry to be the bearer or bad news, but Sólheimajökull — like the rest of the Earth’s glaciers — is a “see it while you still can” attraction. Yep, Sólheimajökull is melting. As we mentioned above, Sólheimajökull is receding by up to 50 metres per year as climate change warms the earth. So do come and experience this stunning glacier while you can and be inspired to enact changes to ensure the longevity of these natural wonders.

The guide holding up a piece of ice
Guide from Icelandic Mountain Guides drinking glacier water on Sólheimajökull
Björgvin Hilmarsson

Best tours to take on and around Sólheimajökull

People posing for picture on Sólheimajökull glacier whilst on a glacier walk
Björgvin Hilmarsson

Planning your trip to Sólheimajökull

Once you’ve decided you want to experience Sólheimajökull during your trip to Iceland, it’s time to make some serious plans. Like many other aspects of travelling in Iceland, the accessibility of the glacier, its lagoon and the surrounding trails is dependent on the weather. In fact, a lot of activities are only possible to embark on during the spring and summer, so be sure to check out all your options departing from our Sólheimajökull Base Camp and plan your trip accordingly.

Another aspect of your Sólheimajökull adventure the weather will dictate is your attire. Here is what we would recommend wearing when visiting Sólheimajökull:

Base layer

  • Start with a base layer of clothing made from wool, silk or polyester. The base layer is meant to wick moisture away from your skin and provide light, quick-drying insulation. Don’t wear a cotton base layer — it will absorb your sweat and make you colder.

Mid layer

  • Add a layer to provide insulation and retain your body heat, while remaining breathable. The best materials for this layer are wool, fleece or goose down.

Outer shell

  • Top it off with an outer layer that will protect the other layers — and you — from the rain, wind and snow. This layer should be lightweight and quick-drying, like Gore-Tex or eVent.

Footwear

  • Choose appropriate footwear for your hike and the weather conditions, including wool or synthetic socks, and sturdy hiking boots or hiking shoes.
The guide assisting a girl crossing a small crack in the ice
Björgvin Hilmarsson

Why Book a Guided Tour in Iceland

We may be biased — you know, being a veteran adventure tour provider in Iceland — but we’re big fans of travellers booking guided tours while in Iceland. While one of the more obvious reasons to book a tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides is because it takes the guess work out of your adventure since we’ll take care of the itinerary and planning for you. Also, while you can see many of the same things on a guided or DIY hike or trek, only an experienced glacier guide can safety bring you or your travel group up on top of a glacier or into the glacial caves that are off the beaten path and far from other travellers clambering to score that epic Instagram shot.

And Ice climbing? That’s most definitely an activity when you’ll want an experienced guide at your side.

Another perk of booking a guided tour to Sólheimajökull is that it gives you the chance to not just see the amazing outlet glacier, you’ll learn about it, too.

Should you book in advance?

We highly recommend booking your tours on and around Sólheimajökull in advance. If the hike or tour you're interested in is fully booked, just be in touch and Icelandic Mountain Guides and we’ll gladly suggest other options that will tick all your boxes.

Don’t want to miss out on the adventure of your dreams; secure your spot on the tour of your choice ahead of time on mountainguides.is.

About the Author

Catharine Fulton

Catharine Fulton

Catharine is a professional writer and editor living in Reykjavík. She's a cautionary tale of the dangers of travelling to Iceland, having been seduced by the country's culture, nature and tall, bearded men (or man, singular) while trying her damndest to get home to Canada. That was more than a decade ago; she's done for.

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