Iceland Glacier Facts

A man hiking up to Hvannadalshnjúkur in Vatnajökull glacier on a tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides

Iceland’s unique location and sea current make it a place unlike many others in the world. Many strange climate characteristics interact to form world class glacier formations. Iceland proudly boasts the largest glacier in the world outside of the Arctic! In this blog, you can find some quick, interesting facts about some of Iceland’s most popular glaciers. WARNING: These quirky notes are likely to have you booking your next vacation to Iceland and hiking the famous (and infamous) glaciers asap.

The volcanic eruption at Fimmvörðuháls. Lava spewing  out the top of the hill

Largest Glacier in Iceland

Let’s start off with the largest glacier in the country, and possibly in Europe. Vatnajökull is the most popular glacier in Iceland mostly because of its enormous size and numerous glaciers and tongues on every side. Some of the tongues are so large that they each need their own name! Each have gained their own individual popularity and notoriety. Many glacier walks and tours take place on this monstrous glacier, and it is home to the largest national park in Europe and Iceland. Arguably, the most popular glacier in the Vatnajökull area is Öræfajökull. It has the highest peak in Iceland, known as Hvannadalshnjúkur. Vatnajökull also holds the most active volcano system called Grímsvötn, which recently erupted in 2011. The southeast side of the glacier holds another popular attraction, the large and beautiful glacial lagoon, Jökulsárlón. You’ll never run out of things to see on this glacier.

It is quite amazing that all those glaciers and activities are on just ONE glacier. It is easy to see why Vatnajökull is one of the most popular destinations in Iceland. The map below shows just how large that glacier is in comparison to the others.

Map of Iceland showing glaciers and glacier rivers

The Long Glacier

The second largest glacier in Iceland is Langjökul. If you need an adrenaline rush, snowmobiling down Langjökul is the perfect spot to get it. The name Langjökul means “long glacier” simply because of the long shape of the glacier, which makes it perfect for speeding down blankets of pure white snow on snowmobiles. A very popular destination for snowmobile tours and some “Golden Circle” tours. But its not all fun and games. Langjokull also holds two active volcanoes, so be ready to put that snowmobile in top gear and get the heck out of the way!

The third biggest glacier in Iceland sits in the Mid-Highlands and is called the Hofsjökull glacier. Tread carefully, this glacier is also on top of the largest active volcano in Iceland. Due to the heat, it is a premier source for rivers in the country. Iceland’s longest river, Þjórsá, was formed thanks to Hofsjökull.

The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull glacier.

Size Is Not Everything

Mýrdalsjökull is Iceland’s 4th largest glacier its very close neighbor, Eyjafjallajökull, is the country's 6th largest. Size is not everything, as Eyjafjallajökull has become a slightly more attractive hiking option compared to Mýrdalsjökull. This is because Katla at Eyjafjallajökull holds a volcano that erupted just recently in 2010. People can go hiking right to the top and see some of the damage it caused as well as the new, still-warm structure that has been formed.

There is only one lucky glacier in Iceland that has not decreased in size over the past few years. That title belongs to the runt of the family, Drangajökull. It is the 5th largest glacier in Iceland, but also the shortest glacier, as it is the only one entirely below 1000 meters.

Snæfellsjökull glacier in the distance with a boat sailing in the sea in front of the glacier

Journey to the Center of the Earth?

When you touchdown in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, you’ll be able to see another popular glacier, Snæfellsjökull. This is the one that can be seen just over the bay of Faxaflói from Reykjavík. It looks like a cone or a dome sitting on the tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The mountain is one of the most famous sites of Iceland, primarily due to the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne, in which the main character finds the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull. Because of this you can find all sorts of strange things here like UFO claims, as well as universe, and energy prophets, all believing this is a sacred place where unique forces are at play.

Now this is only the quick rundown of the more popular glaciers of Iceland. We recommend that you visit and see what all the talk is about! This majestic land, enhanced by its purity and beauty, is simply remarkable.

To see these beautiful beasts in person, we offer a great selection of glacier tours, from short and easy glacier walks to multi-day tours in the Icelandic highlands. Cheers!

About the Author

IMG Staff Writer

IMG Staff Writer

An anonymous but well informed member of our team that enjoys sharing their knowledge of Iceland & Greenland’s stunning nature.

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