Iceland Glacier Hike Guide

Iceland’s glaciers are considered to be the most enchanting in the world. Glowing in pearly blues and silver, they cover 11% of Iceland. There are many ways to get up close and personal with these icy giants, but by far the best way is by going on an Iceland glacier hike. For you to get the most out of your tour, we have put together all the answers to your burning questions.

Shape Björgvin Hilmarsson

What are the best glaciers to hike on in Iceland?

Sólheimajökull glacier. Sandwiched between the Katla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes is the iconic Sólheimajökull glacier. Forming part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Solheimajökull is an easily accessible marvel.

Tours from Solheimajokull.

Skaftafellsjökull glacier. Skaftafellsjökull glacier is an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull glacier, which is Iceland’s largest ice cap. Walking on black sands and seeing sparkling ice chunks are some of the highlights of visiting this glacier. Acting as our base, it lies conveniently close to the Skaftafell visitor centre and is surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Falljökull glacier. Also located in Skaftafell, Falljökull translates literally to ‘The Falling Glacier’. Found on the black sandy shores of the south coast, it is known for its rugged surface and striking blue and white coloring. 

Is it safe to walk on a glacier?

Many people are surprised to learn that glaciers are an accessible part of the Icelandic landscape, making glacier hikes one of the most popular tourist activities. They are easily accessible, but it must be noted that it can be dangerous to venture out onto the glaciers by yourself. Under the guidance of a trained professional, it is a perfectly safe and fun experience.

Why go on a glacier hike in Iceland?

Imagine pure nature. The sound of ice under your feet. The formations in the glaciers create a wonderland of ridges, ice sculptures, and waterways. Going on a glacier hike tour in Iceland is unlike anything you have experienced. Check out the video and see what it’s all about!

Where are glacier hike tours close to Reykjavik?

If you are making your way to the site on your own, you’ll be pleased to know that the Sólheimajökull glacier has a variety of glacier hike tours close to Reykjavik. As the nearest glacier to Reykjavik, it is easily accessible but still takes between 2.5 to 3 hours to reach. Tours here vary in difficulty and length.

The best family-friendly glacier hikes

Blue Ice Experience.

As one of the easiest glacier walks, explorers can make the most of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier, with its natural ice sculptures and stunning scenery.

Glacier Discovery.

On this tour, families of all ages can come together to explore Iceland’s most famous glacier–– Sólheimajökull.

What is the minimum age to go on a glacier hike tour?

Both the Glacier Discovery on Sólheimajökull and the Blue Ice Experience on Skaftafell tours are classed as easy glacier hikes with a minimum age requirement of 8 years old. If you are hoping to go on a more difficult glacier walk, the minimum age requirement may be higher.

What do I wear on a glacier hike? 

Biting cold, powdery snow, and slick ice always spring to mind whenever people think of glaciers, but Iceland’s infamous ever-changing weather means it can be even harder to know what to wear. If you are struggling to decide, here are some golden essentials to bring with you:

Iceland’s weather is known for how rapidly it changes throughout the day, but glaciers are always much warmer in summer than people expect. Sometimes, you can even venture out onto the ice without a jacket, but you should always be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions by bringing these essential items:

Waterproof ankle boots. Glaciers are made of one thing only: water, which means you should always pack some comfortable, waterproof, or GORE-TEX ankle boots, so you aren’t caught off guard by weather changes.

Thermal socks. Thin ankle socks won’t keep your toes toasty and warm, so bring some thick, thermal socks instead.

Warm underlayers. The first rule about visiting Iceland is dressing in layers. Thermal layers will keep frost at bay if you are going on your glacier walk in winter, and they are also easy to peel off if you get warm on your summer glacier walk.

Your best waterproof jacket. Iceland experiences high rainfall in summer, so bringing a waterproof jacket is recommended. Make sure it has some light padding that will keep you warm but won’t weigh you down. There will be days where you don’t need it, but it’s never a good idea to leave it behind.

Hiking pants. If there is one item you should never wear on a glacier walk, it’s jeans. Instead, pack some flexible, breathable pants that will work with you as you move.

What equipment do I need on a glacier hike?

You don’t just need the right wardrobe when glacier hiking, but also the right equipment. Below is a list of items you need that will keep you safe and enhance your experience.

You’ll always need these specialist items: 

- Crampons
- An ice axe
- A harness

On more difficult tours, you might also need these items:

- A helmet
- A headlamp (only on specific winter tours)

This equipment will be provided to you, and any protective rain gear or hiking boots can be provided at an additional cost.

When is the best time of year to go on a glacier hike?

It is no secret that summer has more options for glacier walking where full and half-day tours can be enjoyed. Some glacier walks still operate in winter, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a worse choice. In fact, in winter there is the Glacier Hike with Ice Caves with ice tunnels, ice wells, and more blue ice. Despite this, tours can only be so long in winter. Summer offers longer hikes and combo options, such as the ATV and Glacier Walk Combo and the Blue Ice Experience & Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon.

How long is a glacier hike in Iceland?

Glacier hikes vary from tour to tour and can last anywhere from 2 to 7 hours. To get a better idea of how long each tour lasts, check out the various Glacier Walk options on the site. Generally speaking, those who have limited time may prefer a shorter glacier walk, while those hoping for an in-depth, challenging glimpse at the glaciers would benefit more from a longer tour.

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When is the best time of day to go on a glacier hike in Iceland?

There are certain times of the day which are optimal for glacier walking, but it differs depending on the season. Glacier hiking at midday is usually best, as the conditions will be clearer. In summer, you can enjoy glacier hikes throughout the day. During the winter, your tour may start at dawn and end at twilight, which adds a little charm to any tour.

Where to find us

Directions to our Glacier Hike bases in Skaftafell and by Sólheimajökull glacier in South Iceland can be found on this page: Where to find us. Sólheimajökull is about 2.5 hours from Reykjavík, and Skaftafell about 5 hours. We look forward to seeing you and please drive safely!