Iceland is the perfect destination for families looking for some unique adventures and tours. You can dive between the continents on crystal clear waters, climb inside a volcano, heli-ski from the top of a glacier cap and more. We went on our first ever and one of the best glacier hike in Iceland followed by a zodiac boat tour in a lagoon filled with floating icebergs. There is plenty to do for the average traveler and soft adventurers like the rest of us.
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Skaftafell National Park
Skaftafell National Park was established in 1967 and is part of the larger Vatnajokull National Park. The size of the Vatnajokull National Park including Skaftafell is around 14.200 km. It is one of Europe’s largest National Park second only to Yugyd Va in Russia.
Skaftafell Park is located in southeastern part of Iceland and to get there is pretty easy. You simply follow the main road number 1 aka the ring road for about 330 km east from Reykjavík.
There are no roads in the park itself but there a lot of trails and paths offering different kinds of hikes. The beautiful Svartifoss waterfall is situated at the end of one of those trails. We, unfortunately, didn’t have the time for the hike to see the waterfall. Svartifoss is a small waterfall but what makes it special is the black basalt lava wall surrounding it.
Glacier Hike at Vatnajökull, Iceland
Vatnajökull is an 8,100 sq km dome of ice, about one-twelfth of Iceland’s surface and up to 800m thick. The best way to explore these gigantic glaciers is to hire a mountain guide. We booked our glacier tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides. Our glacier hike was called The Blue Ice Experience. You don’t have to worry about bringing any special gear, they provided all equipment you need. We just wore some waterproof hiking pants and hiking boots. We also brought along our jackets, hats and mittens – basically clothing to keep us warm when hiking on the ice.
Our guide from Icelandic Mountain Guides was awesome, he showed us how to walk with crampons. Throughout the glacier hike, he steered us safely through the many crevasses and pinnacles. We explored the landscape of glacier ice, deep crevasses, and water cauldrons on Vatnajökull Glacier in Skaftafell National Park.
What to expect on the Glacier Hike
Our small group tour began just outside the Skaftafell Nature Reserve where we met our guide from Icelandic Mountain Guide. It was pretty easy to find from the ring road. There are also tour options where they can pick you up from Reykjavík. The sales office is close to the Visitor Center which is the starting point for the tours. Once at the sales office, our guide showed us how to use the basic and required glacier equipment. We were provided with crampons and an ice axe. We then boarded a small van and rode to the mouth of the glacier.
We then walked over to the ice field. It felt as if you have been transported to an icy, alien planet. As you walk through the glacial ice, wonder at the naturally formed ice sculptures and look into the deep crevasses on the glacier, it hard not to be in awe of this ever-changing glacial landscape.
We even had an opportunity to taste the ice! Considering it is thought to be more than a thousand years old, it was quite a unique experience. The total time for the hike was about 4 hours. Our glacier walk was short but definitely one of the most memorable Glacier Hike in Iceland!
Exploring Ice Caves in Iceland
If you are visiting Iceland in winter you will have the opportunity to explore the ice caves. These caves are open up for exploration when the melt water underneath the glacier freezes over and leaves behind these ice tunnels. The highly trained and certified glacier guides will guide you through the hike through the ice caves. Seeing this vivid blue color of the ice caves is on my wishlist. Well visiting Iceland in winter and seeing the Northern Lights is also high on my list.
Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike
Alternatively, you can go on a family friendly and short Glacier Walk at Sólheimajökull glacier. You can even combine a kayaking tour on the Sólheimajökull glacier lagoon with a Glacier Walk. This glacier tour option is closer to Reykjavík and only a two-hour drive. During this Iceland glacier tour day trip, you will pass right under the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano that caused so much trouble in the spring of 2010. Just east of the volcano lies Sólheimajökull, an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth-largest glacier. It is one of the country’s famous glaciers! While we didn’t go glacier hiking we went on our most adventurous activity in Iceland – our snowmobile ride on top of the glacier that sits on a volcano.
Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon
The beautiful glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon is not too far away from Skaftafell National Park. Just a little further east on the ring road. It is a must visit spot as well. We stopped at the lagoon for a boat ride right after our hike in Skaftafell National Park.
Zodiac boat tour at Jokulsarlon
We suited up and hopped on board a speedy Zodiac inflatable boat for a tour among the massive icebergs of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This is truly another must do when visiting Iceland. After the Bond movie A View to a Kill was shot on location here, it has become one of the most popular activities in Iceland Today, you can ride the zodiac just like Bond or take the amphibious boat.
I would suggest the zodiac boat since it gets you closer to the icebergs. Seeing the sun shining on the blue-and-white icebergs, some of them look like giant sculptures floating peacefully in the lagoon is a part of an essential Icelandic experience.
As you cruise through the lagoon, keep an eye out for seals. Many of these adorable creatures call Jökulsárlón home, and they can often be seen playing in the water or basking on the bergs.
Once the boat tour at Jokulsarlon is complete, do not forget to take a walk to the Diamond Beach to see where the icebergs wash up after reaching the sea. We spent a good couple of hours exploring this area. No doubt that the best experiences were the boat tour and the glacier hike in Iceland. It was the highlight of our trip to Iceland!
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