Hailing from the tropical islands of the Philippines, glacier hiking to me is about as alien as it gets.
Even though I was pretty convinced that I would trip on my crampons as soon as I put them on, I rushed to book this activity as soon as we started ironing out our Iceland plans.
Why? Well, why the hell not! Life is only meant to be lived once.
In this review, I walk you through my experience as I took on one of Iceland’s most popular glaciers, Skaftafell located in Vatnajökull National Park which is home to Europe’s largest glacier.
In the end, I will also go into detail on whether the entire experience of glacier hiking in Iceland is worth a splurge.
Why Go Glacier Hiking in Iceland
Known as the land of ice and fire (I swear I’m not referring to Game of Thrones), Iceland is a country that is unparalleled when it comes to natural beauty. We spent 12 days traveling around the country, and every day felt like we were driving through a different planet.
Hands down though, one of the highlights of our trip was our glacier hiking experience in the Vatnajökull National Park.
Imagine making your way up this enormous glacier with crampons and an ice axe in tow (yes, an ice axe!).
Throughout this hike, you crawl through little ice caves, walk between hollowed-out ice crevasse, and as soon as you reach the top, you are rewarded with incredible views of the glacier you just conquered.
Sounds exciting? Yeah, we thought so too which was exactly why we signed up!
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My Experience: Glacier Hiking in Iceland
Kitting Up for Our Glacier Hike
We met our guides right outside the Skatafell Tour center. We opted to go for the first tour which meant we had to be there fairly early. It was still dark when we got to the parking lot but in the corner area, we could see a lot of activity going on.
With music playing from one of the vans, we could see a line of people getting fitted with the proper equipment, ready to take on the glaciers.
Not really knowing what to expect, we went to the area and were happily welcomed by the guides as they showed us the ropes (literally) of how to put on a harness and crampon shoe.
Outfitted with helmet, harness, ice axe, and crampons, we made our way to a mini van which would take us to the starting point of our glacier hike.
As soon as we got in, our guide Sam started filling us in on the logistics of our hike. We would be conquering Falljökull, otherwise known as the Falling Glacier in Skaftafell National Park, which is also a part of Vatnajökull National Park.
Crawling Though Ice Caves
One highlight of this tour was being able to crawl our way inside ice caves, which is something you can do only during the winter months.
The team at Troll Expeditions had scouted the caves beforehand, and expertly guided us through which caves were safe to enter and which weren’t.
With that in mind, we left our crampons and ice axes by the foot of the glacier and started crawling our way inside two caves. There were two caves that we entered, with one being large enough for you to stand in once you’re in it.
Inside, you could see clear ice, dirt (which comes from the glacier itself), as well as a few ice stalactites.
Although some parts of the ice cave were surprisingly small, it was really cool seeing how these majestic things form!
Adventure Seeker Tip #1: It’s a good idea to bring a small head torch with you when you go inside the ice caves. Alternatively, we used our phone flashlight and this worked out well too.
Walking Up the Glacier
After the ice caves, we then started our ascent up the glacier. Sam showed us how to strap on our crampons and gave us basic safety instructions.
Although it sounded complicated, the entire process was pretty straightforward. Sam also gave us some pretty useful tips on how to walk on ice as well as how to use the ice axe to help our ascent.
Soon, we were stomping along in one line, following Sam’s footsteps as we made our way up the Glacier.
Falljökull (pronounced like “Fat Yogurt”) is a beautiful outlet glacier of Vatnajökull. It offers dramatic 360-degree views of the ice-covered glacier as well as the ocean and lake behind you.
We did our hike on a beautiful day when the sun was out which we were very grateful for. The hike itself was super easy and was not technical at all.
Even though you have crampons on, all you had to do was stomp your feet to ensure extra grip.
I later on realized that the harness that we had on was merely a safety precaution but was not really needed during our trek up. In case anyone slipped, the “rescue” would be easier as we already had safety harnesses attached.
Adventure Seeker Tip #2: Take a small backpack up with you with a reusable bottle of water, and of course your camera. The sun was out when we were there so a good pair of sunglasses would be useful too as the sun tends to reflect on the snowy caps of the glacier.
As we were walking up, our guide Sam kept pointing out unique features like ice crevasses, mountain formations, and more. Having worked in these mountains for the last three years, Sam told us how every year they see the impact of climate change in the natural landscape here in Iceland.
As we were nearing the top, we made our way through this little ice crevasse that was hollowed out, allowing us to walk through this ice tunnel. It was hands down one of the coolest parts of the trip!
Glacier Hiking in Iceland Review
Overall, the entire experience was incredible. The activity was well-organized and was super easy to do! Our group was composed of travelers from all over the world, including a mother and daughter combo which proves that anyone can do this activity.
Because of the equipment, the entire activity seemed quite technical and daunting at the first but it was actually very beginner-friendly.
The views from the top and while going up were pretty much out of this world.
I also loved the fact that we could see the ocean from where we were which pretty much completes the entire glacier cycle.
If you are looking for a fun way to understand and see more of Iceland’s magnificent glaciers, I highly recommend this activity!
If you are looking for something unique experience, Glacier Hiking in Iceland is a must! The entire thing was well-organized and allowed you to get off the usual tourist path by exploring the glacier tops in Vatnajökull National Park. The activity itself is super easy and doesn't require any special trekking skills.
Adventure Seeker Tip #3: Iceland’s weather is erratic which means you should be pretty much prepared for anything! If you are thinking of doing this tour, make sure you have a good set of thermal underwear, waterproof gloves, and a warm down jacket!
Booking Glacier Hiking in Iceland: What You Need to Know
We booked this activity through Manawa which is a large adventure booking platform that has activities from all over the world. We’ve used them multiple times and love the fact that we can compare activities from different companies, all within their platform.
It’s like an Airbnb for adventure activities.
The activity itself was done through Troll Expeditions who we previously went snorkeling in Silfra with.
As glacier hiking in Iceland is a popular activity, I recommend that you book it in advance! We went during the winter season and there were tons of people on the tour.
Despite this, we did the tour in small groups which was great!
Although it is called glacier hiking, the tour actually runs all-year round. Naturally, during the summer, there are no ice caves to visit.
Sam did mention that Falljökull during the summer months is surrounded by blueberries which is pretty awesome.
Overall, I was impressed with the activity. Tom, my partner, even went as far as rating it as the best experience of our entire Iceland trip.
To check out tour availability, click the link below.
Overall, is it worth doing? 100% percent!
The hike up itself was not physically demanding, and was actually really fun to do which makes the entire tour pretty accessible to anyone. Despite the technical equipment, the entire thing was straightforward and fun.
What made this entire experience for me were the views. I mean, really… how many people can say they were trekking through an ice glacier?
The guides were super friendly and helpful, giving loads of facts about the surrounding area as well as tips on how to properly walk using the crampons.
So if you’re feeling a bit adventurous and want an incredible experience, I highly recommend going glacier hiking in Iceland.