Are ice caves accessible all year?

The naturally formed ice caves we visit are only accessible in winter, and even then may not be safe to visit depending on weather conditions. Mid-December to late February are good months to plan a visit.

How about weather conditions?

Winters in Iceland can be stunningly beautiful, but also very harsh. With even the main road being closed down occasionally, the remote locations of ice caves may not be accessible on some days.

We will of course be in touch with you prior to our tour, in particular if the forecast does not look too promising; in the case of bad weather and/or unsafe conditions, we will contact you about either rescheduling or cancelling your tour (in which case you will of course receive a full refund).

How do ice caves form?

Ice caves are formed primarily by meltwater that collects under the glacier in the warm months and flows downhill as subglacial rivers, melting away the ice in the process. In the cold winter months, there is less meltwater (or none at all) and the rivers subside, leaving behind the tunnels we are then able to explore.

This also means that during a warm spell the water levels may rise even in winter, making caves inaccessible, and that there may always be some water flowing under the floor – so we need to exercise caution on where it is safe to go.

Do all ice caves look alike?

No! Ice caves come in all shapes or forms, and even the same cave may dramatically change after a few days of severe weather. The ‘frontmost’ parts, being more exposed to outside conditions, also often look very different from the more sheltered inner areas.

If you are looking for a particular appearance (perhaps for a photographic assignment), please be in touch before our tour and we will be glad to discuss which options we have to find the location that is best suited for your project.

What clothing / equipment do I need for a visit?

We generally recommend solid, ankle-high or higher boots that are suitable for walking on snow, and multiple layers of warm clothing. Conditions in the caves can be quite mild, but some caves do have a noticeable flow of air currents that can be chilly over time especially as we will not be as physically active inside the cave as we are on the way there. Your outer layer should be wind- and ideally somewhat waterproof. Especially on tours that include longer access hikes, bring an extra layer for the quiet period inside the cave that you can put in a backpack for the hike.

Remember, it is always easier to take something off if you’re too warm than it is to put on a layer you didn’t bring if you’re too cold.

Bring gloves! A warm hat is also never wrong, but it should not be too thick or have a bobble or other ornaments that prevent a helmet from fitting properly.

If you are carrying a camera, a soft cloth to clean random water droplets or mist is a good thing to have. Also, if you have a tripod that you are comfortable carrying or can put onto your backpack, that is also highly recommended. A (very) small flashlight can also be helpful for making adjustments to your camera’s settings in dark conditions.

Helmets, crampons or snow spikes, harnesses and other safety items are provided by us.

I would prefer not to hike long distances, is that a problem?

Although some ice caves require a good level of fitness and/or may not be ideal if you intend to bring large or heavy equipment, that will not be a problem. The flexibility of our private tours guarantees that we can always choose the best location available for you!

Will we have the cave 100% to ourselves in our private tour?

No, unfortunately this cannot be guaranteed.

The handful of local guide companies that jointly explore these caves every year also try to arrange their tour schedules such that each visiting group has the caves to themselves as much as possible, however sometimes conflicts cannot be avoided. This is of course also determined by how many ice caves are accessible at the time (due to weather or other influences).

And many “outside” tour operators – some coming from as far as Reykjavík – could not care less about scheduling arrangements. We prefer not to talk too openly about the locations of newly discovered ice caves, but it is only a matter of time until they are also visited by others.

That said, we do know of caves that are more difficult to access, but where the chances of encountering other visitors will be much lower. If conditions allow, we will always visit the caves that give the best overall experience.

I saw a fantastic picture from last year, can we go to this exact cave?

Curiously, the answer is both yes and no at the same time.

Chances are that the picture was taken in one of only a very small number of ice caves here in the area, so it is likely possible to go there in genereal.

However, due to the melting processes in the warm months, ice caves are completely transformed from one winter to the next. Typically the outermost part collapses after the ice has become too thin and is lost forever, while in the rear a previously inaccessible section opens up enough to allow us to explore it. Even throughout the winter months can change their form and appearance quite dramatically.

So the same forces that create the ice caves constantly transform and ultimately destroy them, making every visit an entirely unique experience.

Is it safe to go on my own? I have a 4x4 rental and some GPS locations.

The short answer: no.

The long answer: We very strongly recommend against going out on your own. Even the access routes can be very difficult to navigate (or even find!) and almost certainly violate your rental car’s regulations. In the best of conditions, a reasonably sized 4×4 with an experienced driver could probably make it to some locations. But if you get stuck and the weather changes, the situation could easily deteriorate into a life threatening emergency in a place without cell phone reception.

Also, the caves themselves can change very quickly, and the guides that frequent them are in constant contact with each other to stay informed of any developments that could be dangerous.

In many cases it is also necessary to know how the ice cave has changed to judge if, for example, a certain path is safe to walk on or if there could be a deep empty space beneath due to the way the glacial river is flowing.

For these and many other reasons, we cannot say that it is safe to visit ice caves on your own, and this is also why we prefer not to disclose any locations of ice caves.

Please also refer to our General Questions and Answers on topics not specifically related to ice cave tours.

Still have questions?

Do not hesitate to contact us, we are glad to help! 8494251