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If you’re going to Iceland, chances are you are planning on making a visit to one of the many glaciers the country has to offer. A glacier hike is one of the best ways to see this amazing world phenomenon. Iceland’s close proximity to the arctic circle and it’s mountainous inner highlands makes Iceland one of the best places in the world to see glaciers. Along the drive of the south coast, as you head west, you will see glaciers peeping out to your left, bright blues breaking through the white snow. I was overwhelmed by the formation of them, literally hundreds of feet from the road. I have seen glaciers in Canada and Alaska, and the ones in Iceland were more stunning by far. Maybe it was something to do with seeing them in their pristine winter condition, but Iceland is a mecca for glacier enthusiasts.
About 11% of Iceland is covered in Glaciers and most of the accessible ones are found in the south. A great one close to Reykjavik is the Solheimajokull Glacier, about 2 hours from the city. The others are further away but are even more stunning and worth the visit if you have time.
Our adventure into the Solheimajokull Glacier was without a doubt one of the most unique things we did while we were in Iceland. Since we visited in January the glacier was at its prime and perfect for a glacier hike. Walking through the glacier (yes literally THROUGH it at points) was a once in a lifetime experience. Imagine towering 12 feet up on either side of you, crystal blue ice, frozen to the touch, in a million different mesmerizing patterns. I felt like I was inside an ice castle, but I wasn’t – this was a natural glacier. It was WILD. This isn’t your standard glacier hike people. And winter is the best time to do it.
You can glacier hike during the summer as well, but you can’t do many of the other glacial activities. Iceland is so packed during the summer, I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t want to visit during the winter. We pretty much had the entire glacier to ourselves and its a BIG glacier. We were totally undisturbed, and our amazing guide, Seitis, gave us more information on glaciers than we could have ever hoped for. She was super informative and told us of the neighboring volcanoes and what would happen when one erupts. (Which one is due to soon!)
She explained the glacier growth process, and how they haven’t grown in years. Every year they shrink further and further back. 1 step forward, 2 steps back – when it should be the other way around. The Solheimajokull Glacier has shrunk back about a mile in the last 10 years. This is ASTRONOMICAL. It’s not something you can really picture until you see it in person. Once you do, you realize how much we as humans are destroying the planet we live on.
If not for the sheer exciting experience of glacier hiking, taking a tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides is worth it for the educational experience. I had a blast, and while I was aware that our polar ice caps were suffering, I had no idea how much until I saw first hand.
Technically, no, but it isn’t recommended that you go in alone. However, there will be no one there to stop you. It would be dangerous to go and not know what you’re doing. The ice is slick, and if you don’t have the proper gear, you could end up in a lot of trouble. It’s kind of like going into the Sahara Desert alone, you theoretically CAN do it, but you most definitely shouldn’t. Stick to a glacier walk with Icelandic Mountain Guides, and you’ll be much better off. (and much more educated!)
There are tons of other glacial activities you can do with Icelandic Mountain Guides included with a glacier hike, or on their own. Glacial caves, blue ice, snowmobiling, and northern lights are just some of the amazing activities that are offered.
Like I mentioned above, our experience with Icelandic Mountain Guides was nothing short of phenomenal. From having all the necessary safety gear and hiking gear, to check in, and the guides vast knowledge of the area, the entire experience was perfect. It was fun and educational.
The hike itself wasn’t too much of a challenge, but you may want to bring a bottle of water, some chapstick, and your camera in your bag!