7 Best Iceland Glacier Hikes in 2021

Experience ice mountains, glaciers, giant waterfalls and beautiful green scenery with one of these tours

While Iceland may not be as obvious of a tourist destination as, say, Paris or London, it has a lot to offer. If you’re into hiking, you’re going to fall in love with the unique and natural beauty this country has to offer.

Not to mention, thanks to its history of volcanic activity, it features all hiking levels and types of terrain so you’re always challenged! We’re here to bring you the best Iceland glacier hike tours out there.

These tours are consistently rated among the best, so you don’t have to waste your time and effort on sub-par offerings. The guides are experts, incredibly knowledgeable, and are there to keep you safe and entertained.

Top Glacier Hikes in Iceland

The 7 Best Rated Iceland Glacier Hikes For 2021

  1. South Coast & Glacier Hike From Reykjavik
  2. South Coast & Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
  3. Iceland: 3-Day Golden Circle, South Coast, & Glacier Tour
  4. Skaftafell 5 Hour Glacier Hike Adventure
  5. Skaftafell Extra-Small Group Glacier Hikeur5
  6. Skaftafell National Park: 3-Hour Glacier Hike
  7. Sólheimajökull Ice Climb and Glacier Hike

Now lets take a closer look at the Iceland glacier hike tours so you can find the right one for you!


Iceland Glacier Hike Reviews

1. South Coast & Glacier Hike From Reykjavik

Reykjavik Iceland south coast glacier hike

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Depending on your accommodation, the local tour provider will inform you of the closest pick-up location. They’ll arrive at 8:00 AM at your designated pick up location.
  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Includes: English-speaking guide, certified glacier guide, WiFi in the minibus, glacier equipment (helmet, harness, crampons, ice axe)
  • Other: Great for those who don’t have their own experience or gear beforehand

To start things off, we have the From Reykjavik: South Coast & Glacier Hike. From music videos to various movies and TV series, this area has appeared in all kinds of media that you may recognize it from. With an English-speaking guide, you’ll learn all about the history and some interesting facts about these spots!

Starting off, you’ll arrange a meeting spot with your guide which is almost always at your lodging to make it convenient for you. Once you board the minibus, you’ll be able to really relax and take in the views. As there’s wifi in the bus, you can also send messages, work, or browse the internet if you’d like.

  • You’ll head to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, where you’ll even get to walk behind the massive 60m sheet of water!
Just remember to bring along some weather-appropriate gear (ideally waterproof as there’ll be some water splashing around from the falls). After this, you’ll head on to Skogarfoss waterfall, which is around the same size. This area looks stunning no matter the season or weather. Of course, it requires running up over 500 steps if you want to get to the top to enjoy the breathtaking views.

Trekking along the iconic black sands of Reynisfjara beach is where you’ll get to see incredible basalt columns called Reynisdrangar. These formations are incredibly tall – over 200 feet for some of them! For most of the summer, you can even catch a glance of the dozens of puffins who nest in these columns!

Afterward, you’ll put on your gear to hike up one of the country’s most scenic glaciers on the South Coast.

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2. South Coast & Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon Hike in Iceland

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Bus stop #3 Lækjargata, Bus stop #6 Safnahúsið Culture House, or Bus Stop #13 Rauðarárstígur.
  • Duration: 14 hours
  • Includes: Bus, guide, free WiFi onboard
  • Other: Full day tour covers a large amount of tourist sites

If you’re someone who is captivated by icy-blue lagoons and unreal natural colors, you’re going to love this tour. The South Coast & Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon Tour is a full-day tour lasting 14 hours which is great for those who love hiking and exploring but don’t have the time or desire to go for overnight trips. This “land of fire and ice” is full of quite the history yet has also sets the scene for many fairytales, movies, and more.

Just like with the previous tour, this one also involves a comfortable mini-bus that you’ll board and ride to the lagoon. The bus does have WiFi too, making the ride much more entertaining. However, the stunning views will probably distract you from your electronic devices!

The tour guides prove over and over again just how knowledgeable they are about the area. From volcanoes to the trees and even the local horses, they seem to know all!

The landscape transforms as you travel along, and there’s never even a moment to think about being bored. Along the ride, they also stop occasionally so you can grab a snack or coffee.

You’ll journey along the amazing south shore of the country, where you’ll arrive at Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is began forming about 100 years ago, and only continues getting larger as each year passes.

Cute villages dot the route, and you’ll pass through them as well as Skaftafell National Park. This park houses the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, as well as the Skógarfoss waterfall. Both are crystal-like and are very different-looking than those in the US.

  • Before reaching the lagoon, you’ll also see the country’s biggest volcano, Öræfajökull glacier, and the highest peak on the island, Hvannadalshnjúkur.

Once at the lagoon, you’ll get some time to hang out and take in these spectacular views. If you go in the summer, you can also take up the opportunity to hop on an amphibian boat tour!

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3. Iceland: 3-Day Golden Circle, South Coast, & Glacier Tour

South Coast Iceland Glacier Tour waterfall

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Pickup is included from your hotel or other accommodations in Reykjavik. If you do not require hotel pickup, you can meet the tour at the local partner’s office at Fiskislóð 45M, 101 Reykjavik
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Includes: Pickup and drop-off within Reykjavik, English-speaking guide, accommodation for 2 nights in a double or a twin room with shared bathroom, breakfasts, guided blue ice hiking tour (necessary safety equipment for glacier hiking is supplied free of charge), boat tour on the glacier lagoon, entry fee to Kerið Volcano Crater, free wifi on the bus
  • Other: Longer, very comprehensive tour

If you want to really get an in-depth experience in Iceland’s nature, you may be looking for a longer tour. The 3-Day Golden Circle, South Coast, and Glacier Tour is exactly that!

It will take you all over the southern coast of Iceland, using the famous Golden Circle Route, where you’ll see all kinds of natural beauty and unforgettable wonders that are hard (if not impossible) to find elsewhere.

Pickup is included, and typically takes place at your hotel. However, there are sometimes exceptions so it’s best to contact the company just to make sure.

Once you board the comfy bus, you’ll start off by heading to the beginning of the Golden Circle. You’ll visit Thingvellir National Park, which allows you to stand both in Europe and America at the same time! How many people even knew that was possible?

You’ll get to see Gullfoss, which means “golden falls”. One of the country’s most well-known waterfalls, it is an icy blue, surrounded by either a golden or green terrain – depending on the season.

The Geysir Srokkur is close by and erupts every 5-10 minutes, so you’ll get to see that as well. Kerið is a crater that looks like an electric blue eye in the middle of a reddish, Mars-like environment.

This is certainly a lot to pack into one day, and near the great waterfall of Seljalandsfoss, you’ll find a cozy guesthouse where you’ll lay your head for the night.

Starting day 2 bright and early, you’ll visit 2 of the most beloved south coast waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, along with Glufrabui and Irafoss.

Afterwards, you’ll head under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier cap. Here is where you’ll partake in a 1.5-hour glacier hike to get up close and personal with the Solheimajokull glacier. Next, spend the rest of the day at the black sand Reynisfjara beach. You’ll go back to that same guesthouse as the previous night to sleep.

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4. Skaftafell 5 Hour Glacier Hike Adventure

Skaftafell Iceland Glacier Hike Adventure

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Skaftafell Terminal Tour Center by the main road.
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Includes: Live tour guide, helmet, harness, crampons
  • Other: Comprehensive guide great for all ages and experience levels

On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re on the hunt for a shorter tour than the first few, we have just the thing for you! The Skaftafell: 5 Hour Glacier Hike Adventure is a rush of adrenaline, yet serene. Not to mention, you’ll be able to plan other activities before and after so you aren’t set to just this one hike all day long.

This one doesn’t include a hotel pickup, though that isn’t an issue as the meetup spot is pretty easy to reach. Keep in mind that some of the 5 hours of the tour will involve getting geared up and traveling to the hiking spot. However, all gear rentals come included, so all you have to worry about bringing are warm clothes.

Before hiking, you’ll get a short safety briefing by your experienced guide. They’ll let you know all about how to use your equipment and the environment. Once you start out on your adventure, you’ll get to walk on a sheet of ice with your crampons!

Skaftafell National Park offers full panoramic vistas that are similar yet still very different from the Alps. Influenced by various volcanic eruptions and water, this area seems something like a dream.

As you hike, your guide will tell you all about how glaciers are formed and how global warming can affect them in the future.

Your guide also makes sure your safe and allows you enough photo opportunities, making for an incredible experience all-around. We appreciated how much they knew about the history of the country, and how ice has had such a massive impact on its geography and way of life.

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5. Skaftafell Extra-Small Group Glacier Hike

Skaftafell Iceland small group Glacier Hike

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: There are a lot of tour operators in the area, look out for staff working for ‘MELRAKKI ADVENTURES’. Please arrive at the meeting point 15 minutes before the tour starts.
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Includes: Live tour guide, transport for activity duration: Jeep / SUV
  • Other: Fun for the whole family – quick tour

Are you searching for a hike that is great for the whole family? Perhaps you just don’t want to spend all day out hiking? Whatever the case may be, the Skaftafell: Extra-Small Group Glacier Hike is just right for you!

Limited to just 8 participants, it’s ideal for staying safe, being able to work closely with your guide, and have any questions answered that come to mind about this prime spot.

You’ll meet up with your guide at the meeting point in Skaftatell Airport, and put on your gear (rentals included). The 20-minute drive to the base of the Falljökull outlet glacier is exhilirating in itself and doesn’t waste any time!

Instead of walking through the valley, like some other tours require, you’ll hop in a Jeep or SUV where they’ll drive you right up to the glacier. In our experience, the morning tours are perfect as you’ll often have the entire glacier to yourselves!

As the groups are so small, there’s no waiting around to herd people around. If you end up passing large tour groups, you’ll see that it can be a bit of a hassle.

Once at the base, you’ll get a briefing on how to wear and use your crampons so you can walk on all kinds of ice formations!

  • You’ll get to see different moulins, crevasses, crystalline blue pools, and more. As you pass them, your guide will fill you in on little stories, local tales, history, and more.

As your entire trip is just 3 hours, it’s ideal for those who want a taste of the Icelandic outdoors but don’t want to commit to a full day. Not only that, but it’s one of the less physically demanding tours which makes it inviting to a wider range of people.

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6. Skaftafell National Park: 3-Hour Glacier Hike

Skaftafell National Park Glacier Hike in Iceland

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Skaftafell Terminal Tour Center by the main road
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Includes: Live tour guide, crampons
  • Other: Shorter tour great for groups of 8 people or more

The 3-hour tours are really popular, especially with people who don’t know if they’re going to like glacier hiking yet! It’s the perfect taste of glacier hiking: you get to see places that most people never have and as this area is known for being sunny, you won’t be freezing!

The Skaftafell National Park: 3-Hour Glacier Hike offers wonderful views, interesting stories, and a nice workout, too!

If you have a group bigger than 8 people, then this may be the best alternative to the previous tour. This one does allow for slightly larger groups, so long as the participants are at least 8 years old. Equipment rentals (aside from hiking boots) are included.

Once you meet your guide at the Skaftafell visitor center to pick up your gear, you’ll go by bus to where your hike begins. The guide will let you know how to put the gear on and how to use them before you head out.

  • After you feel comfortable, the guide will lead your group to about 90 minutes on the ice. Guides tend to be very helpful – especially if you’ve never done this before.

They’ll also tell you all about vertical shafts called “moulins”, which are made when melting water flows into the cracks in the ice. While that alone is pretty exciting, you’ll even get the chance to see into ice tunnels and see the rich blue center of ice in the wintertime.

All guides speak English very well, and like to speak about the glaciers’ history, why they look the way they do, and how they’ve been affected by rising temperatures.

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7. Sólheimajökull Ice Climb and Glacier Hike

Solheimajokull Iceland Glacier ice climb

Tour Highlights:

  • Departure: Sólheimajökull Glacier parking lot
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Includes: Certified glacier guide, climbing boots, small group of no more than 6 people, glacier equipment
  • Other: Small groups, shorter hike great for all activity levels
There are people who love hiking in large groups, and others who want the experience to be a bit more personal. For the latter, there’s the Sólheimajökull Ice Climb and Glacier Hike!

Lasting 4 hours (3 hours of hiking/climbing and 1 hour of travel/putting on gear), it’s an excellent way to spend the morning or afternoon and still have time to do other things for the rest of the day!

Your ticket will include a helmet, harness, crampons, ice axe, and rope rentals so you don’t have to worry about all that. However, you will need to wear warm clothes and rain gear, as it can get cold and wet! Waterproof gloves with nice grip are also a must-have. Anyone who has played outside in the snow knows how painful it can be to have cold fingers!

Your certified glacier guide will meet you at the Sólheimajökull Glacier parking lot to give you your equipment and brief you on how/when to use each piece. After you feel comfortable, you’ll begin your hike to the outlet glacier where you’ll traverse all kinds of interesting, icy terrain.

  • Don’t worry if you’ve never climbed over dense ice – your guide will show you how! The techniques are actually pretty simple to get down, and once you do so, you’ll feel on top of the world!

The way the tour is structured, is that you’ll hike for a couple of hours over the glacier, while your guide spots the best place for your group to begin ice climbing. Your guide will secure you as you rappel into crevasses and up! Expect a day full of a lot of laughter, a lot of learning, and a lot of fun!

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Iceland Tour Guide

Top Glacier Hikes in Iceland

Getting There

Basically all international flights are going to land at Keflavik Airport. It’s located about 30 miles from Reykjavik, which is the country’s capital city.

Currently, over 20 airlines offer scheduled flights to Iceland. From the US, you can expect flights to be anywhere from around 5 to 8 hours, depending on where in the US you are flying out from. Flight prices vary widely, depending on the season. During peak season from June to August, flights are going to generally be the highest, along with the couple of weeks before Christmas and after New Year.

If you want the cheapest tickets, buy them within November to March.

Getting Around

Car – The most popular method of transportation is definitely by car. These are pretty easy to rent as Hertz, Avis, Budget, and other major rental companies are found here. A cool alternative to this, is Campervan Iceland, which let’s you rent a camper so you always have a place to rest your head – even if you’re in the middle of nowhere.

While the vast majority of the roads will be paved well, you do need to keep in mind that in every season you can encounter strong winds, ice on the roads, and sandstorms. This can be difficult to drive in, especially if you aren’t used to it.

Bus – In the summertime, buses are a great option as there are many long-distance options. Strætó, SBA-Norðurleið, and Sterna are the main bus companies and travel to the top tourist destinations, making it easy to get to and from them. Just remember that in the wintertime, they’re not as frequent – if running at all. If you would like to plan ahead or have any doubts, just check out their public transport site.

Bike – Just like with any other mode of transportation, you need to keep an eye out for extreme or changing weather conditions in Iceland. Due to the beautiful environment, it can be a very pleasant experience, but as the towns are spaced pretty far apart typically you’ll need to be in at least moderate shape.

Walking – As you can probably imagine, there are a ton of hiking trails around. Walking around Reykjavik is pretty much a breeze, and it’s fun to check out the charming little cafes, eateries, and shops. In fact, if you’re staying in the city, we recommend taking some time to do just that. Just remember to bring some warm shoes, as even in the summer, things can get chilly.

Ferries – If you need to get to surrounding islands, ferries are a great help. The Baldur and Herjólfur lines let you bring a car onboard, so if you’re renting a car this is the way to go.

Where to Stay

You’re most likely to stay in the capital of Reykjavik, which has the most options by far regarding accommodations. You’ll almost certainly find something to suit any budget and requirement. From budget-friendly to lush and luxurious, it’s here waiting for you.

Hotel Borg is absolutely one of the crowd favorites due to being so spacious, consistently reliable, beautiful, and smartly located right in downtown Reykjavik. Their art deco design is also perfect for some photo ops!

The Konsulat Hotel Curio Collection is another great choice, also located in the heart of the capital city. Boutique rooms, top-notch dining, beautiful wellness spas, and an overall cozy vibe will always invite you back after a day of adventuring around. The Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina overlooks a gorgeous harbor, and if you’re looking for more refined accommodations you have it here.

If you don’t mind being a bit further away from the city center but still want luxury, then the Radisson Blu Saga or the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica are excellent alternatives. If you’re on a budget, then you may choose to stay in Keflavik, where the international airport is located. The Nupan Deluxe Guesthouse is a charming, clean place where you can get very affordable, cute rooms!

Restaurants and Eating Out

Now on to the real fun stuff: food! From traditional to modern cuisine, Iceland is sure to have some tasty treats you’ve never tried before.

Icelandic traditional food consists of quite a bit of fermented dishes, fresh fish, lamb, and heavy use of local-only products. The fermentation is used because hundreds of years ago, it was hard for residents of the island to keep their food long enough to last through the dark winter months. Instead, they had to resort to preservation methods like fermenting fish and smoking meats.

Fine Dining –

Apotek – As the name suggests, this restaurant is housed in the building where the oldest pharmacy in Iceland used to be! Here, you’ll find many traditional Icelandic dishes, mouth-watering cocktails, and hearty desserts.

Lobsterhouse – This one is pretty straightforward, and yes, you can expect some delicious lobster here. However, the overall theme is French cuisine with a Nordic twist. Who knew that mixing these two worlds would combine so well?

Traditional –

Icelandic Street Food – From fresh Black Lamb with flatbread and hummus to Gemlingur and Piparmey, you’re likely to try something you never have before, here. If you’re on a budget, this is a great, delicious option.

Loki – Located in the heart of Reykjavik, this is where you can grab a warm, homemade Icelandic meal. Our favorites are the rye bread ice cream and the rye bread with mashed fish. From sheep head jelly to smoked salmon, you can enjoy it all with a beautiful view of Hallgrimskirkja.

One thing we would like to mention, is that if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it is relatively difficult to find a veg-friendly menu here in Reykjavik. While it’s definitely become more popular in recent years, it’s still quite limited. Glo is probably the most popular option, and there are several locations around the city.

Cafes – Trust us when we say that huddling up in a warm, cozy café in Iceland is one of the best experiences in the world. Luckily, you have plenty to choose from.

Stofan Café – This is like walking into a good friend’s house, who happens to make delicious coffee and pastries! Sandholt Bakery is quite possibly the most popular in the city, and have endless treats to select from. Maybe just take them all!

Nightlife and Entertainment

Reykjavik is relatively small for being the capital of a country, but there is still some great nightlife to be had! In fact, as all the best spots are within walking distance from each other, it’s even better! You generally don’t have to deal with lines to get in, and dress codes are also nonexistent as no one wants to be walking in the cold with uncomfortable formalwear.

20 is the legal drinking age in Iceland, and if you look older than that, you’re not likely to be carded. Just remember to dress for the cold, though you can still dress up if you’d like. Overall, you’ll find nice, welcoming vibes anywhere you go. The streets are pretty safe, as well.

Clubs typically close around 5-6 am, and most Icelanders will start going out around 1-2 am which tends to be late if you’re used to nightlife in America. There are clubs with all genres of music on Laugavegur street on the weekends, and Thursdays also have some nice live music nights!

There are tons of breweries, beer tours, and pub crawls so if you’re a fan of beer you’re in luck!

Weather

As we’ve mentioned a few times throughout our guide, Iceland is typically quite cold. Summers are short and cool, though there are months that are really sunny and maybe even warm. However, weather changes quickly here and we heavily suggest bringing warm clothes, no matter the season.

The “warm” season is from about mid-June to the first week of September, though never really goes over 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold season is about 5 months long, from the beginning of November to the beginning of April. The highs will be around 40 degrees, while the lows can be less than zero.

Attractions

Blue Lagoon – The Blue Lagoon is a stunning spectacle to see or dip, with its pastel blue waters. These geothermal spas are wonderful for the skin, and our overall health.

The Northern Lights – Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are something you simply can’t miss. There are many tours that will take you to see them, with trained guides that know exactly where and when to look!

Maelifell Volcano – The volcano looks just like what you’d imagine one to look like, with the traditional cone shape. During the warmer seasons, you’ll find it covered in a lush green moss that makes it look almost like it’s from another planet!

Skaftafell Ice Cave – These caves, if caught at the right time, are filled with unreal blue lights! Consisting of various glaciers and ice caves, it’s certainly a unique place. There are many different visitor centers to ask any questions you may have.

Hallgrimskirkja – This modernist church will sure turn your head! The tallest, most iconic building in all of Iceland was inspired by The Black Falls. If you’re willing to take on the 73 meters of stairs, you’ll be able to take in some of the most stunning views of the city. Okay, you can also take the elevator but that doesn’t make as good of a story!

ATV Treks – If you love adventure (and you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this!), you’ll love trekking around Iceland’s lava fields on an ATV! It’ll make you feel like you’re riding around a Game of Thrones set!

Svartifoss – With black basalt hexagonal columns hanging over it, Svartifoss is one of the most special waterfalls in the world! The dark columns perfectly contrast the bright blue waters pummeling down over the side.

Reynisfjara Beach – The iconic black sand beaches of Reynisfjara are something you just can’t find anywhere else. Just be careful of the rough waves that can appear on shore!

Tips

  1. Spend at least a. bit outside of the city and head into the countryside. The vast majority of the country consists of just uninhabited, wild land. As you have probably picked up by now, Iceland is full of natural beauty and wonders!
  2. If you feel confident enough, try renting a car! This is (in our opinion) the best way to see the country. While gas is a bit pricey, some rental agencies will offer you a discount card.
  3. If you’re planning on using your credit card, you’re likely not to have to exchange currency. This is a handy, money-saving move that’s also safer. Not that Iceland is particularly known for its pick-pocketers, but you just never know.
  4. Are you going to visit in the summertime? If so, make sure you pack an eye mask as it’s going to be light outside almost constantly. Many hotels will provide these, but it’s better to just bring your own and not risk it.
  5. Be prepared for literally any kind of weather. You’ll almost certainly encounter rain and windiness, even in the summertime. Remember to layer, as this is going to keep you warm and dry better than anything else. Oh, and bring gloves and some kind of face covering.
  6. As you’ll be near the water, you want to bring some rain gear, too. This means a waterproof jacket and boots! Definitely don’t skimp on the extra socks: it’s even better if they’re wool!
  7. While the vast majority of people in Iceland speak great English, it’s always smart to learn some basic words in Icelandic.

Olivia Watson

Olivia is a world traveler who has been to 27 countries in just over 15 years. She loves to share her knowledge of traveling to help others travel safer, cheaper and have more fun.
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