🧊 Glacier Hike in Iceland: Firsthand Review & Tips

A woman wearing cold gear and hiking on a glacier, surrounded by ice in all directions.
🍀 Lukiih’s Overall Rating6.6
🦄 UniquenessHigh
😊 EnjoymentModerate
💰 ValueVery Expensive
🎒 PreparationMinimal
🌟 Book a TourView Price
Overall Rating is based on a weighted average of factors (learn more).

Iceland is one of the few countries where hiking a glacier is easily accessible. Here’s my honest review and firsthand tips.

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🍀 Lukiih’s Overall Rating

6.6
I recommend hiking a glacier in Iceland – do it if you’re interested.

My overall rating is based on a weighted average of four factors travelers consider important when assessing an experience.

Verdict

Hiking a glacier in Iceland is a memorable experience that I recommend. Glacier hiking is unlike your typical hiking experience, as you walk through crevasses and surround yourself with deep blue ice.

Due to the risks involved and the equipment necessary to hike a glacier, a licensed guide is highly recommended. Like many organized activities in Iceland, a glacier hiking tour is very expensive.

Minimal preparation is required, as you need to book the guides in advance (especially during the high season) and wear appropriate clothes and boots.

A woman wearing crampons in between two glaciers taller than her.
Iceland glacier crevasse

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Iceland.

🏆 Where Does It Rank?

Hiking a glacier ranks as my #8 thing to do in Iceland. Here’s how it compares to other experiences on my trip:

#ExperienceLocationOverall Rating
1❄️ Jökulsárlón Glacier LagoonEast7.9
2💧 SeljalandsfossSouth7.7
3🌀 Blue LagoonReykjanes7.7
4⛰️ Landmannalaugar HikeHighlands7.5
5🔥 Stokkur GeysirGolden Circle7.3
6💧 KvernufossSouth7.0
7💧 SkógafossSouth6.7
8🧊 Glacier HikeSouth East6.6
9🐍 Fjaðrárgljúfur CanyonSouth6.6
10🏖️ Reynisfjara Black Sand BeachSouth6.5
11💎 Diamond BeachReykjanes6.5
12♨️ Hrunalaug Hot SpringWest6.4
13🐧 DyrhólaeySouth6.4
14💧 SvartifossSouth East6.3
15🌋 Kerid CraterGolden Circle6.2
16💧 GulfossGolden Circle6.2
17🥾 Glymur Waterfall HikeWest6.1
18🐴 Icelandic Horse RidingSouth6.0
19💧 GljufrabuiSouth5.9
20♨️ Secret LagoonGolden Circle5.8
Overall Rating is calculated using Lukiih’s rating system.

My Iceland itinerary features the above experiences.

✈️ About My Trip

For context on my review, here’s what to know about my trip:

  • 🍀 Self-funded – I finance my trips and don’t receive sponsorship, so this review reflects my honest opinions.
  • 🗓️ 2022 – This post has updated 2024 information, but I hiked a glacier in 2022.
  • ☀️ High season – My Iceland trip was in August when it was very crowded and expensive.

🦄 Uniqueness: High

The Uniqueness Score is based on how rare and memorable an experience is.

Rarity: Uncommon

Glacier hiking is an uncommon experience, as there are less than 50 places worldwide where visitors can do it.

💎 What Makes It Rare?

  • Iceland’s glaciers offer stunning and diverse glacial landscapes, ranging from deep crevasses to ice caves.
  • Hiking a glacier in Iceland is relatively accessible in terms of transportation and who can physically do it.

Iceland offers glacier hikes on Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. See the two glaciers you can hike in Iceland.

🌍 What Makes It Less Rare?

  • You can hike a glacier in other places, including New Zealand (which has comparable landscapes to Iceland), Canada, Argentina, Switzerland, Norway, and Alaska.

Most glaciers are receding at an alarming rate due to climate change, so access will become harder in the future.

Six people walking on a trail towards a mountain with glacier on it.
Trail to Iceland glacier

Memorability: High

Hiking a glacier is one of my most memorable experiences in Iceland.

📸 What Makes It Memorable?

  • The varying ice formations and landscapes you walk by are unforgettable. During my tour, we walked through a crevasse, passed by a waterfall, looked into a deep glacial hole, and drank delicious fresh glacial water.

💤 What Makes It Forgettable?

  • You’re only on the glacier for a maximum of two hours, so you won’t go too far up. At the deepest point, you can still clearly see the glacier’s edge, so you are never entirely surrounded by ice.

Read on for the glacier hike’s itinerary.

😊 Enjoyment: Moderate

The Enjoyment Score is based on how much happiness and reward an experience provides.

Happiness: Moderate

I found hiking a glacier fun with some caveats.

😃 What Makes It Enjoyable?

  • The glacial landscape was stunning and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Every ice formation is a novelty.

😥 What Makes It Less Enjoyable?

  • Weather conditions on the glacier can change rapidly, so wearing the right clothes is important or you’ll have a miserable time. Although my glacier hike started sunny, it rapidly turned into a hail storm.

The best time to hike a glacier is during the summer when there is a higher chance of clear and sunny skies.

A mountain with glacier in a rainy moment.
Rainy moment on the glacier

Reward: Moderate

Glacier hiking is a somewhat rewarding experience.

🌟 What Makes It Rewarding?

  • Walking on a glacier for two hours while having to concentrate on every step to avoid falling can feel like an accomplishment.
  • It’s educational and eye-opening to hear a knowledgeable guide share the impact of climate change on the very glacier you’re standing on.

🤷🏻‍♀️ What Makes It Less Rewarding?

  • You will only be on the glacier for a short time, so it won’t feel like a rewarding hike that requires meaningful endurance.

💰 Value: Very Expensive

The Value Score is determined by the price divided by the duration of an experience. All prices mentioned here are in USD.

Price: $150 PP

A hike on Vatnajökull, Iceland’s larger glacier, costs between $110 and $240 depending on the season, group size, and duration. The tour typically lasts about four to five hours and includes transportation and gear. At about $35 per hour per person, I consider this experience very expensive.

I booked my tour with the highly-rated Arctic Adventures and paid $230 during the high season. Here are the prices of other well-rated tour companies (I last checked prices in May 2024):

A group of people with gold gear standing on a glacier.
Artic Adventure tour group

See my Iceland trip expenses.

🎒 Preparation: Minimal

The Preparation Score is based on the required skills & fitness, transportation, and bookings & packing. The higher the score, the less preparation is needed.

Skills & Fitness: Minimal

You need some minimal skills and fitness to hike a glacier in Iceland.

  • 🥾 Skill – You don’t need to have prior experience or know how to hike a glacier (e.g., how to use a crampon or what to do in an emergency) if you go with a licensed guide.
  • 💪 Endurance – Hiking a glacier in Iceland is not difficult if you’re in average physical shape. There is some incline, but the distance is short, and the walking pace is slow.

The pace of hiking a glacier is slow because you need to use your crampon correctly with every step, and the guide needs to constantly assess the path forward to avoid hollow glaciers.

Transportation: Easy & Short

The meeting point to hike Vatnajökull is typically in the nearby town, Skaftafell.

  • 🚙 Method – The most straightforward way to get to Skaftafell is to rent a vehicle and drive there. I rented a campervan and enjoyed it.
  • Duration – From Skaftafell, the tour operator will take you closer to the glacier by bus, which takes about 20 minutes.

Booking & Packing: Minimal

To hike a glacier in Iceland, you’ll need minimal booking and packing:

  • 🎟️ Tickets Hire a guide in advance, as they will provide the gear and know how to safely hike a glacier. During the peak season, book about a week ahead.
  • 🎒 Packing – Wear appropriate clothes and shoes for the glacier hike. Gear will be provided, so you don’t need to rent it at an extra cost.

How To Guide & Tips

Interested in doing a glacier hike after reading my review? Below is a practical how-to guide and firsthand tips.

Where to Hike

Tour companies will take you to the two glaciers that you can hike, and both are located in the southern part of Iceland:

  • 🧊 Sólheimajökull – Sólheimajökull glacier is the smaller one. It’s a two-hour drive from Reykjavík and usually a shorter hike (about an hour on the glacier).

Sòlheimajökull is a popular glacier hike because it’s near Reykjavík. Most tour operators offer pick-up from the capital city.

  • 🧊 Vatnajökull – Vatnajökull is Europe’s biggest glacier. It’s a four-hour drive from Reykjavík and usually a longer hike (about two hours on the glacier). Visitors tend to stay at the nearby Skaftafell town when hiking this glacier.

Being on the glacier for longer means you can go higher into it and see more of it. However, you won’t reach the top of the glacier, as that requires more expertise and time.

A cloudy sky with a glacier, snowy floor.
Vatnajökull in Iceland

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Itinerary

A typical Vatnajökull hiking tour is just under six hours long. The most surprising part is that you’re on the glacier for only two hours.

Here’s how a glacier hike tour breaks down:

TimingGlacier Hike Itinerary
40 minsGear up – At the Skaftafell meeting point near, you’ll put on the right helmet size, ensure you have acceptable hiking boots, etc.
15 minsEducational introduction – Your tour guide will walk you through a quick introduction to Vatnajökull.
20 minsBus ride – You’ll take a quick, bumpy bus ride to the start of the glacier trail.
45 minsHike to the glacier – This is an easy, flat hike. Before getting on the glacier, the guide will teach you how to use crampons.
2 hoursGlacier hike – The glacier is ever-changing, so the route you take on it varies. I walked through deep crevasses, saw a waterfall, peeked into deep holes, and drank glacier water (which was very refreshing!).
45 minsHike back – You’ll hike the same way back.
20 minsBus back – The bus takes you back to the tour’s meeting point.

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What To Pack & Wear

Wearing the right clothes on an Iceland glacier hike will ensure you don’t have a miserable experience if the weather doesn’t hold up.

The weather on an Iceland glacier is ever-changing; it can be warm and sunny for a few minutes and then turn cold and windy. My hike started sunny and turned into a hail storm.

Here’s what to wear and pack to an Iceland glacier hike:

  • Acceptable hiking boots – If you don’t want to rent boots, you must bring ones that meet the glacier hike requirements.

Acceptable hiking boots for a glacier hike need ankle protection, hard soles, and the right shape for the crampons. Since my boots didn’t meet these requirements, I rented boots for 1000 ISK (roughly $7).

A hiking shoe next to more intense hiking boots with toe and ankle protection.
Glacier hike boots
  • Waterproof outer top – You’ll want a jacket that you can easily remove if it gets too warm. I wore my regular rain jacket.
  • Waterproof pants – My biggest regret was bringing water-resistant pants instead of waterproof ones. My legs were freezing during the hail storm, and having waterproof pants would have significantly lessened how cold I was.
  • Layers for your upper body – If the weather stays sunny, you won’t want to wear your puffer jacket or warm clothing. Before the hail storm, I was warm in my sun hoodie, and some people wore short sleeves.
  • Waterproof gloves – When it gets cold, you’ll likely not want to hold your metal ice axe with your bare hands, so it’s good to pack some waterproof gloves.
  • Hat or headband – It can get very gold, so you’ll want head protection.
  • Day pack with rain cover – You’ll need a bag to hold your snacks and extra layers. My backpack had straps in the front that could carry my ice pick, which was convenient because I didn’t use them at all.
  • Sunglasses (optional) – Keep in mind that glaciers can be very reflective. I didn’t feel like I needed them, but others had them.
  • Reusable water bottle – Glacier water is safe to drink in Iceland, so you’ll want to bring something that can scoop up the water. I carried my reusable water bottle.
  • Snacks or lunch – My tour operator encouraged us to pack snacks and lunch. Since it rained and hailed during lunchtime and there was no cover, my group skipped lunch and ate later while waiting for the bus.

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Iceland Trip Planner 2024

To make your travel preparation easier, download the trip planner below. It has destination-specific travel information, itinerary, map, and packing list.

My trip planners are built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning. I genuinely love this tool and creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Iceland trip planner for 2024.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

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