South Iceland: A 2,000-year-old Ice Cave and Other Frosty Wonders

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After the epic excursion to Jokulsarlon and Crystal Beach, it was time for further adventures. Our next stop was the first (and only) ice cave we were to see on this tour. Getting there was already an adventure by itself. Our group split into two and there were two smaller vans which brought 11 people each onto the glacier. I was lucky to be in the group that arrived first, as one van was having troubles and the group behind us ended up waiting for us to return until it was their turn to explore the ice cave.

A true off-road adventure
A true off-road adventure

We certainly were not the only group up on Vatnajokull Glacier. It seemed to be quite a popular destination on that day and our van was smashing its way through the highest snow that had been around in a few weeks (thanks to the blizzard of the previous days). Just getting to the ice cave by itself was a true off-off-road-experience. At times we wondered if we were able to make it at all but then our driver surprised us as in many times during this trip. Jonas was a tall, strong guide and he applauded what we were about to do: “That’s what we live for. Forget about the day-to-day-life, the everyday hassles. What we really yearn for is to risk something, to be proud of who we’ve become in the process of risking, and to see life in a different light after. It’s all about getting out of the comfort zone,” he said while circumventing yet another knee-high hole curved into the snowy path we will call a road.

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After half an hour of constant bumping and swerving around, we finally made it: We were on top of Vatnajokull Glacier. Fresh, icy air, glistening snow, sun rays in my face. It was one of the most superb feelings I’ve ever had. And not only me – jumps in the air were on other peeps’ agenda, too.

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We then trekked in a line towards the ice cave, stopping every few minutes just to take in the view.
And then we were there: Inside a 2,000-year-old ice cave, surrounded by frozen water that formed around us and made out the impressive sculpture of ice altogether. The lighting was superb and the deeper we got in, the bluer everything seemed.

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We dodged the other groups that were there by crawling through a small tunnel to a second ice cave. Certainly not for the faintest of heart and if you have circulatory problems, you should probably be aware that the air gets thinner the more you crawl into it. Our guide suggested a maximum of 20 minutes in this small extension. Enough to get a few long exposure and a great overview of the terrain. At one point I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, but I guess it’s normal when in cold terrains for a while.

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The guide assured me that frostbite wouldn’t occur that soon but take a much longer time (think days), so that made me feel slightly better. We wore a helmet the entire time for safety reasons and we also got a quick briefing on how to huddle up in the middle of an ice cave should it come crashing down on us (instead of hurrying to the sides). Luckily there was no such point during the 1 1/2 hours we spent inside in which we felt unsafe or life-threatened.

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After getting back to the bigger ice cave and out in the open, it was time to enjoy the fresh glacier air one more. Crampons were certainly still necessary and this is what they look like:

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The rest of our group arrived in the small van and we were escorted back to our red truck. Unfortunately it had gotten stuck in the snow and it took a while to get the four-wheeler out of the arctic mess.
We saw Crystal Beach one last time until the rest of the group joined from the ice cave. Then it was time to depart on our 5-hour-journey back to Reykjavik.

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Thanks to GoEcoo Tours for providing such a great tour. Check out more info and other amazing winter tours on their web site:

www.goecco.com

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5 thoughts on “South Iceland: A 2,000-year-old Ice Cave and Other Frosty Wonders

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