Published November 16, 2017
You don’t need to have good ice sight (Ha!) to spot Falljökull; an outlet glacier from the Vatnajökull icecap–the largest glacier in Europe that covers 8% of Iceland’s landmass. I thought to myself, “hiking a portion of a glacier that large? it’s snow problem (double ha!)”.
The Road Less Traveled
We start the ‘Into The Glacier’ tour by departing for the Skaftafell national park, it’s a bit of a journey as it’s a 4-hour drive east of Reykjavík. If you’re staying in the capital, Arctic Adventures does not offer pick up from here. However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. This gives you a great opportunity to explore south Iceland, stopping in charming little restaurants like Systrakaffi in Kirkjubæjarklaustur–a super tiny village, population 120 people. Upon reaching Skaftafell, you travel by bus to Falljökull, it’s about a 15-20 minute drive, just enough time to get really pumped for your journey. If you’re like me and never prepared for anything in your life, Arctic Adventures offer rentals on all the equipment you need. From waterproof jackets to hiking boots, they have it all.
Upon reaching the base of the glacier, our super hilarious and knowledgeable guide, Hilary Hampton, was able to answer all of our questions. First, we go over how not to seriously injure ourselves (spoilers) and how to put on crampons. After we reach the icecap, Hilary educates us on how the glacier is being affected by climate change (you know, melting).
What’s great about the ‘Into The Glacier’ tour is that you get a bargain of mini adventures and activities throughout the day. The ice cave is pretty far up the glacier–about a 30-minute trek. We stopped often, taking in the view and making our Instagram awesome! There are multiple existing trails leading to the cave; we chose a fairly new one–about a week old. A combination of taking a new path and walking in crampons for the first time in years, ended with me having a very unfortunate and awkward fall. So please good people, concentrate on your feet and your next step so you don’t end up like Jenna!
Entering the ice cave was a daunting experience, walking on stairs literally made of ice is as scary as it sounds, but not to worry! Hilary always reminded us to be aggressive when walking. She says you have to walk on ice like you’re a child throwing a tantrum. Stomping your feet definitely helps gripping onto the ice, so unless you have a death wish, listen to your guide. The concave pattern of the ice formations almost feels like you’re in a kaleidoscope. The cave is covered in sky blue ice that is formed when air bubbles are compressed, making the ice appear blue. You’re given a gracious amount of time for pictures, no filter necessary, your photos are sure to get a ton of likes (the only reason to travel really). After my tour was over I was scrambling to get back to the bus, but since I had to find my own way to Skaftafell, it allows you to take your time after the trip to relax and soak up the atmosphere. There’s a small cafeteria with a great selection of soups, sandwiches, desserts and hot beverages. After I scoffed down my delicious apple pie, I had the option of watching a short documentary on the Skaftafell National Park, the best part are the shots of the Gígjukvísl Bridge, which collapsed after a volcanic eruption in 1996.
‘Into The Glacier’ is a great excursion if you’re looking to get out of Reykjavík for the day. The trip to Skaftafell is just as exciting as the tour itself, offering boundless opportunities to discover the south coast. Oh, and to take Instagram pictures!
Name: Hilary Hampton
Home Town: Wyoming, United States
Favorite part of the job: Hilary loves being outdoors and meeting people from all around the world.
Funny guide moment: “I saw a farmer chasing his sheep on the glacier one time, and all I could think was ‘is he wearing crampons?’”