The 5 Best Ice Caves in Iceland

Journey under Iceland’s glaciers on an ice caving adventure

Sofie

|October 14, 2019

Sofie is a nomadic journalist who loves to write about people, places, and food. In her free time, she can be found twirling around in her dancing shoes.


Strap on your crampons and visit the best ice caves in Iceland at the heart of our massive glaciers. This winter, make unforgettable memories on an ice caving adventure.


An island ruled by fire and ice, ice caves are formed by both geothermal activity and glacial meltwater. From year to year, no ice cave is alike. Each year, the caves melt and reform to reveal new areas and covering up others. Winter is the best time to visit ice caves in Iceland. The frigid temperatures keep the ice firm and safe to wander in. 

From bright aquamarine hues to coal-black ice, you’ll find there is more than one variety of ice cave. We've put together a great list of the 5 best ice caves to see in Iceland this winter:

1. Crystal Ice Cave

  • Location: Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier
  • Season: November - April

Crystal Ice Cave is the largest ice cave within Vatnajökull National Park. It's also known as Breiðamerkurjökull Cave, after the massive glacier that covers it.

The name 'Crystal Cave' comes from the transparent white and blue ice interior. 

Man Standing In Jokulsarlon Glacier Ice Cave

Ice caves' brilliant blue colors are a result of the compression of snow into ice. The weight of the ice presses out the oxygen.

The Crystal Ice Cave has such crystal-clear walls because the glacier is so old, it's had plenty of time to squeeze!

Some of this ancient ice dates back to around 1200 years!

"A delight for photographers"

One of the most eye-catching ice caves, the Crystal Ice Cave's glittering dome is a delight for photographers. Ice and water filters light naturally, so when the sun is strong in winter, the walls can look aqua and green.

To reach the glacier and its ice cave, climb on a super jeep on our Crystal Ice Cave & Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon tour.

For adventurers who want to explore the ice cave and other South Coast sites, try our Two-Day South Coast & Ice Cave excursion

2. Katla Ice Cave

  • Location: Kötlujökull Glacier
  • Season: All-year

Katla Ice Cave is a geological wonder created from fire and ice. Slumbering beneath Kotlujokull glacier, this lava cave was formed by the notorious Katla volcano.

This mountain cauldron is the most active volcano in the country! It’s erupted on average every 50 years, the last time being in 1918.

The traces of Katla's eruptions are sometimes etched on the walls of its massive ice caves.

Man in Katla Ice Cave

A far cry from the pristine blue ice of Iceland's other famous caves, Katla has distinct blue and black ice walls dotted with bubbles.

As you walk along the cave, you'll notice that the tectonic stress has moved some of the thick, icy layers so that they're perpendicular to the ground. 

The best time to see ice caves in Iceland is usually winter, but thanks to the geology of Katla, you can visit this impressive cave all year long.

Walking into Katla is like stepping into a fantasy realm in a film.

Fans of Star Wars might recognize the approach to Katla Cave, as it appeared in "Star Wars: Rogue One." Early in 2018, explorers found a second ice cave deep inside.

After passing through a narrow ice tunnel, emerge out into an open space capped with a dome-like ceiling--Katla cave's "ice cathedral."

Explore this otherworldly site with our certified glacier guide on our Katla Ice Cave Tour: Under the Volcano!

3. Langjökull Ice Cave

  • Location: Langjökull Glacier
  • Season: All-year 

Day tours to natural ice caves have quickly become a bucket-list item for tourists who visit Iceland. So in 2015, a group of Icelandic entrepreneurs decided to take a cue from Mother Nature and opened Iceland's first man-made ice cave.

The impressive Langjökull Ice Cave was carved out with large drilling equipment in the western part of Langjokull Glacier, the second-largest icecap in the country.  

Langjokull Glacier Ice Cave

Langjökull translates to "long glacier," so it makes sense that the tunnel below holds the title as the world's longest man-made ice tunnel!

Wander 1,640 feet (550 meters) deep into the heart of a glacier, 4,134 feet (1,260 meters) above sea level. 

"Iceland's first man-made ice cave."

Soft LED lights illuminate the aquamarine cave and its chambers. A popular glacial destination, Langjökull cave is home to exhibitions, sitting areas, and even a wedding chapel.

Thankfully, you can still observe the imperfect beauty of icicles and crevasses found in natural caves. 

Despite being a man-made cave, Langjökull is not immune to climate conditions. The creators estimate it could last 10-15 years without maintenance but will need repairs. 

Visit this record-breaking site with a certified guide on our Langjökull Glacier and Ice Cave Tour.

4. Vatnajökull Ice Caves

  • Location: Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier
  • Season: November - April
Blue Ice Cave In Vatnajokull

Vatnajökull is Europe's largest glacier, covering about 8% of Iceland's landmass with glacial ice.

With a surface area of approximately 3127 square miles (8,100 square kilometers), Vatnajökull National Park is home to over 30 outlet glaciers and countless natural ice caves!

One of the largest glaciers in the world you can glacier hike, break in your hiking boots on this trek to an ice cave. 

Vast as the ocean, it is difficult, but not impossible, to find natural ice caves that are safe to explore. Falljökull and Breiðamerkurjökull are two glacial outlets with stunningly beautiful ice caves perfect for exploration. 

While the Crystal Ice Cave is the most popular of these caves, new caves are forming all the time so maybe we'll discover a new site this season!

5. Skaftafell Ice Caves

  • Location: Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier
  • Season: October - March

The mystical Skaftafell ice caves can be found under the glaciers at Skaftafell National Park, another outlet of Vatnajökull.

Once its own park, it joined with Vatnajökull National Park in 2008 to become one of the largest national parks in Europe.

Skaftafell's cinematic landscapes have been shaped over thousands of years by powerful volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The park has a diverse terrain that includes glaciers, ice caves, lakes, valleys, and more.

Skaftafellsjokull, Falljokull, and Svinafellsjokull are the most famous glacier tongues in the area and hide these 'crystal ice caves'.

"Each year, guides discover new caves of all sizes in different locations."

In the case of Skaftafell, it is more accurate to call these ice coves glacier caves. They are formed by the glacial river that runs through the glacier in the summer.

For this reason, these caves can only be found in the winter when the water has frozen. The weather strongly affects these sites, so we advise visitors to not try to enter a cave alone! Join a certified glacier guide instead. An expert guide will teach you everything you need to know about ice caves.

Each year, guides discover new caves of all sizes in different locations. Wander inside the Skaftafell caves and you'll find a unique combination of transparency, color, and texture.

Ready to explore an ice cave for yourself? Browse our tours to Iceland's best ice caves

FAQ about Ice Caves in Iceland

Which is the best ice cave in Iceland?

They are all great! Each cave has one-of-a-kind features and varies in size and color. Browse through our collection of ice caving tours to get a better idea of what adventure fits your style. We even have some ice cave tours offered year-round if you want to go in the summer months.

Can you visit ice caves in Iceland on your own?

Ice caves are heavily affected by weather conditions. Even if you have previous outdoor experience, visiting ice caves alone can be dangerous. Luckily there are tons of expert guides who are always scouting the best and safest caves for groups to visit. 

Are there any ice caves near Reykjavik?

Most ice caving tours are near Vatnajökull National Park, which is a bit far from Reykjavik. On the plus side, because most tourists stay in the capital city, there are tours that offer pick-up and drop off for these excursions. If you are looking for a hassle-free day trip, try our Katla Ice Cave Tour: Under the Volcano, which offers transport from Reykjavik and back.  

Where are the ice caves in Iceland?

Ice caves are found under the massive glaciers located all around Iceland. Currently, 11% of Iceland is covered by ice, but it is impossible to know where all the ice caves are. Vatnajökull National Park covers 8% of Iceland, so a great number of ice and glacier caves are hidden within its limits.