Tons and tons of ice crashing and falling over each other, forming a endless fall of jagged ice. What we were seeing is the equivalent of a waterfall for a glacier. This glacier waterfall may seem stationary for our eyes but it is a rapidly flowing and falling in glacier standards. This is the Iceland glacier hike we wanted to do in Skaftafell National Park.
At the beginning of the year, we went on a two hour glacier hike in Argentina on Viedma Glacier. We didn’t quite like that experience. Although the terrain of Viedma Glacier was quite interesting, it was extremely black and rocky on the surface. Our friend who did the 5 hr hike on Viedma Glacier saw a much cleaner glacier ice as they hiked further inwards. Learning from this, we were determined to do a longer hike on our Iceland glacier hike this time!
In Iceland there are two places that we could do glacier hiking. One is in Sólheimajökull, a glacier two hours away from the capital Reykjavik and the others are in Skaftafell National Park. Skaftafell National Park holds the ice deposit in Iceland and that is where we chose to do our Iceland glacier hike.
There were a few glacier hiking companies that operates in Skaftafell National Park. The company we went with was Glacier Guides (Official Website). They also offer a shorter 2 hr version of the glacier hike for only $50 USD difference in price. We joined the longer hike this time and we highly recommended that if you have the time and energy, do the longer hike. The further in you hike on the glacier, the scenery usually gets a lot better. There were few other companies that operates in Skaftafell National Park and all of them had pretty good reviews on Trip Adviser. We ended up going with Glacier Guides because we found a good deal on Viator.
Each of the glacier hiking company operates on different glaciers, however the meeting point for all the companies are all at the visitor center in the Skaftafell National park. The company we went with, Glacier Guides, hikes the Falljökull Glacier. We were given our hiking gears at the visitor center and then transported close to the Falljökull Glacier via bus. The safety gear includes harness, hard hat and an ice-pick.
There were a lot more safety gears than our previous hikes which worried us initially. Later we realized that it’s only because Iceland takes our safety more seriously! We were even provided with ice picks which could also be used as a cane for walking downhill. The harness were only for precaution, just in case we fall into a crevasse. Luckily our guide told us that no tourist has fallen into a crevasse before with this company.
Falljökull Glacier has a has a phenomena that is not seen anywhere else in the world. The final section of the Falljökull Glacier where it has completely stopped moving and they have called it the “Zombie Glacier”. Directly behind the Zombie Glacier is a glacier waterfall called Icefall. It is a place where huge amount of ice is falling on top of each other but it is not pushing the Zombie Glacier forward. This results in Zombie Glacier to remain stationary for years and no other glaciers in the world behaves this way! We began our Iceland glacier hike on this Zombie Glacier.
In total, we spent 4 hours on Falljökull Glacier and it was a very enjoyable experience! Although there were no ice caves to explore on the Falljökull Glacier but it was surely a lot bluer than our Vidma Glacier hike in Argentina! As we were climbing up towards the ice fall, we were constantly on a climb but the scenery just gets better and better and we got higher in altitude!
The weather was quite terrible this day and we were hit by hail storms twice. Immediately between these storms we had quite calm weather. Because we were on such open area, we could actually see when the storm clouds were approaching and prepare for them. The glacier hike operates under all conditions except for rough winds and luckily the wind didn’t get too strong that day!
Our guide told us that because of the rain, the glacier is extra hard to climb. The ice is hardened from the rain and the hardened ice is harder to grip. As a result we had to be more careful climbing up the glacier and occasionally, the guide will hack up some steps on the ice slopes.
Our guide told us that sheep on Iceland have free roam over the whole Iceland at the beginning of the year and they are only round up just before winter time. Hence there were sheep on on the high mountains on both sides of the glacier. Our guide seemly have a pair of hawk eyes can pick out where these sheep are on the cliff wall. But for us, we could only spot the sheep on our friend’s zoom camera. Sometimes the sheep have to be led across the glacier during the round up and apparently it’s quite funny to see them struggle across the slippery ice!
Because the sheep doesn’t wear crampons so they sometimes slip and fall into the crevasse on the glacier. Luckily they normally get stuck because of they long wool and the farmers can hook the sheep out easily!
Melted glacier ice usually produces the tastiest water and the water we found on Falljökull Glacier was not any different. We found that the glacier water on Vidma Glacier in Patagonia was quite delicious too! halfway through our hike, we refilled our water bottles with the glacier water and drank as much as we can. Iceland is a place with excellent water and all of Iceland’s tap water is drinkable!
Our guide is called Mark and he is a 23 years . old engineer who moved to Iceland because of his girlfriend. He was full of energy the whole time and very enjoyable to be around. He will not hesitate to jump in any of our photos. On such a grim and rainy day on the glacier, Mark surely kept our morals high and he did all this with utmost professionalism. We were happy to have him as our guide!
The following link is the official website to Glacier Guides (Official Website). We definitely believe that the 15990 ISK was totally worth this Iceland glacier hike experience. However Glacier Guides do not provide transport services from Reykjavik, so if you do no have a hire car, you can consider our companies like Icelandic Mountain Guides (Official website) which does provide transport services!
We found that all the companies here have great ratings on Trip Advisor! Also these companies offer ice cave tours after November when the caves are safe enough to explore. These ice caves look amazing and we would have loved to explore one of them if we came during winter. However we have already booked to climb to Everest Base Camp in November.
Within Skaftafell National Park there is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and it is the largest glacier lake in Iceland. The view here is brilliant and many Hollywood movies were filmed here such as Tomb Raider, Batman Begins and 007-Die another day.
We visited the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon just before our glacier hike so we didn’t stay here for too long and we didn’t have time to visit the famous diamond beach either. However because we only visited Antarctica (further reading) at the beginning of this year so we didn’t feel like we were missing out too much.
Due to global warming, this lake had expanded from 8 square Km in 1975 to 18 square Km today! We saw similar dramatic changes like this when we visited Antarctica, such as the whole specie of penguin completely migrated over 5 years due to warmer climates on the Antarctic peninsula! We didn’t realize how global warming is damaging this world until we saw changes like this!
For 40 Euros, you can join a boat cruise that can take you close to these icebergs. Since we have only been to Antarctica not long ago, we though we would give this boat trip a miss.
Only 5 minutes drive from the Jökulsárlón lagoon is another smaller lake called Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This lagoon is quite worthwhile visiting because it has relatively less tourists here. However, you will have to hike a little before you can get to the edge of the lake.