Which ice caves do we visit on our tours with Hidden Iceland? What is the difference between Blue Diamond and Sapphire? Are all the blue ice cave options as blue each other? How do I choose which one is best for me? Some ice caves look massive, while others look more like a winding snake. Is one ice cave better than the other? What fitness level do I need to join?
This blog post was written to explain the different options for blue ice cave exploration while you are in Iceland. The ice caves change from year to year but Hidden Iceland will always endeavour to create the best experience no matter what the winter holds.
WHERE ARE ALL THE ICE CAVES?
The old adage that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice isn’t as true as you may think. In fact, 11% of Iceland is covered in glaciers of all different shapes and sizes. The largest glacier in Iceland is situated inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vatnajökull National Park. This is where Hidden Iceland spend a lot of their time during ice cave season. And for good reason. This ice cap covers 8% of the country alone and is almost 1km deep in sections.
To get to this part of the country takes around 5.5 hours from Reykjavik. However, when you have to contend with bad weather and shorter daylight hours you really should spend the night. After all, do you really want to spend most of the day in the car? It’s worth it, we promise!
Hidden Iceland tours always incorporate accommodation in secluded spots regardless of your blue ice cave option. An added bonus is that ‘middle of nowhere’ accommodation is often a great spot for hunting the northern lights too.
HOW MANY ICE CAVE TOURS DO YOU OFFER?
There are three main ice cave tours that Hidden Iceland provide. Each ice cave that we explore is hand picked for its beauty, size and safety. We partner up with local ice cave companies who are in charge of monitoring them for safety and accessibility.
Each ice cave is super blue and is big enough to comfortably stand up in. There will also be plenty of room to move around with your group. Regardless of tour length we aim to spend between 45 minutes and an hour in the ice cave itself with plenty to see before and after.
BLUE ICE CAVE OPTIONS
Each tour has its own perks and quirks so I will detail them below to help with your decision:
1. Sapphire Ice cave
The Sapphire ice cave is situated on the far south eastern side of the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier. This is the ice cave that Hidden Iceland take guests to on our 2 day Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 & Ice Cave Discovery tour. This ice cave is one of the biggest we’ve managed to take clients to in recent years and is incredibly blue. If you time it right on a clear day the delayed sunrise of winter can light up the walls of the ice cave. This can temporarily transforms the cave from a bright blue to a sparkling gold.
What does this blue ice cave option entail?
Firstly, to get to this ice cave we join our friends at Local Guide of Vatnajökull at the nearby Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We then take a bumpy superjeep tour for around 30 minutes. It’s then time for a moderate walk on the rocky terrain at the front of the glacier. This walk takes around 30 minutes too and is categorised as easy. However, you will be walking on loose rock so if you have issues with general fitness or have ankle and knee problems maybe this tour isn’t for you.
Once we get to the impressive ice cave you’ll see water flowing out of the middle. In the summer this small river becomes a torrential flow. It’s actually how the cave is shaped, creating a clean deep archway at the base of the glacier. We generally spend around 1 hour in the ice cave. If conditions are ripe we may go for a little wander to check out some other features on the glacier.
Perks and Quirks
Anyone with a general fitness level with full mobility should be able to do this tour. The entire ice cave trip last for around 4 hours, with 1 hour inside the cave.
The only draw back to this choice is that it can get extremely busy once the sun has risen due to other companies joining us inside the cave. To combat this, we begin the tour early (before sunrise in fact) so that we’re one of the first to arrive.
2. The Blue Diamond
The blue diamond ice cave is a product of surface level melting and partial movement of the glacier in the summer. This gives it an eery snake like appearance. You enter the ice cave from the top and descend into what appears to be a human sized hole. However, once you turn the first corner the ice cave opens up with plenty of space to move around.
The ice in here is unquestionably clear, clean and sky blue. Hidden coves and cracks make each winding turn unique. Even if you find yourself sharing the ice cave with another small group there’s ample places to get that perfect picture.
Feel free to roam around the inside of the cave under the leadership of your two guides. This sneaky ice cave has continued to transform rapidly over winter so a few wooden barriers have been put on the surface to stop it from filling with snow on the more stormy days.
What does this blue ice cave option entail?
The big difference between the Sapphire and Blue Diamond ice cave tour though is that Blue Diamond is on top of the glacier. This means that we need to swap vehicles and jump into another superjeep armed with chains on the tyres so we can drive on the glacier. Very exciting!
The Blue Diamond ice cave is a slightly shorter ice cave tour in the same area. We depart from the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon too. But instead of walking, we drive in a superjeep to the western side of the same glacier. To get to this ice cave we again utilise the expertise of local ice cave explorers, Local Guide of Vatnajökull. We take a bumpy super jeep ride for around 30 minutes to the base of the glacier.
Perks and Quirks
This ice cave is a little smaller than Sapphire but it’s just as blue and the unique shapes make it a good second cave if you wish to do both ice caves on a longer private tour. Depending on conditions the super jeep driver sometimes stops at a few other spots along the way. This tour lasts for around 3 hours and can replace the Sapphire ice cave on our scheduled tour if requested in advance.
The biggest perks for this tour is that there is virtually no walking expected of you, except inside the cave. So if you have issues with mobility or fitness, or just want a more relaxed time then perhaps this is the ice cave for you.
3. The Blue Dragon Helicopter tour
This ice cave is situated on the Skeiðarárjökull glacier in the Skaftafell area. The helipad is around 40 minutes west of the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Despite it being a little further away we would still have time to explore the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and diamond beach.
The ice cave gained its name, Blue Dragon, because the inside walls of the ice cave are patterned like dragon scales. This shimmering appearance is formed from excessive wind erosion throughout the winter.
What does this blue ice cave option entail?
Well, if seclusion is what you are after then perhaps taking a 10 minute helicopter ride to get to this ice cave is a better option. This option is only possible as part of a private tour itinerary. Since it is quite difficult to get to (helicopter only) it is inevitably much quieter. Sometimes you are the only group inside this ice cave (no guarantees though). We team up with Atlantsflug Flightseeing for this ice cave tour.
Furthermore, there are three main ice caves on this section of the glacier. And the caves are very close to each other. Once we touch down on the helicopter you can roam around all three under the supervision of your guide. These ice caves are just as blue and beautiful as the Sapphire and Blue Diamond. Avid photographers with tripods find these caves to give great results.
The fact that you have 3 different sizable ice caves to play with make this a great private tour. There’s also no extended walking expected of you on this tour.
Perks and Quirks
A big plus for this option is the helicopter ride itself, giving you a unique view of the mighty ice cap and towering volcanoes in the distance (on a clear day).
The one thing to consider before choosing this option however is that it can be more susceptible to bad weather. The helicopter pilots take safety very seriously so if the wind is too strong that day they may cancel. In this case, Hidden Iceland would find you an alternative adventure closer to the ground.
WHEN CAN I SEE THESE ICE CAVES?
Ice cave season runs from November to late March each year. In the warmer months a glacier hike is an incredible alternative. Instead of exploring the inner workings of the glacier in an ice cave you will go on an adventure on top of the ice, discovering newly formed crevasses (cracks), moulins (holes) and sculptures (séracs).
WILL IT BE THE SAME ICE CAVES NEXT YEAR?
The short version is, probably not. Pictured above is one of the ice caves we explored last year. Sadly, it has now disappeared. We will however do our best to find new ones. Who knows, maybe they’ll be even better!
Most importantly, Iceland has a very temperate climate. This means the glaciers are susceptible to lots of different types of erosion each year. Notably, temperature rise, rain and wind. This is the perfect platform for temporary ice caves to be formed. However, it is also sadly the perfect platform to melt away the ice caves from previous years.
Therefore, it’s unlikely that any of the ice caves from this winter will survive the warming summer’s of Iceland. At Hidden Iceland we consider this to be a good thing. It makes every ice cave season unique. And since no two caves are ever the same we get just as excited as you do when a new one is entered!
Moreover, below you will see a few more images of ice caves that our guides have explored in the past 4 years to show the diversity from year to year.
WILL YOU DEFINITELY FIND A NEW ICE CAVE NEXT YEAR?
Again, the short version is we simply don’t know. So much goes into the discovery of new ice caves in the summer months that there’s always a question mark if we’ll find a suitable one.
With that said, there’s a lot of ice in Iceland and the local ice cave explorers have been searching out new caves for generations. So we’re always cautiously confident that each year will bring with it a new and exciting alternative. In the meantime we’ll be doing what we do best, exploring and discovering great new spots.
If you want to learn more about the efforts that local ice cave explorers go into each year in search of that brand new ice cave you can check out our Discovering Ice Caves in Iceland blog post.
HOW TO BOOK MY ICE CAVE TOUR?
You can join Hidden Iceland on a scheduled departure or book a private itinerary. If you are intending to self drive and would like to book a ‘Meet On Location’ ice cave tour you can check out our trusted partner page here.
To check out all our other scheduled small group tours you can follow the link here. Or if you want to see a few sample private trip itineraries you can click here.
Or, you can always drop us a quick email if you are ready for us to help you plan your perfect trip: email@example.com
Hi, I am Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.
I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. My passion for the outdoors, science, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about Iceland. I have been interviewed in Forbes, Conde Nast Traveller and Travel Pulse on various subjects.
Hi . Is there a tour on 24th September 2022 to blue ice caves ?
Good question. We don’t start running our blue ice cave tours as part of our 2 day tour until the start of November due to the ice caves not generally being stable enough until the colder months. Until then, we include an adventurous glacier hike instead which is just as fun. You can book that here. This is running on the 23rd and 27th of September.