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Inside Vatnajökull Ice Cave, Iceland’s “Anaconda Ice Cave”

|March 22, 2020
A storyteller, photographer, and outdoor enthusiast. Yanshu finds the vast Icelandic wilderness enchanting and wants to share her passion about Iceland from an authentic, multicultural perspective.

Anaconda Ice Cave is a glacier ice cave located on Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland. The glacier’s mightiness fostered many ice caves that share the same beautiful title - “Crystal Ice Cave” - because of the crystal blue ice.

Vatnajökull Ice Cave is also known as Anaconda Ice Cave and Crystal Ice Cave. The glacier gets its “crystal” name because of its crystal-blue ice; and it’s sometimes called “anaconda” because it’s long and winding, like the fearsome snake.

It’s an incredible experience, entering a glacier and seeing the pure, crystal ice within.

Here, we’ll tell you a little about the glacier itself, and then discuss the incredible ice cave.

You can experience this unbelievable site on our Vatnajökull Ice Cave Tour with Glacier Hike.

Vatnajökull: Iceland’s Biggest Glacier

Sometimes called “Vatna Glacier”, Vatnajökull is the largest icecap in Europe, covering an estimated 8% of Iceland. It spans a humbling 7,900 km2 and – like many glaciers – covers several volcanoes.

As you might expect from such a titan of nature, the glacier has created several smaller wonders; including glacier lagoons, rivers, breath-taking canyons and vast waterfalls.

You can find out more about the glacier and the region in our guide to Vatnajökull Glacier and Vatnajökull National Park.

What Does Vatnajökull’s Crystal Ice Cave Look Like?

Standing at the gigantic entrance to Crystal Ice Cave, the texture of the ice glistens in the sun. Looking ahead, the tunnel appears endless as shades of blue descend all the way to create a hole of darkness. The blue ice arch is spectacular, underneath runs a small stream surrounded by bright blue ice chunks. It’s was absolutely beautiful to see.

Stepping into the Ice Cave

Entering the Ice Cave, you can get a sense of the surroundings by checking out the crystal ice ceiling.

The guide will tell you about how ice appears the way it is and how ice caves begin to form and stabilize, explaining the ins and outs of the amazing natural phenomenon. Anaconda Ice Cave is so impressively spacious and it’s safe to say that it’s one of the largest ice caves found in Iceland so far.

Colors in the Ice Cave

In addition to the sheer size, the blue glacier ice is another highlight. Glacier ice looks blue due to the density of the ice. The ice is also much thicker and denser than regular ice, for example, an ice cube in your freezer. It’s a result of a process that takes hundreds of years of snowflakes falling and compressing and re-crystallizing into ice, during which air bubbles trapped in the ice will be pushed out.

When a chunk of ice is too dense to have any air in it, light travels deeper. The deeper the light travels, the more red-coloured spectrums it loses along the way, making the ice appear blue to our eyes. That’s why the glacier ice in Iceland has that magical, otherworldly shade of blue.

A little hike before the Ice Cave

Before reaching the ice cave, the guide will assist you in putting on crampons and helmet for a short glacier hike. Participating in the ice cave tour has two options, you can join them directly from Reykjavik or you can choose to visit crystal ice cave meet on location at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Amazing Facts about Vatnajökull Ice Cave

  • Before you reach Ice Cave by a brief glacier hike, you will take an exciting super jeep ride on the vast ice cap of Vatnajokull.
  • Vatnajokull Ice Cave is the largest natural ice cave in Iceland to be found in years, and you will find it mesmerizing for its sheer size, charming colours, enchanting texture, and the absolute tranquil felling inside.
  • The Ice Cave is more than a hundred meters deep on one end and through a turn in the cave, you will find an astonishing opening of moulin that is, in fact, another entrance to Anaconda.
  • Through the ice wall’s wavy appearance, you can see how glacial river meandered smoothly through the glacier with visible forms of motion.
  • There is a tiny waterfall streaming off the ice ceiling near the entrance testifying that ice caves are an ever-changing natural phenomenon and Anaconda is still in the making.
  • Inside, you will find a part of the space was completely dark since it’s away from both ice cave openings. When your glacier guides turn their lights off, you will experience the utter quietness inside the ancient glacier as if time has stopped.

Where is Vatnajokull Ice Cave and how do you Get There?

This Ice Cave was found on the south side of the Vatnajokull glacier. The glacier is located on the southeast side of Iceland, to get there you will pass the spectacular South Coast of Iceland.

It takes about 5 hours to drive from Reykjavik via the Ring Road, aka Route 1, all the way to the south to reach the meeting point for visiting Vatnajokull Ice Cave. The meeting point for most Vatnajokull glacier activities is the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon parking area.

You can join one of our self-driving tours, such as this 3 Day Self-Drive tour to the South Coast and Golden Circle of Iceland, or you can join one of the many guided tours departing from Reykjavik, which offer free pick-up right in front of many accommodations in the Reykjavik area.

Things to do near Vatnajokull Ice Cave

While you’re in the area, there’s an abundance of fantastic things to see and do…

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions en route to Vatnajokull. It’s a gorgeous glacial lake that only came to existence in the 1920s and it continues to expand. Now as the deepest lake in Iceland, the depth of Jokulsarlon can reach down to 248 meters (814 feet) and it carries huge icebergs away from Breidamerkurjokull glacier tongue to the North Atlantic Ocean.

Diamond Beach

On their way out of this lagoon, its floating icebergs got stranded on the black volcanic beach resulting in a spectacular scene with diamond-like ice cubes spreading over the beach, and that’s how the black sand beach got its glamourous name – the “Diamond Beach”.

Vatnajokull Super Jeep and Boat Tours

Many tours in the Vatnajokull National Park depart from the glacier lagoon including Vatnajokull super jeep tours, tours to the ice caves, and in the summertime Jokulsarlon lagoon boat tours are highly recommended.

Iceland’s South Coast

On your way to Jokulsarlon, the scenic ride along the South Coast of Iceland is one of the most strongly recommended trips and you will stop by many iconic attractions including Seljalandsfoss, the waterfall you can walk behind; Skogafoss, one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls; Reynisfjara, the famous black sand beach; and the beautiful seafront town Vik, home to beloved Puffins in summer and a terrific ocean view backdropped by ice-capped mountains.

The Golden Circle

Before you drive to the South Coast, it’s also popular to take a detour from Reykjavik to the famous Golden Circle to see the three most spectacular natural attractions: Thingvellir National Park, the Great Geysir and Strokkur Hot Springs, and Gullfoss waterfall.

What to be Aware of When You Visit Vatnajökull Ice Cave?

Visiting Vatnajokull Ice Cave is an extraordinary, unforgettable experience. To enhance your experience, there are a few pointers our guides would like to share with you. For a professional guiding operator like Arctic Adventures, they will provide all necessary safety equipment for everyone for free, so you only need to consider what to bring for yourself.

  • A pair of good hiking boots is essential for visiting ice caves. If you don’t have a pair with you while visiting Iceland, the guided ice cave tours offer rental gear upon paying a small fee. Waterproof pants are also recommended.
  • The weather in Iceland is notoriously unpredictable, especially on glaciers. This can mean tours can become canceled a tour due to adverse weather conditions. Safety is always the primary concern.
  • For self-drive meet-on-location participants Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, as the meeting point, is an awesome location to visit and a highlight attraction on the South Coast of Iceland. Please plan your itinerary wisely so you will get the most out of visiting this part of the country.
  • Crystal Ice Cave tours are normally operated from November to March. Each month in Iceland can be somehow different weather-wise, and we suggest you read our monthly good-to-know blog posts about Iceland in November, DecemberJanuaryFebruary, and March to see what to be aware of when you plan to visit an ice cave, especially what to wear when you are in Iceland.
  • Although most ice caves are only allowed to visit in the wintertime, there is one cool ice cave you can drop by in summer. The ice cave under the volcano Katla is famous for its glorious ever-changing appearances and swirling volcanic ash in between crystal glacier ice.
  • Reykjavik is not close to most glacier ice caves, but a lot of tours depart from Reykjavik picking up customers right in front of a major number of accommodations, making it easier to stay in
  • Reykjavik during your entire time in Iceland while visiting remote but beautiful locations.
  • The closest ice cave to visit from the capital is the ice cave on Langjokull – see our Langjökull Ice Cave Tour From Reykjavik – the second largest glacier in Iceland.  You can also combine Snowmobiling on Langjökul Glacier with an Ice Cave Exploration: it’s a fantastic combo of adventures and amazing sceneries.

Find out more about Ice Caves in Iceland.

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