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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.

Located on the largest glacier in Iceland is Vatnajökull Ice Cave, one of the many natural wonders that the island has to offer. Discover everything you need to know about this hidden gem before stepping inside for an icy adventure.


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

Two people with red waterproofs inside Vatnajokull

Two people wearing red waterproofs and helmets inside the Vatnajokull ice cave.

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.

Icebergs floating in water beside the Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland.

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, breathtaking 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?

A view of the opening of the Anaconda ice cave in Iceland.

Standing at the unmissable entrance to Anaconda Cave, the surface of the ice sparkles 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, and underneath runs a small stream surrounded by bright blue ice chunks.

Stepping into the Ice Cave

Upon 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

A stream of water running from the ceiling of the Anaconda ice cave.

In addition to the sheer size, the blue glacier ice in the cave is another highlight. Glacier ice appears 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 the result of a process that takes hundreds of years, whereby snowflakes fall onto the ice, are compressed by more snowfall, and re-freeze into ice. When the mass is compressed, any air bubbles are pushed out, making it as dense as possible. 

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 a helmet for a short glacier hike. Participating in the ice cave tour has two options; you can join directly from Reykjavík or you can choose to join the Crystal Ice Cave meet on location at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

A super jeep parked on the ice surface of the Vatnajokull glacier.

Amazing Facts about Vatnajökull Ice Cave

  • Vatnajökull Ice Cave is the largest natural ice cave in Iceland to be found in years, and you will find it captivating for its size, charming colors, enchanting texture, and the absolute tranquil feeling inside.

  • The Anaconda 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 the cave.

  • Through the ice wall’s wavy appearance, you can see how the 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 that’s 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 VATNAJÖKULL Ice Cave and how do you Get There?

Blue coloured ice of the Anaconda ice cave.

This ice cave was found on the south side of the Vatnajökull 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 Reykjavík via the Ring Road, aka Route 1, all the way to the south to reach the meeting point for visiting Vatnajökull Ice Cave. The meeting point for most Vatnajökull glacier activities is the Jökulsárlón 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 Reykjavík, which offer free pick-up right in front of many accommodations in the Reykjavík area.

Things to do near VATNAJÖKULL Ice Cave

A person standing watching the icebergs on the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in winter.

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

JÖKULSÁRLÓN Glacier Lagoon

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

Diamond Beach

On their way out of the lagoon, floating icebergs become stranded on the nearby black volcanic beach. This results 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”.

VATNAJÖKULL Super Jeep and Boat Tours

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

Boat Tour in Glacier Lagoon

A boat full of people wearing red coats beside a large floating iceberg at Jokulsarlon Lagoon.

Iceland’s South Coast

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

Woman standing next to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland.

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Before you drive to the South Coast, it’s also popular to take a detour from Reykjavík 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. A professional guiding operator like Arctic Adventures 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.

Person wearing hiking boots, crampons and carrying an ice pick.

  • The weather in Iceland is notoriously unpredictable, especially on glaciers. This can mean tours are canceled due to adverse weather conditions. Safety is always the primary concern.

  • Crystal Ice Cave tours are normally operated from November to March. Each month in Iceland can be somewhat different weather-wise, and we suggest you read our monthly good-to-know blog posts about Iceland in November, December, January, February, and March for useful tips and information, particularly on what to wear.

  • Although most ice caves can only be visited in the wintertime, there is one cool ice cave that’s open 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.

People wearing helmets leaving out of the entrance of Katla ice cave.

Find out more about ice caves in Iceland.

 

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