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New Katla Ice Cave 2024

Epic Transformation of Katla Ice Cave & How it Looks Now

|March 15, 2023
Anhelina is a travel writer with over five years of experience specializing in Iceland. With a background in foreign languages and translation, she conducts in-depth research to provide readers with detailed insights into Iceland's landscapes, culture, and hidden gems.

A brand-new look of the famous Katla ice cave was recently uncovered in the Kötlujökull glacier. Read about the transformation and how you can see it too on your trip to Iceland!

If you want to see what it looks like when ice meets fire, Katla Ice Cave is the place to go. This unique cave is situated inside a glacier on top of a volcano and is filled with ice and black ash stripes. As you can already guess, that looks fascinating. The unique feature of this cave is that it keeps changing, so every time you visit, it's going to be a different experience. 

During winter, the guides made an extraordinary discovery. The glacier caves had undergone a complete transformation, resulting in an appearance unlike anything seen before. This unique ice cave in Iceland is open year-round for visitors to explore. It's an exceptional place that stands out from other ice caves.

What awaits you in these newly discovered ice passages is really exciting. Ready to find out what the new Katla Ice Cave looks like?

Tourist enjoying the view of an ice cave

What Is Katla Ice Cave? Where is it located?

The Katla ice cave is located on the South Coast of Iceland. The entrance to the cave is inside the Kötlujökull glacier, part of the even larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which is the fourth by size in Iceland. 

Just imagine the sheer scale of these layers of ice that hide the caves inside!

But there's more to this place than ice. The Kötlujökull glacier is sitting on top of the infamous volcano named Katla. That means the cave is not a simple ice cave but also a part of a volcano covered by ice!

The Katla volcano is like a sleeping giant that wakes up every once in a while. It used to erupt every 40 to 80 years, but it has been sleeping for more than 100 years since its last eruption in 1918. When it erupts, though, it sends out ash that gets mixed into the ice, and that's why you can see pretty black stripes in the blue ice of the cave.

Woman exploring Katla ice cave

The Katla ice cave itself is a masterpiece. It's made as the glacier melts, revealing layers of ice mixed with ash. Since glaciers constantly move and change, the cave never looks the same. 

In fact, the Kötlujökull glacier is shrinking fast, about 35 meters each year. You could enter the cave right from the parking lot just a while back. Now, it's a 10-minute walk.

Because it's always changing and has all the beautiful layers of volcanic ash, visiting the Katla Ice Cave is a special and unique adventure every time. It's a very special attraction to visit in Iceland.

How & Why Katla Ice Cave is Changing

Person standing in between an ice cave

Let's learn about the evolution of the Katla ice caves. Here's a simpler explanation from one of our guides about how it has transformed over time.

Over the past 8 years, the guides have seen many natural ice caves forming in the same area - the south-east end of Kötlujökull glacier, which is connected to Iceland's fourth largest glacier, Mýrdalsjökull. These ice caves are a true marvel and can be visited all year round.

“This glacier has been a skilled artist for over a decade, creating some amazing ice caves. There have been giant arches that didn't get worn down by the weather, solid columns that held up huge roofs of ice, and long, twisty tunnels that went through the walls of ice.”

The Katla Ice Cave is one of these natural masterpieces. The ‘old’ Katla Ice Cave was already impressive with its layers of ash and natural skylights. Many tourists came to see it and walked under its arches and through its tunnels.

Old view of the inside of Katla ice cave

"Old" Katla ice cave

However, while the glacier was transforming, the guides found something completely new and even more remarkable. The new cave has a completely unique look.

It started last summer when a waterfall came out of a narrow tunnel, like water coming out of a pipe. After summer ended, the water pressure went down and revealed a whole network of tunnels. This new cave system is like a maze, with tunnels intersecting each other!

On average, these tunnels are about 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall and have smooth, flat floors made of ice that you can walk on. There's fresh air coming in from two entrances and big openings at the corners, which lights up the caves and shows off the amazing blue ice.

People inside an ice cave

"New" Katla ice cave

Inside, a stream of fresh meltwater is running, reminding us how the cave was formed and leading us through the cave. Now, people are calling it the ‘new’ Katla Ice Cave.

Since these caves were made in the summer, the glacier is now taking a break during the winter. This gives us a chance to go in, look around, and appreciate all the hard work the glacier has done. 

Once summer rolls around again, the Kötlujökull glacier will get back to work, making new caves. That means if you visit Katla on your next trip, you might see something totally different!

How to Visit Katla Ice Cave

Person preparing for ice caving

If you're planning to visit Katla Ice Cave, you'll need to book a guided tour. Our Katla tour offers pick-up services from Reykjavik or a meeting point in Vik town. Our guests love the tour (it’s one of the all-time bestsellers!) and are usually very excited to ride up to the glacier in our sturdy Super Jeep. 

Once we reach the glacier, there's a short hike to the cave that you'll need to complete. But the best part is yet to come! You'll get to explore inside the cave and witness a mesmerizing display of black and blue ice, volcanic ash, and stunning stripes and patterns.

Our knowledgeable guides will be with you every step of the way, providing insights into the cave's formation and history. You don't need to be an experienced hiker to join the tour - it's designed for ease and safety. We also provide crampons to ensure secure footing on the ice.

Driving back to Vik in the Super Jeep, especially during winter, is a big part of the whole experience, especially during sunset. The sun setting behind the mountains creates a magical view that's hard to describe. So don't forget to bring your camera along!


Panoramic view of Katla ice cave

Is the Katla ice cave worth it?

Katla Ice Cave is definitely worth a visit if you're looking for a unique experience in Iceland. You'll see the amazing combination of ice and volcanic ash, which some call 'dragon glass' because it looks like black obsidian. Exploring the cave’s tunnels and riding in a Super Jeep on the way there is really special!

Can you enter Katla Ice Cave without a tour?

You should not visit the Katla Ice Cave without a guided tour. The ice's stability, temperature, and weather changes, making it dangerous without proper gear and knowledge. Only experienced glacier guides can assess the cave safely on a daily basis. Our guides have the right caving equipment and use a suitable vehicle (Super Jeep), as regular rental cars are not equipped for the terrain leading to the cave.

Which ice cave is better in Iceland?

It's up to you to decide which one you like better! Iceland has many beautiful ice caves, but the Katla Ice Cave is special because you can visit it anytime. Also, the shape and ice in this cave look really unique.

Can you visit Katla Ice Cave in June?

Yes, the Katla Ice Cave can be visited in June. It is one of the few ice caves in Iceland accessible all year. Even in the summer, you'll have a one-of-a-kind experience in this glacier cave. Don't miss out!

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