Vatnajokull is Europe’s largest glacier and with climate change it’s estimated to be retreating at a pace of one meter per year. Some say that in 100 years Vatnajokull may no longer exist. When you visit the park and see the expanse of the glacier and all of its outlet glaciers, it’s hard to think that such a thing could ever happen. However, it’s a fact that is evident in the illustrations around the visitors center showing how far the glacier has retreated over the years. Entering this area of Iceland I felt privileged for the opportunity to witness the existence of this massive feat of nature.
Before visiting Vatnajokull, my husband and I did a lot of research on glacier hikes and ice climbing. However, the prices for these were a little steep for our budget. Fast-forward to our drive as we neared the entrance of the park in Skaftafell, the glaciers started to come into view and I just knew that I needed to get closer. Luckily there were two companies in the parking area that provided guided glacier hikes. We made the best decision in our trip by booking a 5 hour glacier hike with Glacier Guides. They were extremely knowledgeable and 100% professional. The tour cost us $350 CAD for two people and it included crampons, pick axes, harness and helmets. I suggest you wear good hiking shoes so the crampons can be easily attached, otherwise hiking shoes can be rented.
This was our first time on a glacier and we were very excited. We were also nervous after seeing a display of scrap clothing in the visitors centre. Apparently, it’s from a research student that hiked the glacier and never came back. Luckily, Glacier Guides eased our fear by starting the tour with practice walks up a small incline on the glacier. It was odd walking with crampons and applying a bit of force on every step. The guide then took us further up and we hiked through and around crevices. Hiking through the crevices, we were surrounded by walls of blue ice. Ice that had been there for thousands of years. This was my favourite part. We also filled our water bottles with sweet glacier water.
The whole experience was intensely beautiful, the heat from the sun contrasting with the coolness of the ice. It was one of the few sunny days we had in our October visit to Iceland. We hiked the glacier tongue called Fláajökull for 5 hours and took a 15 minute bus ride back to the park entrance. It’s an experience I will never forget, and I still fantasize about setting up a little cabin close to Vatnajokull. If you have the extra cash to spare, I highly recommend this hike.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR VISIT TO VATNAJOKULL
- Stay at least one or two days. There are plenty to see and do in this area. We stayed in Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – $301.96 CAD for 2 nights (breakfast, parking , internet incl.)
- Bring hiking shoes, a good camera and layered clothing
- If you’re planning a glacier hike please visit Glacier Guides for more information at www.glacierguides.is
- If you’re not able to do the glacier hike, take the short hike from the visitor’s centre to Skaftafellsjokull. There’s an awesome view of the glacier and its glacier lagoon
- Svartifoss is also a popular hike. It’s a bit longer and unfortunately we were not able to complete the hike due to limited time.
For the location of Vatnajokull National Park, please visit my post Top 10 Things to do in Iceland for an interactive map.
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