The Extraordinary Ice Caves of Iceland – a Winter World Fairytale

Beautiful ice caves form in the wintertime in Iceland's glaciers. Visiting them is a breathtaking experience.

Inside an ice cave in Breiðamerkurjökull glacier

Visting the seasonal ice caves has become increasingly popular in Iceland, and one of my favorite things to do in my country in the wintertime is to visit these extraordinary caves.

The ice caves change in appearance every time they form in the wintertime, so visiting them is always a new and exciting experience. The older ones melt and collapse and new ones are found.

Blue, black and white ice inside an ice cave

Every winter our glacial guides search for new ice caves and we eagerly wait for their photos to see what they look like.

The ice caves can only be visited on a guided tour and I have joined ice cave tours in Langjökull glacier, Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and Vatnajökull glacier.

In this travel-blog I am going to show you the ice caves I have visited in Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland’s largest glacier, and  Europe’s largest ice cap by volume.

Inside an ice cave

It isn’t long ago that we started visiting these ice caves and guided ice cave tours started becoming very popular 5-6 years ago.

I visited my first ice cave in January 2016 on a private tour. That year a big dome of sapphire blue ice appeared in the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an icefall of Vatnajökull.

The whole group was in awe as we had not seen anything like it. I instantly fell in love with the ice caves 🙂

Blue and black ice inside an ice cave

That year all the ice cave tours sold out, and the same happened in the following years. People saw the amazing photos and everybody wanted to visit an ice cave.

Visiting the ice caves has now become one of the most popular guided winter tours in Iceland.

Now I am going to show you the 2 ice caves, which I visited on a guided tour in the spring of 2021.

The Black Diamond

In 2021 the ice caves we visited back in 2016 had collapsed and new ones had formed.

The ice caves have been given names that describe their beauty and the colors of the ice, like the Black Diamond, the Sapphire, the Crystal, etc.

The Black Diamond ice cave

The Black Diamond

We first visited the Black Diamond, which was a dome of pitch-black shining ice. It reminded me of beautiful shiny obsidian – the volcanic glass.

What makes the ice this black in color is the amount of ash from volcanic eruptions, which got trapped inside the ice.

You can see the stripes, which look like gold in my photo below. They are also layers of ash that appear golden when the flash reflects off the black ice.

Inside the Black Diamond

As you can see from the photos then we had been equipped with all the necessary gear before entering the ice caves.

We got helmets with lights, glacier crampons, and safety instructions.

Dress warmly and wear waterproof clothes, a cap, gloves, and good hiking shoes.

A sky window in the Black Diamond

There is one crucial ice cave rule: the ice caves can only be visited with a professional glacier guide.

The glaciers move under their own weight and calve, so it is only safe to visit them with a glacier guide who knows when it is safe to enter them.

The Sapphire ice cave

Black and blue ice formations with a heart in the Sapphire

Now it was time to visit the Sapphire ice cave, another ice cave that appeared in the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.

We entered a dome of glistening black and blue ice – no words can justly describe the feeling of being inside such a wonder of nature.

We were surrounded by the most bright sapphire and aquamarine colors – it was like entering a winter world fairytale.

Every time we enter an ice cave it is a unique experience and we never know what to expect. And visiting the Sapphire was a totally different experience from visiting the Black Diamond.

We visited the ice caves late in the season when they had started melting a bit, so it almost looks like it is raining inside them.

But it only added to the mystique of this extraordinary cave.

Inside an ice cave

This was the last tour of that season, as usually the caves can only be entered with a glacier guide from early November until April.

One tip, which I always forget to follow myself – wear yellow if you possibly can inside the ice caves, as yellow against the blue and black ice colors in the ice caves is a beautiful combination.

One of my fellow travelers was wearing yellow and you can see the difference in the photo below.

Black and blue ice ceiling in an ice cave

Visting the ice caves is a breathtaking experience and no matter how often I enter an ice cave I am in awe.

These seasonal ice caves can be entered on a guided tour in the wintertime, but at other times the Katla Ice Cave in Mýrdalsjökull glacier in South-Iceland can be visited with a guide.

In my next travel-blog I am going to show you Iceland’s Crown Jewel – the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon and the sparkling ice diamonds on the black sand beach, which is also by Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.

Don’t miss visiting the ice caves of Iceland – it is a unique experience! Have a lovely time in Iceland 🙂


Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir