Driving in Iceland can be the best thing ever or the most challenging thing ever! Really depends on the time of year you visit and what Mother Nature dishes out. But there are ways to prepare yourself to ensure you are ready no matter what! Therefore, today we will share with you all you need to know about Iceland rental cars and give you tips for driving while you’re here!
Choosing Iceland Rental Cars
Likely, after you book your flights and accommodation you will look for Iceland rental cars. Will you choose an economy, electrical car, SUV, van, or Land Rover?
First, you need to determine what type of adventure you wish to have. Meaning, will you stay on Route 1 the famed Ring Road? Or do you want to venture off onto F-Roads, and dirt paths, and get more offbeat? Second, if the first you can get away with an economy, midsize, etc during the months of April-October.
Third, when winter comes (November-March), we suggest you upgrade to something with 4-wheel drive or an SUV. That way you will have more confidence and capability to be able to maneuver in winter weather. Furthermore, your next question is what is the best company with Iceland rental cars? Our recommendation for you is to check out our friends at NorthBound. They have developed the best search tool for rental cars in Iceland as you will see below…
Fuel Prices in Iceland
If you’re not going the electric route while choosing Iceland rental cars, you may be curious about fuel prices. To illustrate and help you with planning your Iceland road trip check out this fuel calculator. Who knows, depending on how you want to explore you may find signing up for our private tours will be more fun to do!
Next, if you want to be prepared here is a list of Iceland fuel station names so you can be on the watch for them:
- Costco Fuel (If staying within the Reykjavik area can be convenient)
- N1 (Note: On average more expensive but most available throughout the countryside)
- Olís (Note: On average more expensive)
Tips for Driving in Iceland
For those of you living in countries that drive on the RIGHT side of the road, you’ll be happy to know Iceland does too! Meanwhile, our Ice Pic Journeys team would love to share with you some tips about driving Iceland rental cars:
- Be aware your headlights must be on at all times, it’s the law.
- Please wear your seatbelts!
- Iceland has a 1-drink tolerance when it comes to blood alcohol levels. Don’t dare to drink and drive though!
- Follow the speed limit! In Reykjavik, towns, or villages where people live the speed limit is 30-50 km/hr. On countryside gravel roads it is 80 km/hr. And along Route 1 and on paved countryside roads the speed limit in Iceland is 90 km/hr.
- It’s a heavy toll if you don’t and a pretty shocking experience. For example, if police catch you speeding they pull you over, tell you to shut the car off, take your license, and escort you back to their vehicle for a 20-minute lecture. Additionally, they will ask if you want to pay the fine on the spot for a discount (do this!). But also know they only accept Visa or MasterCard.
- Storms in Iceland often come with the following: Gale-force winds, rain, hail, snow, or blizzard conditions.
- Can be advantageous to travel with an emergency kit on hand. You can check out our Amazon Storefront for more ideas.
- Most American credit cards do not have a security “pin” to use. Therefore, when you use the outdoor pay stations at fuel stations you may get an error. So you will need to head inside. However, if you know your debit or credit card “pin” beforehand to use at the fuel pumps you’ll be good to go!
Must Know’s Before Your Iceland Road Trip:
Before you go to bed each night and most certainly before you head out in the morning double check these websites to ensure you’ll avoid any challenges. Or at the very least knowing can also allow you to “plan b” earlier if needed due to weather.
- Iceland’s Number for Emergencies is 112.
- Best Weather Website: https://vedur.is/
- Road Conditions Checker: https://www.road.is/
- Log your trip in advance just in case: https://safetravel.is/
- Pro Tip: If you’re planning to drive in remote areas of the countryside during winter, fill up every time you can. Why? Because fuel stations are less frequent. Also just in case you slide off the road it could be hours before someone can help you and you’ll stay warm in the meantime!
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Höfn Iceland is one of those towns in Iceland that captivate you. Maybe even forever imprint on your heart! Why? Because the town is unexpected. You might originally book a hotel in the town as you do your Iceland self-drive journey. But not realize how fabulous it is until you experience it. Well good news, because today we are going to share with you everything you need to know about Höfn!
Where is Höfn Iceland?
Höfn is a Southeastern town in Iceland with stunning glacier views. Which has an approximate population of 2,500 people which flexes up during summer. Furthermore, it is a charming seaside village which catches langoustine and different types of fish. Also, it is near the famous Hornafjörður fjord which is home to Stokksnes. Drive times from different areas around Iceland vary but here is a quick reference:
- Downtown Reykjavik: 6 hours
- From Vik Iceland: 3.5 hours
- Driving from Akureyri: 6.5 hours
- From the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: 1 hour 10 minutes
Next, if you’re taking the Ring Road (Route 1) it is only a 5-minute detour to get to the village of Höfn. Meanwhile, you can also use Google Maps to find your way there as well! Additionally, please be aware it is best that you rent a car from the KEF Aiport. Our friends at Northbound offers the best car rental rates in Iceland so please take time to check them out!
Höfn Travel Guide 2024
Traveling around Iceland whether you’re self-driving, taking a tour or expedition is exciting! After all, you’re going to experience landscapes that will look like another planet. Maybe you’ll even push your limits doing or eating something you normally wouldn’t, who knows!
Whatever the type of memory that may be forever etched into your brain. Likely you’ll also recall how a place or town made you feel. Therefore, we want to set you up for success by sharing with you a complete guide to the nearest town to Europe’s largest glacier, Höfn! For example, we will share the best hotels to stay at, restaurants, and unforgettable things to do!
Southeast Iceland Hotels
When you’re planning a trip to Iceland one of the most important dynamics to plan is where to sleep! Additionally, when you’re heading toward Southeast Iceland there are a plethora of wonderful options to consider. Today we are going to easily organize a list for you to select and book directly with a Höfn Iceland hotel…
Hotels in Höfn:
Guesthouse Within or Nearby to Hofn:
Campgrounds in Höfn:
- Höfn Camping
- Special Note: Wild camping is not allowed in South Iceland as a rule. Please make sure you find your way to this campground if in the area.
2 hours or less from Höfn
- Hali Country Hotel
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon (our personal favorite that is 30 minutes from our meeting location)
- Fosshotel Vatnajökull
- Hótel Jökull
- Fosshotel Núpar
Unique Accommodation Near Höfn:
- Floating Aurora Hut on Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Places to Eat in Höfn
No matter if you’re a meat eater, pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan Iceland has something for everyone! Many dishes in Iceland are infused with Icelandic mountain herbs or use locally farmed or caught ingredients. Plus, typically on most Iceland Resturant menus, you will find some comfort foods to ensure everyone of every age is satisfied. But what can you find to eat before or after our Ice Pic Journeys Glacier Tours? Here is a quick rundown of all your options near and in the town of Höfn!
At the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon:
- Heimahumar (lobster food truck)
- Nailed It Fish & Chips (food truck)
- 10 minutes away heading west is Fjallsarlon Frost Restaurant.
Town of Höfn (East of Glacier Lagoon):
Heading West (towards Kirkjubaejarklaustur):
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon Restaurant & Bar
- Fosshotel Nupur Bar & Restaurant
- Kjarr Restaurant
- Hotel Klaustur Restaurant
Heading Further East:
Höfn Things to Do
Now that you know where to stay and eat, let’s talk about things to do in Höfn! Likely, it’s best we break down the activities by type. Especially since we know everyone travels differently and has various interests. We will try to make it easy on you so you can take your pick!
Summer Things to Do in Höfn
- Höfn Disc Golf Course
- Experience Iceland’s first Glacier Zip Line!
- Hoffell Hot Tubs
- Ingólfshöfði Puffin Island
- Private Ice Climbing (all skill levels) + Summer Ice Cave Experience
- Glacier Hike + Ice Cave Trek
- Just want to see an Iceland ice cave in Summer? Ice Cave Captured is ideal for you!
Winter Things to Do in Höfn
- Ice Cave Tours! Many love our Early Bird to beat the crowds!
- Höfn Swimming Pool
- Soar across Europe’s largest glacier on our Winter Zip Line!
- Climb the bluest ice walls and crevasses in the world and get photo proof in our Ice Climbing Captured Tour!
- Elope on a glacier or do an Ice Cave Proposal!
- Are you a photography buff? Grab some friends and book an ice cave photography tour with us!
- Embark on a Glacier Hike + Ice Cave during winter with us!
Interesting Things to Photograph Near Höfn:
- Universe Sculpture
- Ósland (beach, sea view, etc)
- Ránarslóð Sea View
- Höfn Viewpoint
- Sea Viewpoint (5-10 minutes outside of town)
- Naustin í Papafirđi
- Skútafoss (waterfall and small cave)
- The Red Chair
- Viking Village (entrance fee)
- Stokksnes (Mirror Mountain) – Entrance Fee
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (Fun Fact: This is our meeting location too!)
- Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Múlagljúfur Canyon
- Lómagnúpur (iconic mountain in South Iceland)
Ice Pic Journeys Glacier Operations
In conclusion, we hope today’s Guide to Höfn has provided a firm foundation for you in booking your Southeast Iceland trip! We very much look forward to seeing you on a Winter, Summer or Private adventure with us soon! Feel free to contact us if you wish to make a more custom trip. Lastly, remember what sets our team apart too… We pair every experience you take with us with professional photos! Because who doesn’t want documented bragging rights?
All rights reserved icepicjourneys.is © 2023
It’s hard to imagine anything more astonishing than standing inside a blue, natural glacier ice cave. Likewise, these colossal ice caves are formed each year by melting glacial water. Therefore it’s important to remember ice caves, always vary in size and shape. In fact, you could visit the same cave with just a few days difference and it might look completely different as parts of it will melt or collapse.
One thing is for certain though, it’s best to visit the Icelandic ice caves at the height of winter when you can witness them in their full glory. But what does that mean and look like? Today we are thrilled to share with you everything you need to know about Iceland ice caves for 2024… Join us for this adventure!
Iceland Ice Caves Guide: 2024
Likely, if you’ve done your research on Iceland you might realize the majority of ice caves are found within South Iceland and into the Highlands. Also, there are man-made ones and there are natural ones. For instance, the most famous is the Into the Glacier experience on Langjökull. They have carved out an ice tunnel and a chapel for those of you looking for proposals or Iceland glacier weddings! But maybe come to us for the au naturel real deal?!
Next, there are a plethora of ice caves throughout our 4th largest glacier, Mýrdalsjökull in almost all of the outlets. For example, the famed Katla Glacier outlet has many Iceland ice caves. Additionally, she is also a subglacial volcano to add to the fun! Meanwhile, Europe’s and Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajökull is where our Iceland glacier tours call home.
Iceland Glaciers are Dynamic
If you’re familiar with glaciers, then you’ll know that their main characteristic is that they’re always moving. Snow falls on the top of the glacier, and with time it hardens and becomes ice. The weight of the new ice on top pushes the old ice below further out and to the side. Meanwhile, the glacier then carves out nearby mountains. Which then creates deep valleys filled with ice.
As it moves over centuries it picks up sediments like gravel, rocks, or layers of ash. Additionally, you might see thin lines of black ash that are likely from previous volcanic eruptions hundreds of years ago and are contained within the thick glacier and ice strata. To illustrate, you can think of it like a cake that’s being topped with thick icing. Eventually, the top layer can’t take any more icing and it overflows in several directions. And as the icing hardens, it will begin to crack open. But what happens for ice caves to be created?
How Does a Natural Ice Cave Form?
When you think about when glaciers compress, they sort of “spill out.” Therefore, this movement and process create glacier outlets or glacial tongues. Further, they are typically filled with deep cracks or crevasses. Likewise, you might wonder how this happens.
First, during summer in Iceland, the top layer of the ice or snow will melt in warmer temperatures. Second, melted glacial water will find its way into the cracks and carve out tunnels through the ice. Third, when fall time in Iceland happens, the water has run its course or greatly receded. Fourth, the temperatures start dropping. Which leaves us with a labyrinth of brand new naturally formed ice caves! How exciting right?! A whole new world of discovery awaits you!
Furthermore, believe it or not, the most accessible ice caves are within the oldest ice of the glacier. Why? To illustrate, it’s the area that has been pushed to the edges of the glacier over the course of about a thousand years. In fact, the ice here is extremely dense and has pushed out most air bubbles. Giving it a glowing, beautiful blue color visible to the naked eye. With such a natural process this means the caves are always different in location. Also, vary in size and shape.
Why is the Ice Cave Blue?
When you come across extremely blue ice, people often wonder why it gets this blue color. Good question! Well, it’s the same reasoning that lakes and the sea appear blue. For instance, just like a big mass of water, the ice absorbs all the red color from white light (long wavelengths). But only reflects the blue color (the short wavelengths).
Next, the combination of color and texture of the ice is fascinating. Although blue ice is always the most popular with Iceland travelers! Meanwhile, our Ice Pic Journeys guides scout continuously throughout the year seeking new ice caves. Each cave actually gets its own descriptive name too. How fun, right? In fact, in recent years there have been ice caves named Dragonglass, Crystal Cave, Katla, Princess, ABC, Sapphire Cave, and Bellissimo.
So if you were going to name an ice cave in Iceland, what would you want to name it? Tell us! Maybe a new ice cave we find can be named it!
Best Time to Visit Ice Caves
Firstly, it’s important to know that there are a plethora of ice caves happening throughout the South of Iceland between November – March. This is the formal ice cave season all tour companies in Iceland offer such adventures. Outside of this time frame, it can be hit or miss depending on weather, stability, etc.
Secondly, there are some natural ice caves that are accessible in the summer season in Iceland, by the volcano Katla. But the most spectacular attraction, the almost fluorescently blue ice, is not as vivid or visible as it is in wintertime. All year round, the ice caves might be a mix of white ice, containing many air bubbles, fresh snow, and clear ice that might be partially blue. Or can be completely jet-black sand packed or full of ash from nearby volcanoes or simply golden in the sunlight.
Thirdly, ice caves in Iceland are an ever-changing natural phenomenon. But our Ice Pic Journeys team takes time to scout and make accessibility year-round. So ice caves with us isn’t just a winter thing! But that said, outside of typical ice cave season (November – March) you need to be willing to hike! Maybe even rappel and ice climb out, who knows! We never know what kind of ice caves Mother Nature will provide for us and our amazing guests.
Can You Visit Ice Caves on Your Own?
The short answer is no! In fact, you need to be on a tour with a licensed glacier guide to visit any ice caves. Why? Because they can be quite hazardous as you’ll need to know the dangers and be prepared with the right glacier gear. And we equip you with all the right gear and knowledge!
Further, there are several tour companies taking visitors to the ice caves, and all these tours take you to Sapphire Cave, which can get pretty crowded at times. In order to beat the crowds it’s highly recommended to join our Early Bird Ice Cave tour, which leaves before all the other tours do, around 8am. Also includes 5 personalized photos which is slightly more than our Ice Cave Captured Tour.
South East Iceland Caves
In the meantime, the majority of ice caves are situated on the edge of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, in the southeast of Iceland. Thus it’s recommended to take a minimum of 3 days for your travel from and back to Reykjavík. For example, just the drive from Reykjavík is about 6 hours, one way. Additionally, there are plenty of things to see in route such as the following:
- The Golden Circle
- Black Sand Beaches
- Cute little towns
- Magnificent Waterfalls of all sizes and shapes
- Abandoned Plane Wreck,
- Dramatic views of glaciers
- North Atlantic Ocean
You definitely want to spend a good amount of time at our meeting location, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, as well as the Diamond Beach which is right next to it. Diamond Beach is the nickname for Breiðamerkursandur and is located right where the glacier lagoon connects with the sea.
Meanwhile, the sands gained its nickname because of the many icebergs that come from the glacial lagoon and are then washed ashore by the North Atlantic Sea. For instance, the black sands then look like they are scattered with enormous chunks of icy diamonds all year round. Lastly, the views are especially nice when the ice is glistening in the sunshine or if you catch the Northern Lights dancing above, and reflected in the lagoon.
2024 Ice Caves in Iceland
Okay so your trip is booked to Iceland and now you’re wondering what amazing Day Tours or maybe a combo glacier adventure? Likewise, you might be curious to know what ice caves are happening in South Iceland in 2024? Here we will educate you on what ice caves in Iceland might be best for you to discover. Which one will stand out and entice you?
This winter season of 2023-2024 we have beautiful ice caves that invite you out to explore…
Sapphire Crystal Ice Cave
First off, there are two caves near each other, the lower one is called the Sapphire Ice Cave and the upper crevasse / sinkhole area is called Bellissimo. Meanwhile, they are both located at the edge of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Which is an outlet glacier from Vatnajökull Glacier, right next to Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón. Breiða-merkur-jökull translates to Wide-Range-Glacier and Vatna-jökull to Lake-Glacier.
All our tours start at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and begin with a drive for about 30 minutes to reach the parking space for the Sapphire Ice Cave (some refer to as the Crystal Ice Cave). When you arrive you’ll be given crampons to walk on the ice and your guide will explain the natural surroundings to you. Then you have time to explore the cave, touch the ice, and marvel at its beauty. From the parking lot, there is around a 20-30 minute hike (depending on your pace) to reach the Sapphire Ice Cave.
Also, a good thing to know is that Sapphire Ice Cave is right by the edge of the glacier with a small glacial river running through it. Therefore, you will not actually need to step on the ice to explore it as it’s got pebbles and rocks on the ground. Which makes this a very easy cave to discover on your Iceland journey. We’ve had lots of family groups and people of all ages explore.
Crystal Crevass: Bellissimo
Recently, there has been a draw to adventuring to crystal crevasses in addition to ice caves. Why? Their colors are blowing people’s minds! For example, this vivid blue this ice valley (or some say sinkhole/moulin) exudes is freaking nuts! Sometimes our guests love this open area even more than experiencing a closed-in ice cave.
Moreover, did you know, our Glacier Hike Tour gives you the best of both worlds of this vivid area combined with the famous Sapphire Crystal Cave. This tour is an hour longer and will give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the glacier, walking on the ice itself and exploring the glacier in a completely different way.
The hike varies between 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes one way depending on your pace to get to Bellissimo. Note- It’s uphill on the way up. So this is for folks who enjoy moderate hikes. But it will be #worthit to experience the incredible blue ice that’s extremely photogenic. Plus it’s also an otherworldly experience to walk on the 1,000-year-old glacier! Are you up to the challenge?
Katla Ice Cave
Ice caves not too far from the tiny town of Vik is named Katla Glacier outlet. It’s changing constantly and requires constant maintenance from the tour companies who operate on those black sands. First, the hike varies from 10 minutes from the parking lot. Second, you will hike across some bridges and rivers. Third, you gear up and head into the cave system that varies in height. You’ll notice all the caves here will have a strong black sand presence which blocks light from traveling through the ice.
Ice Caves with Ice Pic Journeys
In conclusion, if you’re interested in a little more action, there is also the option to go ice climbing as well as exploring the ice caves. If you book Ice Climbing Captured, this will add one extra hour to your trip but will include 10 personalized photos as a keepsake of your journey!
Visiting Iceland in wintertime is truly a winter wonderland, and the highlight is definitely going inside a crystal-clear blue ice cave. Now all you need to do is pick a date and choose the right tour for you! And if you cannot choose or wish to embark on a more private exclusive adventure, feel free to contact us to get that grand conversation started!
All rights reserved icepicjourneys.is © 2023
Travelers who seek out unique experiences likely want to journey somewhere during wintertime to set their eyes on the elusive Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights). After all, to most witnessing them can be a once in a lifetime experience! But then a million and one questions enter your brain. Am I right?! Well don’t fret, we have all the need to know details on Iceland Northern Lights so come along with us…
What is the Aurora Borealis?
Firstly, the Aurora Borealis are a natural phenomenon, caused by energized solar wind particles that are entering Earth’s upper atmosphere and releasing a bright light when they do so. Secondly, this takes place in the geomagnetic field at high latitudes, so both near the Arctic and the Antarctic. Thirdly, you’ll be able to see the Southern Lights, or the Aurora Australis from New Zealand or Tasmania. Fourth, the Northern Lights on the other hand are visible from the following countries:
- Northern part of Norway (think Lofoten Islands)
- Lapland (Northern areas of Sweden and Norway)
- Southern parts of Greenland
But did you know, Iceland is in the perfect geographical location to see them? As they can be seen from any part of the country, woohoo!
Meanwhile, the lights themselves move across the sky, in a spiral motion or as a flicker, and can vary a lot in size, shape and color depending on its intensity. Most common color is the white and green one, but they can also have some pink or purple. Further, their movement can be swift or gliding and is often described as dancing.
The name Aurora comes from the Roman goddess of dawn. Similarly, Borealis is related to Boreas, the ancient god of the North wind and Australis is related to Auster, the god of the South wind.
Experiencing the Iceland Northern Lights:
Likely you’re wondering what is it like experiencing the Iceland Northern Lights? To illustrate, you’re standing on the snow capped ground, a spectacular partially frozen waterfall or gorgeous mountain is listening in front of you… A bright starry night and flickering green and maybe even pink lights are furiously dancing in the sky above.
The Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, are unsurprisingly on the top of many people’s bucket list. They are famed as one of the most spectacular natural wonders that you can witness, crossing the skies of the Northern hemisphere. You might wonder what time of year can you see them?
Myths About Aurora Borealis in Iceland
Let’s debunk some myths and misconceptions. Those who have never seen the lights, or never visited Iceland, may think that the auroras can only be seen at certain times of the night. Or that they are not as strong as they appear on photos. Another common misconception is that they are more likely to occur during especially cold days.
However, the truth is that the auroras can take place at any hour of the day, it just needs to be dark, or at least dusk, as well as clear skies in order to see them. And the auroras do not come in one form- if you only witness a faint display of them, that doesn’t mean there never is a strong and colorful display of them, you were just not that lucky.
For example, if the sky is completely clear of clouds, then it’s more likely that you’ll get a good view of the auroras, and if there are no clouds, it often tends to be a colder day than if it’s cloudy (which is why people sometimes think that a cold day equals a good Northern Lights display).
When Can You See the Northern Lights?
Iceland’s daylight hours are also constantly changing. The shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, is the 21st of December. On the other hand the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, is the 21st of June. In between these two dates the days (or nights) are either getting longer or shorter by a minute or two each day, with the equinox taking place around the 21st of March and 21st of October.
In summer that means that you will get 24 hour daylight. Even though the sun does set for a couple of hours it doesn’t get fully dark from roughly the end of April until the end of August – meaning there’s some darkness in Iceland from late August until late April, and therefore a chance to see the Northern Lights at this time.
However, in late August and late April you only have about a 2 hour window to catch them, whereas between November and February you have about a 15 hour window each day. And in October and March you have about 12 hours of darkness daily.
Additionally, when planning your Iceland Northern Lights exploration you also might take other factors into consideration, such as weather conditions and if you want longer daylight hours in order to take in some of the many sightseeing locations in the daytime. December and January are the darkest months of the year, but also the coldest and most prone to blizzards which may result in closed roads.
On the other hand, you might see the whole country covered with snow, enjoy the holiday decorations and have a good chance of seeing the colorful aurora dancing above. October-November and February-March have a better balance between daylight hours and nighttime, and the weather might be more favorable. April and September are less likely to see the lights with less dark hours in the day, but the temperatures should be more agreeable and you either get to experience spring or fall in Iceland.
How Frequent are Northern Lights?
Next, it’s hard to pin down how frequent the Iceland Northern Lights are seen. For example, they can take place 24 hours a day, 7 days of the week – but that doesn’t mean you’ll see them. Also, they might be visible in one part of the country but not another one due to cloud cover.
Sometimes they are very faint, resembling a slow moving cloud and at other times they fill up the sky with bright lights. Active displays normally last for about 15-30 minutes and may fade away before returning an hour later. Sometimes they last for 2-3 hours at a time. They may also only appear for 1 or 2 minutes before disappearing, or reappearing with more, or less, activity.
Things to Keep in Mind While Aurora Hunting
Additionally, the main reason they are often referred to as the illusive Aurora is…. Because they can be sporadic and totally a natural phenomenon. For instance, it all depends on geomagnetic storms. The most likely time to see great aurora displays is during a solar maximum, which happens once every 11 years.
Further, there is a solar maximum happening between 2023 and 2026, predicted to be at its highest in 2025. For example you can compare the frequency of the auroras to another natural phenomenon that takes place throughout the year, like rainfall. Rainfall can be anything from a light mist or drizzle to a complete downpour. Sometimes it won’t rain for days, but at other times it will go on for weeks on end. However, it’s almost impossible to tell far in advance, and the Northern Lights forecast will only be for 2-3 nights ahead of time.
Iceland Northern Lights Predictors
Our daily Northern Lights forecast gives you the predicted cloud cover over the country to try to go to a place where there’s no cloud cover for a higher chance of seeing them. The strength of the Northern Lights is measured on a scale from 0-9 of a Kp index, which measures the geomagnetic activity in the Earth’s magnetic field.
The highest numbers of the scale are hardly ever reached. If it’s a prediction of 5 then you can expect a magnificent show of the aurora borealis. If it’s only predicted a 2, you still may see some decent auroras on a clear and dark night.
Where Can You See the Auroras in Iceland?
Finally, you might be wondering where is the best place to be looking for the Iceland Northern Lights. As previously mentioned they are visible from anywhere in Iceland, including from Reykjavík, although light pollution from the city (or the full moon!) may get in the way.
The Northern Lights might only appear for a moment, just a few seconds, or they can last for hours on end. The strength can also vary. The pictures you may have seen are likely taken on a very active night, as they are the most picturesque.
If you would like to capture the auroras on film, it’s wise to find some beautiful attraction to have in the foreground. You could also try to capture the reflection of the auroras in water, such as by the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón on Iceland’s south coast. The south coast as a whole has wide open spaces and is smack full of attractions, and a fairly accessible ring road throughout winter, so it’s a good place to head for a Northern Lights adventure.
How to photograph Northern Lights in Iceland?
Modern phones have such good cameras now that if there is a strong display of the auroras you’re able to take some pretty decent photos just with your phone. Although a proper camera and a tripod will obviously give you a better result. Professional photographers will use a camera with a wide-angle lens that allows them to incorporate some of Iceland’s gorgeous landscape in the image as well.
But it’s also important to have a large aperture, letting in as much light as possible. Using slow shutter speed also means that the camera needs to be steady, so a tripod comes in handy. Lastly, it’s cold outside in Iceland’s wintertime, so your batteries may drain quickly, meaning it’s a good idea to take spare batteries along (and warm clothes!)
But if you don’t want to worry about the hassle of photographing the auroras yourself, but still want a great photo to take back as memorabilia, then you can book an Aurora Tour with our Ice Pic Journeys team! After all, then you’ll have your very own private guide looking for the best location, and then photographing you with the Northern Lights above!
All rights reserved icepicjourneys.is © 2023
Over the last 2+ years, Iceland has been erupting pretty frequently compared to previous years. Were you able to experience one of the eruptions? If not, don’t fret because we have a feeling more are on the way! Today we would love to educate you a bit more on the Iceland volcano eruptions that have been happening and so much more. Consider this the ultimate volcano guide!
How Frequently Do Volcanos Erupt in Iceland?
Since 2021, the Iceland volcano eruptions have not come as much of a surprise to the locals. Strong earthquakes take place over a few days or weeks leading up to it and could be felt all over the capital region and beyond. First, the Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in March 2021, emitted steadily flowing lava for 6 months. Second, very close to the same area as the previous eruption another eruption begins in August of 2022 called, Meradalir. Third, in July of 2023 another fissure opens named Litli-Hrútur.
Furthermore, frequent earthquakes for up to 3 weeks before the eruptions started. And much speculation about whether there was going to be an eruption. However, there hadn’t been an eruption in Fagradalsfjall for more than 6,000 years. The last eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula took place in the 13th century. But it went on and off for about 30 years (1210-1240). Next, in 2022, locals only had to endure earthquakes for 1 week before the earth started spewing fire again, but they already knew the pattern from the previous year, and we may have entered a new phase where there will be more frequent eruptions in the area to come.
Earthquakes are a common sidekick to Iceland volcano eruptions. Additionally, it’s rare that they are felt in Reykjavik. Before Fagradalsfjall the last volcanic eruption in Iceland took place in Holuhraun in 2014, an area in the Icelandic highlands with roads leading to it that are impassable for regular cars. Grimsvotn volcano had a short eruption in 2011, but that one is located in the middle of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajokull, and equally far away and hard to reach. Side Note: Did you know Vatnajökull is where the world’s first and only Glacier Zipline is? …and our Ice Pic Journeys team created it!
Furthermore, more famously, the eruption in 2010 took place at Eyjafjallajokull which was considered fairly easy to reach. To illustrate, only requires a 2,5 hour drive from Reykjavik and then around a 7 hour hike-one way. Hundreds of locals hiked, biked, drove or flew over the Eyjafjallajokull eruption before the eruption itself changed and became much more explosive and volatile. But then it was then too dangerous to visit and started halting flights due to the thick smoke coming from it, garnering international attention.
Volcano Terms & Volcano Misconceptions
Meanwhile, those who are unfamiliar with Iceland volcano eruptions, you may get a little confused about what volcanic eruptions are like. Understandably so, because every eruption is different from the next, and there are several types of lava. So here’s a simple overview of how volcanoes work.
‘Active Volcano’ Doesn’t Always Mean ‘Erupting Volcano’
Iceland has around 130 volcanoes in total, some of them active and others inactive. An active volcano means that it may still erupt. However, it does not necessarily mean that it is currently erupting, or will erupt any time soon. For instance, the volcano Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes.
Why? Because it has erupted over 20 times in the past 1050 years. In fact, the last eruption was very short, only 10 days, and took place in 2000. Similarly, the volcanic system at Reykjanes Peninsula (where the last Iceland volcano eruptions have been) was already classified as active. Regardless there hadn’t been an eruption in the area since the year 1240, up until that changed in 2021.
Types of Volcanic Eruptions
Furthermore, when we talk about a volcanic eruption, it means that there is lava or steam and gasses coming out of the volcano. To illustrate, there are three main types of Iceland volcano eruptions. First, there are Magmatic eruptions. Second, there are Phreatic eruptions. Third, there are Phreatomagmatic eruptions. Also, there are several subtypes that we won’t go into here.
- Magmatic eruptions range in intensity, from small lava fountains (such as this eruption) to catastrophic lava columns.
- Phreatic eruptions don’t release any magma, but instead superheat steam.
- Phreatomagmatic eruptions have an interaction of magma and water. Below is a photo from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano (say that 10 times fast) that erupted back in 2010. Unlike Fagradalsfjall, this was a Phreatomagmatic eruption where the magma collided with the ice of the covering glacier.
Types of Lava
Next, the type of lava coming out of magmatic eruptions depends on its mineral content. Some lava is very thin and fast flowing, like a great big river that can cover a large area of land quickly. Other lava is very thick, only flowing for a short distance before it cools down and hardens. For example, when the lava hardens, it typically hardens in two main different types: Pahoehoe and Aa. Both names, like many volcanological terms, come from Hawaii. Pahoehoe has a fairly smooth, ropey texture and is formed from slow-moving lava. A well-developed “skin” is formed on the slow lava, and when a crack is formed it has time to heal.
Meanwhile, Aa on the other hand is much rougher (it’s called aa – pronounced ah-ah (or ow ow) – because it hurts to walk on it). This is formed by fast-flowing lava that has rapid heat loss and a resulting increase in viscosity. The surface becomes solid but torn by a different flow, and the crust can get covered by still-liquid lava, forming chunks of rough rocks.
Those who are concerned about needing to run away from the lava are thinking of fast-flowing lava, and those who are concerned about the grounding of flights are thinking of explosive eruptions that contain a high amount of ash. The recent Icelandvolcano eruptions are relatively small magmatic eruptions. Which means it comes with slow moving liquid lava that will end up with pahoehoe hardened lava. Therefore it makes a considerably safe volcanic eruption to go and experience up close. But if you’re going to hurt yourself, it’s most likely because of a stumble on some uneven rocky surface on the hike. Not because you’re being chased by molten lava.
What it’s Like to Experience an Iceland Volcano Eruption
Watching fiery magma spout out of the ground, and hot lava ooze its way across the moss-covered valleys of the Icelandic landscape is truly awe-inspiring. In fact, it is such an incredible sight to take in, that it’s hard to capture it in an image to show others. Meanwhile, as humans are so used to seeing such spectacles in photos, videos, or in nature documentaries that it feels quite unreal to witness it first hand, in “full definition” and all-encompassing.
Listening to the rock crumble, watching the water-like movement of the lava rivers and using the heat of the glowing lava to warm up your hands like it’s a massive bonfire is all a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some visitors are reduced to tears from the sheer beauty of it, others can’t wipe the grin off their face. Most people find it nearly impossible to take their eyes off of it. And the best thing about it? It’s easy to access from the capital city of Reykjavik.
Iceland is known to be the land of ice and fire, and in the past few years, it’s really shown the world what that really means. The country is situated on top of two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian plate, and also right above a hotspot – a geological term for a volcanic area that has an unusually hot mantle underneath it. With over 32 active volcanic systems in the country, you’d expect there to be a volcanic eruption going on all the time.
That hasn’t quite been the case, but with the new volcanic activity in the Reykjanes Peninsula, this might change in the future. This newest Iceland volcano eruption, Litli-Hrútur began in less than a year after the last eruption in the area ended. And if you thought that this would make people want to run away, think again! Locals and travelers alike are ecstatic about this new, incredibly photogenic, easily accessible and tourist-friendly effusive volcano.
Where is Litli-Hrútur Volcano in Iceland?
All of the Iceland volcano eruptions are near to the original Fagradalsfjall (parking wise) and only an hour’s drive away from the capital city Reykjavik. And about a 30 minute’s drive from the international airport in Keflavik. The nearest town is called Grindavik, which is in less than a 10 minute driving distance. So this means that you can quite easily drive to the volcano, hike to it and enjoy the spectacular scenery, trek back and drive back to Reykjavik in a day tour.
Let Ice Pic Journeys Take You There!
We offer both a Volcano Tour for small groups and a Volcano Private Adventure. Both of them include a professionally edited photo package in the price. Therefore all you have to worry about is the hike itself. Your guide is knowledgeable about the area but also a professional photographer. This comes in handy so you can update your latest profile picture on social media with an incredible shot that’s sure to be a conversation starter!
The Hike to the Volcano
Last year and this year’s Iceland volcano eruptions site was incredibly popular with local and international travelers. Further, visitors benefit from the great pathways that were laid last year, and the parking area that now exists next to the start of the hike. However, this eruption is further away from the parking area, and only half of the route is along a nice and easy path. To illustrate, the other half currently goes over uneven hard terrain which would be classified as moderately strenuous.
Additionally, the hike itself from the parking lot takes about 2.-3.5 hours, one way. Then you want to factor in at least one hour (preferably two) admiring the view before hiking back the same way. The round trip is about 12-14 km, or 7.5-9 miles. But it’s totally worth it, even for those who are unused to hiking!
Driving Directions to the Volcano Eruption (Self-Driving)
Moreover, if you’re driving yourself, then from Reykjavik you’ll start by driving towards the Keflavik International Airport on road no. 41. Eventually, you’ll then make a turn onto road no. 43, as if you were going to the Blue Lagoon. Continue through the town of Grindavik and turn to road no. 427, driving along the dramatic coastline of the Reykjanes peninsula. You should see the smoke rising from the volcano the whole way, so you know which way you’re heading!
From Grindavik it’s only about a 5-10 minute drive before you’ll come to the start of the hike, and you’ll notice it immediately from the large parking areas that have been set up. Note that the parking is still on uneven ground, don’t expect any asphalt or paved pathways here! There are also no restrooms or garbage bins on site, but there will likely be some basic food trucks popping up soon.
Further, make sure you use the bathroom before you leave town, and don’t litter during your journey. You’re sure to see a whole lot of other hikers in the area, but you’ll also be greeted by rescue team volunteers that are there to help and keep people safe. If you find yourself in trouble, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. A few signs have been put up to help you find your way, and to start with there’s a very clear and wide path that you’ll walk along.
Special Note: Parking does cost ~1,500 ISK to park in the Iceland volcano eruptions carpark and it is surveilled. Not paying could result in an even bigger fine.
Hiking Directions to the Volcano Eruption
Path A is your direct route to the active eruption site and takes 2-3 hours each way to hike with a total distance of 12-14 kilometers or 7.5- 9 miles round trip. You will start from the carpark on a flat trail and after about 45 minutes of walking on the path on level ground, you’ll come to a moderately steep hill that has a zig-zag gravel path up along it.
The Iceland volcano eruptions left us with a fairly large, brand new lava field which is a sight to be seen on its own. Ash black fields of rock, with the occasional steam still rising from it in scattered areas. Here you hike towards the top of the hill directly in front of you which is where the new Path A is now being created and will have markers on the ridge of the hilltops for you to follow.
You will trek across these hilltops for quite a while. Take note that these hills are highly exposed to weather and require some rock hopping. While hiking to any Iceland volcano eruptions, it is advised that you watch each of your steps since it can be easy to trip and twist an ankle.
The Volcano Trail Terrian
On this uneven terrain, you’ll get unparalleled views of the Fagradalsfjall volcanic craters. After about an hour you’re suddenly greeted with a view of bright red lava hurling from the ground, and a sea of lava slowly spreading out from it. The eruption started off as a 3-400 meters long crack, but had halved in size a couple of days later.
Now the crack has unified and has formed walls around it, so it looks like a perfectly round crater. It may increase or decrease in the next days, weeks or months, and of course it will change shape as the lava hardens and expands, eventually filling up the Meradalir valley.
Is the Volcano Dangerous?
Please visit www.safetravel.is for constant updates on safety procedures at the volcano.
Pro Tip: The most dangerous element about seeing any Icelandic volcano eruptions is actually not being prepared well enough for the hike. You might get lost in the dark at night if you don’t bring headlights, you might get too cold and experience hypothermia if you’re just wearing denim or cotton or you might not be watching your step and fall down leaving you with scrapes or bruises, or even a broken bone. Make sure to prepare and bring good hiking boots, warm layers of clothing made from wool or fleece, rainproof clothing, plenty of water to drink and some food or snacks. If you plan on hiking late in the evening, then bring a head torch or flashlight as well.
The hike itself is tiring, especially for those who are not used to hiking. There isn’t much elevation, but you will hike up 2 hills, and will be hiking over old lava and muddy landscape (especially if it has been raining). There are also dangerous and poisonous gasses that are emitted from the volcano that visitors need to be aware of. It is best to pick a day that has a bit of wind (should be easy enough to find a windy day in Iceland!) – and it’s best if the wind direction is east or northbound as the gasses are then being blown away from you. Don’t spend much time in low valleys where the gasses might stick around and not be blown away.
Children Under 12 are Not Allowed:
Visitors are now officially not allowed to bring any children under the age of 12 to the eruption site, as they (and you!) might get exhausted from the hike and the elements, and children (and dogs!) are closer to the ground and the poisonous fumes. The fumes don’t necessarily have a strong smell, so if you don’t smell them, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. Note that when you have left Reykjavik and gone into the countryside, hiking up a mountain, the weather might turn drastically and swiftly. For the hike itself, it’s best to bring several warm layers.
Before you start the hike it’s good if you are just a little cold, as you will work up some heat as soon as you start walking. Otherwise, you will have to stop immediately to shed some layers. On the other hand, when you reach the top, you will have worked up some sweat and can cool down very quickly, so this is when you want to put on a warm sweater or a jacket, as well as a hat and gloves – even on a sunny day. You might even want to bring a blanket so you can sit down in the soft and thick moss and fully appreciate the view.
How close can I get? What will my photos look like?
The longer the volcano erupts and emits lava, the larger lava field will surround it, so you won’t be able to get as close as you could in the first few days after the eruption started. There is no way to tell how long the eruption will last, it could be just a few days, or weeks, months or even years. With a natural phenomenon like that, it’s impossible to tell what your photos will look like, but in this article you can see a wide variety of photos that have been taken on tours with Ice Pic Journeys to give you an idea. Your guide is a professional photographer with years of experience and all the best equipment, and he will scout the best location to take photos from, as well as bring a drone to get some aerial shots.
In conclusion, there’s nothing stopping you from going to see a Iceland volcano eruptions. For sure something that’s on top of many people’s bucket lists! Lastly, check the weather forecast, prepare the right clothes and contact us for a custom adventure tour to remember, complete with fantastic pictures as your memorabilia!
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