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Iceland’s fourth-largest ice cap, Mýrdalsjökull tops the active Katla volcano system in the south of the island. The glacial tongues of Sólheimajökull and Kötlujökull splinter off from the main ice cap and offer popular spots for glacier hiking and ice cave exploration. A visit to Mýrdalsjökull is a bucket-list experience that you won’t soon forget.
Snowmobiles riding on Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the south coast of Iceland.

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Exploring the Frozen Surface of Mýrdalsjökull Glacier

Facts About Mýrdalsjökull Glacier

The fourth largest ice cap in Iceland, Mýrdalsjökull’s highest peak sits at 1,493 metres (4,898 feet) above sea level and it is estimated to cover a massive 595 square kilometres (230 square miles). It covers a part of the Katla volcano system – an active system that usually erupts every 40 to 80 years. The last Katla eruption was in 1918, so scientists are monitoring the area carefully for any signs of seismic activity. At the moment, the area is deemed as safe to explore.

How to Experience Mýrdalsjökull Glacier Up Close

As Iceland’s southernmost glacier, Mýrdalsjökull is a popular spot for all kinds of outdoor activities. It sits just off the Route One main road that runs along the south coast of the island. The Sólheimajökull glacial tongue creeps down towards the shore, making it one of the most accessible glacial outlets in the country.

While you can easily drive to the Mýrdalsjökull base camp from Reykjavík yourself, getting up close to the glacier requires a specialist vehicle. The only way to experience the surface of Mýrdalsjökull glacier is on a guided excursion. Glacier hikes leave from Mýrdalsjökull base camp at Ytri-Sólheimar or from the nearby coastal village of Vík. You can also join an organised day tour to Mýrdalsjökull directly from Reykjavík, taking in some of the highlights of the south coast before embarking on a glacier hike. This is a great option for those that want to simply sit back and enjoy the scenery, hopping out to walk to thundering waterfalls and stroll along black-sanded beaches.

On a Mýrdalsjökull glacier hike, you’ll be provided with crampons, ice axes and helmets, sometimes with the option of a helmet-top camera to document your journey onto the ice. The hike requires some steep ascents, hacking into the icy pathways with sharp crampons and squeezing through frozen gulleys and ravines. Finally, you emerge on the surface of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap where a vast, frozen tundra greets you with a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.

In winter, you have the option of exploring Mýrdalsjökull’s glacier ice caves where blue walls glow like crystals and your guide can tell you tales of how these pockets within the ice were formed. During the summer months, meltwater at the caves’ entrances makes them inaccessible. Due to the uncertain nature of the terrain inside, you can only enter Iceland’s ice caves with a professional and experienced guide.

Those that have a really adventurous side can try their hand at ice climbing on Sólheimajökull glacier. You’ll be provided with ice axes and shown the basic ice climbing techniques by a qualified guide before climbing up a sheer wall of crystalline ice and out of a glacial crevasse. For those that have a need for speed, there is the option to take a snowmobile trip onto the vast expanse of Mýrdalsjökull ice cap.

Sights and Attractions Around Mýrdalsjökull

Mýrdalsjökull sits along Iceland’s south coast where there are myriad natural wonders to admire along the way. If you are taking a day trip to Mýrdalsjökull from Reykjavík, it’s easy to include stops at the two most majestic waterfalls of the south coast – Seljalandsfoss where you can walk behind the cascading water, and Skógafoss where you can admire rainbows floating in the spray.

Reynisfjara black-sand beach and the pretty coastal village of Vík are also both nearby. Miles of onyx sand stretches along the coast at Reynisfjara and you can take ATV tours across this other-worldly landscape to the wreck of an aeroplane. At Vík, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options should you want to spend the night and a handful of pubs and restaurants for an evening meal. The red-roofed church on a hilltop at Vík is a popular image for guidebooks and there’s also the option to try ziplining over glacial rivers and mossy hills nearby.

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