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Flopping like a great white tongue through a rugged valley, Sólheimajökull glacier is an outlet of the larger Mýrdalsjökull in the south of Iceland. One of the most accessible glaciers in the country, Sólheimajökull is a popular spot for guided glacier hikes, ice cave walks and even ice climbing.
Person walking on the glacier
Best time to visit
All year-round
Coordinates
63.55732, -19.30247
Distance from Reykjavík
160km

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Hikers admiring the Sólheimajökull Glacier during a hike in the south coast of Iceland.
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With its enormous white and blue icebergs breaking off from Sólheimajökull Glacier, join this leisurely kayak tour where you will sail along the Sólheimajökull Glacier Lagoon. This is an experience you absolutely cannot miss out on. Bask in the beautiful nature surrounding you as your expert guide leads you around this gorgeous outlet glacier.

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Experience an easy glacier walk with an introduction to ice climbing on this small group day tour. You will explore the majestic landscapes of Sólheimajökull glacier, including water cauldrons, ridges, and deep crevasses, followed by a quick search for a suitable spot to rig up our gear for a short, moderately difficult introduction to ice climbing. You can expect about 3 hours on the ice with a professionally trained glacier guide.

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Exploring the Frozen Landscape of Sólheimajökull Glacier

The History of Sólheimajökull Glacier

Perhaps due to the way the light plays off the frozen surface, Sólheimajökull means “home of the sun glacier”. It is the most southerly glacier in Iceland and is a glacier “tongue” or outlet of the mighty Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, which covers Iceland’s largest volcanic system – Katla.

Geologists estimate the Sólheimajökull glacier to be between 400 and 600 years old, and it has changed vastly over the centuries. While most glaciers creep ever closer down their valley, Sólheimajökull is actually receding at a rapid pace – around 50 metres a year – and is approximately 8 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide at the moment. The meltwater has left a glacial lagoon at the base of Sólheimajökull, which is a beautiful sight from the top of the glacier. Unfortunately, due to the warming world, Sólheimajökull is melting and scientists predict the glacier will disappear entirely in the next few decades. So, now is the time to visit.

A group of people climbing an ice wall.

How to experience Sólheimajökull glacier

Sólheimajökull is one of Iceland's most easily accessible glaciers, so it is a popular spot for glacier hikes and ice cave exploration. In the colder months, you can take a guided walk into the Blue Ice Cave – a natural ice cave within Sólheimajökull where the walls glow blue as sapphire. It is only accessible between mid-October and the end of March as the warm temperatures of summer cause the entrance to be unstable. Guided tours with a professional are the only way to explore Sólheimajökull glacier ice cave as the shifting environment and darkness inside makes them too dangerous to explore without the proper equipment and an experienced guide leading the way.

Glacier hikes onto the surface of Sólheimajökull run throughout the year. Again, the only way to explore the surface of the glacier is under the guidance of a professional glacier guide on an organised tour. Day tours run from Reykjavík, taking in the sights of Iceland’s south coast along the way, so you can experience black-sanded beaches, Sólheimajökull glacier and waterfalls all on the same trip. It is possible to drive yourself to Sólheimajökull, but if you want to hike on the surface of the glacier, you’ll need to join a guided tour on arrival. Even with a Sólheimajökull Glacier map, you won’t be able to spot the hidden sinkholes, crevasses and icy ravines that make this hike too dangerous without a guide who knows the landscape. Guided glacier walks on Sólheimajökull include all the safety equipment you need like crampons (make sure you wear walking boots with a high ankle, not walking shoes), helmets and pickaxes.

For those seeking even more adventure, Sólheimajökull is one of the few places in Iceland where you can try your hand at ice climbing. Using ice picks and ropes provided, Sólheimajökull Glacier ice climbing lets you scale a sheer wall of ice, feeling like a mountaineering explorer. All the equipment is provided and you don’t need previous ice climbing experience to join a tour.

Of course, if you don’t have time to take a one-and-a-half-hour glacier walk, you can just use the car park at Sólheimajökull and walk to the base of the glacier to admire this vast, white tongue flopping through the valley. For a different view of Sólheimajökull glacier, you can admire it from the water. Kayaking tours on the glacial lake in front of Sólheimajökull let you glide between the scattered snow and ice and see the mighty glacier from below.


Group of people Kayking by the Sólheimajökull glacier

Attractions and sights around Sólheimajökull Glacier

Sólheimajökull glacier sits along Iceland’s south coast, so there are lots of natural wonders to see along the way.

Day tours to Sólheimajökull Glacier from Reykjavík tend to stop at the black-sanded beach of Reynisfjara, where miles of jet-black sand stretch along the coast and a fairytale-like cave of twisting basalt columns awaits.

Seljalandsfoss is nearby – a dramatic waterfall where you can actually walk behind the tumbling water and look out over the landscape.

The beautiful cascade of Skógafoss is another popular sight along the south coast, just a fifteen-minute drive to the access point of Sólheimajökull. Skógafoss waterfall attracts the crowds with its rainbows that float in the mist at its base.

A group of explorers on snowmobile riding through the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier.

Adrenaline Rush on Ice

If speed is your thing, it is possible to enjoy a snowmobile ride across a glacier in the area. Sólheimajökull’s “mother” glacier, Mýrdalsjökull, is where you can power across the frozen surface on a guided snowmobile tour and reach the top of the ice cap for a stunning view. Please note that you’ll need a valid driver’s licence to join a snowmobile experience.

The plane wreck at Mýrdalssandur beach in the South Coast of Iceland.

The plane wreck

Nearby lies the famous abandoned DC3 plane wreck on a vast black plain, which gained fame from its appearance in Justin Bieber's music video. Reaching it requires a 1.5-2 hour hike (round trip). It's advisable to take a shuttle bus or opt for an adventurous ATV or Buggy tour.

A group of hikers looking over a glacier.

Scenic trails

Those that enjoy a hike can follow the Glacier Panorama Trail from Sólheimajökull. This scenic route takes in the vast ice caps that cover the Katla volcano system, like the famous Eyjafjallajökull, Sólheimajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, and offers views out to black-sanded beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. Departing from Sólheimajökull, guided hikes along this undiscovered trail take between six and six and a half hours, and the only other traffic you’ll see along the way is the occasional sheep.

All About Sólheimajökull Glacier

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