Iceland's ice caves are a stunning manifestation of the many elements taking their toll on the island: lava flowing deep in the Earth, glacial melting, and massive amounts of ice moving at snail's pace coming together to create these icy wonders. They're always moving and changing: from one season to the next, the ice caves can become entirely new scenes.
For this reason, it's important to tag along with someone with a deep knowledge of the caves and their current temperament (i.e. a tour guide) when you venture inside of one. Not only are they constantly checking forecasts, they know which tunnels are safe to visit and which are not.
You can only visit these caves during the winter. When the warmer months hit, the caves are natural paths for the melted ice to drain out of the glacier, making them dangerous to enter.
Before you nail down a tour operator, do some digging on the various caves you can visit in Iceland (there are more than you'd think). Once you've found one that lands on your bucket list, find a tour company that offers experiences in the area you're interested in. Happy planning!
Also known as Breiðamerkurjökull, the Crystal Cave is one of the most famous ice caves in Iceland — it's also the largest within Vatnajökull National Park. To get there, you'll need to take a super jeep up onto the glacier. This cave gets its name from the crystal-clear ice it's made up of, but be warned: it'll take your eyes a minute to adjust to the low light so the brilliant blue color you see in photos won't be immediately evident.
There are plenty of tour operators that offer adventures into the Crystal Cave. Glacier Journey is a local favorite and offers a number of tours around the cave.
Eyjabakkajokull Ice Cave
Head to the east highlands for a peek at this cave deep in the Eyjabakkajokull glacier. Given that you can only access it during the wintertime, make sure you book a visit with a guide who's equipped with a super jeep, or a vehicle that can handle the tough conditions of the highland roads during the wintertime.
The blue ice cave is very remote, meaning fewer crowds. You just have to find it first!
Northern Lights Ice Cave
The Northern Lights Ice Cave was only accessible to visitors for one winter, but the wavy pattern of the ice and the way it tossed light around the room inspired its name.
It's not uncommon for ice caves to have a short lifespan given how hard it is to track the glacial melting. Despite it's one-year run, the Northern Lights Cave was a popular tourist attraction when it was around.
Waterfall Ice Cave
Ice caves come and go and while the Waterfall Ice Cave is not currently accessible, there are hopes that it will return again in the near future. Like the Crystal Cave, the Waterfall Ice Cave is also located on Vatnajökull.
This particular cave was unique because it was formed by a river that flowed into the glacier, as opposed to a river that exited the glacier. When it was accessible, the ceiling was very low, but if you followed the river into the cave, you would find a small waterfall at the end of it.
Katla Ice Cave
Of all the ice caves on this list, Katla is the only one you can visit during the summertime. It's also much easier to get to from Reykjavik (it's about half the drive compared to the caves in Vatnajökull).
You won't find the same blue ice at Katla, but you will find black ice, which is a whole other sight to be seen. The caves are small, some requiring you to crawl on all fours, but the waterfalls along the way make it all worth it.
Svínafellsjökull Ice Cave
Right at the edge of Skaftafell National Park, you'll find the 22-foot entrance of the Svínafellsjökull Ice Cave. It may start out larger-than-life, but keep walking back and you'll soon be crouched in a space no taller than four feet high.
Only accessibly in the wintertime, Visit Vatnajokull offers tours into this ice cave.
Kverkfjoll Ice Cave
Geothermal activity underneath the Earth's crust is to thank for this incredibly hidden ice cave. Kverfjoll is incredibly difficult to access and you certainly don't want to try and do so without a guide.
Located in the north, Kverfjoll is split into two sections: Hveradalur ( the upper ice caves) and the Jökulsá á Fjöllum spring (the lower ice caves). Something truly special happens in this cave system: Underneath the glacial ice, you can see a hot-water river running through the cave.
Álftafjörður Ice Cave
Located in the Westfjords, the opening of the Álftafjörður Ice Cave opens up over a stunning expanse of mountains and skyline.
The fjord region is also known for whale watching and other wildlife spotting, so once you're done exploring the ice cave, plan a hike toward the water.
Langjokull Ice Cave
Langjökull is Iceland's second-largest glacier and its ice cave has pretty spectacular coloring. The natural cave is black and the ice ceiling is striped with ash. But the best part may be the bright blue "ice river" that runs along the ceiling.
There are also some manmade ice caves branching off of the natural cave. About those tunnels: They've been used to host concerts during the Secret Solstice Festival and there's even a chapel carved into the ice in one of them.
Rumor has it a tour guide from Snowmobile.is stumbled upon the opening to the original ice cave at Longjokull after leading tours on the glacier. The original cave has since collapsed, but a new one appeared in its place.
Lofthellir Ice Cave
Don't be tricked: this ice cave is technically classified as a lava cave — one that's more than 3,500 years old. But when the ice meets the natural lava sculptures, all definitions go out the window because it's just too cool to miss.
You can find Lofthellir at Lake Myvatn in northeast Iceland. Massive ice columns reach from the floor to ceiling in some spots — but be prepared to squeeze through some tight spots to find this ice cave. There are a handful of tours that leave from Akureyi, like Saga Travel Geoiceland.