When you’re in Iceland - you should definitely make your way to one of the many glaciers dotting the country. We were driving along the south Ring Road, so the most obvious choice for us was Vatnajökull. Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in both Iceland and Europe - as a result it has many glacier trekking companies operating at the entrance. We ended up going with Glacier Guides and doing the Glacier Grand Slam which included a half day hike up into Falljökull glacier and an hour zodiac boat ride into the Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon.
The cost was about $173 USD and well worth it. If you want to rent hiking boots, waterproof pants, or a waterproof insulated jacket, it’s about $9 extra for each item. If you don’t have any of those with you during your trip to Iceland, I’d recommend renting them due to the unpredictable nature of Iceland weather. On our hike, it was actually pretty warm for the first half of the hike, but then the rain clouds rolled in and it got cold, wet, and windy mighty fast!
The hike itself was surreal. It was just mind blowing to realize that I was walking up a slow moving giant piece of ice stretching over a hundred miles or more with some areas over half a mile thick. Our guide informed us that the glacier face was constantly changing due to its slow ever creeping forward movement. We were able to see a newly formed crevasse and mini ice cave that he hadn’t seen the day before.
About our gear - we were outfitted with metal crampons, which are metal spikes that you attach to your boots, and ice picks, which allowed us to balance ourselves and grip the ice. The metal crampons were the most important though because it prevented us from falling on our butts and sliding all the way down the glacier.
One pretty cool bonus of being on the glacier was being able to fill our water bottles with super pure and refreshing glacier meltwater. Make sure you bring a bottle so you can try some yourself!
After a nice lunch at the top of the glacier, we carefully made our way down and then drove to the Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon, the lesser known and smaller cousin of Jökulsárlón. A glacier lagoon is formed when a glacier starts to retreat. It really shows how thick a glacier can get as the lagoon was pretty deep. I recommend getting in one of the zodiac boats as they’ll get you up close and personal to the edge of the glacier. We witnessed a couple of large pieces falling off the glacier otherwise called calving. I was surprised by how loud and violent the noise was. Perhaps since the lagoon was so still and peaceful, the sudden piercing, cracking sound violated the stillness of the whole place and elevated the effect.
For the rest of the trip, they took us around the lagoon, deftly avoiding pieces of ice and also deliberately running over some half submerged pieces of ice.