As I noted on my blog Top 10 Things to see while in Iceland, we did our glacier hike with the help of Arctic Adventures. There are a lot of tour companies and excursion providers in Iceland and you’ll probably find that We did the Blue Ice tour which includes hiking time on the glacier and ice climbing. There is also a stop at Skógafoss afterward.Arctic Adventures is a very professional company and their guides are well-trained and some of the best in the business. One of the reasons we chose Arctic Adventures is that they had a huge amount of variety in their tours and had almost every tour that we wanted to do while in Iceland on one site. Another reason we went with Arctic Adventures is that since it was my sister and I’s first time doing anything like this, we really wanted to go with a company that had safety high on the list of priorities. We did our reservations online several months in advance as their tour schedule can fill up fast. I would suggest that whatever tour company you decide to go with, do not wait until the last minute to book and do not wait until you get to Iceland to book as it may be more expensive or there may not be availability.
I also highly suggest renting the gear (waterproof pants, jacket, and boots) from Arctic Adventures unless you have waterproof gear that will hold up against the elements of southeastern Iceland. I’m sure glad we did. They do offer to meet on site if you don’t want to ride the 2-3 hours from Reykjavik. If you do take the ride from Reykjavik then the total duration of the tour is approximately 10 hours. If you meet on site it’s about 4 hours. So if you have other activities planned near Sólheimajökull then you may just want to meet on-site.
Anyway, we were picked up at our hotel around 8 am and made the rounds to pick up all the rest of the folks going on the tour then headed south. As gas stations are few and far between around Iceland, we stopped at the one gas station that apparently everyone uses when heading south on the Ring Road. After fueling up, we kept chugging along until we made it to the lot near the base of Sólheimajökull.
As mentioned in my Top 10 things to see while in Iceland blog, the weather can change drastically. It was sunny leading up to the site and then the rain clouds came and it started to rain. The southern and southeastern region seemed to me to have large fluxes in weather and it’s very windy. After we got parked, it was suggested by our guides to put on more layers of clothes since the rain was going to make this trek a bit more challenging. One thing I did like is that the main guide was upfront with us as the dark clouds rolled in. She mentioned that if it didn’t look like it was still going to be safe to complete the hike, then they would either take a different route or cancel. Again, safety was the priority. Little did we know that the rain was going to continue the entire time we were on the glacier. They handed out the gear and sized up our crampons and handed our ice picks. Then we set out on our journey. I consider myself a beginner/intermediate hiker and this hike was the perfect elevation gain and pace for me. I actually found the challenge that the rain provided pretty exciting although I know it made it pretty tough for some others. The rain made it so that there were streams of water rushing here and there, so you had to really pay attention and make sure you didn’t jump into a pool of water. The guides assist in this by leading and trailing the group to make sure we all stay in a line and don’t step on areas that are too soft or that could lead in you falling through holes in the ice or snow.
We got to a point near a lake where we were going to be going uphill for quite some time and the guides gave us a demonstration on how to put our crampons on.
The crampons are basically metal spikes that you strap to your boots to help you with grip and traction on the ice. We followed our guides up and around and down all over the glacier. Even with the rain, the views were spectacular. Then we headed through some of the holes in the glacier that were carved out by the streams and rivers of water. It’s not every day that you get to walk through a glacier.
We trekked a little further and rounded a curve and our guide asked how many people wanted to ice climb. Don’t underestimate your strength for the ice climbing part of the tour because we had people of various shapes and sizes and fitness levels and everyone climbed the glacier at the end of the trip. For some, this is a once in a lifetime experience, so the best thing you can do is at least try. The guides are very safe and knowledgeable and have you supported throughout.
Practically everyone raised their hands in response to the guide’s question and then the guides gave us a demonstration on how to properly dig into the ice with our crampons and support ourselves so that we could climb up. For the ice climbing, we used a different type of ice pick that gripped the ice a bit better than our standard blunt looking pick. Ice climbing isn’t really tough, but it does take a little bit to get a flow as you have to hold your body pretty close to the ice and not stick your butt out too far and use your own upper body strength to slay the glacier. When you get up to the top though, the view is amazing!
After everyone got a chance to climb, we headed back out the way we came and hiked back to the parking lot. We dropped our gear and jumped onto the van we came in where everyone did a little quick change into non-wet clothes in the cramped little van.
The trip back to Reykjavik was almost as exciting as the glacier hike. The sun finally came out and then shortly after as we were driving over one road pass, it became complete whiteout conditions with side winds that blew our van all over the place. The driver handled it like a pro and kept chugging along at 60 mph.
My experience may not be typical as it may not rain when you go and they may take a different route for your hike so be prepared.
Overall, I loved this tour. I loved almost everything about it. I kind of wish I had brought a waterproof camera to capture more images. I didn’t dare bring my DSLR as it was way too wet. I hope to do their Into the Glacier or Crystal Cave tours when I go back as they look almost magical. So, if you’re looking for a tour company that is safe, knowledgeable, and will help you challenge yourself physically and mentally but also provide an experience of a lifetime, I highly suggest Arctic Adventures.
1. Get the waterproof gear – I can’t imagine how miserable I would have been if I did not have the waterproof gear. Granted I was slightly wet at my lower back as the jacket came up sometimes exposing my back. Also, my feet were completely soaked but surprisingly I was still warm at the core and since I had thick socks on my feet were warm but definitely not dry.
2. Bring extra layers and dry clothes for after you get off the glacier
3. Be prepared for sudden weather changes. The waterproof gear and extra layers should help with this.
4. Some tours provide food but for this tour does not so you should bring food and water or get something when they stop at that one gas station.
5. Bring sunglasses. Just in case the sun decides to show it’s face, you don’t want to go blind from the reflection of the snow.
6. Don’t go on the glaciers without a guide unless you’re certified or trained to do so. Don’t go alone either.
7. The length of the hike varies due to changes in the snow and ice so just be prepared for about three hours of hiking.
Price: 19,990 krona per person base price, 1,000 krona additional for each item (boots, jacket, pants), 5,000 krona for pick up at your hotel. Total – 27,990 krona or about $264 USD (currency rate changes)
Please read the website about the tour, the FAQs, and difficulty rating before you book your tour because there was a younger lady that came with her much older mom and then we got all the way to the glacier and she decided to ask how strenuous the trek was. That was probably not the best time to ask about that as realistically one should not expect hiking on a glacier and ice climbing to just be a walk in the park.
*Now the fun stuff. I am not being paid to write this review of my experience with Arctic Adventures. I am also not being paid if you chose to use them as your tour guide or click any of the links within this post to get to their website. These are my personal reflections on my experience and the same results are not guaranteed.*
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