Fortress Of Solitude: Unbelievable Crystal Ice Caves In Iceland
By Matthew Karsten Date: 30 July 2017 Location: Hof, Iceland Company: Local Guide Of Vatnajokull Cost: 18,900 ISK (about $165 USD) Useful Notes: Iceland’s ice caves are only safe to visit from November until March. Some years they are better than others, as the glacier is always changing. Einar chooses which cave to explore depending on conditions that day. Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland We crawl slowly on hands & knees into a long frozen chamber, under a brilliant cathedral of crystal blue waves. Superman would feel right at home in this ice cave. When the Man of Steel wants to get away from the hustle & bustle of Metropolis, he flies to his “Fortress of Solitude” hidden in the Arctic. A magnificent crystal castle built using Krypton alien technology. What if I told you Superman’s crystal fortress is real? Deep under Iceland’s massive Vatnajökull Glacier, beautiful caves of ice are formed by rivers of meltwater. Too dangerous to visit in the spring & summer due to a threat of collapse, cold winter temperatures strengthen the ice and make exploration possible. A fellow photographer convinced me to go during my Iceland road trip. Ice Cave Photography Tour Iceland’s incredible glacier ice caves move or completely disappear with the shifting ice sheet each year. However one man seeks them out and guides people to their location. Expert local guide Einar Sigurðsson has been running photography tours into these icy caverns for the past 20 years, and knows the glacier better than most. His family has a long history here. Driving over rugged Icelandic terrain and through small rivers in Einar’s 4×4 van, snow covered Vatnajökull glacier appears in the distance. The ice has retreated a lot over the past few years, so it takes longer to reach the edge. We begin our ice cave adventure by strapping on helmets and ducking into a small entrance, forced to crawl on the cold, black volcanic dirt. Once inside though, the views are absolutely breathtaking. Amazing Blue Ice Caverns A long tunnel of ice boasting many different shades of translucent blue, white, and inky black stretches out before us. Thousands of years of snowfall compressed into frozen sculpted waves over our heads. Gradually the tunnel grows large enough with room to stand up. This densely packed glacial ice glows blue due to a lack of air bubbles which normally scatter colors of the spectrum as sunlight filters down from above. Layers of black volcanic ash are trapped in these ice formations, a remnant from previous eruptions. We spent a few hours exploring the cave, setting up our tripods for the perfect shot. It was nice to be in here with a group of fellow photographers who understand the importance of patience & attention to detail. When Einar discovers a new ice cave, he names it. This happened to be called the “Northern Lights Cave”, named after ribbons of deep blue frozen water surrounded by black ash. It looked very similar to Iceland’s aurora borealis dancing in the night sky. Vatnajökull Glacier Covering 8100 square kilometers (5000 square miles) Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest icecap in Europe by volume. The ice is up to 1000 meters thick in some places. Located in the South East, Vatnajokull covers over 8% of Iceland. There are seven different volcanoes hidden underneath the glacier. I actually flew over one of them while it was erupting, called Bardarbunga Volcano. This unique combination of fiery volcanoes & icy glaciers is why Iceland is called The Land of Fire & Ice… Superman sure picked a great spot for his vacation home! Exploring and photographing Iceland’s crystal ice caves was an incredible experience. If you’re traveling through Iceland in the winter, you really should’t miss them. Nature’s phenomenal beauty never ceases to amaze me. Where To Stay The closest town to the ice caves is Höfn, about an hour away. If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland for a trip to the caves, here are my recommendations: Budget Accommodation Höfn Hostel – An environmentally friendly hostel with sea views, located an hour away in the village of Höfn. Loft Hostel – Located in Reykjavik near the bus station, these luxury dorms have en-suite bathrooms and excellent wifi. Mid-Range Accommodation Hotel Höfn – Located in Höfn about an hour away, this hotel offers modern rooms with glacier & sea views. Rey Apartments – Modern and affordable apartment in the heart of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. Traveling To Iceland Soon? Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.