During my visit to the Vatnajökull National Park, I signed up for a basic 2-hour Glacier walk on the Skaftafell Glacier with mountain guides. I’m not sure if you can do a hike on your own, I literally did not see anyone there who came on their own.
It’s an amazing experience to be on ice like that, with significant amount of blue. I loved every minute of it! The sight, the fresh icy air, the exhilaration! Apparently, Interstellar was shot there, the part where Matt Damon’s on that ice planet. That’s how bizarre the view is, like a different planet. Also, Game of Thrones season 7!
The walk can be done by anyone who is moderately active. If you can hike 3-5 miles and can do body-weight squats, you have nothing to worry about! While I did the Glacier walk, there are tougher options for people who want more of a challenge. There are tours for a Glacier climb too. I saw a few people gearing up for that, looked intense.
The tour operators provide you with crampons and a pick axe. The crampons are absolutely necessary, no way to hike without them. The pick-axe though, is just for show, to make us feel cool!
Walking with crampons takes about 5 minutes to get used to. I was pretty stressed out about the whole experience before I got there. Once I realized I wasn’t going to slip on ice, it got fun to walk. It’s actually easier to hike in the Summer than the Winter as the melting crunchy ice on top gives you more of a grip for your crampons, than the smooth ice during Winter.
My tour operator (and most tour operators) will insist on the following gear for the hike, for good reasons too:
Shoes that cover your heel:
I will additionally recommend waterproof shoes as well. The crampon straps go over your heel and so if the shoe doesn’t cover your heel, the crampon straps will dig in. You might be able to rent a pair or shoes from the operator prior to you hike, I would check beforehand.
This is another necessary piece you will need. Even on my warm sunny day, there were these gusts of icy wind that came through every 10-15 mins, also why I left my jacket on despite it being surprisingly warm.
It can get pretty cold!
This is based on the weather. If it’s not raining during your hike, you should be fine without them. The problem is, as I described in my earlier post (and will describe in my upcoming one), there is no way to predict the weather till you get there. So, it’s always best to carry a pair. I think the tour operators rent out pants (I know mountain guides did). But again, they might have a limited number and size, so I would check with them beforehand.
Overall, I had a great experience booking with mountain guides. The hike cost around $110 and was worth every penny! Booking in advance might be a good idea as there is a set availability per time slot and they tend to fill up as the date approaches.
For more posts on Iceland’s Ring Road, check out my ongoing Ring Road Diaries!