When we booked this trip the offer of visiting an “ice cave” stood out as unusual among the tours we were considering. we didn’t know if it would be all that cool but decided to give it a try. So glad we did! It turns out to be one of the cooler things we saw.
We left the lodge early and drove a couple hours through the dark to the edge of the glacier field. From there we climbed into giant off-road vehicles and four-wheeled our way through an ice and lava-strewn moonscape until we were a couple of kilometres from the glacier itself.
We clambered out of the monster trucks and strapped on our crampons and helmets. Our guide paused at the trailhead and explained the name of the glacier. If I remember correctly, “breidamerkujokull” translates into something about a forest and a glacier—presumably due to the trees they have found in the bottom layers of ice, which suggests this part of Iceland was once covered by forest.
By the time we reached the glaciers edge it had started snowing. The huge cliff-face of raw ice looked nearly black, and very imposing. Our guide led our little group around one corner into a sort of cove. He stopped to explain more about the ice—how it has yearly layers that enable incredibly precise dating going back thousands of years. He pointed out the paths of former sub-glacial streams, and how air pockets first develop and then are squeezed out over time, resulting in glassy purity.
From there we proceeded beneath an archway that led to the cave mouth.
The inside of the cave was completely otherworldly. The only thing that resembled a normal cave was the lack of open sky. Everything else was magical—light filtering through the meters-thick ice created a low aquamarine glow that seemed to illuminate from all directions. The ceiling soared well above our heads, but the walls stopped about three feet off the ground creating a low stratum of space that helped alleviate any sense of chlaustrophobia. The air bubbles in the ice looked like fantastical sea creature or alien spaceships.
We emerged through a different tunnel to the one we came in by. Higher and much broader, it gave a sheltered area to observe the glacial plain before us. While we had been inside, the sun had come out, transforming it into a blindingly bright vista of stone and ice.
From there back to the monster trucks. The bright sun and absence of wind—so novel after the cyclone winds of Dennis—meant I quickly began stripping off layers (of which there were five on top and three on the bottom!) and enjoyed the walk in just a sweater.