In the heart of the Vatnajökull National Park in south-east Iceland, the Skaftafell Crystal Cave plunges us into a fantastic and almost unreal atmosphere. And it is in winter after long periods of precipitation have removed the snow covering the ice, the ice cave reached the peak of its beauty. It is also the period during which temperatures are at their lowest, which makes ice harder and visits more secure.
Glacial caves are temporary structures that appear on the edge of glaciers. They are incredibly beautiful views from the inside. This very special cave is located on the frozen lagoon of Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Skaftafell National Park, Iceland. The “crystal cave” dates back several centuries and comes from the meeting between the Vatnajökull glacier and the Icelandic coast. Under strong pressure, the ice contains almost no air bubbles. This causes the absorption of almost all daylight, leaving only a blue glow.
However, this blue ice can only be observed under certain circumstances. This phenomenon can only be observed in winter after a long period of rain has swept the snow on the surface of the glacier.
This cave in the glacier is the result of a mill, where rainwater and meltwater flow as streams that enter the glacier forming crevasses. The waterfall creates an opening in the glacier while the accumulated water flows lower by forming long ice cavities with an outlet at the end of the glacier.
The sediments in the water as well as those brought by the wind cause a muddy color on the bottom and the wall of the ice cave, leaving at the top of the cavity a dark blue color.
Because of the rapid movement of the glacier about 1 m per day over rough terrain, this ice cave is cracking at its other end into a deep vertical crevasse. This causes the entrance of the light from both ends of the ice cave to provide uniform illumination of the icy tunnel.
The cave is accessible by an entrance of 7 m. At the bottom of the frozen cavity, it is very narrow with no more than 1.20 m high. Ice caves are generally unstable and can collapse at any time. However, you can safely enter in winter (October to May) when freezing temperatures harden the ice. You can hear ice creaks constantly, that does not mean that everything is going to collapse, but because the cave is moving along with the glacier. Whenever the glacier moves a millimeter, you can hear very loud sounds.
How to get to Skaftafell in Iceland?
Skaftafell tours depart from the Skaftafell Visitor Center. Skaftafell has located 327 km from Reykjavík. The nearest cities of Skaftafell are Kirkgopjarklaustor, which is 69 km west of Hoven and 130 km to the east.
To get there by car, take the main road # 1 east from Reykjavik. The journey takes about 4 hours. You will see a sign for Skaftafell. Turn to the Skaftafell Visitors Center and you will find information to visit the glacier caves.
During the summer season (May 15 to September 15), many agencies offer the return trip from Reykjavik.