One of the unique activity in Iceland only available in winter (Nov-March) is visiting the blue glowing ice cave. Northern Lights are not guaranteed so I have been telling myself our primary goal is the ice cave and Northern Lights will be a bonus. I booked the ice cave tour through https://www.extremeiceland.is/ as soon as they are available for booking as I read that ice cave tour is limited and can be booked out for the season. The tour ain’t cheap at $160 per person. One of the reasons that it’s expensive is those ice caves change every year, so at the end of each summer, the tour guides will need to search for suitable ice caves for tours based on their knowledge of the glacier. The ice cave is formed when the ice melts during the summer creating a river/stream underneath the glacier. At the end of the summer season, the ice stops melting and all the water completely flowed out, thus the empty space left is the cave. Our guide told us that they found 10 ice caves this season but only 2 are suitable for tours due to the following criteria: needs to be in stable condition for safety and photogenic – the glowing blue color. Our tour started at 9:30 am, meeting point was inside the Hali Country Hotel which we stayed last year. We were driven by those monster wheels for 30-45 minutes right to the entrance of the cave….I thought we needed to do some hike but no, it was super easy.
The tour provided crampons and safety hat, to prepare for the tour, we bought waterproof hiking shoes. The entrance was there…..the weather wasn’t great that day – raining at 47 degrees (which I was told warmer than back home in Boston lol). I was so afraid that the tour would cancel due to the weather, but fortunately it was okay with light rains.
Remember I had trouble hiking up to the waterfalls because the trail was slippery? Those crampons helped tremendously….walking on Europe’s largest glacier – Vatnajökull was no skill required! Jason was joking that I needed to buy a pair of those crampons so I will not slip and fall during winter!
Last Thanksgiving we hiked Machu Picchu, this Thanksgiving, we hiked Europe’s largest glacier – Vatnajökull Glacier! Look at the thickness of the edge of the glacier and that blue color!
Once we entered the cave, our tour guide explained the rules….we’ll have around 45 minutes to 1 hour inside the cave and do not walk out of the cave, if we need to walk out, we need to let the tour guide know; he needs to accompany anyone who walked out. That was all the rules! He even helped us took a photo of us 🙂
The cave was a lot smaller than I imagined but it was quite deep just not too wide. However, the only negative about it was there were a lot more tours than I anticipated there at the same time thus more people in this small cave! It was impossible to have a photo without people in it so a little bit of Photoshopping is needed! I was a little worried about the cloudy sky might affect the lights inside the cave but not so the case! It was hard to believe even in a cloudy day, the blueness of the ice was glowing like a light source is shining behind it, it was amazing!
My dream of photographing the blue ice cave came true! I utilized my precious 1 hour inside the cave wisely but moving around different spots for different angles. Sometimes I was very frustrated with those selfie-stick people, their phones were flashing which made the blue ice to have a yellow hue on it grrrrr! I wished they have a photographers’ tour (I will be happily paying extra for it) like the time we went to the Antelope Canyons.
Unfortunately, those selfie-stick people were the majority of the visitors 🙁
The massive air bubble trapped inside the glacier gave textures to the ice!
The hour passed in no time especially have to wait for the selfie-stick people to move out of the way or need to retake the photo due to those flashes! The other ice cave required some hike to get there, I wished that we were on that tour instead, I would think less people. But there was no way at the time of booking to know which ice cave the tour guide would bring us to.
It was still raining when we got out so after the tour, we headed back to our hotel to rest and pray for the sky to clear up tonight – our last day in the glacier lagoon area! At 8:45 pm, we headed out again and it was still raining but according to the satellite images, the clouds will be clearing up, let’s hope! After 10 minutes or so of driving, it seemed like we drove out of the rain curtain, and I saw stars! “OMG, are those stars?” I screamed. Yes, stars which mean the sky is clear!!! And in no time we spotted green! We were getting excited…..Jason who sat on the back seats said: “you two, keep your excitement down so you’ll not get disappointed like the other night!” We arrived at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon parking lot and clearly see the lines of greens….OMG OMG OMG!!! We quickly set up our tripod and start clicking! We aren’t “spray and pray” type of photographers; once we took a photo, we’ll check and discuss about it…Jason, that night, said: “stop talking, keep clicking!!!”
It was windy when we arrived so no good reflection from the lagoon but nevertheless, the Aurora was spectcular!
Every time a car arrived at the parking lot, the car’s headlight will lit up the icebergs….we decided to walk to the back more to avoid those situations….
There were a lot less people than the other night we were here probably still raining over the hotel sides so people haven’t started their hunt yet 🙂 We had no issue finding our own spot.
The Northern Lights were everywhere, literally!
And was dancing so fast that the shape of it was constantly changing! As Jason said…keep clicking! Doesn’t this look like an ear?
Sometimes we saw not only greens but reds/pinks as well!
Come to me, Aurora!!!
Zach ran up to the hill to check out the other side of the hill for timelapse, he said it was super windy up there that he had to keep his tripod low. When I was processing the photos, I came across this one…I zoomed in and for sure that was Zach in the photo (the tiny silhouette on the right side on up of the hill)!
After an hour or so, more people arrived and we decided to head over to the “secret lagoon” – Fjallsárlón. Sure enough, when we arrived there was only another car/couple and they left after a few minutes. Then, we had the whole lagoon to ourselves!!!
Northern Lights over the glacier “heart”!
The lights were everywhere that my 14mm couldn’t even capture it all, I did a panorama and only covering a small portion of the lights. The solar activity rating was a “5” – minor solar storm that night, thank you thank you!
We were on top of the hill looking down at the lagoon and the wind was crazy to a point that we could not stand up…we lowered our tripods as low as they can get and stabled by placing some big rocks on the legs! Jason was our watcher….he said look there, look here, look on the back…..we couldn’t keep up with all those lights!
Half of the sky was covered by Northern Lights!!!
We literally saw the lights painting the sky, it was so fast and bright that I could lower my exposure to 4 seconds but still couldn’t capture its form!!!
Zach completely lay on the ground to watch this amazing show. Thank you, Aurora, for an awesome show tonight that lasted more than 4 hours!!!! It was already 1:30 am and we were asking ourselves…..do we have enough yet? Shall we head back to sleep? It was that surreal! It was epic! No words could describe it….it was an unforgettable moment!