The well curated Icelandic tour pictures leave me guessing: Are the ice caves really that impressive as marketed on the net? Are they big, blue & the glossy or is it all just Photoshop? I’m so curious to see how this expedition goes down and how it all looks in real life. Me and my friend book a tour with Local Guide to experience the phenomenon first hand.
Due to a severe snow storm we can’t make it to the excursion, we can’t even make it to our hotel. In fact 3/4 of Iceland is closed! We’re officially stuck in Vik. Yet another night in a charming village located right at the Black Beach and Reynisfjora. Luckily the roads are open the following day. There’s a super jeep waiting for us at the Diamond Beach. Lisa, our tour guide, drives us to the largest glacier in Iceland: Vatnajökull glacier. It’s where the hike to the ice caves begins.
Inside the cave
Fully equipped with crampons and helmets we get there pretty fast. The glacier looks spectacular up close. ‘It’s like cheese with heaps of holes’, explains Lisa. ‘Each hole contains a cave, but only few of them are safe to access’. We enter one of the ‘cheese holes’, called the Sapphire cave.
The textures of the frozen water are mesmerizing. They almost look like silk from up far. It’s not too crowded anywhere near the cave. On the contrary, in about 15 minutes we have the entire place to ourselves. The cave is smaller and definitely more narrow than expected. We crawl under an ice formation to get to the center. I’m actually surprised that it’s not pitch black in there. On the contrary, there is so much light coming in. ‘Other cheese holes’, Lisa smiles, pointing at a heart shaped opening in the ceiling. Aah, that’s why!
Frozen in time
We stay a bit longer to inhale the beauty surrounding us. It gets really quiet when the sun begins to set. All I hear is our feet shuffling through the ice. The air is crisp. It starts to snow again as we make our way back to the vehicle. Lisa collects our gear. I don’t want to leave.
Last year Iceland held a funeral for its first-ever loss of a glacier to climate change. ‘A letter to the future’, that’s what’s written on the memorial rock found at the very feet of the ‘late’ Okjökull glacier in western Iceland. Unfortunately this is the future we are gravitating towards. ‘It’s all heartbreaking,’ sights Lisa, ‘We’re loosing the nature we grew up in. Not too long ago nobody even heard of Iceland and look at it now.’
Touring in groups
I’m not the biggest fan of guided excursions. The rush, the big touristic crowds, it kills my vibe. This tour however proved me wrong. Here’s a little shoutout to the wonderful team of Local Guide. Especially to Lisa! We bugged her with a ton of nosy questions and used her as a model to pose for our pictures. ‘A day well spent!’ we all agreed, driving slowly straight into an other snow storm.