On my latest trip to Iceland I jumped at the chance to head inside the world’s longest man-made ice cave, which happens to be located inside the world’s second largest glacier.
Newly opened in 2015, the tour lasts almost a full day, but the time you have inside the cave is little over an hour so you can say the journey getting there is a large part of the adventure. The scenery alone offers killer views of Iceland, but the aspect of the journey that really, really raises the bar is the mode of transport – a vehicle I’ve never been on before – a whopping monster truck.
There’s one thing for sure, when the elements are truly playing up like the devil or the deep blue sea, you need a vehicle that’s going to handle the brute force of Mother Nature.
There have been times in Iceland when the wind has ripped off car doors and I’ve seen people crawling on their hands and knees because they’re scared of being blown away * that may or may not include me *.
Big wheels are crucial for driving over the glacier cap, it’s very high up and during winter it’s covered in layers and layers of snow. Put it this way, a normal car would be swallowed up like quick sand within a couple of minutes.
When the wind is howling and weather conditions accelerate, it’s not entirely uncommon to see abandoned cars dotted around the landscape during bad weather. I can only presume the owners will be back to collect their cars once the conditions improve – they might be caught in the onset of a blizzard so there’s no such thing as being too careful.
Winters in Iceland can often be unsurprisingly harsh and roads are commonly closed to ensure public safety. Even during summertime there are still some roads where only 4×4 cars are allowed to travel along, these are called F-roads and are often more demanding as the car needs to tackle pot holes and whatnot.
My group and I was picked up from Reykjavik in a normal mini bus, we travelled north-west along the fjords and mountain ranges before reaching Husafell. Once we arrived there it was necessary for us to change vehicles, and that’s when we got into the monster truck. As you can imagine, these things are built to last and come armed with 55 inch wheels!
The truck reminded me of an old school bus but more industrial and even studier. I learnt from our guide, Orri, that it used to be a German missile truck but had now retired for a life in Icelandic tourism. Who would’ve ever guessed?
The windows on the truck are huge so everyone gets a fantastic panorama of the view. It was a clear and bright day, the snow was dazzling and that added extra light to what already felt unusual for an average February day.
The journey to the ice tunnel flew by as Orri entertained us with stories from his guiding adventures, and provided us with background knowledge of the surrounding regions and facts about the glacier which were were traversing.
Langjokull means ‘Long Glacier’ and is about 50 km long and 15-20 km wide, even more colossal is volume of the glacier at 195 km3, and the ice can be around 580 m thick.
Into the Glacier
Now we had arrived, we made our way into the tunnel which had been lit with LED lighting along the floor. After walking down the opening corridor I was relieved to reach a wider room that stored a box filled with crampons. I stretched them around my boots and instantly felt 100% less likely that I was going to slip fourth onto my arse, taking the whole crew down with me on the way.
We waddle in a line through the ice tunnel that leads approximately 200-300 metres into the glacier, towards the stunning blue ice that lies at the heart, and towards the natural ice cave filled with jaw-dropping icicles.
Also inside there’s many nooks and chambers containing interesting information and research about the glacier, exhibitions and even a small chapel for those who would like to get married in the ice cave! I follow their Instagram account, and though I haven’t seen a wedding yet, I’ve seen a few marriage proposals.
Our guide Orri
Throughout the walk I couldn’t resist touching the sides of the walls which felt like really silky marble. Orri pointed out grey stripes in the ice; “This is volcanic ash, every time there is an eruption, ash settles on the glacier”. It may not have looked as pretty as the pure blue walls but it certainly told the story of Iceland’s ferocious geology.
When you’re confronted with such visible layers of the earth’s movements, it’s so easy to feel like just a dot in time and space, but at the same time, feel so alive amongst it all.
Would you like to go Into the Glacier?
For more information see their direct website: www.intotheglacier.is.