Blue ice caves, Iceland

Postcard: Blue ice caves, Iceland

Mesmerising natural formations brimming with vibrant hues.

  • Ice caves are mesmerising natural formations brimming with vibrant hues. Permeating through the ice crystals of different textures, the falling light creates a captivating mix of myriad colours. It seems as if Nature itself has been painting on ice.
  • The largest glacier in Iceland is situated inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vatnajökull National Park.
  • This ice cap covers 8 % of the country alone and is almost 1 km deep in sections.
  • When ice crystals in a glacier get compressed beneath its own weight for hundreds of years or even more, the air inside them bubbles out. In the process, the ice crystals enlarge, creating blue ice. Often, you see a large expanse of glistening, transparent and crystalline ice resembling a deep blue quartz crystal. 
  • You may find blue ice looking opaque and solid-like. Some glaciers will show deep jewel blue tones. Often, algae is trapped within glacial ice lending the blue hue. In some glaciers, blue stones are so deep that they almost turn violet.
  • The formation of almost all ice caves in Iceland defies all explanations as to how they are formed or acquire a certain colour or shape. Yet, some of them are so astonishing that they qualify for a breathtaking view.
  • The Crystal Cave located in Breidamerkurjökull, an outlet glacier from Vatnajökull, is famous for its incredibly turquoise blue colour.
  • There are other caves in the country with blue, white, grey and even black ice.
  • Langjökull natural ice cave, which formed in 2017, is noted for its wonderfully beautiful and dramatic colours. You will find a stream of turquoise blue ice throughout the cave. In the white ice encircling this ‘rivulet’, there are layered grey zebra-like patterns left by the ash of volcanic eruptions.
  • What makes these ice caves even more special is their ever-changing appearance. A cave you see one year would disappear the next. They keep changing size and formation. 
  • Ice caves change their shape and location thanks to the glaciers they exist in. The glaciers expand in the winters and melt in the summers.
  • During cold weather in the winters, the ice gets hardened and the melting of water stops. In the absence of melt-water, tunnels transform into caverns of crystalline ice.
  • The formation of some caves in Iceland can be attributed to the subglacial flows triggered by geothermal warmth.
  • Like the glacial flow, hydrothermal flow of water also causes ice caves to take shape. However, it is very hard to figure out whether a particular ice cave is formed by geothermal or subglacial activity. 
  • Ice cave season runs from November to late March each year.
Photo: Helen Maria Björnsdóttir
Photo: Scott Drummond
Photo: Magnús Snæbjörnsson

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