Langjökull is a colossal glacier in central Iceland, located in the western part of the highlands. There is also a section of a volcanic system in the area.
This is the closest ice cap to the capital Reykjavík, so it's rather easy to get to, and Langjökull has become quite famous for its superb ice caves and other tourist activities.
Langjökull Summit - Julien Lanoy @unslpash
Langjökull, “the long glacier”, was named so by the locals because of its elongated shape. While only 20 km wide, it stretches out nearly 55 km in length. Boasting a total area of about 950 km², Langjökull is, after the huge Vatnajökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland and the 4th largest in Europe.
Its altitude is roughly between 1,000 and 1,300 meters and the highest point, Baldjökull, stands at 1,450 meters. South of Langjökull lies the Þórisjökull, another glacier with an area of only 30 km² that recently broke off from Langjökull.
Affecting all glaciers, global warming is has already had a significant impact on the Langjökull. Experts estimate that it could disappear within 100 years, or even 50 in the worst case scenario.
In fact, not far from here you will find (or rather not find) the site of the former Okjökull (Ök), the first glacier in Iceland to disappear completely due to climate change in 2014.
Like all Icelandic glaciers, Langjökull meltwaters feeds several large lakes, such as Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, or Hvítárvatn, located east of the glacier.
Langjökull - Ulrich Knoll @unslpash
The Langjökull ice sheet was formed 3,500 years ago. For centuries, snow accumulated in the region, layering and freezing to form the glacier.
Langjökull is also home to a volcanic system called Oddnýjarhnjúkur Langjökull, made up of two subglacial calderas. Experts found traces of two eruptions about 5,500 years ago.
The glacier is remote and quite isolated in central Iceland, but you can still get there via two trails that run inland:
The F550 will get you closest to it in an off-road 4x4. From Húsafell, it takes approximately 20 km to reach the glacier by taking the F550 southwards and branching off east on the F551.
About a hundred kilometers from Reykjavik, it takes 2 hours to reach the glacier from the capital.
Langjökull Ice Tunnel - Matt Kochar @unslpash
In recent years, Langjökull has become famous for its many tours and excursions: ice caves, glacier hikes, helicopter flights, snowmobiling... Everyone can find their perfect activity.
Langjokull is home to the largest artificial ice tunnel in the world, “Into the Glacier”, totalling 500 meters long. Launched in 2015, this installation even has an ice chapel where you can get married in a crystal palace! The ice tunnel can be visited all year round and is spared from the weather so you can go there when it rains.
The myriad blue tones reflecting in the ice cave are simply magnificent.
Langjökull - Claire Nolan @unslpash
Starting from the car park, a huge prepared 4x4 vehicle, essentially a monster truck, will take you to the entrance of the cave near the summit. After a short walk on the glacier, you descend...Into the Glacier.
The colors change as you penetrate deeper and the refracted sunlight on the ice is simply amazing. Keep your ears sharp to hear the ice cracking due to the constant movements of the glacier. Throughout the tour, a guide explains the history of the cave.
One of Langjökull's top activities for thrill-seekers is snowmobiling. The outings last 2 hours to 12 hours in the company of a professional guide.
Top article photo: Langjökull - Julien Lanoy @unslpash