The Sólheimajökull Glacier

Date 17 December 2023

The Sólheimajökull Glacier

The Sólheimajökull Glacier

A pride of the south, Sólheimajökull is what's known as a glacier tongue or ice tongue that grew out of the huge Mýrdalsjökull ice sheet.

Greater Mýrdalsjökull is known for being home to several volcanoes that have often attracted attention in Iceland. This is the case of the famous Eyjafjallajökull and the infamously lethal Katla.

Sólheimajökull: a very fragile glacier

Le glacier Sólheimajökull

About ten kilometers long and two kilometers wide, the Sólheimajökull flows south to melt into the Jökulsá á Sólheimasandi river, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean a few kilometers further south.

Icebergs break off from the glacier and break away in the small lagoon located at its feet, which float for a while before melting. Similar scenes can be found in Jökulsarlon or Svínafellsjökull.

Unfortunately, like all glaciers, Solheimajökull is shrinking very rapidly due to global warming (by about 50 meters each year). In fact, the lake at its foot has only existed for 10 years! From 1931 to 2011, the ice tongue retreated by 1.2 kilometers...

Sadly, this particular effect of climate change is irreversible, and the glacier will unfortunately disappear completely within a few decades.

How and when to go see the Sólheimajökull glacier?

Like Svínafellsjökull, Solheimajokull is very easy to get to, unlike many glaciers in Iceland. It also has the advantage of being the closest to the capital Reykjavik.

No more than 1.5 hours are needed to reach the glacier from Reykjavik by bus or car, a smooth 150-kilometer drive from the capital and no more than 30 minutes from the charming little village of Vik to the west.

If you're coming from the west, just a few kilometers after the beautiful Skogafoss waterfall you will see a small road with signs indicating the glacier to the left: this is the F221 trail. It is strongly recommended to use a 4x4 to do this leg of the road, approximately 4 kilometers of rough off-road trail to the car park.

The site is accessible all year round with the right vehicle. Of course there are many more tourists there in summer, but whether in winter or summer, Sólheimajökull is generally big enough for everyone.

What to do in Sólheimajökull

Le glacier Sólheimajökull

Photo credit: aiaikawa@fotolia

If you're just traveling with your own group, you can get quite close to the glacier, but to walk on the glacier you'll have to book a guided excursion.

It is in fact strictly forbidden to attempt to climb the glacier without a professional guide and safety equipment, as there have been many unfortunate accidents in the past near Sólheimajökull.

Getting closer to the glacier

From the car park, only a short twenty-minute walk will get you right up to the glacier. There are actually two paths to approach it:

  • The trail that runs along the edge of the lake offers a magnificent view of the lagoon and its icebergs.
  • The trail that cuts straight for the glacier tongues wastes no time and gets you up close and personal.

You should know that in winter both roads can be slippery, so hiking shoes are a must, crampons even better.

Near the glacier, you'll sometimes hear the ice crack and see a few shards of ice break off and splash into the lagoon.

Group hike with a guided tour on the glacier

You can book a hike on the glacier with a tour company and strike out fully equipped with helmets, crampons, and ice axes. Beginners and pros alike can enjoy these outings lasting 3 to 4 hours, a great way to discover the glacier from above with a magnificent view of the surroundings.

The landscape is full of ravines, cracks and plunging ice caves, each more magnificent than the last. Ice walls will be no match for you with the guidance of local professionals.

From the top, the terrain is spectacular and alternates between white, bright blue, and black ash. This ash is not recent and dates from past eruptions, notably the terrible Katla eruption of 1918. The color palettes change according to the light to stunning effect!

Some tours leave straight from Reykjavík and offer stops at other tourist sites:

Others depart from the Sólheimajökull car park:

Kayaking in the lagoon

Kayak au pied du glacier Sólheimajökull

You can even go kayaking in the small lake at the foot of the Sólheimajökull glacier. The kayak trip lasts approximately 2.5 hours with a guide to help you weave between the icebergs and get a little closer to the glacier.

The kayaking trip starts directly at the glacier car park. Additional information and reservations for the kayak excursion at the foot of Sólheimajökull