The Katla ice cave tour: is it worth it?

Katla ice cave tour

Wondering if you should go on the Katla ice cave tour or not?

Here’s what you can expect from one of the most unique tours in Iceland. It’s not every day you get to step inside a real-life ice cave, but on the Katla ice cave tour, that’s EXACTLY what you get to do.

You’re in the middle of nowhere, wandering through snow and ice and – if you’re anything like me – wondering how on earth did I get here?!

It’s a must-visit destination for adventurers and nature enthusiasts looking to check off a proper bucket list experience. Walking through its tall, arching walls which are glistening, shimmering, dripping, and streaked with shades of blue and black is unlike anything I’ve done before.

Is it worth it? For me, 100% yes.

Let’s delve into the enchanting beauty of this Icelandic gem…

Katla ice cave tour

Where is the Katla ice cave?

The Katla ice cave is located in the southern region of Iceland, underneath Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The location is just about as remote as it gets.  

The cave is located near the Katla volcano, which you’ll be glad to know is NOT the volcano that erupted in June 2023. However, it is reportedly a “highly active” volcano – which does give the trip a bit of an edge.

It hasn’t erupted since 1918, but apparently, it’s long overdue and could potentially have catastrophic impact if it ever did go off again. Not exactly putting the nerves at ease, really, but there we go.

How can you visit Katla ice cave?

The only way to visit the ice cave is with a tour provider. This is, obviously, due to the challenging terrain and the ever-changing ice conditions, which demand experienced professionals to navigate.

You can’t just phone this one in, folks.

They’ll get you to the cave, ensure you have all the right equipment, and make sure you do all your exploring safely.  We went with Viator for our trip, because they did a pick-up from Reykjavik, but there are Get Your Guide and Troll Expeditions too. Pricing seems to be the same for each.

If you’re not staying in Reykjavik, you can also do the ice cave tour from Vik, which is the village closest to the Katla ice cave. It’s right next to the famous Black Sands beach, which I wish we got to explore.  

Katla ice cave tour

How do you get to the Katla ice cave?

There are two common ways to get to Katla – from Reykjavik or from Vik. The tour will pick you up from a pick-up point in your preferred location.

For this trip, we had to walk 10 minutes or so to find our pick-up point which was located outside another hotel. The bus driver will announce the tour when they pull up and check your name before you board.   

A step-by-step guide to the Katla ice cave tour in Iceland

The ice cave is the main event but there are a couple of noteworthy pitstops on the way, which I’ve listed below…

  • Skogafoss waterfall
  • The village of Vik
  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall

First stop, Skogafoss waterfall

On the way to the ice cave, we stopped at Skogafoss, which is an absolutely stunning 60-metre-high waterfall located in the south of Iceland. Woah, it’s up there in terms of beautiful waterfalls.

It’s maybe not quite on the same scale as Gulfoss water, which you’ll see on the Golden Circle tour, but it still feels enormous when you stand in front of it. Everyone looks like tiny little colourful ants next to it.

One tip, if you want to get close to it then pack your waterproof trousers, I got a bit wet on the back of my calves standing too close.  

Next stop – Vik

You’ll then get on the bus and drive for a bit further until you get to Vik, which is the closest village to the Katla ice cave. We stopped next to the Reyniskirkja Church, which stands lonely on a hill.

You can also see the Reynisdrangar rock formations off the coast below from here. I thought they looked like something straight out of The Goonies – I just needed a doubloon to hand to take me to the treasure!

After that, the bus will park up at the spot where you’ll take the super jeep from. You can go to the bathroom and there’s a café as well, which is a good choice for afterwards when you’re hungry from adventure!

Next, it’s time to climb into the jeep and drive across the glacier.

The super jeep ride

How would I describe the super jeep journey to the cave?

In a word: bumpy! I’d never been in a super jeep before and I thought I was going to need a step ladder to get into it at one point – these cars are huge and are fitted with enormous tyres! You get packed in and for the most part, the tour guides aimed to keep groups of people together.

The jeep ride to the ice cave took around 40 minutes in total. For a while, you’re driving on the road and then you started driving directly on the ice. That’s when it gets really bumpy!  It is fun but it’s probably not that enjoyable if you’ve had a big lunch or get car sick.

What happens once you arrive?

All the jeeps park together in an open space.

You’ll be handed a hard hat by the crew and then you’ll start to make your way over to the cave. The pathways are black, as a result of the volcanic ash of the landscape, and cut decisively through the soft white snow.  

You walk along the path, a row of orange hats bobbing along, single file. We stopped a handful of times to take photos of the surroundings before continuing on. As you get nearer to the ice cave everyone stopped so that we could put crampons on our boots. It was good to know that everything was provided on this trip, you don’t have to pack anything.  

Exploring the ice cave

Your experience of the ice cave will vary with the seasons.

When we walked through the first time I’ll admit to being a little unnerved. There was only a tiny rope pinned to the side of the ice cave to hold onto and it did feel a bit precarious. Our guide asked us not to take photos as we made our way through the first time so that we could actually get our bearings and watch where we were putting our feet. Good advice.  

I’m not gonna lie though, there were moments when it was really tempting to take a photo. The cave is ridiculously beautiful, like a frozen honeycomb with smooth, circular indentations dimpling its thick walls.

You worry if you don’t capture what you see at that exact second then you’ll never see it again.  But natural caves can be slippery, and it’s a good idea to exercise a bit of caution so you have a safe and enjoyable experience. Dinnae go running around all over the place, you know? Take your time and go easy as you walk through the cave.  

Once you’ve gone through once you’re free to wander back at leisure and take as many photos as you like – I think I took about a hundred.

What’s on the other side of the cave?

You wander through the cave and you then come to another open area where you can wander around and take more photos, before returning back through the cave.

Our group probably spent around half an hour in this part just taking it all in. You’re surrounded by snowy peaks on all sides so you’re literally in the enclave of the landscape.

There’s also a small tunnel you can crawl through if you’re feeling brave and need more of an adrenaline rush. More on that later!

Finally, after you’ve done your exploring you walk back to the jeeps. You get the jeep back along the glacier to the drop-off point.

Final stop, Seljalandsfoss waterfall

What better way to round off the trip than with another waterfall?

Seljalandsfoss is interesting in that you can walk right behind it, which isn’t something you get to do very often. I’ll be honest, by this time we were a little cold and tired and were just as excited by the prospect of a bathroom break and a hot drink and the coffee truck here!

You’ll be dropped off back at Reykjavic and there concludes the tour.  

Frequently asked questions

Is the ice cave safe?

It’s something you can only do with a tour guide. You do have to fill in a consent form, which we did on the bus on the way, and that was a little unnerving. However, the guides on the tour are experts and as long as you follow their instructions, you’ll have a great time.

How much does it cost?

Let’s get to the crunch. This tour seems to have got even more expensive than I did it, which may be a seasonal thing. If I wanted to do the ice cave tour today it would cost £250 per person, which is an eye-watering amount of money for one single day.

That’s more than I paid and it may have proven too much for me, tbh.

Is the Katla ice cave worth it?

It’s a hard question as it’s a really pricey tour. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more for tours than I did during this trip to Iceland.

However, it really does feel like a one-off experience. When else do you get to trek across the snow in the middle of nowhere in Iceland to explore an ice cave? For that reason, it was worth it to me.

But you have to make your own mind up.

I should also mention that it’s an all-day trip. It’s not a quick 40 minutes through the cave and then you’re done and back at the hotel.

You stop off at the beautiful waterfalls on the way there and the way back, plus the super jeep experience is kind of fun as well.

Can you enter the Katla ice cave without a tour guide?

The only way to visit the Katla ice cave is with a tour group, led by a glacier expert. So the answer is no. And, to be honest, I’m not sure you’d want to.  

How long is the Katla ice cave tour?

The trip takes the whole day.

We left our hotel at about 9am and got back around 7pm. There’s a lot of driving but you stop off at beautiful scenic waterfalls along the way.

In terms of the actual amount of time at the cave, we were there from around 2.30 until 4pm. That felt like plenty of time – we felt like we could wander around at leisure and soak it all in without being rushed.

When is the best time to visit the Katla ice cave?

The great news about Katla ice cave is that you can visit it all year round. This isn’t the case for some of the caves in Iceland.

Katla ice cave tour

What is the difference between Katla ice cave and the other blue ice caves?

One of the first differences is the one I mentioned above…

1. When you can visit

Katla ice cave is accessible all year round.

On the flip side, you can only access some of the other blue caves in the winter time, between mid-October and the end of March.

So, if you’ve ever been wondering if you can go in the ice caves in Iceland in summer, then the good news is you can – it just has to be Katla ice cave.

2. The ice itself

While a lot of the other ice caves in Iceland are crystal clear, the location of Katla ice cave means it looks a bit different.

The walls of ice in the Katla ice cave are streaked with volcanic ash from the Volcano Katla, giving it a striped black and blue appearance.

Some parts are clear and light and translucent, whereas others are muted with the dark ash.

What should you wear to the ice cave?

1. Hiking boots

Well, I’d recommend wearing hiking boots as you will have to trudge through the snow to get to the ice cave. Not everyone got the memo.

There was someone in our group wearing Converse trainers, which would clearly get soaked through in seconds. Someone else was wearing heeled boots, which was a little odd to me. Pick your shoes carefully!  

2. A beanie hat

Once you’ll get off the bus you’ll be handed a hard hat to wear. Most people simply popped these on over their beanie hats but my hat is so chunky it didn’t fit. The pom pom didn’t help! I just took off my beanie but it’s probably easier to wear it over your hat.

3. A warm layer

 Every blog I read recommend wearing a warm layer underneath a waterproof layer for your trip to Iceland. I would wholeheartedly agree.

I had a North Face fleece that I never took off practically and this kept me warm and dry for the ice cave trip. Wearing layers means you can also strip them off when you’re back in the warmth of the bus.  

4. A waterproof layer

 It started to snow just as we arrived at the cave and, because it takes quite a while to get dressed in your hard hat and crampons and then walk to the cave, we were out in it for quite a while.

I’d recommend wearing a waterproof layer on the outside that will keep you dry – I had my trusty Berghaus jacket that I wore everywhere!  

5. Clothes you don’t mind getting muddy

I mentioned earlier that once you walk through the ice cave you come into an opening and there’s a small tunnel you can crawl through.

I had a look but didn’t do it because my waterproof trousers weren’t very waterproof and I didn’t want to get my jacket covered in mud. But if you’re feeling adventurous and you don’t mind getting a bit dirty, go for it!    

Summing up my ice cave experience

A visit to the Katla ice cave in Iceland is an incredible, magical adventure. There were so many times during the experience when I looked around and was like: I can’t believe I’m actually here. DOING THIS.

It just blew my mind. The ice cave is just so beautiful and remote and unlike anything I’d ever experienced before on any kind of trip.

From the colours to the scale to the remoteness, this natural wonder transports you away from the everyday. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come away with an appreciation for the raw power and beauty of nature.

It’s pricey, yes, but it’s a memory I’ll treasure for a long time.

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Katla ice cave tour

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