Here is how Ice caves in Iceland are formed and where to find them.
In this article I will look into Ice caves in Iceland and how and why they are formed. I will explain and show how and why different colors inside the cave makes them The best Ice caves depending on what you are looking for. In the section on Ice cave tours I talk about the benefits on taking a tour but I recommend knowing these 5 questions when finding the Ice cave of your dreams. But of course I try to end every article with our Amazing Fun Facts on the bottom.
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Ice cave Iceland
In the summertime, the glaciers in Iceland melt and the melt water creates Ice caves.
The ice in the glaciers are thick and danse. So, when they start to melt down in the summer heat they melt from the surface.
A lot of melt water can form streams or rivers that consequently find themselves on a weak spot on the glacier. The melt water therefore tunnels itself into the glacier. Basically the more water flowing through the tunnel, the larger the Ice caves get.
So in the beginning these tunnels usually form as a drop thanks to water spiraling down. Like a waterfall falling, the water relies on the weakness in the glacier like a crevasse. If the ice is too dense or the water reaches down to the bedrock the water will therefore flow horizontally through. This is basically how all natural Ice caves are formed and being in Iceland you have plenty to see.
During the wintertime the rivers recede and glaciers melt slows lessens. At that time, you can explore the unique world of an ice cave.
The best Ice cave
The typical color for an ice cave is blue or black and they can be different sizes.
The reason for the blue color is because of the sunlight that can shine and reflect as a result of the volume and density of the ice crystals. If the walls are too thick the sunlight can’t reach the cave itself. So often when the caves go deep into the glacier they become darker.
Glaciers are natural and therefore there will be rocks and ash trapped inside that block the sunlight making them darker. This can also happen if there is thick layer of snow sitting on top of the cave.
Green is a very rare color of an ice cave and is only visible in the right conditions (you can see that green color in the top photo). The color you do not want to see is white or see through. It means that the ice is thin and fragile and could collapse.
Ice cave tours in Iceland
If you are looking for an Ice cave tours in Iceland check out these 5 questions you need to keep in mind when booking a trip.
If you want to go and explore them yourself then do it with a professional guide. Because glaciers are moving, weakness can form in the ice. Professional mountain guides train and study the glaciers and can find the best ones for you. Glaciers in Iceland are sitting on top of or connected to volcanoes. Ice caves are tunnels and volcanic gases (like SO2) can fill them up making them deadly to explore.
Technically there is no such thing as an Ice cave. Ice caves are water cauldrons and tunnels that look like caves. Real caves are more permanent and made of rock.
It can take many days to find a Ice cave. Often they are found as early as in the end of summer but are not accessible because of all the water going through.
Ice cave tours are considered a winter activity because they last much longer in the winter and are more stable because of the freezing temperature. However there can be accessible Ice caves in the summer but are not advertised because of short expected life span.
When is a Ice cave not a cave? I would think it is when there is no ice roof like a path through a crevasse but you might see even bluer ice in them than the Ice caves.
The best photos use exposure in dimm caves. That way you can get the best contrast out of the photos.