Inside Longjökull Glacier
Our trip to Iceland was incredibly surreal as a whole but spending a day inside a glacier was perhaps the most surreal of all. In the span of a couple months we went from watching videos and dreaming of a trip to Iceland someday, to joining our friends on the island for a week to exploring the inside of the Longjökull glacier in Western Iceland.
To be honest, we landed in Iceland with pretty much no plan at all other than meeting up with our friends who were living in Hong Kong and we hadn't seen in way too long. I had looked up all sorts of places to go and things to do but hadn't made any specific plans because we were traveling with other people. So when we arrived at our awesome cabin about an hour outside of Reykyavik we sat down together to do a bit of planning.
As we listed out the potential things we'd like to experience while we were in Iceland the idea of doing a glacier tour came up. We all loved the idea but the glacier we were looking at was a six hour drive each way it wasn't really plausible with 3 kids in the mix. A couple days and a handful of google searches later we found out the Longjökull glacier which was only about an hour away from us also had a tour! Our friends generously booked a glacier experience for all of us as a gift and we waited excitedly for a couple days until our scheduled "glacier day".
On the morning of the tour we were instructed to meet the group near a golf course a bit away from the glacier (assuming you didn't have an all terrain vehicle which we certainly did not). It was there that we loaded onto a heavy duty bus and were trundled off up the mountain to the base camp. The drive up to the base camp was almost otherworldly. The treeless, black bluffs around us were halfway covered in clouds and the tops were getting dusted with bright white snow.
Up at the basecamp we grabbed a hot chocolate and some snacks before having our outfits assessed by the staff. We were wearing tons of layers and our heaviest coats but were sent to the dressing room to get full body thermal jumpsuits and waterproof overboots to put over the top of our other things. It seemed a bit extreme considering the weather at the base camp was just cold with snow flurries (nothing to merit a full arctic explorer getup).
Once we were properly outfitted we climbed aboard the formidable Ice 2, a retrofitted missile launcher, to head up on the glacier. Within minutes of driving onto the glacier we were in a complete white-out snowstorm. Luckily for us, the beast of a vehicle we were in had no problem dealing with the conditions and we even got to test out its special wheels that can deflate a bit on demand for increased surface area. We made it to the entrance and would need to walk a few steps to get inside. We each grabbed one of the girls and took some of the coldest, windiest, snowiest steps across the top of the glacier and into a small door. The calm 32 degrees inside seemed practically tropical in comparison.
We grabbed our stroller (still half broken at that point), dusted off the snow and bundled Aria up for the duration. Fun fact, we were the first to bring a stroller through the glacier. We had thought of leaving it but since our tour was squarely in the middle of the girls nap time decided it would be better to have it with us.
Before getting too far in we stopped to get some crampons on our boots so we wouldn't slip around too much (they even had tiny ones for Aurora).
For the next hour we traveled along LED lit tunnels, stepped over small cracks and peered into huge crevices in the ice while learning the history of the glacier, its importance to the island and how the tunnels were made.
Interestingly it was "raining" inside. Apparently it had rained the previous week up on the glacier and it takes a few days for the water to seep down through the ice. At that point I was very glad for a waterproof outfit.
Along the way there were a few different rooms you could go inside and about halfway through the tour we came upon the chapel. Our tour guide explained how incredible the acoustics were if you stood just outside the door. He asked for a volunteer to go sing something inside so Johnny agreed to do it. I don't know what everyone was expecting to hear but when he started singing What Is A Youth from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet I'm pretty sure some jaws hit the floor. It was so cool and sounded amazing!
Aurora climbed in the stroller and fell asleep soon after that point. Aside from a few slushy parts, bringing the stroller was a big win.
We climbed up the incline and back out onto a much nicer, sunny (but still snowing) glacier, loaded into the Ice 2 and headed back down to base camp. We gave back some trekking gear and warmed up our fingers before making our way back down to our cars.
Overall I'd have to say it was probably one of the coolest (literally and figuratively) things I've ever experienced. If you're in Iceland it is certainly a worthwhile stop on your trip.
Special thanks to Gary and April for an incredible experience!
If you'd like to book a tour head over to Into The Glacier