Iceland isn’t called the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing, and you’ll find various fiery and icy natural wonders all across the country. One of these, and one of the most popular on any Icelandic trip itinerary, is Katla Ice Cave.
In this article, we explore how this incredible phenomenon was formed, what makes it such a must-visit site, where to find it, when you should visit, and much, much more. So, if you’ve always wondered what there is to do and see in Iceland, or you have an upcoming trip to the island - read on.
What is Katla Ice Cave?
Katla Ice Cave is a cave, you guessed it, made from ice. But this is an experience that’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it yet. Katla feels otherworldly as you walk between its glossy bright blue, yet transparent walls that still have steaks of thousand-year-old black volcanic ash forever frozen in time.
The thing that makes Katla Ice Cave such a surreal and special place to visit is the fact that you cannot visit the exact same Katla Ice Cave even a year apart. Due to the constant melting and freezing, Katla Ice Cave is ever-evolving.
Where is Katla Ice Cave in Iceland?
Katla Ice Cave’s location is at Kötlujökull Glacier in the southern part of Iceland. Kötlujökull Glacier is an icefall from Myrdalsjökull Glacier, which is Iceland’s fourth-largest glacier. The Ice Cave lies on top of its namesake volcano, Katla Volcano. The capital city of Reykjavík is roughly 187 kilometers away (or a 2.5-hour drive), but the nearest town is Vik. To such an extent that you can easily walk to Katla Ice Cave from Vik within mere minutes.
How to Get to Katla Ice Cave
There are essentially 2 ways one can get to Katla Ice Cave:
Via a Guided Tour
You will find plenty of guided tours that depart from both Vik and Reykjavík on a daily basis. These tours can range from dedicated Katla Ice Cave day outings to combination day tours, and even multi-day holiday tours that include Katla Ice Cave and an array of other local attractions. Some of the tours that come highly recommended are:
- Katla Ice Cave and Super-Jeep Tour from Vik
- Katla Ice Cave Jeep Tour and Glacier Walk
- Katla Volcano Ice Cave Tour
Via a Self-drive
Even though you will still be required to go on a guided tour through Katla Ice Cave due to safety reasons, you can drive to Katla yourself and then join a tour at the cave itself. Getting to Katla Ice Cave from the direction of Reykjavík is pretty easy. You just get on the Ring Road and drive south, in the direction of Vik. From Vik, you can just follow the signs that will direct you to Katla Ice Cave, not even 400 meters outside of town.
In Vik, you will need to exit the roundabout onto Austurvegur/Route 1. Turn left, and turn left again (but as we said, you can just follow the signs). Whilst it’s pretty easy to squeeze in a visit to Katla Ice Cave in a day during the warmer months with plenty of daylight hours, we still recommend that you add it as a stop along a Ring Road or South Coast Way road trip.
How was Katla Ice Cave Formed?
Katla Ice Cave isn’t quite what you’d expect from a cave. It’s not underground, and it also doesn’t have a back. Melting water from the glacier carves its way through the ice and hollows out the glacier from the inside. This is why these caves are ever-changing.
When is the Best Time to Visit Katla Ice Cave?
Katla Ice Cave is the one ice cave in Iceland that’s open throughout the summer. Most ice caves are kept closed throughout the warmer months of the year due to safety concerns (ice melts in heat, remember?). But for this very reason, you will need to book well in advance if you’re planning on visiting during our busy summer season to avoid disappointment.
Other Things to Do & See Near Katla Ice Cave
Exploring Katla Ice Cave is not the only exciting to see and do in the area. Here are a few other things you can consider adding to your trip itinerary:
- Visit Gigjagja aka the Yoda Cave (you’ll get it when you see it).
- Take a hike and see a Viking burial site at Hjorleifshofoi.
- Go on a quad bike ride on the black sand beaches of Vik.
- Hike across Myrdalsjökull Glacier.
- Check out the Live Icelandic Lava Show.
- Visit the Vik I Myrdal Church.
- Take a snapshot of the Solheimasandur Plane Crash.
Where to Stay Near Katla Ice Cave
If some of the suggestions above sound like something you’d like to do or see, we suggest that you stay in the area for at least a day or two to take full advantage of all the area has to offer. If you’re looking for accommodation that offers a touch of luxury, then you can look at places such as Hotel Kria or Hotel Katla.
For a more affordable stay that still offers you all your creature comforts, you can opt for a place such as Giljur Guesthouse or Eystri Solheimar. But for the most budget-friendly stay, you should rent a campervan in Iceland, and book a spot at the Vik Campsite where you can then go camping in comfort.
Katla Ice Cave; The Experience of a Lifetime
No description could ever do this magnificent ice cave justice. It truly is the experience of a lifetime to venture through these icy caverns and quite literally get a glimpse into thousands and thousands of years of history. It gives the old saying “if these walls could talk” a completely different meaning.
We recommend that you not take Katla Ice Cave on as a day trip, but rather rent a campervan in Iceland and do a Ring Road or South Coast Way road trip with the ice cave as a stop along the way. This way, you can also get to experience the myriad of other exciting attractions and activities the area holds. We wish you a safe and exciting ice cave adventure!