Hike on icy Sólheimajökull

Glacier  Walk (or Hike) in Iceland is a must adventure! The best time to do it is in the summer.  We decided to do our hike on the Sólheimajökull glacier and booked  Arcanum Tours Glacier Walk Tour (Rd 221 off of Route 1- we of course missed it at first because of Icelandic low key road signs). The price per person is about $80, and it includes the guide, crampons for our shoes, a harness, a helmet, and an ice pick. It's best if you have your own hiking boots, but if not they will give you proper shoes. I was worried when I read some reviews about the difficulty of this adventure, and yes, it was difficult, but doable, even for a plump, out of shape 40 year old. And it was so worth it!!! I really don't know what can top this experience going forward. 


The most difficult part of this hike is getting to the glacier- you climb up a steep hill for at least 45 minutes before reaching the glacier, with your crampons on your icepick. You only put the crampons on before heading down a new steep hill to the actual glacier. You cannot help feeling anxious as you watch tired and exhausted faces of an earlier group slowly coming up after their hike. 

Your guide will explain everything, including how to walk and how to use the ice pick. Walking with crampons requires firmly stepping with your whole foot, not toes or heel first, so that you cling to ice and avoid falling. If you are generally not a graceful walker, it will come naturally. Some jumping over crevasses is required, but it isn't dangerous as it looks. 


During the walk you will learn a lot about  glaciers,  volcanic dust, global warming and how quickly Iceland glaciers are melting and disappearing. The glacier is often covered by black volcanic dust/lava that mainly melts it (unless there is a very thick layer of this dust, then it protects it from melting).  When the snow falls again in the winter it freezes this dust, and makes this beautiful "black ice".  Even more beautiful is the blue ice (when snow falls on glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier, appearing blue).  But most of all you will learn about sinkholes (deep holes created when melting glacier water finds its way down) and you will discover that despite how beautiful they are you will want to stay away from them as far away as possible.


The only good thing about the first horrible hike up the heel that takes you to the glacier is the fact that when you start heading back, you are going down hill. And given how tired you will be, this will feel wonderful. 

After this physically tasking adventure that leaves you wet and sweaty, it is best to stay in a very fancy hotel and enjoy long, warm shower and comfortable and clean bed. Icelandair Hotel Vik is by far the fanciest hotel we stayed in during our Iceland trip, and it was worth it after the glacier hike.  Vik is a very small town, and it seems that everyone, both tourists and locals, eat dinner at the Halldorskaffi (Halldors Cafe) as getting a table there was another adventure.