Secret Glaciers of Vatnajökull
Uncovering the secret glaciers of Vatnajökull. Where they are, how to get there, tips, and more.
There are many glacier tongues in Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. The most famous of them all is Breiðamerkurjökull, the glacier tongue which feeds Jökulsárlón, the glacier lagoon which almost 2 million tourists visit every year.
Not known to many is that there are many other glacier tongues in Vatnajökull which are just as beautiful, if not more.
In this blog, I will uncover the secret glaciers of Vatnajökull, their exact location and how to get to them.
Our favorite amongst all the secret glaciers is Heinsbergsjökull. The one and only reason being that it is beautiful beyond measure.
It is accessible by car, has a vantage point of view, you can walk around the lagoon and the glacier tongue is visible behind the lagoon.
The lagoon here is commonly filled with interesting icebergs, together with the landscape around, makes it an almost picture-perfect location.
It is not difficult to get to Heinabergsjökull during the summer but can be a little bit tricky during winter. You will need a 4×4 to drive this. Although the road itself does not have any 4×4 requirements, you will find yourself in plenty of trouble if you are not in a 4×4 vehicle.
If you are coming from the east, after you have driven about 3km past the farmhouses at Flatey, you will see a small road off the right and a sign that says “Heinabergsjökull”. You need to follow this road into very interesting terrain. Follow the road in red below.
There is a small signpost by the side of the road at each junction. Drive till the road ends, you will find a parking spot and a hiking trail right beside it. You can see the glacier and lagoon from the parking lot. If you want a closer look, follow the hiking trail right in front of the parking lot and you will end up at Heinabergsjokull.
If you took a wrong turn, don’t worry, all the other roads lead to dead-ends so just turn around. Or you might find yourself in another interesting and amazing location.
There is a picnic area beside the parking lot and toilet as well. There are plenty of hiking trails in this area. You can almost spend an entire day here exploring the area.
This glacier tongue is not very big but it is much more easily accessible and does not require a 4×4.
If you are traveling from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, about 20km west of Jökulsárlón, you will come to a bridge over Vestari-Kvíá. Shortly after the bridge, there is a small road on the right. It is a short drive to a parking spot. From here, you can follow the hiking trail which is about 300m and you will find yourself right in front of the glacier tongue, Kvíárjökull.
Fjallsjökull is a little special. There are two parts to it – East and West.
Commonly known to most people is the east part of Fjallsjökull, which can be seen from road 1 but since the walking bridge to this part of the glacier was damaged some years ago, this part of Fjallsjökull is no longer accessible and you can only see it from afar.
So let’s talk about the west side of Fjallsjökull instead. The west side of Fjallsjökull is actually not known to many. Even many of the locals do not know about it or have not thought of going to it. The west part of Fjallsjökull cannot be seen from road 1. It is like some hidden treasure. Even the hiking trails are not so defined so one can only assume that not many people have gone on those trails.
About 3km west of Flatey, you will find a small road with the sign Heinabergsjökull. Follow this road according to the map above and you will find a parking spot at the end of the road. It is advisable to get an offline map and mark out the trail as there is no network once you pass the back of Flatey. Alternatively, you can just follow the small signpost by each junction leading to Bólstaðarfoss.
Right in front of the parking spot, you will find a hiking trail.
Follow trail J2 towards the east. You will follow this trail for about 500m when you will come to a rocky river bed. This river dried up a long time ago, just left with lots of huge rocks. The trail will want you to go across the river and up the hill. That will take you to a waterfall and you can see the Fjallsjökull from a small distance. This is a safe path to take. If you want to go really close to the glacier, it is advisable to go with an experienced guide. You can check out this guided tour – The Secret Glaciers of Vatnajökull.
This glacier tongue is kind of unique. For most of the glacier tongues, you see them from the front, across the glacier lagoons. But for Skálafellsjökull, the front is not accessible as it is cut-off by a river from the adjacent glacier lagoon. The good news is, you can drive up to it and see it from the top.
You will need a 4×4 vehicle to drive this road (F985). It is not advisable to drive this road when there is snow as the road is quite steep and snow makes it very dangerous. It is quite a long drive up but it is definitely worth it. The view all along the road is fantastic with several waterfalls along the way and when you come towards the end of the road, that is when Skálafellsjökull will come into view. On days with clear skies, you can see almost the entire glacier tongue of Skálafellsjökull and the mountain peaks Hafrafell & Litlafell.
If driving up the mountains is too much for you, you can always join The Secret Glaciers of Vatnajökull tour. This is one of the secret glaciers that we go to when the weather is good.
Fjallsjökull is not really a secret-secret place anymore but an interesting glacier tongue to visit nevertheless.
Visible from road 1, west of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, you will see a huge signboard by the junction that will bring you to the parking spot.
In the building by the parking spot, you will find the reception to Fjallsárlón Iceberg Boat Tours and a cáfe.
From behind the building, you will find some small trails that will bring you to the front of the glacier lagoon. If you want to go even closer to the glacier, you will need to get back into your vehicle and drive a little bit more. Going back onto road 1, head west and after crossing the bridge over Fjallsá, about 650m, you will find a small road on the right. Follow this road till the end and you will come very close to Fjallsjökull and you can even see a part of Hrútárjökull from here.
Hoffellsjökull is not an ultra-secret place, just not very easy to get to. First and foremost, you will need a 4×4 to drive the road. Although the road is not marked as an F-road it is almost impossible to drive it without 4×4. Sometimes, when it has been raining, there are even small rivers that you will need to cross and the ground can be muddy and soft. Without a 4×4, it is most likely that you will get stuck.
The road to Hoffellsjökull can be found on google map but instead of Hoffellsjökull, you will need to search for Hoffellsfjöll’s viewpoint. At the end of the road, you will find a parking spot and a hiking trail that goes over the hill. Hoffellsjökull is just over the hill.
There is no road to Skaftafellsjökull but there are hiking trails from Skaftafell National Park that can bring you close to this glacier tongue. Trail S1 which is relatively easy will bring you to the front of the glacier tongue. Trail S5 followed by S3 will bring you to the side of the glacier tongue.
There are also many other hiking trails in the area that will bring you to waterfalls, etc.
From Skaftafell, there is another glacier tongue that not many people have been to. The reason is simply that it is very far to get there. It is not accessible by car so you have to walk, 20.6km (roundtrip) from Skaftafell National Park, on trail M2 to get to this glacier. It is a rather small glacier tongue with lots of rocks and debris on it, so not for everyone.
Last but not least, Svínsfellsjökull is a once-famous glacier tongue due to the many blockbusters that were filmed there but due to landslides in recent years and with the possibility of more landslides, the area is now closed and there is a warning at the junction of the road to inform travelers about this.
It is not advisable to go to Svínsfellsjökull even though the road is not blocked. We do not know when the landslide will happen and if anything happens to you, it is at your own risk.
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