Langjokull is the second-largest glacier in Iceland. The glacier stretches over 950 square kilometers measuring highest at a staggering 1355 meters (4445 ft). The glacier is located in the western highlands. It can be reached from the capital in about 2-3 hours. Many like to visit Langjokull on Super Jeeps but others go around on snowmobiles as the terrain is especially open and vast, perfect for some full-throttle fun!
The name Langjokull actually means the long glacier but its layout actually makes it an ideal place for natural ice caves to form. These creations are, perhaps not surprisingly, met with much admiration by those who visit and add a magical bonus to trip on to the glacier.
Langjokull truly is one of Iceland’s most visited glaciers and is the perfect glacier experience to have one a day trip out from Reykjavík. There are so many amazing facts to know about this glacier and no time like the present, so, let’s go ahead and learn about Langjokull!
As mentioned before Langjokull is located in the western highlands of Iceland. Near Gullfoss waterfall and the Husafell birch land in Borgarfjordur. Langjokull is located over a hyaloclastite mountain range and in certain places you can actually see its peaks coming through the ice. Moreover, does the mountain range cover two active volcanic systems with calderas that can be seen when flying over. The heat from these volcanic systems reaches some well known geothermal areas. Including Hveravellir where many adventurous travelers like to visit and bathe as well as Hallmundarhraun lava field where Krauma nature baths and Deildartunguhver, the most powerful hot spring in Europe, can be found. However, even with all this warmth, the area is still at an Icelandic scale, considered comparatively calm with only about 32 eruptions in the last 10,000 years!
Langjokull has two different ice caves you can visit. One of them is the man-made one which is the largest man-made ice tunnel in the world and truly a magical place to visit. The guides are friendly and knowledgeable and it’s easy to go around inside the cave, so it’s a great place to bring the whole family. Adding even more to the already amazing experience, the monster truck that takes you to the glacier is an experience in itself–enormous doesn’t even begin to explain it!
The second of the two is the natural ice cave. They tend to be unpredictable and sometimes fill up with water or simply collapse. Thankfully though, when one collapses another forms soon after.
Each ice cave is unique and magical in its own way! The best way to travel to the cave, in my opinion, is by snowmobile. The combination is hard to beat!
Langjokull feeds many of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls including the famous lava cascade Hraunfossar and the turquoise Barnafoss. The two waterfalls are often visited in one trip as they flow close to one another in the western part of the country. Hraunfossar is a dazzling sight, especially in the autumn, wide with a short drop but the ability to completely capture anyone who perceives it with their eyes. The waterfall also has this amazing way of changing between season, almost to the point where it is hard to recognize.
Its neighboring Barnafoss is a powerful counterpart bursting out from the Hallmundarhraun lava field. The story behind its name, Barnafossar i.e. Children’s waterfall, lies a dark tale of two young brothers who fell into the falls after having tried to cross the waterfall over arched stone bridge. The brothers were never to resurface.
After their tragic death, their mother is said to have cursed the arch. Making it so that no one would ever cross the arch without facing the same fate as her beloved boys. Legend says that many years later an earthquake shook the grounds, breaking the arch and the curse with it. No one knows for sure if this really happened. But, many stories like this are found around Iceland, many of which are thought to have been made up to warn children to stay away from dangerous situations.
The third and the most famous of the Langjokull waterfalls is unquestionably Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall. One of the three stops the make up the Golden Circle trifecta. Gullfoss is pretty much the crown jewel of the Icelandic waterfall. Dropping an incredible 32 meters (105 ft) into the most stunning of canyons. Its river is Hvitá, in Icelandic the white river, which originates in Langjokull. The first indicator of the waterfall is a sharp turn that the canyon makes about 1 kilometer above the actual chute. Thereafter the water flows into a wide cascade, almost like a leveled staircase before eventually dropping down in two stages first 11 meters (36 ft) and finally the dominant 21 meters (69 ft). The sight is nothing short of glorious and in the spectacle rainbows famously often appear.
There are three different viewing platforms where you can enjoy the waterfall’s vista. Each giving you an opportunity to view the waterfall from a completely new angle!
Fun History Fact: Midway through the 20th-century, speculations began whether the waterfall could be used to generate electricity. Many interested parties were involved and it even went so far as Gullfoss being rented out to foreign investors. However, Sigridur Tomasdottir, the daughter of one of the owners wouldn’t have it. She fought bravely for the waterfall’s preservation, walking many times on foot to Reykjavik to protest! Eventually, the plans fell through due to lack of funds but Icelanders do like to believe Sigridur’s hard work had at least a little something to do with it.
The water from Langjokull has miraculous ways of getting around, the best example probably being Silfra fissure. Located about 50 km (31 mi) away from the glacier is the extraordinary Silfra fissure. One of the best diving and snorkeling opportunities in Iceland! The water in the fissure which originates in Langjokull glacier has filtered through the ground and lava for about 200 years. Making it incredibly clear so when it reached the fissure you can see through it at an incompatible level.
Travelers from all over the world visit Thingvellir National Park where Silfra is situated and join expert tour guides into the fissure. The feeling of diving or snorkeling in it is often compared to flying. As the clarity is better than anywhere else in the world. Additionally, on top of the fissure being filled with 200 years of crystal clear glacial water. The fissure is where the continental plates meet. So, when going into the fissure you are swimming in 200-year old glacial water in between the rift of the continental plates! This is truly an experience of a lifetime!
Langjokull glacier is unlike many places in Iceland not really dependant on season. This place is truly spectacular 365 days out of the year. However, if you are looking to visit the natural ice cave your chances are better in the wintertime. But then again Langjokull also has the largest man-made ice tunnel in the world. And that, my friends, is available all year round!