Natural Ice caves are easily the biggest attraction in Iceland during the winter months and this is so for a good reason. They are not only beautiful and out of this world, but their beauty is only matched by their rarity. Each year new ice caves form and before the season begins we go exploring for new ones. Now, of course, everyone wants to see the Ice cave from all the internet photos, which typically is the most beautiful one, so everyone goes to the same one, even though there are many accessible Ice caves at any one time.
Here are our do's & don'ts when booking an Ice cave tour and you wish to avoid crowds.
1. DO - Book a small private tour
Due to misleading advertising, this can be very difficult. It is not uncommon for companies with buses and huge vans to advertise "small group experience". Booking a private tour or one with less than 6 people maximum, is what we recommend.
2. DO - Choose the longer tour
Most tour providers offer a variety of different tours. Booking a longer tour will mean that you can go further, and the further you go, the farther you are from crowds. Companies that offer 6-8h walking tours will typically avoid crowds as they go much further onto the glacier than the typical short ice cave tour.
3. DO - Book an early tour
We don't mean the 9 or 10 am departures. Get in touch with a private tour guide or small company that will go to the Ice Cave with you well before the sunrise. This way you will not only bare witness to a sunrise in the cave, but you will also avoid the huge crowds. Most hotels and guesthouses have somewhat late breakfast and the driving distances are long in Iceland, therefore, the most crowded tours are after 9 am.
4. DON'T - Fall for the "Secret/hidden Ice Cave" trick
The super jeeps are big and hard to miss, so if a company started going to a new cave everyone else would see this and therefore, if everyone else is not going there it must mean something. Often this means that the caves are not as impressive. This brings the questions "why would companies go to a cave that is not as impressive?
There are 3 main reasons why a guiding company might choose a less impressive cave.
1. Size - Bigger caves can fit more people. Sometimes a company might be so big that it needs to bring hundreds of tourists a day and they need a cave that can handle these numbers.
2. Timings - Ice caves are natural and therefore can appear anywhere on the glacier, even though they are mainly on the edge of the glacial outlets. In order to fit the tour within the timing slots, some companies might need to choose this option in order to make the timings for the next tour, since daylight is limited during the winter months.
3. Accessibility - Taking big crowds onto the glacier means little in terms of flexibility. It is much harder to manage a bigger group and at times it could be unsafe, therefore some companies might be forced to go to the cave that is the easiest to get to for big numbers.