Mýrdalsjökull Glacier in South Iceland
Myrdalsjokull Glacier: All You Need To Know
Mýrdalsjökull glacier is a remarkably accessible ice cap making it a popular spot for glacier hikes, snowmobiling and ice cave exploration. This glacier has been around for centuries and has molded the Icelandic landscape in its own unique way. Before you go on your next glacier adventure, get the facts on this icy wonder of nature.
Where is Myrdalsjokull glacier?
Myrdalsjokull glacier sits atop Katla volcano and is located in south Iceland, approximately 150 km (93 miles) east of Reykjavík. Just north of the village of Vík and just south of the highlands, this glacier is relatively accessible. It’s even visible from the Ring Road/Route 1.
The smaller yet more notorious glacier Eyjafjallajökull, sits to the west with a pass running in between the two. The pass, Fimmvörðuháls (Five-Cairn Pass), is a part of a popular hiking trail linking Skógar and Thorsmork (Þórsmörk). This 25 km long trail is only open during the summer and offers spectacular views of south Iceland’s landscape including waterfalls, lava fields, rivers and glaciers.
How big is Myrdalsjokull glacier?
Mýrdalsjökull is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland behind, Vatnajökull, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. It is also the southernmost glacier on the island. The thickness of the ice cap reaches 750 m (2,460 ft), covers an area of over 590 km2 (about 230 sq mi) and peaks at 1,493 m (4,898 ft).
Is Sólheimajökull part of Mýrdalsjökull?
Yes, Sólheimajökull is part of Mýrdalsjokull. Glaciers as large as Mýrdalsjökull have many outlet glaciers or tongues. Outlet glaciers are small parts of a much larger glacier that reach down into the surrounding valleys. Sólheimajökull is one such outlet glacier which is visible and easily accessible from Route 1, also known as Iceland’s ring road.
How to get to Myrdalsjokull glacier
It is easy enough to access the edge of one of Myrdalsjokull’s outlet glaciers, such as Sólheimajökull, in a regular car. However, if you want to get onto any glacier, Myrdalsjokull included, it is best to go on a professionally guided tour.
Expert tour guides will have the necessary equipment and know-how to help you enjoy your glacier activity and the super jeeps to get you safely on and off the glacier. Arcanum’s glacier snowmobile tour is a great way to spend your time on Myrdalsjokull.
Where can you stay near Mýrdalsjökull?
If you prefer to stay in Reykjavik it is a little over a two-hour drive away and most tours will pick you up from your hotel or guesthouse. Outside of Reykjavík, all along the South Coast of Iceland, there are several hotels and guesthouses to serve a variety of tastes and needs. Vík (Vík í Mýrdal) is the nearest village to Mýrdalsjökull and has hotels, guesthouses and a lovely campsite.
What can you do on Mýrdalsjökull?
There are plenty of activities to get into on Mýrdalsjökull. Depending on what’s your speed you can go from walking to zooming across the ice. Explore the ice on a glacier walk where you might come across crevasses, ice ridges and sinkholes. Go ice climbing and for those that need an extra rush, snowmobiling.
What is Mýrdalsjökull like in the summer?
In the summer, it’s warmer on the glacier but not by too much. With more hours of sunlight, you can go on leisurely excursions without the worry of running out of daylight. There is something a bit surreal about hiking across a glacier with a dazzling summer sun shining down on you and taking in an expansive panoramic view of south Iceland from atop the blinding blue-white ice cap.
How do you say Mýrdalsjökull?
Icelandic can be tricky but the basic pronunciation of Mýrdalsjökull goes a little something like this: meer-dolls-yuh-kudl. Yes, it’s a little challenging so let’s break it down..
The first part of the word, “Mýr-”, you say like the English word “mere”, which is easy enough. But then things get a little tricky. The second part, “dals” is said almost the way it looks to English speakers except the “d” has a very slight “t” sound to it.
The last part of the name, jökull, means glacier and is pronounced yo-kutl. The double “l” in Icelandic makes a “dl” sound that can be difficult to master. And there you have it, Mýrdalsjökull, easy, right?
What does Mýrdalsjökull mean?
Mýrdalsjökull means, Mire Dale glacier, which may be a reference to the swampy area around the glacier. When people say Mýrdalsjökull glacier they’re really saying Mire Dale glacier glacier. It is a bit like saying ATM machine. But since most people don’t know that jökull means glacier in Icelandic, glacier gets tagged onto the end for the sake of clarity.
Is Katla an active volcano?
Yes, Katla is an active volcano. The volcano erupts, on average, every 40-80 years with the last big volcanic eruption having been in 1918. There have been several small eruptions since then that didn’t break through the ice, the most recent one being in 2011.
Katla is one of the largest volcanoes in Iceland measuring 1,512 metres (4,961 ft) in height with a caldera that is 10 km (6 mi) across. Katla is under heavy seismic surveillance so visiting and exploring Mýrdalsjökull is perfectly safe.
What is Mýrdalssandur?
Mýrdalssandur and Sólheimasandur are glacial outwash plains of Mýrdalsjökull. Glacial outwash plains are the result of past volcanic eruptions underneath the glacier. When Katla erupts, it melts some of the ice cap and the resulting meltwater bursts from beneath the glacier’s edge flooding the area from the glacier to the sea.
The ash and sand that are left behind is what is called the glacial outwash plain. To the south, by way of Sólheimajökull, the Sólheimasandur was produced and to the east, Mýrdalssandur. The vast barren black sands are ethereal and just a little spooky. Some people even say Mýdalssandur is haunted.