Sólheimajökull glacier is an outlet glacier from Mýrdalsjökull, one of the greatest glaciers in Iceland, in South Iceland. Sólheimajökull extends from Mýrdalsjökull to south to the sandy plains that are one of the landmarks of the coast in Southern Iceland. Sólheimajökull surroundings are spectacular, the glacier has shaped rugged and gallant rock formations. Sólheimajökull is 15 km long and 1-2 km wide. The ice cap is about 200 meters thick. The glacier covers an area of about 44 km2. Mýrdalsjökull is much larger and covers one of the greatest volcanos in Iceland, Katla. Glacier floods have been caused by subglacial eruptions of Katla. These floods have had a significant impact on the landscape surrounding the glaciers and are visible close to the glaciers and all the way down to the black sands of Mýrdalssandur which are made of matter carried by these glacier floods.
In 1931 regular measurements of Sólheimajökull begun so good records are available about the size of the glacier. These records show how much the glacier has retreated since then. A measurement in 2010 showed that since 1931 the glacier had retreated more than 1 km or 1255 meters. This is quite spectacular, considering that from 1969 to 1995 it advanced. From 2007 to 2014 it retreated 300 meters and from 1995 to 2015 it retreated 887 meters. Everything indicates that this retreating will continue.
The glacier tongue is not only retreating, its thickness is also decreasing. The bottom of the glacier is below sea level so it is not unlikely in the future that a lagoon or lake will be formed if the glacier retreats more. In the future it will be interesting to see how the land, that has been covered by the glacier, will evolve.
Every year about 11 billion tons of glacial ice melts in Iceland alone because of global warming which is mainly caused by human influence. 11% of the surface of Iceland is covered with glacial ice. This massive melting decreases the pressure on the underlying rocks and that may result in even more frequent volcanic eruptions in the future. This melting does also have an impact on the ocean as massive amounts of carbon flows into the ocean with the water from the melting ice, this causes the sea level to rise.
Sólheimajökull is truly worth visiting as the glacier and the surroundings are spectacular. The glacier is also easily accessible and therefore it is not problematic to go trekking there. Glacier walk is a unique experience where you get to experience the glacier close and see how the glacier is rapidly changing, a true glacier adventure. Visitors should be aware that it is not advisable to go up to the glacier on their own, a professional guidance is recommended as the glacier is constantly changing.
Arcanum offers guided glacier walk tours where you will have guided tour up onto the glacier for a true glacier adventure. It only takes 15-20 minutes to walk from the base of Arcanum to the glacier. On the way to the glacier you will walk through a varied landscape that has been formed by the glacier for thousands of years. On the way you will have the opportunity to see how much the glacier has retreated since the beginning of the millennium. When the glacier is reached the real glacier hiking tour begins where you will walk over crevasses, ice ridges, sinkholes and other unique wonders of nature. Perhaps an ice cave will also appear during the tour. Lines of ash in the ice are evidence of the violent geological past in Iceland as they show how many volcanic eruptions have taken place in Iceland through the centuries. The ash also plays a big part in the retreat and shrinking of the glacier as a thin layer of dark ash increases the melting because it boosts the impact of the sunlight.
Arcanum offers English speaking guide on these tours and all necessary safety equipment needed for the ice is included in the price, e.g.: helmet, crampons and ice axe. You should bring warm and waterproofed clothing and good walking shoes.
After a glacier walk on Sólheimajökull it is ideal to visit Mýrdalsjökull and experience the glacier on a snowmobile. A different and unique experience where you will experience the glacier in a totally unique way. By visiting Sólheimajökull and Mýrdalsjökull with Arcanum you will have a true glacier adventure. This will be a great day tour that will make your visit to Iceland even more memorable. A day where you will experience great view, the forces of nature and constantly changing the landscape.
If you want to experience something different from glaciers you can go on one of the ATV tours Arcanum offers. These tours will take you to the black lava sands and give you amazing view to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and along the coast to the southernmost part of Iceland, Dyrhólaey.
It is possible to start the glacier tours at Arcanum base at Ytri-Sólheimar 1 but it is also possible to start the tours in Reykjavík where you will be picked up early in the morning at your accommodation. The tour will take you along the south coast, past Eyjafjallajökull (which many remember from the news in 2010 when it erupted and grounded international flights for days). After the glacier walk we will head back to Reykjavík but on the way, we will stop at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss which are two of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland.
Glacier hiking is not as difficult as it may seem when reading about glacier tours. The staff at Arcanum will give you all necessary information before starting the hike to Sólheimajökull and will guide you during the walk so glacier excursion is not as difficult as it may seem to some. For those interested Sólheimajökull is also very good for ice climbing. On Sólheimajökull you can experience true glacier adventure and enjoy a great glacier walk day tour.
Sólheimajökull is easily accessible from the capital area. From Reykjavík, the capital, it takes about 2 hours to drive to the glacier. The main road number 1 runs from Reykjavík to the Southern coast. Arcanum base is located at Ytri-Sólheimar 1, about 25 km west of Vík and 6 km east of Skógar. From the main road number 1 there is about 1 km drive towards our base by road 222.
From Sólheimajökull there are 31 km to Vík, the town closest to the glacier. There are 303 km from Sólheimajökull to Höfn í Hornafirði, 39 km to Seljalandsfoss and 6 km to Skógar. All those places are worth visiting to make your trip to South Iceland even more memorable.