Iceland's glaciers - giants of nature
Iceland is covered by over 4,500 square miles of glaciers, and they are located in all of the nation’s regions. The largest, Vatnajökull, is Europe’s largest glacier and covers a staggering 8% of the country.
Icelanders love and admire them so much that even the Icelandic word for glacier, jökull , is a common first name for men.
Possibly the most famous and hard to pronounce is Eyjafjallajökull, responsible for aviation havoc in 2010, when a volcano beneath the glacier erupted, spewing ash, dust and small particles of glass high in to the atmosphere.
Tours varying from glacier hikes and climbs to abseiling as well as tours by super-jeep vehicles have risen dramatically in recent years and are hugely popular. Tour operators offer varying packages to accommodate groups or individuals of all ages and physical strength.
The mysterious Snæfellsjökull, the setting for Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Rax / Ragnar Axelsson
The sheer beauty and majesty of the country’s glaciers belies hidden dangers and pitfalls. Deep fissures, sudden sheer drops and slippery falls constantly await the visitor who does not fully understand and comprehend how dangerous these areas of outstanding natural beauty can be.
It is for this reason that tourists are strongly encouraged never to venture onto the glaciers alone, and to always go on recommended tours with experienced, professional and qualified guides.
These experienced guides know the glaciers well and ensure that the safety of travellers is paramount.
Eyjafjallajökull, site of the most famous eruption in recent times. Morgunblaðið: Rax / Ragnar Axelsson
Safety equipment such as helmets and goggles are provided as well as recommendations for adequate clothing and supplies that will need to be worn and brought along for the tour.
Packages can be pre-planned and arranged to accommodate for groups of varying sizes, ages and other factors. Pick-up and drop-off from hostels, hotels and guest houses can be arranged and extras discussed and negotiated for each itinerary.
The experience of being up on these enormous giants of ice and rock is a wonderful one that will not be forgotten, and for many symbolise what a trip to Iceland is all about: being at one with the awesome power of nature.