Björnsdóttir Hidden Iceland
Helen Maria Bjornsdottir

Jaw-Dropping Ice Caves to Inspire Your Inner Explorer

View Slideshow
Björnsdóttir Hidden Iceland
Helen Maria Bjornsdottir

Cool Explorations

Enormous, ethereal ice caves inspire the inner explorer in many of us. These building-size structures, often the product of glacial movement, are visually stunning, haunting, and so photogenic. Entire tours are built around ice cave explorations in certain countries (particularly Iceland), allowing intrepid visitors to take in the fascinating cave architecture, which ranges from mighty, open cathedrals to snake-like tunnels, to simple enclosed holes under the surface of a glacier. 


Sadly, however, in many places, ice caves are rapidly becoming a fading phenomenon thanks to the increasingly brutal realities of climate change, says Ryan Connolly, co-founder of the tour company Hidden Iceland. “These days, the year-round temperature is higher causing an increased melting rate,” says Connolly. “All of the ice caves are melting away or collapsing.” For armchair explorers everywhere, here are some of the most jaw-dropping ice caves, past and present, from around the world.


Related: Here's How to Visit Iceland Without Spending a Fortune

Mendenhall Ice Caves
Mendenhall Ice Caves by Andrew Russell (CC BY)

Mendenhall Ice Caves

Alaska

Known for their strikingly blue walls, the Mendenhall Ice Caves are not exactly easy to reach, says Paul Johnson, founder of North Outdoors. “They’re part of the Mendenhall Glacier system and getting to the ice caves requires a 2-mile round-trip hike,” says Johnson.    


Related: 18 Travel Destinations Where One Visit Isn't Enough

Ice Caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Philip Schwarz

Ice Caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Wisconsin

Hidden in an archipelago of 21 wilderness islands on Lake Superior are sea caves that have been carved out by waves over thousands of years. When winter rolls in and the lake freezes over, these sea caves transform into frozen waterfalls and chambers of icicles. The stunning formations are different from one chamber to the next and evolve from day to day.    

 

For more great travel guides and vacation tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Breiðamerkurjökull Ice Cave
Omar Acar

Breiðamerkurjökull Ice Cave

Iceland

The beauty of this ice cave, which is from the 2019 season in Iceland, was fleeting, says Connolly, of Hidden Iceland. “Normally an ice cave will last an entire winter before succumbing to the summer heat. But this cave didn't make it past February. All the more special if you got to see it before it was gone,” he says.     


Related: The Most Remote Vacation Rentals Around the World

Breiðamerkurjökull Sapphire Ice Cave
Helen Maria Bjornsdottir

Breiðamerkurjökull Sapphire Ice Cave

Iceland

The Sapphire Ice Cave is one of the few in recent years that has managed to survive two winters, says Connolly, of Hidden Iceland. “We've got our fingers crossed for a third,” he says.    


Related: Spectacular Caves You Can Rent

Kamchatka’s Ice Cave
Jennifer Schultz

Kamchatka’s Ice Cave

Russia

Kamchatka’s Ice Cave is located in an area known for both its rough climate and its amazing unspoiled environment, says outdoor guide Jennifer Schultz. “Active volcanoes surround the region on the surface and the ice cave is breathtakingly beautiful,” says Schultz. “The ice is so thin that when the sun illuminates, it reflects multicolor lights.”     


Related: 30 Spectacular Photos of Hard-to-Reach Places

Breiðamerkurjökull Lightroom Ice Cave
Scott Drummond

Breiðamerkurjökull Lightroom Ice Cave

Iceland

One of the tallest ice caves ever discovered by Connolly and his team, the Lightroom Ice Cave features perfectly formed archways that are some of the strongest structures found on a glacier.       


Related: The Strangest Places on Earth That Will Mystify You

Crystal Ice Cave
Norris Niman

Crystal Ice Cave

Iceland

One of the longest remaining structures of its kind in Iceland, Crystal Ice Cave was explored for nine long years before finally melting away, says Connolly. “Due to climate change, it's very unlikely we'll see this kind of longevity ever again,” Connolly notes.    

 

Related: 35 Stunning Landscapes That Make Earth Look Like Another Planet

Ice Caves of Whistler
Tourism Whistler

Ice Caves of Whistler

British Columbia

The ice caves of British Columbia’s southernmost icefield do not have individual names but are all part of the Pemberton Icefield, says Sascha Bendt of Destination British Columbia. These stunning caves are a labyrinth of chambers shining with aqua blue magnificence. They can be reached only as part of a professionally guided tour such as the Headline Mountain Holidays Heli-Sled & Ice Cave Tour.     


Related: 20 Stunning RV Camping Destinations Across Canada

Falljökull Ice Cave
Simon Svensson

Falljökull Ice Cave

Iceland 

The visually striking cave is the product of two glaciers smashing together and forming a fold in the ice, says Connolly.

Skaftafellsjokull Ice Cave
Mark Hoey

Skaftafellsjokull Ice Cave

Iceland

Because it was accessible only via a 10-hour hike or a helicopter ride, you were very likely to be the only humans inside Skaftafellsjokull Ice Cave, says Connolly. “This was perhaps the bluest ice cave we'd ever found on a normally ash covered glacier,” he says.      


Related: 12 Amazing and Affordable Adventure Vacations

Nature's Ice Palace
Jurga Rubinovaite
Svinafellsjökull Ice Cave
Jurga Rubinovaite

Svinafellsjökull Ice Cave

Iceland

Formed from two blocks of ice moving at slightly different speeds causing a temporary separation, Svinafellsjokull Ice Cave interestingly did not melt or collapse in the end, but instead closed over as the two pieces of ice merged back together over a six-month period, says Connolly.  

Svinafellsjökull White Walker Ice Cave
Tom Archer

Svinafellsjökull White Walker Ice Cave

Iceland 

Svinafellsjökull White Walker Ice Cave is a more classic-looking ice cave, says Connolly. “It’s tall angular walls formed an enclosed space only accessible through a small hole,” says Connolly. “Thank goodness for the skylight above to provide some much-needed light.”       

 

Related: The World's Most Remote Hotels