Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

Skaftafell National Park, Iceland The Skaftafell National Park was established in 1967, but became part of the newly created Vatnajokull National Park in 2008. Skaftafell, which spans 500 square kilometres, now forms the park’s southern…

30 Jan 20 · 2 mins read

Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

The Skaftafell National Park was established in 1967, but became part of the newly created Vatnajokull National Park in 2008. Skaftafell, which spans 500 square kilometres, now forms the park’s southern portion. The Vatnajokull National Park stretches across more than 1,400,000 hectares of volcanic and glacial land, nearly 14% of Iceland’s territory. It is the largest park in Europe. Two of ten volcanoes within the park are among the most active in Iceland. The park contains Iceland’s natural treasures and incredibly varied landscapes. Its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2019 signals the need for its conservation, as the glaciers are in a steady process of decline due to climate change.

Iceland glacier ice cave
Inside a glacier ice cave in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

Located in southeast Iceland, Skaftafell is a good base for further trips or short day tours to other attractions in southern Iceland, such as Solheimajokull Glacier, Skogafoss Waterfall, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and Fjadrargljufur Canyon. You can go further, west to Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the black basalt and black sand beach, or north to Lake Myvatn. Bordering Vatnajokull National Park, you will find the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, formed from the melting glacier.

Prior to being a national park, Skaftafell was a major farm established not long after the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century. However, in 1362, a disastrous eruption destroyed the community, turning it into a wasteland. When settlers tried to re-establish the farms, the climate was starting to cool, detrimental to farming. In addition, the area continued to be threatened by volcanic eruptions and ashfall. In 1988, farming in Skaftafell was officially discontinued.

There are no roads within the park, but there are several trails for hiking. On you tour of Skaftafell National Park, the Skaftafell Visitor Centre is a good resource to find out more about recreational activities and the best hotel for you in the area. The visitor centre can also give you information about the Skaftafell hiking trails, as some hikes use the visitor centre as the starting point. Make sure to wear good hiking boots! The rugged terrain , breathtaking scenery, and beautiful ice landscapes of the nature reserve has much to offer.

You can go on a hiking tour or an ice cave tour, go ice climbing, or do a glacier walk among the ice formations. Skaftafell has beautiful waterfalls, such as the otherworldly Svartifoss waterfall, framed by black basalt columns.

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell national park, Iceland.
Summer at the Svartifoss Waterfall in Skaftafell National Park, South Iceland.

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