top of page

Skaftafell: A Gem in the Heart of Vatnajokull National Park

Have you ever heard of Skaftafell? Nestled in the heart of Vatnajökull National Park, this gem is a paradise for anyone who loves breathtaking landscapes. Imagine exploring the largest national park in Europe, where Icelandic nature unfolds in an array of glaciers, rugged peaks, and serene valleys. 

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just looking for a peaceful escape, a visit to Skaftafell promises an unforgettable experience. Get ready to be wowed by the unique beauty and adventures that await you in this stunning corner of Iceland! 

Skaftafell Park

A Brief Overview Of Skaftafell

Nestled in southeast Iceland, Skaftafell is a key part of the expansive Vatnajökull National Park. Originating as a significant farm in the 9th century, Skaftafell's name is steeped in history. The area witnessed a dramatic transformation following the catastrophic 1362 Öræfajökull eruption, leading to its renaming as Öræfi, or 'wasteland.' 

Today, Skaftafell National Park is a testament to nature's resilience, encompassing about half of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest icecap. Covering 4,817 km2 (1,860 mi2), the park is a diverse landscape of mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls, embodying the essence of Icelandic natural beauty.

The Natural Wonders of Skaftafell

Skaftafell is where nature's wonders converge. Picture yourself amidst glaciers like the grand Skaftafellsjökull, an extension of the vast Vatnajökull glacier. The landscape is adorned with striking glacial lagoons, creating a serene, almost surreal environment. 

The Svartifoss waterfall, framed by unique basalt columns, showcases the area's rich volcanic heritage. The Skaftafell glaciers themselves are a marvel, especially the captivating ice caves that shift with the seasons. In every season, from the verdant summers to the tranquil winters, Skaftafell's beauty remains a constant, awe-inspiring spectacle.

svartifoss waterfall

Activities To Do in Skaftafell

Skaftafell Nature Reserve is a paradise for those who love the great outdoors. Here's what you can do during your visit:

  • Hiking Trail Adventures: Whether you're up for a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, Skaftafell's selection of hiking trails caters to all. From the easy, family-friendly paths to the more strenuous hikes leading to breathtaking viewpoints, there's a trail for every kind of explorer.

  • Glacier Hike Thrills: Experience the thrill of a glacier hike with expert Icelandic Mountain Guides. These guided tours offer a safe and exhilarating way to explore the icy terrain and learn about the glaciers' fascinating formations.

  • Ice Cave Exploration: For a truly unique adventure, delve into the mesmerizing ice caves. These natural wonders, accessible with a guided tour, showcase the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

  • Camping Under the Stars: After a day of exploration, the Skaftafell campsite invites you for an overnight stay. Nestled in the heart of nature, it's the perfect way to immerse yourself in the serene Icelandic wilderness.

The Heart of the Park: Skaftafell Visitor Centre

At the Skaftafell Visitor Center, you'll find everything you need to enhance your park experience. Open year-round, this center is your go-to spot for all sorts of helpful services. Need a map or tips on the best trails? 

The friendly park rangers and staff are there to guide you. They're not just guides; they're a treasure trove of information about the park's diverse geography and ecology. Plus, the center offers a range of educational resources, making it a perfect starting point for both adventure and learning. 

Whether you're planning your hike or eager to learn about the area's natural wonders, the visitor center is your gateway to the wonders of Skaftafell.

Getting To Skaftafell

When it comes to getting to Skaftafell, you have several options:

By Car

Renting a car in Reykjavik and driving to Skaftafell is the quickest and most flexible option. The journey is a scenic 4-hour drive along the Ring Road from Reykjavik. This route offers not only convenience but also the freedom to explore the stunning landscapes of Iceland at your own pace.

By Bus

Traveling from Reykjavík to Skaftafell by bus involves a bit of adventure. There's no direct bus, but you can embark on a journey that starts from Mjódd, with transfers at Selfoss - N1 and Vík í Mýrdal. The journey, including transfers, takes around 6 hours and 45 minutes.

By Guided Tours

Opting for a guided tour from Reykjavik to Skaftafell offers a comprehensive 14-hour experience. These tours not only take you to Skaftafell National Park but also include visits to iconic sights like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls and the majestic Vatnajokull glacier.

Must-See Attractions Near Skaftafell

Exploring the areas surrounding Skaftafell opens a window onto more of Iceland's natural beauty. Here are some must-see attractions in the Skaftafell area:

  • Glacier Lagoon: Just a short drive away, the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a surreal landscape of floating icebergs. Perfect for a day trip, it's a must-see for its otherworldly beauty.

  • Diamond Beach: Located next to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Diamond Beach is known for its sparkling icebergs that have washed ashore. It's a mesmerizing sight and a photographer's paradise.

  • Icelan's: A quaint fishing town famous for its delicious langoustine, Höfn is a charming place to stop by and refuel during your Skaftafell adventures. Höfn is also a gateway to some of Icelan's most stunning black sand beaches.

  • Hofskirkja Church: Located in the village of Höfn, this turf-roofed church dates back to 1884. It's a unique example of Icelandic architecture and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.

Hofskirkja Church

Preparing for Your Visit

Before heading to Skaftafell, it's crucial to prepare accordingly for a safe and enjoyable visit. Here are some essential travel tips:

  • What to Pack: Always bring layers, regardless of the season. Iceland's weather can be unpredictable, so it's wise to be prepared with waterproof and windproof clothing.

  • Footwear: Sturdy hiking boots are necessary for exploring the trails and rugged terrain.

  • Safety Gear: If you're planning on glacier hikes, don't forget essential safety gear like crampons and ice axes, which can often be rented or provided by tour operators.

  • Snacks and Water: Keep energized and hydrated during your explorations.

Best Time to Visit Skaftafell

The best time to visit Skaftafell greatly depends on the activities you're interested in. For hiking and sightseeing, summer provides long days and mild weather. Winter in Iceland, on the other hand, offers a pristine, snow-covered landscape ideal for ice-caving and glacier tours. 

Despite the season, remember that Skaftafell is open all year, offering unique experiences in different weather conditions. During peak season, arrive early to avoid crowds and ensure access to popular sights. In the off-peak seasons, you might have many trails to yourself, adding to the allure of this Icelandic wilderness.

Activities To Do in Skaftafell

Why Skaftafell Is A Must-Visit

Skaftafell encapsulates the raw beauty and diverse landscapes that Iceland is famed for - it's truly a world within a country. Its multitude of geographical features, from glaciers to lush greenery, make it a must-visit for any traveler. It's not just an adventure playground but also a learning hub offering insights into Iceland's unique ecosystems. 

Embracing Skaftafell's stunning landscapes will leave you with unforgettable memories of Iceland's natural beauty. We encourage you to plan your visit, immerse in the Icelandic wilderness, and share your experiences, adding to the collective narrative of this extraordinary destination.



bottom of page