Skaftafell will definitely come up on any trip to Iceland. Do you intend to go camping, hiking, mountain climbing, going on glacier adventures or waterfall hunting? You’ll surely cross paths with Skaftafell at least once.
In this article, we share all the important information you’ll need regarding Skaftafell and what makes this such a special place.
Skaftafell National Park
As the name suggests, Skaftafell is one of Iceland’s national parks, and it takes only a 4-hour drive from the capital city of Reykjavík to Skaftafell. It is located in southeast Iceland and has recently been incorporated into the bigger Vatnajökull National Park.
Originally, the 4807 square kilometer Skaftafell Nature Reserve was a manor farm. Later, in 1967, it was turned into a national park to protect the flora and fauna. That’s why it should come as no surprise that Skaftafell is especially known for its contrast in scenery.
It’s incredible how much of the Land of Fire and Ice is revealed to visitors in Skaftafell. From exceptional flora to black sand deserts and icy glaciers, lagoons and cascading waterfalls. A little-known local secret is also that, for some reason, Skaftafell summers are a little sunnier and hotter than other parts of the island.
Skaftafell Visitor Center
The Skaftafell Visitor Center is where you’ll be able to find information and the answers to your questions concerning the region. The Visitor Center also doubles as the Reception for the Skaftafell Camping Site. Many of the Skaftafell hikes begin at the Visitor Center.
It’s also the starting point for many a Skaftafell National Park Tour. No matter if it’s just a guided tour of the area, a Skaftafell glacier hiking tour or one of the Skaftafell ice cave tours. Operating days and hours at the Skaftafell Visitor Centre may vary between seasons, so always double-check.
Best Things to do in Skaftafell National Park
There is plenty to do and see in Skaftafell National Park. These are some of the things you can look forward to:
Although you can find both day hikes and multi-day hikes in Skaftafell, the majority of the Skaftafell hikes are day hikes. You don’t need to worry about how fit you are and have an extensive hiking resume to tackle these trails. These trails cater both to beginners to more experienced hikers. Some of the trails to consider taking are:
Svartifoss Waterfall Hike (leading to the most popular Skaftafell waterfall)
Sjonarnipa Viewpoint Hike
Kristinartindar Mountain Hike
Bæjarstadaskogur Forest Hike
Kjos Glacial Valley Hike
Skaftafell Glacier Hiking
Skaftafell glacier hiking allows you to hike the Vatnajökull Glacier (the largest glacier in Europe). You do not need to have glacier hiking experience or any gear. But this is an activity that can only be done by booking a spot on a guided tour due to safety concerns.
Exploring the Skaftafell Ice Caves
Glacier ice caves at Skaftafell are an incredible sight. As with the glacier hiking, one can only explore the caves with a guided tour due to safety concerns. On these tours, you will discover the incredible natural wonders of ice caves, such as the popular Blue Ice Cave. Still, that's not it. You'll also learn more about how ice caves are formed all over the island.
Visiting Traditional Farmhouses at Skaftafell
At Sel, Skaftafell you have the opportunity to visit historic and traditional turf farmhouses. Hobbit like houses are not your cup of tea? That's fine, you can opt to visit the ruins of the original farmhouse of the farmstead that was turned into the Skaftafell National Park.
Take a Stroll on a Black Sand Beach
Black sand beaches in Iceland are one of the most beautiful results of volcanic activity on the island. When you’re in Skaftafell you’ll have the opportunity to take a walk on one of the most famous black sand beaches; Diamond Beach. Here, glistening pieces of ice strewn all across the black sand reminds one of diamonds.
Where to Sleep at Skaftafell National Park
You have a variety of options when it comes to lodging in and near Skaftafell. Offer ranges from affordable camping options to luxury Skaftafell hotels. The following are some of the accommodation options that come highly recommended:
Getting to Skaftafell
Getting to Skaftafell is quite simple. If you’ve booked a day tour, transport will most probably be arranged by the tour operator (if transfers are included). If you need to get there by yourself, the best way is to drive there using your rental car in Iceland or, alternatively, you can take the bus:
Directions from Reykjavík to Skaftafell (+/- 4 hours)
Use Road 1 to get from Reykjavík to Skaftafell.
Take Road 998 for about 2 km to the Visitor’s Centre.
Bus via Selfoss (+/- 7 hours)
Take the Stræto 51 bus. This trip will cost about $68. Stræto busses depart every three hours during peak season.
Skaftafell National Park; a Must-visit Place
There’s no reason why Skaftafell National Park should not make up one of the stops on your Iceland trip itinerary. There are so many activities, natural wonders, and accommodation options waiting to be discovered!
So, book your spot on a guided tour, pack your camping gear, or book a room at a hotel and start ticking off those bucket list Iceland items in Skaftafell.