Vatnajökull is Europe´s largest glacier, over 8100 km2. The Glacier covers more than 8% of the country and the average thickness of the ice is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1000 m. Iceland’s highest mountain, Öræfajökull (2110 m) is located in the southern periphery of Vatnajökull. It is classified as an ice cap glacier. No other glacier in Iceland, with the exception of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, has more precipitation fall or more water drain to the sea than on the south side of Vatnajökull. In fact, so much water is currently stored in Vatnajökull that even Ölfusá, the river with the greatest flow in Iceland, would need over 200 years to carry it all to sea.

As with many other glaciers in Iceland there are several volcanoes under the ice cap. One of them, the Grímsvötn volcano was the source of a large glacial lake outburst flood (Jökulhlaup) in 1996. There was also a brief, but considerable eruption of the volcano in the beginning of November 2004. In May 21, 2011 a volcanic eruption started again in Grímsvötn. The plume reached as high as 20 kilometres and disrupted airtravel for three days.

Vatnajökull has around 30 outlet glaciers flowing from its ice cap. One of these outlet glaciers is Breiðamerkurjökull that ends in the world famous Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.

The Vatnajökull National Park was established in 2008 and covers 14% of Iceland, making it one of Europe's largest national parks. It's greatly varying landscape makes it unique in the world. Nowhere else is there such a combination of dynamic ice cap and outlet glaciers, frequently active sub-glacial volcanic activity that can lead to massive outburst floods, and scenic mountain grandeur.


Recommended tours in this area


Volcanoes and Glaciers in Iceland

Discover the natural wonders of Iceland, geologically one of the world‘s youngest – and most volcanic—islands.

Duration: 6 days/5 nights

Price from



Iceland Complete - Classic Circle Tour

Admire Iceland's natural wonders and majestic landscapes! This classic circle tour provides the perfect mix of culture, histo...

Duration: 9 days/8 nights

Price from