Skaftafell National Park was established in 1967, but in 2008 it became a part of the newly established Vatnajokull National Park. The Skaftafell region of Vatnajokull National Park is a lush oasis where you can hike for days on gorgeous trails through forests, waterfalls, black sands, mountains and glaciers with Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnjukur, reaching 2,118 meters (6,950 ft), providing a stunning backdrop.
Although flanked by glaciers, Skaftafell is actually among the areas in Iceland that receive the least amount of snow. Precipitation usually comes with southerly wind directions that also bring a relatively warm air from the ocean. So most of the time, the precipitation is rain rather than snow. As a result, most of the hiking trails in the lowland areas of Skaftafell are clear of snow all year round.
Hiking in Skaftafell
A short walk into the park offers a breathtaking view of Svartifoss (Black Falls), bordered on both sides by tall black basalt columns resembling the pipes of a giant organ, and glacier Skaftafellsjokull, but for those who want to reach further out, the Morsardalur valley and Kristinartindar mountain peaks are perfect in terms of distance and labour. Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those who seek to climb Iceland’s highest mountain peak, Hvannadalshnjukur.
Ice walking, ice climbing and ice caving in Skaftafell
A popular way to spend time in Skaftafell include activities on different parts of Vatnajokull glacier. Being able to say that you have walked on or climbed the largest glacier in Europe is certainly a story worth telling.
Ice caves are also a spectacular phenomenon. They are only found in the wintertime, when the glacial rivers retract and the water freezes. Each year, new ice caves form in different locations, providing unique opportunities for ice caving.
A glacier adventure in Skaftafell National Park is something that stays in the memory forever. But do note, that these activities should only be experienced under professional guidance. Weather and other circumstances can cause a great security risk if not handled properly.
Skaftafell Visitor Center
Skaftafell Visitor Center is an information and service center. There visitors can find answers to their questions about the Skaftafell area. There you can find information about hiking trails, accommodation and nearby recreational options.
It also has a gift shop with books, postcards, and special emphasis on local handicraft.
Check out our complete guide to the South Coast.