Majestic Svartifoss with Basalt Columns, Iceland. Majestic Svartifoss with Basalt Columns, Iceland.

The Skaftafell National Park in Iceland: Captivating Bucket Lists Since 1967

There are some unique travel bugs spread across the Icelandic landscape that you can never get cured of!  Every sight from the great expanse of land extending over the horizons, the surprisingly unique flora and fauna to the breathtaking vistas, will wonder you.

So. gear up to open your arms to adventure by stepping further away from the parking lot and making a journey for a lifetime. I’m going to take you on an expedition to the Skaftafell National Park in Iceland, including touring tips and much more. 

You might have typed over five times in all the search engines without adequate information. But you might not have found the answers you seek. So, learn it from the heart of some Travel-alcoholics right here!

Skaftafell is a famous national park and a nature reserve to get some scintillating views of waterfalls, mountains, black sand beaches, lush oases, and glacier creek. It is located in the Southeastern part of Iceland, occupying a 4807 km2 landmass. 

  • In 1967 it was declared a national park by itself for its natural beauty, conducive weather conditions, and abundant hiking trails. All this makes it a great destination to enjoy outdoor activities in the Icelandic terrain. 
  • By 2008, the Skaftafell National Park was classified under the Vatnajokull National Park and occupied the Southern part of this newly created park.
  • In 2019, it became a UNESCO Heritage Site signalling the need for conservation because of the dwindling glaciers due to the shift in climatic conditions. 

Today, it’s a place to change visitors to travelers that records a million visits annually. 

I’ll tell you the best ways to get there. From Skaftafell to Reykjavik, you must take a four-hour drive staying on the Ring Road in the Southeast of Iceland, either self-driving or choosing a rental car. Interestingly, the Ring Road on the South Coast is a popular sightseeing route in the country. 

You will be tempted to stop by the South Coast and catch a glimpse of the icy beauty of Iceland. But ensure to reach the Park on time to get the best of the bigger picture. 

Please note that you will be charged a parking fee of 750 ISK per car, payable by card.

The alternate option for a journey by car is taking public transport from Mjódd with line 51. However, this can take up to 7 hours of journey by bus. 

Iceland's Skaftafell National Park

Remember, you are going to adventure on a mountainous terrain that doesn’t have proper roads. So, buckle up your body with the best essentials to get the best out of the tour! Keep these in mind while packing;

  • Stock as much of supplies as possible before leaving for Skaftafell.
  • Check the forecastroad, and trail situations of your day tours, especially during winter. 
  • Book in advance to cancel 24 hours before the to avoid uncertain circumstances.
  • Choose the trails and routes you wish to explore in the park early, as hiking trails are available for different levels. Ensure the chosen trail matches your experience and fitness.
  • Have an offline map on your GPS or mobile phone before getting it from the Visitor Centre. Don’t depend on signposts, as they might be misleading, especially in a harsh and you might end up losing your route. 
  • On top priority, have travel insurance if you want to visit the park and ensure it covers the outdoor activities you wish to participate in. 
The Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Let Me Take You to the Skaftafell Terrain Exploration

From unique geological formations to the rich flora springing up between the glaciers and sands, Skaftafell offers a wealth of attractions to its visitors. The beautifully rugged terrain is the best place for photoholics to capture awe-inspiring panoramic clicks to keep alive forever!

Subsequently, the Skaftafell Nature Reserve is also called a hiking paradise because of the exquisite multiple short trails for hiking the glaciers. 

The Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

One such trek can lead you to the Svartifoss waterfall, which is enclosed by bizarre and beautiful basalt columns and renowned glaciers like Svínafellsjökull. Also, you can climb up the Hvannadalshnjukur peak.

On the contrary, if you wish to probe deeper into the region, I recommend you take a trip to some attractions like the Jokulsárlón Glacier, Vatnajökull Glacier, and Diamond Beach close by. Also, I strongly recommend you choose guided tours to take a trip with a qualified guide to try your hand at glacier hiking or ice climbing.

And Now It’s Time to Tell You About the Things to See and Enjoy

The Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Skaftafell Visitor Centre is the first place you might encounter at the park entrance. You can get all your queries answered here. Some friendly staff offers tips and advice on the best activities you can enjoy at your fitness level in the prevalent weather conditions.  

Apart from this, the Centre offers you everything you need to know about geology to the accommodation you can afford while visiting the park. You will not be charged an entry fee at the park entrance. 

Do you know what else is there in store for you? I must say this destination is a complete package for all enthusiastic visitors. It comprises mesmerizing mountains, rich leafy valleys, lava pastures, lagoons, glaciers, and waterfalls. Don’t forget to imprint your soles in these iconic attractions;

  • Svartifoss Waterfall– Tumbling down a cliff encapsulated by long basalt columns, this Waterfall is one of the famous meltwater-fed waterfalls in Iceland. Interestingly, the black columns contrasting the cascading curtain of water look like the organ pipes of a church!
  • Skaftafellsjökull Glacier– This 10 km long and 2km wide glacier gives a thrilling experience for hikers walking through it. Also, you get some stunning views of this glacier wonderland that is surrounded by the glaciers Öræfajökull and Vatnajökull and the jagged mountains. 
  • Svínafellsjökull– A terrain sculpted by snow and ice, the Svínafellsjökull is enclosed by the black sandy beaches of the southern coast and the lunar-like landscapes of Sólheimasandur. Here you can get views beyond the horizon of Vatnajökull Park.
  • Glacier Lagoons– Edging Vatnajökull National Park from the Skaftafell base are some breathtaking lagoons comprising dazzling aqua-blue waters of floating icebergs. You can take a boat trip on Jökusárlón or go kayaking at Sólheimajökull’s Glacier to cherish some adorable memories.
  • Sjonarnipa Viewpoint– If you wish to extend your stay in the park, try taking the S6 trail to reach Sjónarnípa Viewpoint. This is a max 3-hour flat trial to capture some stunning scenery of the snow-capped mountains. 

You can spot the Artic Fox here, so open your eyes and cameras to click as much as possible!

I Can Suggest You the Best Possible Means to Get Around the Skaftafell

With so many places to visit and enjoy, the only possible means to get to them is by foot. So, here’s what you need to do to get to them;

1. Glacier Hiking

Glacier Adventure from Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park - Iceland

Taking a guide with you, hiking is the most popular and the best sport to enjoy in Iceland. You’ll walk on ice, across deep crevasses, around water cauldrons for hours.

Now you might find walking on the glacier ice is time-consuming and not worth a trip. But trust me, once you’re out there, you might get diverse looks than what it appears to be at a distance! For instance, if you’ve hiked the famous Vatnajokull glacier, you can boast a tale of climbing Europe’s largest glaciers! However, it’s best to make reservations if you are on a tight schedule. 

2. Ice Caving

The Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Want to boast an experience journeying into the ice caves where waters run beneath the glacier? Then this is the place you must begin exploring! However, this activity is unavailable throughout the year, unlike hiking. You can taste it in winter when the water freezes, and the glacial rivers retract.

Interestingly, new caves emerge here at different locales every year, providing new opportunities for this activity. Most of the tours operate from October to March for safety purposes to ensure that the temperatures are low enough to slow down the glacier melting. 

3. Scenic Views of Nature

Too much walking might hinder you from getting a glimpse of the rich flora and fauna of the place. Apart from the striking geology, you can find 287 lichen species with birch and rowan trees and 314 moss species growing on mountain slopes.

Within the park, I recommend you enjoy the mountain avens, glacier buttercup, angelica, and Arctic thyme. Waterfowl and waders populate the outwash plains. While brown trout and Arctic char are found in the rivers, and Arctic foxes and deer are on the uplands.

4. Skaftafell Camping

This campsite has been prevalent since the early days. Initially, visitors camped near the farm Bölti up on the slopes. However, with time, the glacial soil deposits at the hill’s base were revegetated and became a large and spacious campsite in 1974. Today it can be occupied by campers, motor homes, and tents, with a facility to avail numerous services throughout the year.

Expert Tips for Camping In Iceland - a spectacular place to experience the beauty of nature.

Wow, indulging in such exciting activities can put your tummy at stake! So, here are a few places to refuel it and get back on the trail!

  • Fosshótel Núpar on the lava fields offers plenty of chews with a view. Dive into their restaurant or bar and get additional bonus hours between 4 and 6 pm. 
  • Glacier Goodies is a mobile shack between the Skaftafell campsite and the visitor center with some outdoor settings.  Fish and chips, lobster bisque and soup, and spare ribs are some delicious takeaways here.
  • Cozy and chic Cafe Vatnajökull is a special place for morning coffee, lunchtime, or afternoon tea. Pastries, soup, brownies, and coffee are all on offer here.
  • Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon restaurant lies at the base of Hvannadalshnúkur, Iceland’s highest peak. Here the beautifully presented Icelandic fusion cuisine is the best to treat yourself!
The Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Let me warn you! If you’re a budget traveller it’s challenging to find a hotel around Skaftafell. One option to grab those few hotels is to book in advance. So, once your itinerary is complete begin making a reservation. Here’s a list of the best hotels curated just for you no matter what type of traveler you are!

  • Hvoll Hostel– For Budget travellers
  • Adventure Hotel Hof– For Mid-range travellers
  • Hotel Skaftafell– For Luxury travellers
Vatnajokull National Park | Wonders of Iceland

Is Iceland, icing your heart’s wanderlust? Then book your iciest memories here by grabbing your passport this vacation! And set your eyes on the horizon and brace yourself for adventure abiding to be a responsible tourist in Iceland. Off you go!

Last Updated on May 5, 2024 by Pragya


  1. Captivating! It beautifully encapsulates the allure of this natural wonder, inspiring readers to add it to their bucket lists. With its rich history since 1967, the article wonderfully captures the essence of this stunning Icelandic destination, enticing travelers with its natural beauty and allure.

  2. Exploring the Skaftafell National Park in Iceland is a captivating journey into a land of glaciers, waterfalls, and stunning landscapes. The park, once declared a national treasure, offers a diverse terrain shaped by volcanic eruptions and glacier floods. The Hvannadalshnjukur, Iceland’s highest peak, adds a majestic backdrop to the scenery. The struggle of fire and ice has uniquely shaped the sandy wastelands, and the region boasts an interesting sunny climate, allowing diverse vegetation to thrive. The wildlife, including Arctic Fox and various bird species, adds to the allure of this natural wonder. For an unforgettable adventure, pack essentials, plan your trails, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Skaftafell.

  3. Travelers are drawn to this breathtaking Icelandic location by its natural beauty and charm, which is expertly captured in this piece. The fauna, which includes several bird species and Arctic Fox, enhances the attraction of this natural treasure. Prepare your paths, bring necessities, and take in Skaftafell’s breathtaking scenery for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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