When you think of Iceland, you probably picture majestic mountain landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and ever-present glaciers.
Skaftafell, Iceland has it all – and so much more!
No visit to the breathtaking island is complete without a visit to this eastern region, so be sure to add it on to your Icelandic bucket list soon.
National Parks in Skaftafell
Located near the South Eastern edge of Iceland, Skaftafell is just over 300 kilometers from the capital Reykjavik.
The region is renowned for Skaftafell National park and Vatnajökull National Park.
You can quickly drive to Skaftafell from a rental car in Reykjavik, and numerous public buses and tour buses also take the same route.
Skaftafell National Park
Without a doubt, Skaftafell National Park is a must-see destination in Iceland. Consisting of about 500 square kilometers, the park was established in 1967 and is home to a stunning array of flora and fauna for visitors to enjoy.
Though the park today is considered part of Vatnajökull National Park, it was an independent national park until 2008.
Regardless, the region boasts vistas of stunning mountain ranges, active volcanoes, breathtaking glaciers, and endless desert plains. While there aren’t any roads within the park, a network of trails makes it possible to hike throughout most of it.
Camping sites also abound but be warned that conditions get chilly for overnight stays.
Park rangers regularly provide hiking and bus tours, and amenities include a visitor center, restaurant, small shop, and other tourist necessities like washing machines.
A favorite activity in the park is going on glacier walks with the regionally famous Icelandic Mountain Guides. Stepping onto a glacier and looking deep into its crevices is a profound experience for thousands of people, which is why glacier walks are one of the most popular activities in Skaftafell.
For an extra adrenaline-infused adventure, considering joining a guide to go mountain climbing in Skaftafell.
Test your endurance by scaling Hvannadalshnjúkur (2.111m), the highest peak in Iceland. You’ll see stunning views along the way and be rewarded with the entire vista of the national park.
The Svartifoss Waterfall
Within the borders of Skaftafell National Park lies one of the most unique waterfalls in Iceland- Svartifoss. This special waterfall is over 12 meters high, and it’s stunningly framed among black columnar basalt formations on each side.
From a distance, the effect makes the falls look like a giant heart, which is why it’s considered one of the most romantic places in all of Iceland.
While it’s not possible to see Svartifoss waterfall from the road, a moderate three-kilometer round trip hike will get you to the base and back.
Along the way, you’ll pass three other waterfalls, (Þjófafoss (Thieves’ Fall), Hundafoss (Dogs’ Fall) and Magnúsarfoss (the Falls of Magnús), ensuring that the hike is well worth your time.
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park was always impressive, but since 2008 it has grown to include two other national parks, making it the largest national park in all of Europe at just over 12.000 km2 (or over 13 percent of Iceland).
This stunning park offers you a unique chance to see volcanoes and glaciers in the same landscape, as it contains Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in the world outside of the Arctic Circle and Antarctica.
Within the park, hot streams flow through ice banks, and ample opportunities for indulging in hot springs abound.
When you visit this park, keep in mind that the primary visitor center is technically within the Skaftafell center, so you will want to go there first to peruse hiking information and other activity opportunities before beginning.
Other Outdoor Activities in Skaftafell
If you are staying in Skaftafell, there is a lot you can do besides visiting the national parks.
Glacier walks, kayaking trips, birdwatching excursions, and ATV tours are all possible, so be sure to go to area visitor centers to plan a trip that makes sense for your priorities.
Where to Stay in Skaftafell
Hotels, guest houses, and wilderness camping are all popular lodging options in Skaftafell, Iceland.
Some campsites and a small guest house are located right within the park’s borders, but the nearby town has plenty of other options if you prefer not to be limited.
A popular option for foreign tourists is Hotel Laki, a lodging space renowned for being private, quiet, and a timeless way to feel connected with the breathtaking vistas surrounding it.
Plan Your Ideal Iceland Vacation with a Stop in Skaftafell
Most visitors to Iceland agree – Skaftafell is not to be missed. So, brave the cold and plan a trip to the land of ice and fire. It’s one you won’t forget.