Skaftafell Nature Reserve is an enchanting icy wilderness covering 4,807 km² of Iceland’s largest park, Vatnajokull National Park. Once known as Skaftafell National Park, the nature preserve sits between the small southern towns of Kirkjubaejarklaustur and Hof.
Skaftafell Glacier Hiking Tour Suitable for Beginners
A Half-Day Guided Hike on Iceland’s Largest Ice Cap
Shortly after Iceland was settled, the Skaftafell Nature Reserve area was mostly used for farming. However, traditional farming ended in the area after 2 major volcanic eruptions. By 1967, Skaftafell became a national park. It then merged with Vatnajokull National Park in 2008.
Adventurers now flock to Skaftafell to view exquisite natural highlights like Falljökull Glacier, Svartifoss Waterfall, and the Morsárdalur Valley. From incredible hiking trails to crystal-blue ice caves, Skaftafell Nature Reserve is the perfect place for glacier exploration.
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is blanketed in some of the world’s greatest landscapes. With brilliant glacial tongues, birchwood forests, and mysterious ice caves, it’s no wonder Skaftafell is considered a hiker’s paradise!
Skaftafell’s main highlight is its incredible glacier wilderness, including the popular Svinafellsjokull glacial tongue. The nature reserve also features Iceland’s highest mountain peak, Hvannadalshnjukur, standing 2,110 m (6,920 ft) tall.
Skaftafell’s unique geology also boasts an abundance of thriving flora and distinct wildlife. The area hosts over 30 types of bird species, and unique plants grow between its icy crevasses and black sands.
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is nestled on the southern edge of Vatnajokull National Park. The area sits on Iceland’s southern coastline, creating an icy view for drivers traveling along the iconic Ring Road.
The drive from Reykjavik to Skaftafell is full of stunning Icelandic sights. Once you leave Reykjavik, simply head east along the Ring Road for around 4 hours until you reach Skaftafell Visitor Centre.
The directions from Vik to Skaftafell are similar: drive east along the Ring Road for roughly 1h45 minutes until you reach Skaftafell.
You’ll pass incredible natural landmarks such as Laufskálavarða lava ridge and Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon on the way. Don’t forget your camera!
Skaftafell Visitor Centre offers tourists top quality information on local trails, accommodation, and tour options. There’s also an exhibition inside the center displaying Skaftafell’s diverse human and physical geography.
Vatnajokull National Park
January to February: 10:00 - 18:00
March to May: 9:00 - 18:00
June to August: 8:00 - 19:00
September: 9:00 - 19:00
October: 9:00 - 18:00
November to December: 10:00 - 18:00
Skaftafell Visitor Centre has recently begun charging a 5 USD parking fee for regular passenger vehicles. Mountain trucks and tour buses must pay 7 USD.
The weather forecast in Skaftafell, Iceland is extremely varied. High altitude areas rarely reach higher than 10°C (50°F) and experience periods of snow, rain, and wind. These strong winds push cold air downward, creating chilly breezes in the lowlands.
Skaftafell temperatures hover around -10°C (14°F) in winter and between 10°C (50°F) in summer. Powerful winds and rain can happen unexpectedly, so it’s good to always keep warm layers close by. Don’t forget to check the weather and road conditions before your trip!
The best way to explore the beautiful nature preserve is to go on a Skaftafell glacier tour. From epic glacier hikes to jaw-dropping ice caving adventures, there are Skaftafell activities for most levels!
Walking along a glacier with a Skaftafell hike is the ultimate ice cap experience. One of the best hikes in Skaftafell is a guided Glacier Wonders 3.5 hour walk on Falljokull Glacier.
For those seeking a longer walk, the Glacier Explorer half-day hike from Skaftafell is an excellent 5-hour hike. This small-group expert-guided tour includes scenic glacier views and specialized safety gear, including crampons and an ice axe.
Want to add a boat ride to your blue ice experience while glacier hiking in Skaftafell? Explore mighty glaciers with a certified guided Glacier Grand Slam tour! Hop on a zodiac boat to discover majestic glacier lagoons before setting off on a short 3-hour Vatnajokull Glacier hike.
Venture into the best blue ice caves in Iceland at Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Filled with icy textures and crystal formations, ice caving is a great way to get up close and personal with Vatnajokull.
Step inside the mesmerizing ice caves of Vatnajokull with one of our ice cave tours from Skaftafell! Become a glacier explorer for the day as expert leaders guide you into the blue ice of Europe’s largest glacier.
Want to go ice caving and glacier hiking? Book our popular Into the Glacier ice cave and glacier hike tour from Skaftafell! Spend 4 hours with a glacier guide as you walk along the Vatnajokull Glacier valley before visiting a blue ice cave.
If you’re looking for accommodation near Skaftafell, Iceland, there are a number of options to choose from. Most accommodation is located either close by or on Route 1, making it accessible for those traveling the Ring Road.
It is recommended that you book your accommodation well in advance. Skaftafell cottages, hotels and guesthouses often have no vacancy — especially during the summer months — so be sure to plan ahead!