Iceland’s National Parks: Your Guide

From the glacial expanse of Vatnajökull to the historic wonders of Þingvellir, Iceland’s national parks are varied and breathtakingly beautiful.

January 6, 2023

Iceland’s National Parks: Your Guide

From the glacial expanse of Vatnajökull to the historic wonders of Þingvellir, Iceland’s national parks are varied and breathtakingly beautiful.

January 6, 2023

On a trip to the Land of Ice and Fire, discover these awesome places for yourself. Whether you’re visiting Iceland for outdoor adventures or to delve into the world of Icelandic culture, exploring the country’s protected areas is a must. In this article, learn everything you need to know about the majestic national parks in Iceland. Find out the most famous parks and how to visit safely—and discover the answers to most common questions.

  • Explore our tours in Iceland to find out how to visit Iceland’s national parks yourself

What to know about national parks in Iceland

Iceland has three national parks, stretching from the peaks of the highest mountains down to the rugged shoreline. In these parks, you’ll find the whole range of natural wonders that the country has to offer. While there used to be a greater number of parks (five in total), different areas have been absorbed and combined, creating Iceland’s three national parks today:

  • Vatnajökull National Park. Including the enormous Vatnajökull icecap, this is the largest of Iceland’s protected parks. In fact, it’s said to cover 13% of the whole surface of Iceland. Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárgljúfur are two former national parks that were incorporated into Vatnajökull.

  • Þingvellir National Park. The oldest protected area in Iceland, Þingvellir is the country’s cultural and historical heart.

  • Snæfellsjökull National Park. On the west coast of Iceland, Snæfellsjökull is one of Iceland’s most famous outdoor destinations. On a good day the peaks of its mountains can be seen from Reykjavik.

Together, these three parks make up the majority of the 25% of Iceland’s surface that comes under some form of environmental protection. And among them are two of Iceland’s UNESCO World Heritage sites—Þingvellir and Vatnajökull—designated for their cultural and natural importance.

The cool thing is that Iceland’s national parks are only expected to grow further, as governments commit to greater environmental protections. For example, plans for a national park in Iceland’s highlands are underway, to protect an area that’s one of Europe’s last great wildernesses.

Ready to learn more about Iceland’s national parks? Read on.

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is the oldest protected area in Iceland. Established in 1930, it covers a vast area of cultural and natural importance, which has since been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The national park holds a special place in the history of Iceland as it was the site of the nation’s very first parliament, the Alþing. This was set up in the year 930, when the different groups that had settled in Iceland decided they needed a place where collective decisions could be made. That place would be Þingvellir.

Today you’ll find Þingvellir on the Golden Circle, one of the most famous travel itineraries in Iceland. Just a short distance from Reykjavik, you can explore the park in a day, alongside other jaw-dropping sights such as Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area.

The park boasts more than its role as the political heart of the country for over a thousand years. Here you’ll also find natural wonders including the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, one of the few places in the world where you can walk between two tectonic plates. Strolling in the rift, you won’t be in either Europe or America, but in the space in between.

If you’re brave enough, why not go snorkelling in the Silfra rift, a tectonic trench in Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. It’ll reward you with some of the clearest waters on the planet. Alternatively, explore some of Þingvellir’s hiking trails, for example up to Öxarárfoss, the stunning waterfall.


Skaftafell National Park?


NationalPark 3

Many visitors to Iceland ask about visiting Skaftafell National Park. However, the truth is that it no longer exists. In 2008, Skaftafell was incorporated into the larger Vatnajökull National Park.

While its name has changed, all of Skaftafell’s unique beauties remain. With miles of hiking trails that link black-sand plains to majestic waterfalls and glacial lagoons, Skaftafell is an incredible destination, where you can see many of the different geological forms Iceland has to offer.

Need convincing that Skaftafell is a truly special place? Take a look at Svartifoss, perhaps one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world. Its strange form inspired the shapes of Hallgrímskirkja, one of Iceland’s most iconic buildings.


Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park holds a special place in the hearts of Icelanders as well as in the geography of the country. It’s here that you’ll find some of the nation’s extremes—the highest peak, the largest glacier, the deepest lake.

Set in the heart of the south coast of Iceland, Vatnajökull takes its name from the glacier that covers most of its area. This glacier is Iceland’s largest—covering 8% of the whole country—and the second-largest glacier in Europe. It’s truly vast, and it’s something you really should see when you come to the Land of Ice and Fire.

In fact, at its thickest point, the Vatnajökull glacier is 950 metres deep, nearly half the height of Iceland’s highest mountain peak, Hvannadalshnúkur, which can be found in this national park.

However, the ice cap is slowly retreating, due to rising global temperatures. While there’s no doubt this is an ecological tragedy, in its wake the ice is leaving behind incredible landforms, such as the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. You’ll find a glacier tour on this deepest lake in Iceland to be one of the most enchanting sights in all of the country.

Visit this changing landscape while you still can. On a snowmobile tour of Vatnajökull, you can power across the white expanse and marvel at the endless ice. Or take things slow on an easy glacier walk. You’ll explore the many beauties of this rugged place, while learning the ins and outs of ice hiking.

Whichever way you prefer to visit, you’ll find a marvellous region showcasing Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes.


Explore Iceland’s glaciers


NationalPark 2

Ice covers over a tenth of Iceland’s surface. And no visit to this northern nation would be complete without an adventure across the ice.

You can explore these miraculous places in whichever way suits you. Jump aboard a snowmobile and zoom across the ice, or embark on a high-octane glacier experience in the back of a monster truck. Alternatively, stick to your own two feet and hike across the snowy landscape.

Yet the magic of exploring glaciers is that you’re not limited to what you see above the ice. There’s a whole world to delve into below, as ice caves open up beneath the glaciers. Led by an expert guide, you can venture into the blue tunnels created by the powerful movement of the ice.

It’s not only Vatnajökull that you can explore either. Langjökull, in the heart of the Golden Circle, is a great option if you’re based in Reykjavik. Or you might remember the mischievous Eyjafjallajökull, which caused international travel disruption in 2010 when the volcano beneath it erupted.


Snæfellsjökull National Park

Probably Iceland’s less-visited national park, Snæfellsjökull is a paradise of natural beauty. In fact, the Snæfellsnes peninsula is often known as Iceland in miniature, thanks to the sheer range of different landforms that are squeezed into this smallest of national parks.

The most famous of Snæfellsjökull’s sights is no doubt the volcano and glacier that gives the park its name. The writer Jules Verne—in his nineteenth-century novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth—imagined this volcano as the magical entrance to the centre of the world. Even if it isn’t that supernatural gateway, it’s pretty special nonetheless.

What’s more, Snæfellsjökull is the only Icelandic national park that stretches from the mountain to the sea. One of the most breathtaking experiences is to see the immense and complex cliffs at Arnarstapi. Among the hiking trails, you’ll find natural harbours and the relics of mediaeval fishing communities that once populated this part of the world.

There’s so much more to discover on a Snæfellsnes tour too. Discover black-sand beaches, volcanic craters, and magical caves. And there’s the iconic mountain of Kirkjufell, that rises from the surrounding land like the spire of a timeless church.


Book a family trip to Iceland


Hop 7

Iceland is an excellent holiday destination for you and your kids. With friendly locals, incredible outdoor adventures, and interactive museums that will take your breath away, there’s no better place to enjoy a family holiday.

No matter what age your children are at, enjoy family fun on a sightseeing tour. With Reykjavik’s hop-on hop-off bus, for example, it’s super easy to see impressive architecture and beautiful views across the city.

There’s plenty more outside of the city. The Golden Circle, with its range of amazing sights close to Reykjavik, is a perfect family day out. Or, for those that want to explore the south coast even further, you can head to Jökulsárlón for a mesmerising natural adventure.

Why not take the family for a wildlife tour too? With whale-watching trips, puffin-spotting experiences, and even horse riding, Iceland animals promise to fill everyone with joy.

And then there’s Christmas. With mischievous Christmas trolls, northern lights adventures, and unforgettable cultural displays, Icelandic Christmas traditions offer something for everyone.


What to know before visiting Iceland’s national parks

National parks in Iceland—and in any country for that matter—are protected areas that are loved by many. That means that if you’re out and about exploring these natural treasures, there are some things you need to know.

The first rule of Iceland’s national parks is that you leave no trace. To keep these spaces beautiful for those that come after you, it’s best to leave no sign that you’ve been there. That means taking all of your rubbish with you, not damaging any wildlife or anything else, and not bothering other visitors while you’re there.

The protection of nature also regulates fishing. In most national parks, you’re only permitted to fish if you have a licence. Generally, though, if you return the animals to the water, it’s acceptable.

Then, while camping on uncultivated land is legal in theory in Iceland, that’s not true in the national parks. All three parks prohibit wild camping, to better protect the natural area. However, there are plenty of campsites where you can easily pitch up.

Finally, let’s talk about driving. Of course, you’re more than welcome to drive on public roads that lead to all of Iceland’s national parks. But if you’re on unpaved roads, you’ll need to have an appropriate vehicle. What you can’t do is drive off-road, as this will negatively impact the natural environment.

FAQs about Iceland’s national parks

What else do you need to know about national parks in Iceland? Here we try to answer any further questions you may have.

Dos and don’ts while visiting national parks in Iceland?

The national parks are one of the most incredible things about Iceland. And to keep it that way, there are some rules that it is good to follow. While this is not an extensive list, these are some things to keep in mind:

  • Leave no trace. “Leave no trace” is the fundamental principle of national parks and wild areas the world over. Ideally, you should leave no mark that you have been there at all. That means take your rubbish home, don’t damage anything, and don’t light fires.

  • Keep your vehicle to car parks and main roads. Iceland’s national parks are not the place for offroading.

  • Stay safe. If you’re heading into the outdoors, some basic precautions are smart. Let someone know where you’re going, take a map, and pack the right equipment to keep you warm, dry, and safe. That means if you’re walking on snow, for example, you’ll need crampons and an ice pick.

  • Stick to the path. Think of it like this: in a national park, you’re nature’s guest. Paths can take you to the places where you want to be, but if you stray off them you’ll likely damage the wildlife and natural environment. And there’s the risk you’ll get lost too!

  • Only take souvenirs from the gift shop. National parks are full of beautiful things. But we want them to stay that way. Please don’t take stones, sand, or plants home with you.

What do I need to know before going to a national park in Iceland?

Iceland’s national parks are some of the most beautiful places in the world. But they’re vast and wild, and you’ll need to be prepared before visiting.

Obviously, the level of preparation will depend on what you’re intending to do. If you’re attempting multi-day hikes, ensure you have the right knowledge, fitness, and equipment to make sure you stay safe. And let someone know where you’re going before you leave.

If you’re just visiting for the day, all you need to know is where you’re heading. Of course, basic safety information applies: pack a map, have the right gear, and tell someone your plans. But if you’re careful and follow the signs, it’ll just be an incredible day out!

What can you not bring?

There’s nothing in particular that you cannot bring into an Icelandic national park.

Of course, you shouldn’t be carrying anything that’s prohibited under Icelandic law—including illicit drugs, unlicensed firearms, or other dangerous weapons. However, pretty much everything else goes.

How many national parks does Iceland have?

Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Þingvellir National Park, and Snæfellsjökull National Park.

There used to be two more: Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur. However, in 2008, these were incorporated into Vatnajökull to create the largest national park in Iceland.

In years to come, new national parks might be created in Iceland. For example, there are already plans to create a national park in the Icelandic highlands.

What does Vatnajökull mean?

Vatnajökull is the name of the largest ice cap in Iceland. Its name is the combination of two Icelandic words: vatna meaning “water” or “lake”, and jökull meaning “glacier”. Together, it means “water glacier” or “glacier of the lakes”.

What is the most frequently visited national park in Iceland?

The most frequently visited national park in Iceland is Þingvellir National Park. Set in the heart of the Golden Circle—Iceland’s most famous travel itinerary—Þingvellir benefits from being just a skip and a jump from Reykjavik. And, of course, it’s packed with incredible historical and natural sights too.

Of the two million visitors that venture to Iceland each year, most of them will explore Þingvellir on their trip.

What are tips to remember when you are in a national park?

The first tip to remember in a national park is to leave no trace. This is the number one rule when visiting any wilderness area, as it benefits both the environment and any future visitors.

But here are some other tips to bear in mind:

  • If you’re hiking, go with a friend—or tell someone where you are going. This way, if someone gets hurt, someone else can get help.

  • Take a map and know how to use it. Even if you’re sticking to popular trails, it’s always important to know where you are.

  • Stay away from wildlife. If you see any animals in the wild, let them be. They won’t want to be disturbed, and if they feel in danger, they may attack.

  • Follow the park rules. Before you visit any particular national park, read up on the local rules. There may be some places where campfires are permitted, for example, or there may be others that are closed off for safety reasons. It’s good to be informed.

Do you have to pay for national parks in Iceland?

Admission to all of the national parks in Iceland is free. There is no entrance fee or ticket to buy.

However, it’s likely that you will have to pay something for the experience. For example, parking fees apply in most car parks across the national parks. And if you’re on a tour or guided adventure, these will likely come at a cost. How much that will be depends on what you choose!

Visit Iceland’s national parks with Reykjavik Excursions

The national parks in Iceland are a must-see on any visit to the Land of Ice and Fire. And at Reykjavik Excursions, we can make your visit easy.

We run tours to all three national parks all year round. Whether you want to visit the glaciers of Vatnajökull or the sublime cliffs of Snæfellsjökull, we can take you there. And we organise thrilling activities too—from glacier rides to whale watching.

No matter when you come and where you’re heading on your trip, we can get you there in comfort, convenience and style. Check out our day tours and activities from Reykjavík to book.

REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS BLOG

Get inspired! Information and tips and must see places in Iceland, fun facts, customs and more.

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Once again, the enthralling spectacle of Iceland's Reykjanes volcano is back in the limelight! After 11 months of peaceful dormancy, the volcano is now alive and kicking, treating locals and tourists to another captivating visual performance. If you've been yearning for an adventure that's truly out of this world, this might just be your calling!

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Iceland’s National Parks: Your Guide

From the glacial expanse of Vatnajökull to the historic wonders of Þingvellir, Iceland’s national parks are varied and breathtakingly beautiful.

January 6, 2023

Iceland’s National Parks: Your Guide

From the glacial expanse of Vatnajökull to the historic wonders of Þingvellir, Iceland’s national parks are varied and breathtakingly beautiful.

January 6, 2023

On a trip to the Land of Ice and Fire, discover these awesome places for yourself. Whether you’re visiting Iceland for outdoor adventures or to delve into the world of Icelandic culture, exploring the country’s protected areas is a must. In this article, learn everything you need to know about the majestic national parks in Iceland. Find out the most famous parks and how to visit safely—and discover the answers to most common questions.

  • Explore our tours in Iceland to find out how to visit Iceland’s national parks yourself

What to know about national parks in Iceland

Iceland has three national parks, stretching from the peaks of the highest mountains down to the rugged shoreline. In these parks, you’ll find the whole range of natural wonders that the country has to offer. While there used to be a greater number of parks (five in total), different areas have been absorbed and combined, creating Iceland’s three national parks today:

  • Vatnajökull National Park. Including the enormous Vatnajökull icecap, this is the largest of Iceland’s protected parks. In fact, it’s said to cover 13% of the whole surface of Iceland. Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárgljúfur are two former national parks that were incorporated into Vatnajökull.

  • Þingvellir National Park. The oldest protected area in Iceland, Þingvellir is the country’s cultural and historical heart.

  • Snæfellsjökull National Park. On the west coast of Iceland, Snæfellsjökull is one of Iceland’s most famous outdoor destinations. On a good day the peaks of its mountains can be seen from Reykjavik.

Together, these three parks make up the majority of the 25% of Iceland’s surface that comes under some form of environmental protection. And among them are two of Iceland’s UNESCO World Heritage sites—Þingvellir and Vatnajökull—designated for their cultural and natural importance.

The cool thing is that Iceland’s national parks are only expected to grow further, as governments commit to greater environmental protections. For example, plans for a national park in Iceland’s highlands are underway, to protect an area that’s one of Europe’s last great wildernesses.

Ready to learn more about Iceland’s national parks? Read on.

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is the oldest protected area in Iceland. Established in 1930, it covers a vast area of cultural and natural importance, which has since been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The national park holds a special place in the history of Iceland as it was the site of the nation’s very first parliament, the Alþing. This was set up in the year 930, when the different groups that had settled in Iceland decided they needed a place where collective decisions could be made. That place would be Þingvellir.

Today you’ll find Þingvellir on the Golden Circle, one of the most famous travel itineraries in Iceland. Just a short distance from Reykjavik, you can explore the park in a day, alongside other jaw-dropping sights such as Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area.

The park boasts more than its role as the political heart of the country for over a thousand years. Here you’ll also find natural wonders including the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, one of the few places in the world where you can walk between two tectonic plates. Strolling in the rift, you won’t be in either Europe or America, but in the space in between.

If you’re brave enough, why not go snorkelling in the Silfra rift, a tectonic trench in Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. It’ll reward you with some of the clearest waters on the planet. Alternatively, explore some of Þingvellir’s hiking trails, for example up to Öxarárfoss, the stunning waterfall.


Skaftafell National Park?


NationalPark 3

Many visitors to Iceland ask about visiting Skaftafell National Park. However, the truth is that it no longer exists. In 2008, Skaftafell was incorporated into the larger Vatnajökull National Park.

While its name has changed, all of Skaftafell’s unique beauties remain. With miles of hiking trails that link black-sand plains to majestic waterfalls and glacial lagoons, Skaftafell is an incredible destination, where you can see many of the different geological forms Iceland has to offer.

Need convincing that Skaftafell is a truly special place? Take a look at Svartifoss, perhaps one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world. Its strange form inspired the shapes of Hallgrímskirkja, one of Iceland’s most iconic buildings.


Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park holds a special place in the hearts of Icelanders as well as in the geography of the country. It’s here that you’ll find some of the nation’s extremes—the highest peak, the largest glacier, the deepest lake.

Set in the heart of the south coast of Iceland, Vatnajökull takes its name from the glacier that covers most of its area. This glacier is Iceland’s largest—covering 8% of the whole country—and the second-largest glacier in Europe. It’s truly vast, and it’s something you really should see when you come to the Land of Ice and Fire.

In fact, at its thickest point, the Vatnajökull glacier is 950 metres deep, nearly half the height of Iceland’s highest mountain peak, Hvannadalshnúkur, which can be found in this national park.

However, the ice cap is slowly retreating, due to rising global temperatures. While there’s no doubt this is an ecological tragedy, in its wake the ice is leaving behind incredible landforms, such as the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. You’ll find a glacier tour on this deepest lake in Iceland to be one of the most enchanting sights in all of the country.

Visit this changing landscape while you still can. On a snowmobile tour of Vatnajökull, you can power across the white expanse and marvel at the endless ice. Or take things slow on an easy glacier walk. You’ll explore the many beauties of this rugged place, while learning the ins and outs of ice hiking.

Whichever way you prefer to visit, you’ll find a marvellous region showcasing Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes.


Explore Iceland’s glaciers


NationalPark 2

Ice covers over a tenth of Iceland’s surface. And no visit to this northern nation would be complete without an adventure across the ice.

You can explore these miraculous places in whichever way suits you. Jump aboard a snowmobile and zoom across the ice, or embark on a high-octane glacier experience in the back of a monster truck. Alternatively, stick to your own two feet and hike across the snowy landscape.

Yet the magic of exploring glaciers is that you’re not limited to what you see above the ice. There’s a whole world to delve into below, as ice caves open up beneath the glaciers. Led by an expert guide, you can venture into the blue tunnels created by the powerful movement of the ice.

It’s not only Vatnajökull that you can explore either. Langjökull, in the heart of the Golden Circle, is a great option if you’re based in Reykjavik. Or you might remember the mischievous Eyjafjallajökull, which caused international travel disruption in 2010 when the volcano beneath it erupted.


Snæfellsjökull National Park

Probably Iceland’s less-visited national park, Snæfellsjökull is a paradise of natural beauty. In fact, the Snæfellsnes peninsula is often known as Iceland in miniature, thanks to the sheer range of different landforms that are squeezed into this smallest of national parks.

The most famous of Snæfellsjökull’s sights is no doubt the volcano and glacier that gives the park its name. The writer Jules Verne—in his nineteenth-century novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth—imagined this volcano as the magical entrance to the centre of the world. Even if it isn’t that supernatural gateway, it’s pretty special nonetheless.

What’s more, Snæfellsjökull is the only Icelandic national park that stretches from the mountain to the sea. One of the most breathtaking experiences is to see the immense and complex cliffs at Arnarstapi. Among the hiking trails, you’ll find natural harbours and the relics of mediaeval fishing communities that once populated this part of the world.

There’s so much more to discover on a Snæfellsnes tour too. Discover black-sand beaches, volcanic craters, and magical caves. And there’s the iconic mountain of Kirkjufell, that rises from the surrounding land like the spire of a timeless church.


Book a family trip to Iceland


Hop 7

Iceland is an excellent holiday destination for you and your kids. With friendly locals, incredible outdoor adventures, and interactive museums that will take your breath away, there’s no better place to enjoy a family holiday.

No matter what age your children are at, enjoy family fun on a sightseeing tour. With Reykjavik’s hop-on hop-off bus, for example, it’s super easy to see impressive architecture and beautiful views across the city.

There’s plenty more outside of the city. The Golden Circle, with its range of amazing sights close to Reykjavik, is a perfect family day out. Or, for those that want to explore the south coast even further, you can head to Jökulsárlón for a mesmerising natural adventure.

Why not take the family for a wildlife tour too? With whale-watching trips, puffin-spotting experiences, and even horse riding, Iceland animals promise to fill everyone with joy.

And then there’s Christmas. With mischievous Christmas trolls, northern lights adventures, and unforgettable cultural displays, Icelandic Christmas traditions offer something for everyone.


What to know before visiting Iceland’s national parks

National parks in Iceland—and in any country for that matter—are protected areas that are loved by many. That means that if you’re out and about exploring these natural treasures, there are some things you need to know.

The first rule of Iceland’s national parks is that you leave no trace. To keep these spaces beautiful for those that come after you, it’s best to leave no sign that you’ve been there. That means taking all of your rubbish with you, not damaging any wildlife or anything else, and not bothering other visitors while you’re there.

The protection of nature also regulates fishing. In most national parks, you’re only permitted to fish if you have a licence. Generally, though, if you return the animals to the water, it’s acceptable.

Then, while camping on uncultivated land is legal in theory in Iceland, that’s not true in the national parks. All three parks prohibit wild camping, to better protect the natural area. However, there are plenty of campsites where you can easily pitch up.

Finally, let’s talk about driving. Of course, you’re more than welcome to drive on public roads that lead to all of Iceland’s national parks. But if you’re on unpaved roads, you’ll need to have an appropriate vehicle. What you can’t do is drive off-road, as this will negatively impact the natural environment.

FAQs about Iceland’s national parks

What else do you need to know about national parks in Iceland? Here we try to answer any further questions you may have.

Dos and don’ts while visiting national parks in Iceland?

The national parks are one of the most incredible things about Iceland. And to keep it that way, there are some rules that it is good to follow. While this is not an extensive list, these are some things to keep in mind:

  • Leave no trace. “Leave no trace” is the fundamental principle of national parks and wild areas the world over. Ideally, you should leave no mark that you have been there at all. That means take your rubbish home, don’t damage anything, and don’t light fires.

  • Keep your vehicle to car parks and main roads. Iceland’s national parks are not the place for offroading.

  • Stay safe. If you’re heading into the outdoors, some basic precautions are smart. Let someone know where you’re going, take a map, and pack the right equipment to keep you warm, dry, and safe. That means if you’re walking on snow, for example, you’ll need crampons and an ice pick.

  • Stick to the path. Think of it like this: in a national park, you’re nature’s guest. Paths can take you to the places where you want to be, but if you stray off them you’ll likely damage the wildlife and natural environment. And there’s the risk you’ll get lost too!

  • Only take souvenirs from the gift shop. National parks are full of beautiful things. But we want them to stay that way. Please don’t take stones, sand, or plants home with you.

What do I need to know before going to a national park in Iceland?

Iceland’s national parks are some of the most beautiful places in the world. But they’re vast and wild, and you’ll need to be prepared before visiting.

Obviously, the level of preparation will depend on what you’re intending to do. If you’re attempting multi-day hikes, ensure you have the right knowledge, fitness, and equipment to make sure you stay safe. And let someone know where you’re going before you leave.

If you’re just visiting for the day, all you need to know is where you’re heading. Of course, basic safety information applies: pack a map, have the right gear, and tell someone your plans. But if you’re careful and follow the signs, it’ll just be an incredible day out!

What can you not bring?

There’s nothing in particular that you cannot bring into an Icelandic national park.

Of course, you shouldn’t be carrying anything that’s prohibited under Icelandic law—including illicit drugs, unlicensed firearms, or other dangerous weapons. However, pretty much everything else goes.

How many national parks does Iceland have?

Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Þingvellir National Park, and Snæfellsjökull National Park.

There used to be two more: Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur. However, in 2008, these were incorporated into Vatnajökull to create the largest national park in Iceland.

In years to come, new national parks might be created in Iceland. For example, there are already plans to create a national park in the Icelandic highlands.

What does Vatnajökull mean?

Vatnajökull is the name of the largest ice cap in Iceland. Its name is the combination of two Icelandic words: vatna meaning “water” or “lake”, and jökull meaning “glacier”. Together, it means “water glacier” or “glacier of the lakes”.

What is the most frequently visited national park in Iceland?

The most frequently visited national park in Iceland is Þingvellir National Park. Set in the heart of the Golden Circle—Iceland’s most famous travel itinerary—Þingvellir benefits from being just a skip and a jump from Reykjavik. And, of course, it’s packed with incredible historical and natural sights too.

Of the two million visitors that venture to Iceland each year, most of them will explore Þingvellir on their trip.

What are tips to remember when you are in a national park?

The first tip to remember in a national park is to leave no trace. This is the number one rule when visiting any wilderness area, as it benefits both the environment and any future visitors.

But here are some other tips to bear in mind:

  • If you’re hiking, go with a friend—or tell someone where you are going. This way, if someone gets hurt, someone else can get help.

  • Take a map and know how to use it. Even if you’re sticking to popular trails, it’s always important to know where you are.

  • Stay away from wildlife. If you see any animals in the wild, let them be. They won’t want to be disturbed, and if they feel in danger, they may attack.

  • Follow the park rules. Before you visit any particular national park, read up on the local rules. There may be some places where campfires are permitted, for example, or there may be others that are closed off for safety reasons. It’s good to be informed.

Do you have to pay for national parks in Iceland?

Admission to all of the national parks in Iceland is free. There is no entrance fee or ticket to buy.

However, it’s likely that you will have to pay something for the experience. For example, parking fees apply in most car parks across the national parks. And if you’re on a tour or guided adventure, these will likely come at a cost. How much that will be depends on what you choose!

Visit Iceland’s national parks with Reykjavik Excursions

The national parks in Iceland are a must-see on any visit to the Land of Ice and Fire. And at Reykjavik Excursions, we can make your visit easy.

We run tours to all three national parks all year round. Whether you want to visit the glaciers of Vatnajökull or the sublime cliffs of Snæfellsjökull, we can take you there. And we organise thrilling activities too—from glacier rides to whale watching.

No matter when you come and where you’re heading on your trip, we can get you there in comfort, convenience and style. Check out our day tours and activities from Reykjavík to book.

REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS BLOG

Get inspired! Information and tips and must see places in Iceland, fun facts, customs and more.