Your Guide to Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Imagine miles of hiking trails crossing glacial lagoons, mountains, and black-sand plains—and a waterfall so striking a church was built inspired by its form. This is Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park, a jewel in a country already overflowing with beauty.

14. nóvember 2022

Your Guide to Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Imagine miles of hiking trails crossing glacial lagoons, mountains, and black-sand plains—and a waterfall so striking a church was built inspired by its form. This is Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park, a jewel in a country already overflowing with beauty.

14. nóvember 2022

Skaftafell is where you can see the breathtaking range of natural forms that Iceland has to offer—from the volcanic to the glacial—all in one place. For any visitor travelling the country’s already spectacular south coast, it’s a place not to miss.

In this guide, we share everything you need to know to enjoy a visit to Skaftafell National Park in Iceland. Read on to discover the most incredible sights and what you need to plan your trip.

Introducing Skaftafell National Park

Skaftafell is one of the most scenic areas in southern Iceland. It’s a place where you can see glaciers flow (very slowly) through mountain valleys—and where Iceland’s very special wildlife thrives. It’s also known for being an area where Iceland’s notoriously unpredictable weather is at its best.

In 1967, the area became Iceland’s second national park, and over the years it grew into its second largest too. However, there’s a twist. Skaftafell is no longer actually a national park of its own. Rather, in 2008, the whole area was incorporated into the Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in the whole of Europe.

Despite this, Skaftafell maintains its unique character, including some of Iceland’s most recognisable sights. Here you’ll find Skeiðarársandur, a black sand plain produced from deposits washed down by glaciers. You’ll see Hvannadalshnjúkur, too, Iceland’s highest peak at 2,110 metres (6,922.5 feet). And, of course, you’ll discover Svartifoss, perhaps Iceland’s most iconic waterfall, surrounded by eerie, unforgettable columns of basalt.

One of the most striking things about Skaftafell is that there are no roads. That means that if you want to explore everything the national park has to offer, you’ll need to do it on foot. If that sounds daunting, don’t let it put you off. The park is criss-crossed by incredible hiking trails and most of the main sights are only a short walk away.

What’s more, the hikes themselves are well worth the effort. Thanks to the shelter provided by Hvannadalshnjúkur, the area has a pleasant climate. Plants that are rarely seen elsewhere in Iceland thrive here. And there are plenty of animals too—including the elusive Arctic fox—if you can keep an eye out for them.

Whatever your interests, there’s plenty here to see and do.

Where is Skaftafell in Iceland?

Skaftafell is at the heart of the south coast of Iceland. It’s located midway between the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur and the fishing town of Höfn, at the foot of the Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland’s largest icecap.

Before it was incorporated into the larger Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell was 4807 km² (2884 square miles), stretching northwards to cover the valley of Morsárdalur as well as the Skaftafellsjökull glacier. However, you’ll find all of this now within the boundaries of Vatnajökull.

By the way, Skaftafell is about four hours by road from Reykjavik on Route 1, the famous ring road that encircles all of Iceland.

How to get to Skaftafell National Park?

Thanks to its proximity to Route 1, Skaftafell is really easy to reach, no matter where you are in Iceland. But while you can stay in nearby towns such as Höfn or Vík, most visitors come to the national park directly from Reykjavik.

There are two main ways to do this. Firstly, you can hire a car and drive yourself. It can be a fantastic adventure, allowing you to stop wherever you want along the way and move entirely at your own pace. However, it does mean that you’ll have the responsibility for driving and navigating. During the winter particularly, this can be a challenge if you’re not prepared.

Alternatively, many visitors reach Skaftafell on a tour of the south coast or an organised trip directly to the national park. This makes life a little easier, as all you need to do is sit back, enjoy the view, and wait until you get there.


The South Coast of Iceland


skaftafell 5

The south coast of Iceland is the most popular area for visitors in all of the country. That’s for a few simple reasons: it showcases the incredible variety that Iceland offers, it’s easily accessed from Reykjavik, and—in short—it’s breathtaking.

Stretching from the capital city in the west to Höfn in the east, Iceland’s south coast features mighty glaciers, rumbling volcanoes, picturesque waterfalls, black sand beaches, and so much more. Nearly the complete variety of the natural world is here for you to witness up close.

Among these sights is the Golden Circle, Iceland’s favourite travel itinerary. Typically completed in a single day, you’ll visit three iconic destinations. Firstly, there’s the thundering torrent of the mighty Gullfoss waterfall. Then, you’ll see the volcanic excitement of the Geysir Geothermal Area, where hot water bursts from the ground in high-pressure jets. Finally, visit Þingvellir National Park, the historical heart of all of Iceland.

Truly, though, you could spend weeks exploring Iceland’s south coast and be amazed by something new every day.


What can you do at Skaftafell?

There’s no question that Skaftafell is an incredible place. But what can you actually do when you get there?

Of course, there’s plenty to see and do. Here are some of the highlights.

Marvel at Svartifoss waterfall

Svartifoss is up there among the most iconic sights in Iceland. Now, it’s not the biggest waterfall you will ever see—not even just in Iceland. However, its sublime location, and its simply marvellous surroundings, make it an unforgettable place to visit.

The waterfall is remarkable for its basalt columns, an astonishing assemblage of stone that resembles something like the pipes of a church organ. These create the backdrop of the graceful stream that tumbles over the cliff face onto the rocks below.

You don’t have to be a geology enthusiast to appreciate its unique forms. In fact, the architects of Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s most famous church, have proved that. This sublime building in Iceland’s capital is inspired by the shape of Svartifoss.

To reach the waterfall, you’ll need to take the 90-minute circular footpath that takes you through some of Skaftafell’s stunning scenery. It’s worth every step.

Head into the wild on a hike

Skaftafell is known for its impressive range of hiking trails. However, unlike those you’ll find in the Icelandic Highlands, for instance, these trails tend to be shorter, circular, and suitable for most levels.

For example, from the Skaftafell visitor centre, you can head up to Skaftafellsjökull, the glacier that shares its name with the national park. It’s only a short distance—3.7 kilometres (2.3 miles)—but it takes you to the very foot of the glacier.

If you’re after something a little more demanding, there are many routes that can take as long as six to eight hours. For instance, you can take the Kristínartindar trail that takes you to the foot of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur. It’s about 18 kilometres (11.2 miles).

Join a tour of the wonders of the south coast

You don’t need to witness the wonders of Skaftafell in isolation. Rather, on a two-day tour of the south coast, you can explore the full range of this area’s awesome sights.

Alongside the ice caves and waterfalls of Skaftafell, the guided tour will take you to the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, and then on to Skaftafell. Here, if the weather holds, you can experience one of the true beauties of Iceland: the northern lights.

The next day, we’ll take you further along the south coast, to see Jökulsarlón and the renowned Diamond Beach.


Top waterfalls in Iceland


skogafoss 9

Among its many natural wonders, Iceland is known for its waterfalls. And for good reason. Coming in all shapes and sizes—from raging torrents to elegant streams—Iceland’s waterfalls are an incredible sight to behold.

Take Gullfoss, for example. Here, glacial waters charge through a tight canyon, creating brilliant mists as it descends. Or there’s Seljalandsfoss. You’re not limited to seeing this one from a distance. What makes Seljalandsfoss waterfall so special is that you can walk behind its falling stream. It’s an enchanting experience.

However, there are truly many more, each with their own character. Brúarfoss is known for its milky blue waters, for example, while Hengifoss boasts spectacular red cliffs. Gljúfrabúi—the canyon dweller—hides in the tight walls of a canyon, while Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.


Frequently asked questions about Skaftafell

Do you have a question about Skaftafell in Iceland? Let’s see if we can answer it here.

Is Skaftafell worth visiting?

Skaftafell is definitely worth visiting. In fact, it may be one of the truly unmissable destinations on your trip along the south coast.

That’s true no matter what you would like to do on your trip. At Skaftafell, you’ll find Iceland’s tallest mountain, its largest glacier, and some of its most impressive waterfalls. And you’ll experience a place of untouched nature.

In short, yes—it’s worth a visit, even if you’re short on time.

How long does it take to hike Skaftafell?

That depends on which hike you choose, as Skaftafell has trails of all lengths and levels of difficulty.

The hike up to Svartifoss, for example, takes about 90 minutes to two hours, there and back. It’s 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) on a slight ascent.

Alternatively, Skaftafell also has much longer hikes, up to as much as 20 kilometres (12.4 miles). These can take you as long as eight hours, depending on your level of fitness.

How long do you need at Skaftafell?

How much time you need at Skaftafell will depend on what you want to do in the area. If you want to take one of the longer hikes, you’ll need at least a day. But if you just want to visit Svartifoss, only a couple of hours will be needed.

In a word, there’s enough at Skaftafell to fill however much time you have!

Is Skaftafell free?

Skaftafell is not free to enter, but any entrance fees are included in the price of a tour with Reykjavik Excursions.

If you enter Skaftafell by car, you will need to pay a service fee, on a daily rate. For a normal family vehicle, that’s 750 Icelandic krona per day, but can be more for larger vehicles.

While it’s free to walk around the park, you will need to pay if you camp, stay in one of the huts in the area, or use any of the other services (such as the shower).

Is Skaftafell open?

As a national park, Skaftafell is open all year round, 24/7. However, the Skaftafell Visitor Centre is typically only open from 9:00 to 18:00.

How do you get to Skaftafell waterfall?

To reach the most famous Skaftafell waterfall, known as Svartifoss, there is a path that takes you from the carpark at the visitor centre. It’s very well signed and the path is very well maintained.

You can follow the signs until you reach the viewpoint above the waterfall. There is about 150 metres (490 feet) of ascent in 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles).

How long does it take to walk to Svartifoss?

Typically, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to hike to Svartifoss. Journeying there and back along the sign-posted circular route usually takes less than two hours, depending how many photos you take along the way!

How long do I need at Svartifoss waterfall?

Svartifoss waterfall can reward as much time as you have. It’s a splendid waterfall that deserves your time. Some people will spend over an hour here, but many will be satisfied with much less.

Where can I hike in Skaftafell?

There are many options for hiking destinations at Skaftafell. The route to Svartifoss is the most popular, but there are many other sights to see.

In a guided group you can hike up to the peak of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, which takes about 10 hours. The Hvannadalshnukur Summit (https://www.re.is/tour/climb-hvannadalshnukur-with-icelandic-mountain-guides/) tour is however only recommended for experienced hikers.

Alternatively, you can take the 30-kilometre (18.6-mile) round trip to the colourful hills of Kjós. This one is a long hike that requires a good level of fitness.

There are shorter hikes too. The 6.4-kilometre (4-mile) path to Sjónarnípa, for example, is challenging but incredibly rewarding, as it’s one of the best viewpoints in all of Skaftafell.

Other attractions near Skaftafell National Park

Finally, we’ll end this guide by sharing some of the other places you can visit close to Skaftafell. We did say that Iceland’s south coast is full of wonders—and these are some of our highlights.

Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Kirkjubæjarklaustur is typically treated only as a pitstop on the journey along the south coast. However, this fascinating village is a lot more than that.

The clue to its history is in its (admittedly quite complex) name. Kirkju means church, bæjar means farm, and klaustur means convent. Over the years, all three things have been located here.

What’s particularly interesting, perhaps, is that Kirkjubæjarklaustur appears to have been home to an Irish community before the Nordic people even arrived in the country!

Vatnajökull National Park

Technically, Skaftafell is itself in the Vatnajökull National Park. However, this is the largest national park in Europe, so there’s plenty more to see.

Most obvious is the Vatnajökull ice cap itself, Europe’s largest sheet of ice. It can be explored by snowmobile or on foot, or you can simply hike up to its impressive frozen edge.

While you’re here, take a look at the Snæfell wilderness area, one of the parts of Iceland that sees the most pleasant climate and has some of the country’s most endangered species. For example, here you’ll find the protected reindeer reserve, Kringilsárrani.

Jökulsarlón glacial lagoon and Diamond Beach

On the coast just south of Vatnajökull is the renowned Jökulsarlón glacial lagoon, a lake fed by the melting ice of the glaciers. It’s an incredible sight that has grown dramatically in recent years as global temperatures have risen. Today, it’s one of the largest lakes in Iceland.

You might recognise Jökulsarlón’s mesmerising scene from movies including Tomb Raider. Its surface is dotted with floating icebergs—and often sealife such as seals too.

A short distance away is the Diamond Beach. Known for its black sands, Diamond Beach takes its name from the strange phenomenon that can be witnessed there. Melting blocks of ice sit on the sands like massive jewels.

Höfn

To the east of Skaftafell you’ll find the delightful town of Höfn. On the end of a peninsula that stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean, Höfn is almost completely surrounded by sea, making it a tranquil and simply stunning place to stay.

Visit Skaftafell National Park with Reykjavik Excursions

Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park is one of the most exciting and diverse areas of the south coast—if not the whole country. With its spectacular waterfalls, simply amazing glaciers, and the highest mountains in the country, it’s the perfect place to get a real taste of the Icelandic outdoors.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we can make your experience easy. On one of our tours, operating throughout the year, you can experience the wonder of southern Iceland without the hassle. There’s an option for everyone. From day and multi-day trips to custom excursions, we can help you build the experience you want on your own terms.

Let us show you around. Explore our tours to visit Skaftafell National Park in Iceland or get in touch to find out more.

SOUTH SHORE BLOG

Your Ultimate Guide to the South Coast of Iceland

The south coast of Iceland is home to some of the country’s most magical and marvellous natural wonders. Here, we show you what you’ve been missing.

Your Guide to Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Imagine miles of hiking trails crossing glacial lagoons, mountains, and black-sand plains—and a waterfall so striking a church was built inspired by its form. This is Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park, a jewel in a country already overflowing with beauty.

14. nóvember 2022

Your Guide to Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Imagine miles of hiking trails crossing glacial lagoons, mountains, and black-sand plains—and a waterfall so striking a church was built inspired by its form. This is Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park, a jewel in a country already overflowing with beauty.

14. nóvember 2022

Skaftafell is where you can see the breathtaking range of natural forms that Iceland has to offer—from the volcanic to the glacial—all in one place. For any visitor travelling the country’s already spectacular south coast, it’s a place not to miss.

In this guide, we share everything you need to know to enjoy a visit to Skaftafell National Park in Iceland. Read on to discover the most incredible sights and what you need to plan your trip.

Introducing Skaftafell National Park

Skaftafell is one of the most scenic areas in southern Iceland. It’s a place where you can see glaciers flow (very slowly) through mountain valleys—and where Iceland’s very special wildlife thrives. It’s also known for being an area where Iceland’s notoriously unpredictable weather is at its best.

In 1967, the area became Iceland’s second national park, and over the years it grew into its second largest too. However, there’s a twist. Skaftafell is no longer actually a national park of its own. Rather, in 2008, the whole area was incorporated into the Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in the whole of Europe.

Despite this, Skaftafell maintains its unique character, including some of Iceland’s most recognisable sights. Here you’ll find Skeiðarársandur, a black sand plain produced from deposits washed down by glaciers. You’ll see Hvannadalshnjúkur, too, Iceland’s highest peak at 2,110 metres (6,922.5 feet). And, of course, you’ll discover Svartifoss, perhaps Iceland’s most iconic waterfall, surrounded by eerie, unforgettable columns of basalt.

One of the most striking things about Skaftafell is that there are no roads. That means that if you want to explore everything the national park has to offer, you’ll need to do it on foot. If that sounds daunting, don’t let it put you off. The park is criss-crossed by incredible hiking trails and most of the main sights are only a short walk away.

What’s more, the hikes themselves are well worth the effort. Thanks to the shelter provided by Hvannadalshnjúkur, the area has a pleasant climate. Plants that are rarely seen elsewhere in Iceland thrive here. And there are plenty of animals too—including the elusive Arctic fox—if you can keep an eye out for them.

Whatever your interests, there’s plenty here to see and do.

Where is Skaftafell in Iceland?

Skaftafell is at the heart of the south coast of Iceland. It’s located midway between the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur and the fishing town of Höfn, at the foot of the Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland’s largest icecap.

Before it was incorporated into the larger Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell was 4807 km² (2884 square miles), stretching northwards to cover the valley of Morsárdalur as well as the Skaftafellsjökull glacier. However, you’ll find all of this now within the boundaries of Vatnajökull.

By the way, Skaftafell is about four hours by road from Reykjavik on Route 1, the famous ring road that encircles all of Iceland.

How to get to Skaftafell National Park?

Thanks to its proximity to Route 1, Skaftafell is really easy to reach, no matter where you are in Iceland. But while you can stay in nearby towns such as Höfn or Vík, most visitors come to the national park directly from Reykjavik.

There are two main ways to do this. Firstly, you can hire a car and drive yourself. It can be a fantastic adventure, allowing you to stop wherever you want along the way and move entirely at your own pace. However, it does mean that you’ll have the responsibility for driving and navigating. During the winter particularly, this can be a challenge if you’re not prepared.

Alternatively, many visitors reach Skaftafell on a tour of the south coast or an organised trip directly to the national park. This makes life a little easier, as all you need to do is sit back, enjoy the view, and wait until you get there.


The South Coast of Iceland


skaftafell 5

The south coast of Iceland is the most popular area for visitors in all of the country. That’s for a few simple reasons: it showcases the incredible variety that Iceland offers, it’s easily accessed from Reykjavik, and—in short—it’s breathtaking.

Stretching from the capital city in the west to Höfn in the east, Iceland’s south coast features mighty glaciers, rumbling volcanoes, picturesque waterfalls, black sand beaches, and so much more. Nearly the complete variety of the natural world is here for you to witness up close.

Among these sights is the Golden Circle, Iceland’s favourite travel itinerary. Typically completed in a single day, you’ll visit three iconic destinations. Firstly, there’s the thundering torrent of the mighty Gullfoss waterfall. Then, you’ll see the volcanic excitement of the Geysir Geothermal Area, where hot water bursts from the ground in high-pressure jets. Finally, visit Þingvellir National Park, the historical heart of all of Iceland.

Truly, though, you could spend weeks exploring Iceland’s south coast and be amazed by something new every day.


What can you do at Skaftafell?

There’s no question that Skaftafell is an incredible place. But what can you actually do when you get there?

Of course, there’s plenty to see and do. Here are some of the highlights.

Marvel at Svartifoss waterfall

Svartifoss is up there among the most iconic sights in Iceland. Now, it’s not the biggest waterfall you will ever see—not even just in Iceland. However, its sublime location, and its simply marvellous surroundings, make it an unforgettable place to visit.

The waterfall is remarkable for its basalt columns, an astonishing assemblage of stone that resembles something like the pipes of a church organ. These create the backdrop of the graceful stream that tumbles over the cliff face onto the rocks below.

You don’t have to be a geology enthusiast to appreciate its unique forms. In fact, the architects of Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s most famous church, have proved that. This sublime building in Iceland’s capital is inspired by the shape of Svartifoss.

To reach the waterfall, you’ll need to take the 90-minute circular footpath that takes you through some of Skaftafell’s stunning scenery. It’s worth every step.

Head into the wild on a hike

Skaftafell is known for its impressive range of hiking trails. However, unlike those you’ll find in the Icelandic Highlands, for instance, these trails tend to be shorter, circular, and suitable for most levels.

For example, from the Skaftafell visitor centre, you can head up to Skaftafellsjökull, the glacier that shares its name with the national park. It’s only a short distance—3.7 kilometres (2.3 miles)—but it takes you to the very foot of the glacier.

If you’re after something a little more demanding, there are many routes that can take as long as six to eight hours. For instance, you can take the Kristínartindar trail that takes you to the foot of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur. It’s about 18 kilometres (11.2 miles).

Join a tour of the wonders of the south coast

You don’t need to witness the wonders of Skaftafell in isolation. Rather, on a two-day tour of the south coast, you can explore the full range of this area’s awesome sights.

Alongside the ice caves and waterfalls of Skaftafell, the guided tour will take you to the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, to the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, and then on to Skaftafell. Here, if the weather holds, you can experience one of the true beauties of Iceland: the northern lights.

The next day, we’ll take you further along the south coast, to see Jökulsarlón and the renowned Diamond Beach.


Top waterfalls in Iceland


skogafoss 9

Among its many natural wonders, Iceland is known for its waterfalls. And for good reason. Coming in all shapes and sizes—from raging torrents to elegant streams—Iceland’s waterfalls are an incredible sight to behold.

Take Gullfoss, for example. Here, glacial waters charge through a tight canyon, creating brilliant mists as it descends. Or there’s Seljalandsfoss. You’re not limited to seeing this one from a distance. What makes Seljalandsfoss waterfall so special is that you can walk behind its falling stream. It’s an enchanting experience.

However, there are truly many more, each with their own character. Brúarfoss is known for its milky blue waters, for example, while Hengifoss boasts spectacular red cliffs. Gljúfrabúi—the canyon dweller—hides in the tight walls of a canyon, while Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.


Frequently asked questions about Skaftafell

Do you have a question about Skaftafell in Iceland? Let’s see if we can answer it here.

Is Skaftafell worth visiting?

Skaftafell is definitely worth visiting. In fact, it may be one of the truly unmissable destinations on your trip along the south coast.

That’s true no matter what you would like to do on your trip. At Skaftafell, you’ll find Iceland’s tallest mountain, its largest glacier, and some of its most impressive waterfalls. And you’ll experience a place of untouched nature.

In short, yes—it’s worth a visit, even if you’re short on time.

How long does it take to hike Skaftafell?

That depends on which hike you choose, as Skaftafell has trails of all lengths and levels of difficulty.

The hike up to Svartifoss, for example, takes about 90 minutes to two hours, there and back. It’s 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) on a slight ascent.

Alternatively, Skaftafell also has much longer hikes, up to as much as 20 kilometres (12.4 miles). These can take you as long as eight hours, depending on your level of fitness.

How long do you need at Skaftafell?

How much time you need at Skaftafell will depend on what you want to do in the area. If you want to take one of the longer hikes, you’ll need at least a day. But if you just want to visit Svartifoss, only a couple of hours will be needed.

In a word, there’s enough at Skaftafell to fill however much time you have!

Is Skaftafell free?

Skaftafell is not free to enter, but any entrance fees are included in the price of a tour with Reykjavik Excursions.

If you enter Skaftafell by car, you will need to pay a service fee, on a daily rate. For a normal family vehicle, that’s 750 Icelandic krona per day, but can be more for larger vehicles.

While it’s free to walk around the park, you will need to pay if you camp, stay in one of the huts in the area, or use any of the other services (such as the shower).

Is Skaftafell open?

As a national park, Skaftafell is open all year round, 24/7. However, the Skaftafell Visitor Centre is typically only open from 9:00 to 18:00.

How do you get to Skaftafell waterfall?

To reach the most famous Skaftafell waterfall, known as Svartifoss, there is a path that takes you from the carpark at the visitor centre. It’s very well signed and the path is very well maintained.

You can follow the signs until you reach the viewpoint above the waterfall. There is about 150 metres (490 feet) of ascent in 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles).

How long does it take to walk to Svartifoss?

Typically, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to hike to Svartifoss. Journeying there and back along the sign-posted circular route usually takes less than two hours, depending how many photos you take along the way!

How long do I need at Svartifoss waterfall?

Svartifoss waterfall can reward as much time as you have. It’s a splendid waterfall that deserves your time. Some people will spend over an hour here, but many will be satisfied with much less.

Where can I hike in Skaftafell?

There are many options for hiking destinations at Skaftafell. The route to Svartifoss is the most popular, but there are many other sights to see.

In a guided group you can hike up to the peak of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, which takes about 10 hours. The Hvannadalshnukur Summit (https://www.re.is/tour/climb-hvannadalshnukur-with-icelandic-mountain-guides/) tour is however only recommended for experienced hikers.

Alternatively, you can take the 30-kilometre (18.6-mile) round trip to the colourful hills of Kjós. This one is a long hike that requires a good level of fitness.

There are shorter hikes too. The 6.4-kilometre (4-mile) path to Sjónarnípa, for example, is challenging but incredibly rewarding, as it’s one of the best viewpoints in all of Skaftafell.

Other attractions near Skaftafell National Park

Finally, we’ll end this guide by sharing some of the other places you can visit close to Skaftafell. We did say that Iceland’s south coast is full of wonders—and these are some of our highlights.

Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Kirkjubæjarklaustur is typically treated only as a pitstop on the journey along the south coast. However, this fascinating village is a lot more than that.

The clue to its history is in its (admittedly quite complex) name. Kirkju means church, bæjar means farm, and klaustur means convent. Over the years, all three things have been located here.

What’s particularly interesting, perhaps, is that Kirkjubæjarklaustur appears to have been home to an Irish community before the Nordic people even arrived in the country!

Vatnajökull National Park

Technically, Skaftafell is itself in the Vatnajökull National Park. However, this is the largest national park in Europe, so there’s plenty more to see.

Most obvious is the Vatnajökull ice cap itself, Europe’s largest sheet of ice. It can be explored by snowmobile or on foot, or you can simply hike up to its impressive frozen edge.

While you’re here, take a look at the Snæfell wilderness area, one of the parts of Iceland that sees the most pleasant climate and has some of the country’s most endangered species. For example, here you’ll find the protected reindeer reserve, Kringilsárrani.

Jökulsarlón glacial lagoon and Diamond Beach

On the coast just south of Vatnajökull is the renowned Jökulsarlón glacial lagoon, a lake fed by the melting ice of the glaciers. It’s an incredible sight that has grown dramatically in recent years as global temperatures have risen. Today, it’s one of the largest lakes in Iceland.

You might recognise Jökulsarlón’s mesmerising scene from movies including Tomb Raider. Its surface is dotted with floating icebergs—and often sealife such as seals too.

A short distance away is the Diamond Beach. Known for its black sands, Diamond Beach takes its name from the strange phenomenon that can be witnessed there. Melting blocks of ice sit on the sands like massive jewels.

Höfn

To the east of Skaftafell you’ll find the delightful town of Höfn. On the end of a peninsula that stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean, Höfn is almost completely surrounded by sea, making it a tranquil and simply stunning place to stay.

Visit Skaftafell National Park with Reykjavik Excursions

Iceland’s Skaftafell National Park is one of the most exciting and diverse areas of the south coast—if not the whole country. With its spectacular waterfalls, simply amazing glaciers, and the highest mountains in the country, it’s the perfect place to get a real taste of the Icelandic outdoors.

At Reykjavik Excursions, we can make your experience easy. On one of our tours, operating throughout the year, you can experience the wonder of southern Iceland without the hassle. There’s an option for everyone. From day and multi-day trips to custom excursions, we can help you build the experience you want on your own terms.

Let us show you around. Explore our tours to visit Skaftafell National Park in Iceland or get in touch to find out more.

SOUTH SHORE BLOG

Your Ultimate Guide to the South Coast of Iceland

The south coast of Iceland is home to some of the country’s most magical and marvellous natural wonders. Here, we show you what you’ve been missing.