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.
About Skaftafell Nature Reserve
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.
Where is Skaftafell located?
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.
How to Get to Skaftafell?
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
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.
Skaftafell Visitor Centre Address
Vatnajokull National Park
Skaftafell Opening Hours
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 National Park Parking Fee
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.
Skaftafell Iceland Weather
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!
Things to Do in Skaftafell
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!
Go on a Skaftafell Glacier Hike
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.
Explore Skaftafell Ice Caves
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.
Camping and Hotels near Skaftafell
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!
Hotels & Guesthouses
- Adventure Hotel Geirland is a comfortable hotel just outside of Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Rooms are located in country-style cottages. The hotel offers an onsite restaurant/bar overlooking breathtaking mountain landscapes.
- Adventure Hotel Hof offers family-friendly and cheap accommodation in Skaftafell. Only 15 minutes away from the Visitor Centre, the hotel includes bright bedrooms, a buffet breakfast, and a restaurant.
- Hotel Skaftafell is a popular 3-star hotel conveniently located only 7 minutes away from Skaftafell Visitor Centre. The hotel features modern rooms with beautiful views overlooking Vatnajokull Glacier. Hotel Skaftafell Restaurant is a cozy onsite restaurant with a bar and breakfast options.
- The Potato Storage Guesthouse is a stylish guesthouse with private bathrooms, mountain views, and well-decorated rooms. It is situated between Skaftafell (8 km) and the small town of Hof (15 km).
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is a 4-star nature hotel 28 km from Skaftafell. It features deluxe rooms with panoramic ocean and mountain views.
- Skaftafell Camping is a campground situated on the edge of Skaftafell Nature Reserve. It has space for over 400 tents and a section for camping trailers. The front desk is located inside the Skaftafell Visitor Centre.
- Svinafell is a small campsite located minutes away from Skaftafell. It offers 8 camping areas suitable for families and a larger area for big groups of visitors. Onsite services include cooking facilities, showers, toilets, and a washing machine and dryer.
Half Day Glacier Hike from Skaftafell
On this half-day glacier hiking tour you get the chance to explore all that Icelandic glaciers have to offer in just 5 hours. Experience the cascading ice fall of Falljökul Glacier crashing down from the mighty Vatnajökull ice cap.
Glacier Grand Slam
Combo Day Tour from Skaftafell - Glacier Hike & Boat Ride
This wonderful combination tour is ideal for anyone who wants to understand glaciers, to experience them up close and personal, and to admire the incredible landscapes that they have helped to shape.
May - Oct