Meet us at our booking center in Skaftafell, located in Vatnajokull National Park in South Iceland. Glacier Guides offer adventure activities all year round, suitable for everybody. Our glacier hiking tours take part on various outlet tongues from Europe's largest glacier - Vatnajokull Glacier. These include two of our favorite, Falljökull and Svínafellsjökull. Go glacier hiking and/or ice climbing, or take an ice caving adventure during winter.
Skaftafell was once the second-largest national park in Iceland. In 2008, it became a part of the even greater Vatnajokull National Park.
The area was first developed as a major farming area after the settlers came to Iceland. However, the 1362 Oraefajokull eruption erased the entire farming community. Then, due to the unfavorable climate in the following centuries, the Skaftafell farming tradition had to discontinue in 1988.
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is home to a vast range of landscapes. The nature lovers also refer to this area as “the oasis” in South Iceland. Compared to the climate on the rim of the south coast, Skaftafell has a relatively pleasant climate. It made the thriving of many types of plants possible. On the lower slopes, the birch trees and rowans are the most common. Several types of the flowering plants, including harebell, yellow saxifrage, and many others, can be found here. Ever since the grazing activities stopped, the vegetation has been growing quickly with some faunae that are otherwise rare-finds on the grazing land. The willow trees are also starting to take over some pieces of the land here.
In the lower areas where the birch and rowan trees grow higher, there are about 30 different species of birdlife that choose to nestle here. In summer, the birds sing a cheerful chorus making the forest a joyful place to visit.
The Skaftafell area was protected since 1967. When the Vatnajokull National Park was founded in 2008, it covered the Skaftafell area in the south and the Jokulsargljufur area in the north. Together with the later joined members, it became one of the largest national parks in Europe covering an area of 14,141 sq-km.
The landscapes at Skaftafell were formed over thousands of years by the enormous forces that were generated from the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. These forces are constant. And the enduring effect is later reinforced by the powerful rivers, the glacier movements, and the harsh weather. So on and so forth, the Icelandic nature continues to shape the unique geological features in the area.
At Skaftafell, the visitors can see the highest peak in Iceland, the ragged glaciers, the blue ice caves and the beautiful waterfalls.
Oraefajokull is the largest active volcano and the highest peak in Iceland. The ice-covered volcano is located in South Iceland. The north-western rim of the summit crater is named Hvannadalshnukur. It rises up to 2,109 meters (6,952 ft) above sea level. The caldera encompasses an area of 14 sq-km that measures five kilometers by four kilometers across.
It’s also the oldest active volcano in Iceland. The massive eruption in 1362 completely destroyed the previously established farming area and left the area uninhabitable for decades. Later in 1727, the volcano had a less dramatic eruption that resulted in a voluminous glacial flood. It killed three people by wiping away their farm. In 2017, some earthquake activities were detected and the volcano is constantly under surveillance.
This pyramid-shaped peak can be seen from many parts of Iceland. The incomparable ice-capped mountain view is the backdrop when the hikers begin their trek at Skaftafell. Hiking to the peak is a possible expedition when it’s guided by a professional mountain guide. There are many crevasses and some steep, icy slopes on the way to the top. It’s a challenging hike but the effort will be rewarded by the awe-inspiring panorama from the highest point in Iceland.
Skaftafell is also renowned for the presence of several impressive Vatnajokull outlet glaciers. Skaftafellsjokull, Falljokull, and Svinafellsjokull are the most well-known glacier tongues for their stunning shapes and astounding forms.
The trenches on the jagged glaciers are interweaving a monstrous icy fabric. The astonishing icescapes at Skaftafell resemble the features on a remote planet.
Falljokull and Svinafellsjokull are the two outlet glaciers that are easier to access. Therefore, all the glacier hiking and ice climbing tours are operated on these two glacier tongues. The unique icescapes at Svinafellsjokull also attracted hollywood movie crews such as “Game Of Thrones” and “Interstellar.”
The visitors are mesmerized by the breathtaking blue ice caves that are inside the magnificent glaciers. The ice caves are also referred to as the “crystal ice caves.” The blue ice caves at Skaftafell are actually glacier caves. They were formed by the glacial river running through the glacier in the summer.
That’s why this type of ice cave can only be found in the wintertime when the glacial rivers have retracted and the water has frozen. Inside the ice caves, the ice wall and ceiling usually glisten with the fascinating blue colors through the ice’s metallic texture. The view is a rare combination of the transparency, coloration, and texture.
Each year, the glacier ice caves can form at different locations, and be of different sizes. The colors may vary due to the weather and the timing. Because of the strong correlation between the weather and the ice cave formation, the visitors should never enter an ice cave by themselves regardless of prior experience in outdoor activities. Going with a professional glacier guide who can make a judgment based on the safety and the weather conditions is needed.
There are numerous trails that lead to a variety of miraculous sights and scenes. Besides the glacier hiking from Skaftafell, the outdoor and nature lovers also have the option to hike to Svartifoss Black Waterfall. It’s one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland.
Starting from the Skaftafell Visitor Center, the easy 5.5-km (3.4 mi) circular hike will take the visitors through a land of woods and pass by the signature Icelandic turf house before reaching the waterfall. The Svartifoss waterfall drops from 25 meters (80 feet) high over the giant cliff that is made of the black basalt columns.
This hiking trail covers some of the most spectacular attractions in Iceland.
The best way to approach and experience the diverse landscapes in the Skaftafell area is through the glacier hiking. And many activity tours have the option to meet on location at Skaftafell. But, before you go on an exciting glacier hike, make sure you are suitably dressed for the expedition.
There is a shorter and easier glacier walk on the Falljokull glacier tongue. It takes about 3.5 hours including some resting and photo time. This is also referred to as the “Glacier Wonders” walk.
A longer and more difficult hike, as we call it the “Glacier Explorer,” takes about 5.5 hours. The experienced glacier guide will take you from the booking center to the foot of the Falljokull glacier tongue after a 15-minute scenic bus ride.
Another glacier adventure, nicknamed the “Glacier Grand Slam,” is an eight-hour tour combining a 3.5-hour glacier hike on the extraordinary Svinafellsjokull with a 90-minute boat ride (45 minutes in the boat) in the stunning Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon. This multifaceted tour will open all your senses so that you can see, feel and experience the glacier at its best.
There are some places in the glaciers that are not easy to get to but the scenes are completely mind-blowing. In cases like these, you will need to follow the professional guide and move out of your comfort zone. The Glacier Xtreme is a combination of glacier hiking and ice climbing. The participants can experience the thrilling activities in the extreme Iceland. You will gear up in front of the glacier and then follow the marked spots on the ice that your guide just made. It’s a small group experience that ensures a personal experience for every participant.
The blue ice cave is the mysterious existence created by nature. Many travelers have put the ice cave tour on their bucket lists when they are planning the itinerary in Iceland. So, let’s take a look at which tour is the best for you.
The Crystal Ice Cave tour departs from Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. If you travel with kids, this tour can be done with kids who are at least six year old. It’s a suitable choice for a family adventure. You’ll have enough time for photos and enjoying quality time together.
Into The Glacier tour requires the children are at least 10 years old, and can fit into the EUR size 35 to fit the professional hiking crampons. Before you enter the ice cave, you will take a very short glacier walk and see the rare blue wonder of nature. The ice cave tours are generally very easy to do, but the views you will have will be beyond imagination.
These are all meet-on-location tours and perfect for those who choose to self-drive in Iceland. The visitors can choose the best suitable time to meet up at Skaftafell. We recommend you to take the necessary outfits with you including hiking boots, waterproof jacket, and waterproof pants. But they are also provided by the tour operator, you can choose what you need upon signing up by paying a little extra.
Skaftafell is considered a hiker's’ paradise. The hiking trails vary in length and levels of difficulty. Like many other hiking paths in Iceland, the hiking trails at Skaftafell are well-marked and color-coded indicating the level of difficulty: blue is easy, red is moderate, and black is challenging.
If you prefer a paved path that starts from the Skaftafell Visitor Center towards the Skaftafell glacier, you can take the four-kilometer round-trip easy walk. It takes about one and a half hours. On the way, you can stop at a good viewpoint to see the outlet glacier and its origin on the Vatnajokull ice cap.
Another easy hike is to go up to Svartifoss, as we mentioned earlier. But, right before you reach Svartifoss, you will pass by a “Sjonarnipa” sighpost. This is the best option to enjoy the Sjonarnipa trail where you can see the glaciers and the surrounding mountain ranges. This is a 6.5-kilometer round-trip moderate hike that takes about two hours.
If you’re thinking about an adventure, Kristinartindar trail is highly recommended. This 16-kilometer hike takes about seven hours and is considered as a challenging trek. The starting point is at the Skaftafell Visitor Center. Then you will pass the campsite before you hike on the mountain trail. The peak view is brilliant with the mountain tops up close and the glaciers afar. It’s quite photogenic, and, of course, a pair of good hiking boots are strongly recommended.
Meeting at Skaftafell is the beginning of many fabulous adventures in the Vatnajokull National Park and its surrounding area.
Skaftafell Visitor Center serves as the main information center for the visitors and a meeting point for the tour operators and travelers. For the self-drive travelers and those who drive here for meet-on-location tours, the parking lot is charged based on the length of the stay and the vehicle category. Many day tours from Skaftafell also begin at the Visitor Center. You can rent a car and drive here primarily via the Ring Road.
There is a camping ground at Skaftafell that can host about 400 tents. Other traveler facilities include toilets and a laundry room with washing machines and dryers. Nearby, you can also find a large self-service restaurant adjacent to a souvenir shop and the Visitor Center. The detailed hiking maps can be found at the Visitor Center.
There are also numerous restaurants in the area if you want to relax and enjoy a nice meal.
Skaftafell is located in the Vatnajökull National Park in South Iceland.
The distance from Reykjavik to Skaftafell is approximately 320 kilometers. Simply take the Ring Road #1 until you reach Road # 998, which leads up to the Skaftafell Visitor Centre, and the Glacier Guides Booking Center is next to it.
From Skaftafell to Höfn is around 136 kilometers. From Skaftafell to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is about 57 kilometers.
(Glacier Guides Booking Center At A Glance)
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