Located in Öraefi in southeast Iceland, Skaftafell is a beautiful preservation area, abundant in hiking trails, wildlife, and jaw-dropping scenery. Hikers have the opportunity to breathe the fresh air while hiking past mountains, glaciers, and beautiful rivers. Rocks discovered in Skaftafell have been found to be over five million years old.

Guided hikes are available to assist hikers through the terrain. Incredible sightseeing flights over the preservation offer a magnificent view from above.

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Skaftafell is Iceland’s second largest national park, established in 1967. It started as a small area of no more than 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) and continued to grow as Iceland combined it with Vatnajökull National Park on June 7, 2008. It now measures 4,897 square kilometers (1,890 square miles).


Svartifoss : Svartifoss translates to “Black Falls” and is a large waterfall easily found along Skaftafell’s hiking trails. A round-trip hike from the Visitor Center and back is about 5.5 km ( 3.4 miles) and should take about two hours. One of the most popular sights in the park, the waterfall is surrounded by dark lava columns. It measures 12 meters (39 feet) high. The water falls on sharp rocks and hikers may even see parts of the lava columns break as the water flows passed them.

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Skaftafellsjökull is a glacier on the outlet of the largest continental glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull. It is particularly popular for the winter hikers because it turns a beautiful color of blue during those cold months. A relatively easy hike, the round-trip between Skaftafellsjökull and the Visitor center is 3.7 km (2.3 miles) and should take about an hour and a half.


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Kristínartindar is one of Skaftafell’s most popular attractions because it can be climbed for a perfect view of the preservation area. It’s trail also includes a view of the waterfall, Svartifoss. The journey to Kristínartindar and back to the Visitor Center is a more difficult trip that usually lasts 6-8 hours and is 17.9 km (11.1 miles) round-trip. This trip is recommended to experienced hikers in good health. Also note that the trail is usually closed during the early springtime due to thawing conditions.


Standing at 2,110 meters (6,922.5 feet), Hvannadalshnjúkur is the highest peak in Iceland and can be hiked by those who are experienced hikers in good health. Those hoping to climb this massive landscape must take advantage of the various experienced mountain guides available. Plan for this hike to take an entire day.


During the summer months, Skaftafell has a mild climate perfect for flowering plants. The most distinctive plants found are the harebell, yellow saxifrage, and pyramidal saxifrage. Large birch trees also grow and flourish.

Hiking in the summer is favorable, with many trails in a variety of difficulties and lengths available. Hikers can take short trails leading to the majestic waterfall, Svartifoss, or the glacier, Skaftafellsjökull. More experienced hikers can take on longer trails that lead to Morsárdalur Valley or Kristínartindar mountain. Those looking for an adventure can even climb Hvannadalshnjúkur, Iceland’s highest mountain peak.

It is recommended to plan to spend two or more days in the preservation to fully experience all of its beauty. Hikers can even choose to camp at the preservation’s campground from May to September.

Also during the summer, the preservation opens a cafeteria for travelers to enjoy meals during their days exploring the area.

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Skaftafell is less populated by fellow hikers during the winter months and offers less flowering plants and blooming trees. There are fewer daylight hours in the winter, so short hikes are recommended. It is also recommended to choose the Skaftafellsjökull trail instead of the Svartifoss trail, as its trail conditions are better and it offers a distinctive, blue, wintery sight of the large glacier.

skaftafell national park iceland

@Jóhann H Ragnarsson

Have you come to Skaftafell National Park? Is it on your bucket list? Please let us know in the comments.