Vatnajokull National Park encompasses an enormous area. It covers 12.000 square kilometers (4.600 sq mi), almost 14% of Iceland.  In fact, you would need weeks to explore the park’s entire area!

The park officially formed in 2008 by joining together Jokulsargljufur and Skaftafell National Parks. In fact, it is the largest national park in Western Europe.

The uniqueness of Vatnajökull National Park lies in its incredibly varied landscapes. Rivers, glaciers, and volcanoes and geothermal activity have created a surreal place.

Vatnajokull glacier dominates the area.  Actually, you can enjoy lovely views of Vatnajokull and its many outlets from the Ring Road. These outlets stretch down from the glacier towards the ocean.

What to see in Vatnajokull National Park?

Towards the north, glacial rivers divide the vast highlands. The volcanoes Askja, Kverkfjoll and Snaefell tower over this region.  Additionally, Herdubreid table mountain is particularly striking. Icelanders call it “the Queen of the Mountains.”

Long ago, huge glacial floods carved out Jokulsargljufur canyon in the park’s northern area. The mighty Dettifoss waterfall thunders into this canyon. The park’s scenic Hljodaklettar  formations and Asbyrgi canyon lie farther north.

Broad wetlands and expansive mountain ranges distinguish park’s eastern area around Snaefell mountain. These areas are an important habitat for reindeer and pink-footed geese.

Many high, majestic mountain ridges with outlet glaciers characterize the park’s southern area.  Vatnajokull glacier covers the Oraefajokull volcano and Hvannadalshnjukur (Iceland’s highest peak). Sheltered by the high ice, the forested Skaftafell area overlooks black sands deposited by the Skeidara river .

Vatnajokull National Park offers you an up-close opportunity to experience how glaciers and volcanoes interact. You can enjoy a variety of hiking trails within the park. If you want more action, you might try guided activities like ice climbing, quad biking and snowmobiling.

Where are the Ice Caves in Vatnajokull?

Ice caves form every winter, and their location differs from season to season.  We do not recommend that you go hunting for ice caves without a local expert guide. We are happy to book you on a guided ice cave tour!

How old is the ice in Vatnajokull glacier?

Scientists estimate that the oldest ice in Vatnajokull is about 1.000 years old.

How thick is the ice in Vatnajokull glacier?

It is approximately 400-700 meters (1.312 –  2.297 ft) thick. It covers about 3.200 square kilometers (1.988 miles). Moreover, if the ice were to spread evenly over the whole country, it would result in 30 meters (98 ft) of thick ice everywhere in Iceland. Imagine that!

Why is the ice in Vatnajokull glacier often blue?

The blue color of thick ice is caused by ice reflecting the blue in the color spectrum while absorbing the yellow and red colors. Actually, this is true for all ice. However, in Iceland you will often see dark lines in the ice, which are caused by ash from erupting volcanoes.  Geologists use these lines to date the ice, and archaeologists use the ash to date their findings and discoveries.