Skaftafell, located in the southeast of Iceland between Kirkjubaejarklaustur (often referred to as Klaustur) and Höfn, used to be its own national park until it was incorporated into Vatnajökull National Park when it was formed in 2008.
During the Middle Ages, the entire land served as a manor farm and as a local assembly point. After a period in which The place was in the possession of the church, it fell into the hands of the Danish monarchy.
Over time, a change in the position of the Skeiðará River forced a change in the location of the farmhouse.
Located about 100m from the old farmhouse, three new farmhouses were constructed at a higher elevation, farther from the river. Today, the ruins of the old farmhouse can still be seen along with the three new farmhouses.
By the middle of the twentieth century, the land at Skaftafell had become unfarmable a change in the use of the land was needed.
The Forestry Service thought the land would be ideal for forestation, however, the landowners rejected the purchase of their land for this purpose as they, “wanted to preserve their land and not change it into a foreign forest.”
In 1960, it was suggested that the land be turned into a National Park. Given the fantastic scenery of some of Iceland’s highest peaks coupled with the expansive sand flats and varied vegetation
relative to the rest of Iceland, it seemed an ideal location for a National Park and in 1961 the Nature Conservation Council recommended the establishment of a National Park at place.
The government officially established Skaftafell National Park on August 23, 1968. It remained a National Park until its incorporation in Vatnajökull National Park in 2008.
Landscape The landscape at Skaftafell is particularly spectacular. It boasts incredible views of some of the highest peaks in Iceland, including Hvannadalshnjukur, the highest peak in Iceland, as well as expansive sand flats, and diverse plant and animal life relative to other parts of the country.
Skaftafell lies in the shadow, of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. Hikes around Vatnajökull as well as helicopter rides providing stunning aerial views are two of the many activities in Skaftafell. In fact, Skaftafell is a hikers paradise.
The park is littered with trials that will take you to many of the mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers in the area. There are short and easy trails to waterfall Svartifoss and glacier Skaftafellsjökull. However, for those that want a longer, more challenging hike, the Morsárdalur valley and Kristínartindar mountain peaks are also options.
Additionally, the National Park provides the perfect base camp for those who want to climb Mt. Hvannadalshnjukur. If you want to fully appreciate all Skaftafell has to offer, it is recommended that you look to spend a couple of days there. Visitors can stay either at the large campsite located in the place, or at one of the accommodations in the area.
How to Get There
By car: Road 1 goes from Reykjavík to Skaftafell (326 km). Road 998 (2 km) leads up to the visitor center in Skaftafell. Road 1 continues to the east from Skaftafell. The distance to Höfn is 136 km and the distance to the Glacial Lagoon is 56 km.