Introducing Skaftafell (Vatnajökull National Park - South)
Skaftafell, the jewel in the crown of Vatnajökull National Park, encompasses a breathtaking collection of peaks and glaciers. It’s the country’s favourite wilderness: 300,000 visitors per year come to marvel at thundering waterfalls, twisted birch woods, the tangled web of rivers threading across the sandar, and brilliant blue-white Vatnajökull with its lurching tongues of ice, dripping down mountainsides like icing on a cake.
Skaftafell deserves its reputation, and few visitors – even those who usually shun the great outdoors – can resist it. In the height of summer it may feel that every traveller in the country is here. However, if you’re prepared to get out on the more-remote trails and take advantage of the fabulous hiking on the heath and beyond, you’ll leave the crowds behind. Another great option: visit in winter.
There has been a significant growth in winter travel to the region, with the strong draws of Northern Lights and ice caves (which become solid and safe for visiting in the coldest months). You can still do glacier walks in winter – and the glaciers look more pristine (taking on that blue hue so beloved of photographers). In the right conditions, Svartifoss freezes in January-February (on the flipside, in winter the falls are not always accessible, due to slippery, unsafe tracks).
All flora, fauna and natural features of the park are protected, open fires are prohibited and rubbish must be carried out. In the busy area around Skaftafellsheiði, stick to the tracks to avoiding damaging delicate plant life.
There’s very little accommodation close to the park, and hotels in the southeast are in incredible demand in summer – so you’ll need either a tent or a firm hotel booking if you're heading this way and want to explore properly.