- Best time to visit
- All year-round
- 64.01630, -16.96755
- Distance from Reykjavík
Take your Iceland self-drive adventure to the next level with this combo tour on a beautiful outlet glacier and a boat ride along a stunning lagoon. Experience the beauty of Iceland’s mighty glaciers on foot and in water. Expect an easy tour with a 3.5-hour guided glacier walk and a 1.5-hour scenic boat ride on the Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Embark on an epic journey to discover the wonders of Iceland's natural scenery. Explore iconic waterfalls, stroll along stunning black sand beaches, and experience the majestic Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Iceland's crowning natural attraction. This adventure includes an exhilarating boat tour, navigating through towering icebergs, offering a unique and unforgettable perspective of Iceland's frozen beauty.
Ascending the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur (2110 m / 6900 ft) is a bucket-list worth climb to check off your list! The mountain is located on the northwestern rim of the Öræfajökull volcano and promises an unforgettable hike with breathtaking panoramic views. This is not a beginners’ hike; be prepared for a challenging climb befitting those with ample climbing experience and in fantastic physical shape. No special technical skills are required, but we recommend packing the items on our equipment list (see below). The climb will be mentally and physically gruelling, but it is worth it.
Looking for a challenge with a fantastic reward? On this active day tour, you will experience a natural ice cave, one of the most iconic and picturesque features of the glacial landscape. As is often the case, the most beautiful places can be difficult to access, but it is absolutely worth it if you are physically up for it. Expect a challenging tour with about 4.5 hours spent on the ice.
Explore a stunning outlet glacier in Skaftafell during this easy glacier walk. Marvel at this icy giant, a breathtaking outlet glacier that extends from the vast Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest in Europe. Get ready for an adventure against a backdrop of glacial ice!
Exploring the Protected Parkland of Skaftafell
History of Skaftafell
The name Skaftafell comes from a major farm that once existed in the area. It used to be a small settlement, but the catastrophic eruption of Öræfajökull in 1362 wiped out the entire community and the devastated area became known as Öræfi (the wasteland) ever since.
Skaftafell’s landscape has been formed by thousands of years of volcanic activity and shifting glaciers, creating scenery that looks like it belongs in a fantasy realm. It was this beguiling scenery that led the Icelandic government to grant Skaftafell national park status in 1967, protecting nearly 5000 square kilometres of land. In 2008, the Skaftafell national park was incorporated with the larger Vatnajökull national park, making it the largest protected area in Iceland.
Skaftafell weather tends to be slightly calmer and sunnier than the rest of the south coast of Iceland, so it’s an excellent place for hikers, especially in the long days of summer.
Skaftafell hiking trails
The hiking trails of Skaftafell are the main thing that draws visitors to Skaftafell. The protected parkland boasts miles and miles of well-marked routes. Each route is marked with a different colour and is easy to follow.
The most popular walking trail in Skaftafell is the walk from the visitor’s centre to Svartifoss waterfall, following the course of the river. From the main car park, it’s a 1.5-kilometre (about forty-five minute) walk to Svartifoss, and along the trail, you can also spot Magnúsarfoss and Hundafoss waterfalls.
Rather than walking the same route back to the carpark, you can opt for a circular trail to Svartifoss which is 5.5 kilometres long. You can add a stop at the beautiful Sjónarnípa viewing point which offers a panorama of Skaftafell’s stunning scenery, including the frozen expanse of Vatnajökull glacier.
Another popular short route from the visitor’s centre is the walk to Skaftafellsjökull glacier. The path is around four kilometres long and leads to a lookout point where you can admire the frozen white tongue of Skaftafellsjökull cutting through a rocky valley.
You can also summit a mountain in Skaftafell by following the Kristínartindar trail. This route also takes in Svartifoss but is long and involves a challenging uphill ascent. The entire route is around 18 kilometres. Finally, you can enjoy one of the few forest walks in Iceland along the Bæjarstaðaskógur trail which takes you through a birch woodland. Trees are sparse on this isolated island so this is a chance to see some rare scenery. The Bæjarstaðaskógur trail is around 15 kilometres long.
Another way to explore Skaftafell’s unique scenery on foot is by embarking on a guided glacier hike. Under the guidance of a professional, you can navigate the frozen surface of a mighty glacier, avoid the sinkholes and ravines hidden in the snow, and even enter the sleek, blue world of a natural ice cave. Those seeking a real adrenaline rush can try ice climbing on one of Skaftafell’s glaciers.
Things to do around Skaftafell
Guided glacier hikes, ice climbing, and ice-caving tours make Skaftafell one of the most popular outdoor recreational areas in all of Iceland. Ranging from easy to challenging, a great variety of tours are available for nature enthusiasts. Ice caves form within the glacier every winter, offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences for visitors. These crystal blue ice caves are so clear that you can see meters deep into the body of the ice as if it were made of glass!
There is a large and spacious campsite in Skaftafell that's pobably the largest and most picturesque in the country. Skaftafell campsite is surrounded by a captivating landscape that is a blend of glacial tongues, rugged peaks, waterfalls, and verdant vegetation. The views of the Hvannadalshnúkur – the highest peak in Iceland – and the peaks of Kristínartindar are particular highlights for those camping in the area.
Equipped with essential facilities, the campsite caters to both tent campers and those with campervans. Clean restrooms, shower facilities, and a communal kitchen are provided to ensure comfort during one's stay.
Attractions Near Skaftafell
Sitting on Iceland’s south coast, most people driving from Reykjavík stop at the myriad natural wonders of the south shore en route to Skaftafell. Enchanting waterfalls like Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss sit just off the Route One road, and you can stretch your legs with a walk along Reynisfjara's black-sand beach.
Skaftafell is just a forty-five minute drive from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where glowing blue icebergs float in the freezing-cold water. You can take a boat out onto the lagoon and see these icebergs up close. Just across the road, the Diamond Beach is a photographer’s dream where crystal orbs of ice litter the black sand, seeming to capture golden sunlight at sunset.
Iceland's tallest peak
From Skaftafell, guided hiking tours leave to summit Iceland’s tallest peak. Hvannadalshnjúkur stands at 2110 metres above sea level and the hike lasts around fifteen hours. Guided groups leave in the small hours of the morning and it is a challenging day but the sense of achievement, looking out over the expanse of ice caps and mountains in Vatnajökull national park, is worth it.
All About Skaftafell
Known as the “black waterfall”, Svartifoss is famous because its basalt column backdrop looks like a scene from another planet. The waterfall was featured in the TV series Game of Thrones and the blockbuster movie Batman Begins.
No, wild camping is not permitted in Skaftafell as it's a protected national park. However, there's a large campsite within the area equipped with excellent facilities. For those seeking a quieter experience, there's ample space in less crowded sections of the campsite.
Yes, when you tour with Icelandia, you are in the company of the most experienced and skilled mountain guides in Iceland. They know the glacier like the back of their hand. However, it's crucial to never attempt to venture onto the glacier without a guide!
As Skaftafell is so far from Reykjavík and it takes a full day to drive here, most people visiting from the capital will want to spend the night in the area.
In the peak summer season, booking accommodation around Skaftafell in advance is essential. The tiny village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a short drive from Skaftafell, also has a couple of guesthouses. Between May and September, Skaftafell Camping Ground is open and has plenty of space for tents – there’s no need to book in advance unless you are a very large group.
Yes, you can book a glacier hike on location in Skaftafell. However, we advise booking in advance, at least a few hours before departure. If we have available spots, we'll gladly accommodate you on the spot.
It is 327 kilometres (203 miles) from Reykjavík to Skaftafell and the drive takes between seven and seven and a half hours, depending on the weather and road conditions. Of course, many people driving from Reykjavík to Skaftafell will stop along the way at the many natural wonders of the south coast.
Wonderful hiking trails, guided glacier hikes, ice climbing, and caving tours make Skaftafell a top recreational spot in Iceland. With tours from easy to challenging, nature enthusiasts have ample choices.
Perhaps the most iconic hike in Skaftafell is the towering cascade of Svartifoss waterfall which sits against a backdrop of basalt columns. The trail to Svartifoss follows the river and passes a couple of other waterfalls along the way.
Hiking trails allow you to summit Kristínartindar Mountain for stunning views over some of Iceland’s ice caps and you can admire the glaciers of Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull within the park.
As Skaftafell is a protected park on public land, there is no fee to enter the park or visit Svartifoss. However, there is a moderate fee to use the Skaftafell area’s carpark.
Probably the most iconic image of Skaftafell’s scenery is the glacier. Several outlet glaciers from Vatnajökull belong to this nature reserve, making it the ultimate base for glacier hikes, ice climbing and ice caving tours.
Another iconic sight is Svartifoss waterfall – a plume of white water tumbling against jagged basalt columns. Skaftafell is also known for its glaciers – Skaftafellsjökull, Morsárjökull and Svínafellsjökull – where you can experience walking through glowing blue ice caves.
Skaftafell is found just off the Route One ring road that loops around the entire island of Iceland, so it is easy to navigate yourself here. From Reykjavík, you simply follow Route One along the south coast, past waterfalls, black-sand beaches and glaciers until you reach the turn-off for Skaftafell 327 kilometres later. While navigation is easy, road conditions in Iceland can be challenging, especially in winter. For this reason, many visitors choose to join an organised tour from Reykjavík to Skaftafell with an experienced driver and guide. As it is so far from the capital and there is plenty to do when you get there, most tours to Skaftafell are multi-day affairs.
Yes, Skaftafell is a protected site. It was originally a national park on its own but has since become a part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park. This area is protected due to its unique and diverse landscapes, including glaciers, mountains, and various geological formations. The protection ensures that its natural beauty and ecological significance are preserved for future generations.
Skaftafell’s main and best-known waterfall is Svartifoss. You can spot this natural wonder from the Route One road and reach it by following the 1.5-kilometre uphill trail from the carpark. There is also a circular route, covering 5.5 kilometres of walking trails which leads from the carpark to Svartifoss and back again. Consult a Skaftafell map to see the exact routes to Svartifoss and beyond.
It’s a 56-kilometre drive from Skaftafell to Jökulsárlón and the journey takes around forty-five minutes by car. With Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell so close to each other, it’s worth slowing down and taking some time to explore this region of south Iceland in depth.
Skaftafell is a protected area of natural beauty in the southeast of Iceland, it sits along the driving route of the south coast, between the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur and the fishing town of Höfn. It forms a part of the larger Vatnajökull national park, sitting at the bottom of Iceland’s largest ice cap.
To visit Skaftafell properly, you need to allow at least four hours. However, you could easily spend a full day or even longer exploring the hiking routes and glaciers. The main walk from the carpark to Svartifoss waterfall takes around forty-five minutes each way, so even completing this easy walk requires at least an hour and a half.
It takes around forty-five minutes to walk to Svartifoss, so you should allow at least an hour and a half to get there and back again. You should also allow some time to take pictures of Svartifoss and the other waterfalls along the way. If you’re taking the circular route to Svartifoss, you should allow two and a half to three hours for the entire trail.
If you are a keen hiker and want to get out into Iceland’s untamed wilderness where white glaciers flop through volcanic ravines and waterfalls plummet from basalt cliffs, then Skaftafell is definitely worth a visit. It’s also a popular spot for those that want to experience walking through an ice cave, putting it on many a bucket list.
There are many different hiking trails around Skaftafell. The most popular route to Svartifoss from the visitor’s centre takes a minimum of an hour and a half there and back and this is one of the shortest routes throughout the park. If you want to spot glaciers, the Morsárjökull route is a long one that takes around six to seven hours. Those looking to summit a mountain can embark on the Kristínartindar trail, which takes between six and eight hours.
Yes, there are private hiking and glacier tours available in Skaftafell. These tours offer a more personalized experience, allowing you to explore the area with a dedicated guide. It's recommended to book in advance to secure your desired date and time.
Weather-wise, the best time to visit Skaftafell is in the summer when the days are balmy and the chill lifts from the air. Summer also sees the longest hours of daylight, so you can take full advantage of the long hiking trails without worrying about darkness descending. Summer does see the biggest crowds at Skaftafell and those that favour peace and quiet should consider visiting in shoulder season – May and September – when the weather is still good and the daylight hours are still long.