Svartifoss waterfall

Skaftafell National Park – East Iceland

Home » Iceland Photo Locations » Landscapes and seascapes » Skaftafell National Park – East Iceland

Skaftafell National Park

The National Park at Skaftafell is a center of activity regarding glacier-centered adventures. It is a green belt between the vast sands of Skeiðarasandur and the vast ice plains of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnjökull. Skaftafell is the smallest national park in Iceland and shares a boundary with Vatnjokull National Park, which is the largest.

The visitor’s center hosts a large campsite and is a meeting point for glacial tours. There is a free movie showing the last big volcano. A small exhibition describes the history of Skaftafell National Park. There is a cafe and a souvenir shop. A comprehensive network of hiking trails culminates at the visitor center.


Thinking of a self drive?

Svartifoss waterfall

Svartifoss waterfall
Svartifoss waterfall in the Summer. Click to order a photo print.

Svartifoss waterfall is easy to find on a clearly marked hiking route. The route can be very dangerous if it is icy. Please check the hiking conditions at Svartifoss at the Skaftafell visitor’s centre before attempting to hike. The hiking conditions are written on a chalk board outside the Skaftafell visitor’s centre so you don’t even have to go in to check.  One path to Svartifoss leaves from behind the visitor center, the shorter path is from the car park where the road climbs up Skaftafell.  By-the-way, this road is strictly for local traffic only, although I think it is OK to walk up it with consideration for local traffic.

Hiking Trails

Skaftafellsjokull Panorama
The view from Skaftafell Viewpoint

From Skaftafell there is a network of hiking trails. Some short ones lead up the hill to some beautiful waterfalls and extend further to viewpoints where the views across the glacier are incredible.  From the visitor’s center there are organised hiking tours that involve the glacier. Tours range from a simple walk on the glacier to a day-long hike up Hvanndalshnjúkur (Iceland’s tallest mountain). Other hiking trails include the long hikes to Mörsárdalur (10-12 hours) and surrounding areas.

Hiking up to the viewpoint or Svartifoss waterfall can be achieved in 1-2 hours.  For the more adventurous hiker, there are several routes that take 8–10 hours.  The route around Skaftafell gives you views over Skaftafellsjokull and Mörsárdalur.  The round trip will take about 8 hours with photo stops.  Add another couple of hours to this if you want to include one of the peaks of Kristinartindar Mountain.

Mörsárdalur Glacier Lagoon
Mörsárdalur Glacier Lagoon

Where to Stay

If you are a keen hiker or enjoy glacier activities like live ice climbing or caving, then you could enjoy the area around Skaftafell National Park for several days. The Hotel Skaftafell is just five minutes from the National Park and one hour’s drive from Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach, making it a good choice for a central location.


Skaftafell Hotels

These hotels and guesthouses are a short drive from Skaftafell National Park. The hotel closest to the national park is Hotel Skaftafell.

Camping Advice

Camping is inexpensive, and the season is between May and August. At Skaftafell Campsite there is a very thin layer of grass on the camp site, so don’t expect your tent pegs to slip into the ground. You will need a mallet and plenty of replacement pegs. Often times, the camp site is quiet, but they can host huge groups for organisational events. There are facilities, such as toilets and showers. In my experience, the showers have always been cold. Save yourself a bit of money and take a couple of big bottles filled via the hot tap outside and use these to have a nice, warm shower.

Nearby is Svinafell which also hosts a campsite that, although much smaller, is slightly more comfortable and less expensive.

Buy a Camping Card.

Glacier Activities from Skaftafell

These tours depart from Skaftafell Visitor Center (except for the flights). The glacier activities are run by trained and experienced glacier guides. The flights leave from the tiny airport, where the Skaftafell road leaves the main Icelandic Ring Road.

Ice Caving

These ice cave tours depart from (or near) the Skaftafell Visitor Center.

Winter waterfalls in Iceland
Gulllfoss winter waterfall

Iceland could be know as the land of waterfalls. There are so many that nobody knows how many there are exactly. In…

omio Iceland

Volcano Tour
Crater eruption

The rumbling of thunder amidst the veil of thick black ash plumes puts things into perspective for you. Maybe we feel the…

Snæfellsnes Peninsular Tours
Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall

The Snæfellsnes Peninsular hosts some of Iceland’s best coastlines, waterfalls, mountains and beaches. Visit this Wild, West Iceland peninsula with a…


Multi-Day Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Summer night photo tours

Multi-day Iceland Tours with erupting geysers, waterfalls & sea cliffs & then stay in a fishing village waiting for auroras on…

South Iceland Multi-Day Tours
Iceland glacier lake

A multi-day tour of South Iceland will give you incredible photo opportunities. The South coast is rich with, glacier ice, towering waterfalls…