Book your travel with cryptocurrency and visit Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park was founded in 2008, when authorities created a megapark by joining the 8300-sq-km Vatnajökull ice cap with two previously established national parks: Skaftafell in southeast Iceland and Jökulsárgljúfur in the northeast. The park measures over 14,100 sq km, occupying approximately 14% of the entire country, and its boundaries encircle a staggering richness of landscapes and some of Iceland's greatest natural treasures, created by the combined forces of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity.
The entirety of the Vatnajökull ice cap is protected, including countless outlet glaciers and glacial rivers. There are incredible rock formations around Ásbyrgi canyon, waterfalls such as Dettifoss and Svartifoss, the storied Lakagígar crater row, Askja and other volcanoes of the highlands, and an unending variety of areas where geology, ecology and history lessons spring to life. Vatnajökull National Park has been nominated for inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage list.
Hiking trails and 4WD routes can get you to remote gems, but you don't have to go far to sample some of the park's highlights – worthy diversions (and awesome vistas) can be accessed from a standard Ring Road journey of the country, and there's a smorgasbord of tour offerings. The park operates five major visitor centres at Skaftafell Stofa, Gamlabúð, Skaftárstofa, Snæfellsstofa and Gljúfrastofa; and there are camping grounds within the park.
What to see in Vatnajokull National Park?
The scenery encircling the glacier is extremely varied. Towards the north, glacial rivers divide the highlands, with powerful flows in summer. The volcano Askja, Kverkfjoll and Snaefell tower over this region, together with the volcanic Table Mountain Herdubreid, which Icelanders call the Queen of the Mountains. Long ago, huge glacial floods carved out the canyon of Jokulsargljufur in the northern reaches of this plateau. The mighty Dettifoss waterfall still thunders into the upper end of this canyon, while the scenic formations at Hljodaklettar and the horseshoe-curved cliffs of Asbyrgi are found farther north.
The park offers visitors an up-close opportunity to experience the interaction between glacial forces and volcanic activities. There are a great variety of hiking trails within the park as well as the possibility for ice climbing, ATV rides and snowmobiling.
One could rather agreeably state that the whole of Iceland is a makeshift national park. After all, the landscapes are ostensibly untouched and undeveloped, often leaving wild open space from horizon line to horizon line. To pick out only a handful of attractions to officially recognise seems somewhat arbitrary, but there are good reasons behind it, of which we will explore in this article.
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