Vatnajökull Glacier & National Park

Witness glaciers and wild landscapes up close with a visit to Iceland’s largest national park.

East Iceland
Northern Lights glowing above icebergs on the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
A couple standing on Fellsfjara, Diamond Beach, at sunset
The edge of the Vatnajökull glacier
Northern Lights glowing above icebergs on the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
A couple standing on Fellsfjara, Diamond Beach, at sunset
Best time to visit
All year
Open
Every day
Parking
Free & paid
Charging station
Yes

Explore the icy Vatnajökull glacier and wild nature in the national park

Vatnajökull National Park is one of Iceland’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty. In this national park, you’ll find some of Iceland’s most stunning landscapes. What’s more, it’s home to Europe’s largest glacier.

When you visit Vatnajökull National Park, you’re spoiled for choice with hiking trails, local wildlife, glacial rivers, glacier lagoons, and more. Exploring the glacier itself with a guide, you can enter ancient blue ice caves and even snowmobile across the ice cap.

Covering an area over 14,000 square kilometers (5,460 square miles), the national park and glacier make up 14% of the total landmass of Iceland. 

The country’s highest peak can also be found here. Hvannadalshnjúkur is 2,110 m tall (6,920 ft), making it Iceland’s highest mountain: but there’s a twist. The peak sits on the rim of a summit crater of a volcano! 

Volcanic eruptions are what have shaped Iceland to be the breathtaking country it is today. Sitting under the ice cap in the national park are a few volcanoes (notably Öræfajökull), but there’s no need to worry about volcanic activity on your trip.

Find out more about what to expect when visiting Vatnajökull National Park: we’ve answered some FAQs below to help you get started.

Other attractions near Vatnajökull National Park

Mountains in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve on a cloudy day

Skaftafell

Get ready to immerse yourself in the wonders of Icelandic nature.
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon at sunrise with a pink sky

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Encounter one of Iceland’s natural wonders first-hand at this spectacular glacier lagoon.
The harbor at Höfn í Hornafirði

Höfn í Hornafirði

Discover the charm of this fishing village in Vatnajökull National Park.
The village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur on a sunny day

Kirkjubæjarklaustur

This picture-perfect village is surrounded by some of South Iceland’s most iconic attractions.

FAQs about Vatnajökull National Park & glacier

You can find the Vatnajökull glacier in the national park that shares its name. Located in the southwest of Iceland, this huge natural wonder spans a large portion of the country.

The glacier itself is 7,900 square kilometers (4,900 square miles) in area, making it the biggest you can find in Europe!

Icelandic spellings are much easier to pronounce than they look at first! Vatnajökull is one of the easier ones you can start with too.

  • Vat – Pronounced with an open ‘a’ sound (like in van), and a very soft ‘t’ (almost like ‘vah’),
  • Na – Another open ‘a’ sound, like the sound of disapproval ‘nah’,
  • – This is a closed ‘o’ sound and the J sound is more like a Y. Try saying ‘yo’ and putting a little bit of an ‘e’ sound on the O,

Kull – Use a hard K sound and rather than an ‘ull’ like ‘hull’, it’s more of an ‘ool’ sound, like in ‘cool’.

Many Icelandic words are compound words, meaning they are two words together that make a new one. Vatnajökull is one of these!

Vatn is the Icelandic word for water or lake. Jökull is a common suffix you will see on signs around Iceland. It means ‘glacier’ or ‘piece of ice’ in Icelandic.

Together, you get the word Vatnajökull, which can be translated into ‘glacier of lakes’ in English. The glacier has many smaller outlet glaciers, rivers, and pools, so you can see how it got the name.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or want to immerse yourself in nature, there’s something for everyone in Iceland’s largest national park. A great way to experience it all is by booking guided day tours.

You can choose from all kinds of activities, such as glacier hiking, ice caving tours, and snowmobiling. Pre-booked tours with a local guide are the safest bet. Guides know the glacier and will be able to advise safely on any activities.

As well as the main glacier, you can also visit many of the smaller outlet glaciers, one of which links to the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This turquoise-colored lagoon is dotted with floating chunks of ice. These mini icebergs lead down to another famous Icelandic sight, Fellsfjara (Diamond Beach).

There are plenty of waterfalls in the national park too, including the most powerful one in Europe, Dettifoss. At 100 m (330 ft) wide and with a drop of 44 m (144 ft), you can feel the earth rumbling with the sheer volume of water rushing through.

Dettifoss is in the far north east of Vatnajökull National Park. However, if you want something closer to the south you can visit Svartifoss waterfall. This striking column waterfall is flanked by dark basalt columns, typical of the south coast.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the local wildlife at Skaftafell nature reserve, especially if you’re keen on birds.

Vatnajökull National Park is around 320 km (200 mi) from the capital Reykjavík. Driving can take anywhere from 4 hours to reach the western edge of the park. If you’re planning to visit the northeast side, be prepared to allow more time.

It is possible to visit the area on a day tour, or you can make a longer expedition and adventure around the national park seeing all it has to offer.

Vatnajökull National Park is made up of two major features: the Vatnajökull glacier and the wider national park around it.

The Vatnajökull glacier covers an area of around 7,900 square kilometers, or 4,900 square miles. The ice is an average of 380 m (1,250 ft) thick, but in places it is almost 1 km thick (3,120 ft).

The national park itself is even bigger, spanning around 14,000 square kilometers (5,460 square miles). When you look at those numbers, over half of the park is the actual glacier. You can see why it’s the biggest in Europe!

Iceland is around 103,000 square kilometers (39,600 square miles) in area. Vatnajökull National Park covers 14% total of the country, with the glacier accounting for 8% of that total.

If you fancy seeing this amazing national park and glacier up close for yourself, you’re in luck. You can easily self-drive to Vatnajökull National Park. Simply hop on the Iceland Ring Road (also known as Route 1), which follows the entire coast of Iceland. The road will deliver you right to the national park in just a few hours!

Alternatively, you can book a private guided tour or group tour with transport. Iceland is very well covered by with road transport so it’s easy to get around by car or bus.