National Parks

National parks in Iceland are protected areas, considered unique due to their singular nature and landscape features, indigenous flora and fauna, and important cultural and historical heritage. Iceland has three main national parks: Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, Snæfellsjökull (Snaefellsjokull) National Park and Vatnajökull (Vatnajokull) National Park, which now includes Jökulsárgljúfur (Jokulsargljufur) around the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum (Jokulsa a Fjollum) in the north, and Skaftafell in the south of Iceland. 

Everyone is free to explore the national parks of Iceland. While all the parks have as their purpose the protection and conservation of the areas which constitute some of Iceland’s greatest national treasures, they are simultaneously open for everyone to explore and enjoy. In designating parts of Iceland as preservation areas, the following objectives were, for example, formulated by the Vatnajökull National Park founders:

♦To protect the nature of the region, including the landscape, biota and geological formations as well as cultural characteristics
♦To allow the public to get to know and enjoy regional nature, culture and history
♦To provide education on nature and nature conservation, and regional history, society and cultural features, as well as encouraging research
♦To strengthen communities and business activity in the vicinity of the park.

Visiting any of Iceland’s national parks, being in the presence of nature’s most powerful land-sculpting elements, or experiencing the silence and solitude of the wilderness of Iceland, discovering the beauty of Iceland’s delicate flora and fauna and learning about the history of the people living in such geologically volatile environments are all experiences that create unforgettable memories.

Þingvellir National Park
The importance of Þingvellir (Thingvellir), “Parliament Plains”, both in terms of its historical prominence and as a wonder of nature, cannot be overstated. Historically, Þingvellir is Iceland’s sacred ground, the place where the Althing general assembly was established already in 930 and which became a protected national shrine in 1928.

Thingvellir is a natural wonder of magnificent proportions. It is located on the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and part of a fissure zone running through Iceland. It has a unique geological history, as well as a unique biosystem of Lake Þingvallavatn (Thingvallavatn).

A site of extraordinary beauty and grandeur, Thingvellir has been on the World Heritage List for its cultural value of outstanding universal significance since 2004.

Numerous hiking trails are available, as well as angling, diving, horseback riding and camping.

Þingvellir National Park Visitor Centre
The Visitor Center is in a building close to the viewspot at Hakið (Hakid), where a footpath leads down into the Almannagjá (Almannagja) rift. The Centre houses the exhibition is based on interactive multimedia, showing the history and nature of Thingvellir.
The Visitor Centre is open daily, 9 am – 5 pm, all year round. A park ranger is always available to assist.

Snæfellsjökull National Park
Snæfellsjökull National Park was established in 2001. It’s located at the foot of a volcano and glacier, surrounded by myth, mystery and romance. It’s the only Park that extends from the seashore to the mountaintops.

There are marked hiking trails on the glacier, but vehicles and bicycles are restricted to roads and tracks. Horse trekking is allowed only on marked bridle paths. Riders are requested to contact a park ranger. There are no campsites in the National Park, but there are many in the vicinity. Backpackers may camp for one night.

Snæfellsjökull (Snaefellsjokull) National Park Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre is located in Hellnar. The Centre has an exhibition with the theme “the fisherman and nature”, documenting how people lived off the natural resources through the ages.
Open daily from 10 am – 6 pm during the summer months, and by arrangement at other times of year.
Park rangers are available to assist with information.

Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park is Iceland’s largest conservation project, started in 2008. Key features of the Park are the Vatnajökull ice cap and several highly active volcanic systems within and outside the ice cap. The Park contains an unparalleled range of glacial, volcanic and geothermal landscape features. It is by far the largest national park in Iceland as well as in Western Europe. The scenery is simply stunning in its beauty and diversity and the opportunities for nature and cultural exploration are endless. Park wardens and rangers are available, offering guided nature interpretation tours.

Vatnajökull National Park Visitor Centres
Ásbyrgi (Asbyrgi) Visitor Centre – Gljúfrastofa (Gljufrastofa) focusses on the northern territory of the Vatnajökull National Park. It provides information about the Park and its surroundings, its history, services, natural attractions and hiking trails. It is open from May to September, and, outside of this period, by arrangement.

Skaftafell Visitor Centre – Skaftafellsstofa provides information on hiking trails, accommodation and recreational options in the Skaftafell area. It also houses an exhibition on the geological and cultural history of the region: the way in which volcanoes and glaciers have interacted to form the landscapes, and the effect this interplay of natural forces has had on the daily lives of people living in an area ruled by volcanic eruptions and glacial outburst floods. Park wardens and park rangers provide assistance and information to visitors during the summer, as well as lead hiking trips. The Centre is open throughout the year, at different times.

Snæfellsstofa (Snaefellstofa) Visitor Centre at Skriduklaustur is the information centre for the east territory of Vatnajökull National Park, of which the most famous destinations are Kverkfjöll (Kverkfjoll) and Snæfell (Snaefell). Kverkfjöll and Snæfell are both located in the highlands north of Vatnajökull glacier, and only accessible by 4x4 vehicles. The Centre is usually open from June to September and, during winter, by appointment only.

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