Vatnajokull National Park
The above trailer “Chasing Ice” was partly shot in Vatnajökull National Park.
Vatnajökull National Park, established in 2008, is considered the largest national park in Europe. It covers 13% percent of Iceland in an area of 12,000 sq km (5,300 square miles). The park offers visitors a unique experience when it comes to understanding the relationship of volcanoes and glaciers. The park has an outstanding mix of outlet glaciers and dynamic ice cap, geothermal energy and sub- glacial volcanic activity, and outbursts of flood both water and lava.
What does “Vatnajokull” mean?
Jökull is an Icelandic word that means “glacier” and “Vatna” means water. Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in the world outside of the arctic region. The geology of Vatnajökull National Park is so diverse that each site offers new wonders for both tourists and researchers. An example of this is the mountain Herðubreið. Its surroundings are considered natural relics created from a volcanic eruption underneath an glacier in the ice age. It is a place where people can see how the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate have pulled apart and became separated. Askja is a typical strato-volcano contained inside a powerful central volcano called Dyngjufjöll. The area of Jökulsárgljúfur is characterized by volcanic activity and water erosion by catastrophic floods. Kverkfjöll and Grímsvötn are central volcanoes which are prime example of the interactions between volcanic fire, geothermal activity and volcanic eruptions.
Northern area: Filled with glacial rivers and towering volcanoes
Aside from the volcanic activity that is present in the park its landscape is also a sight to be admired. The north and south areas of the park are like polar opposites. The northern area of the park is filled with a variety of rock formations thanks to the volcanoes that are present in the area, its also a place that is shaped by the current that flows between the highland plateau which is divided by glacial rivers that surges with powerful waters in the summer. The north area is the home of The queen of the mountains which the local Icelanders called; Herðubreið. Visitors can spend days hiking towards the mountain ridges and exploring lava pockets that litter the area, the adventurous can also take up river rafting; braving the frigid waters and strong currents of the river or simple enjoy the mesmerizing flow of water of the mighty Dettifoss waterfall. Tourists can also explore the horseshoe-curved cliffs of Ásbyrgi farther in the north. Nature lovers can also explore the wide expanse of wetlands and grassy fields covering the areas near the glacier and stretches towards the east, this large space is considered as an important habitat for reindeers and pink-footed geese.
The Southern Area: home of majestic mountains, ice caves and black sands
The above video is shot in the infamous ice cave close to Vatnajökull glacier.
The south side of the park is composed of spectacular mountain ridges filled with outlet glaciers that descends towards the lowlands. The southernmost part is home to Iceland’s highest peak; Hvannadalshnjúkur and Öræfajökull which is a central volcano enveloped inside the glacier. Skaftafell is a vegetable oasis that is sheltered from the high ice, because of this it looks like something taken out from the land before time. What makes this place inceredibly beautiful is that it overlooks the black sands that came from the river Skeiðará which is a result of the eruptions at Grímsvötn brought by glacial floods also known as jökulhlaups. Aside from the Northern and Southern areas of the park, the western landscape is home to two of the worlds greatest lava eruptions in history which occurred in 934 BC at Eldgjá and during 1783-1784 at Lakagígar Vonarskar.
Vatnajökull National Park is an outstanding place that truly captures the essence of Iceland, it is a place that is constantly struggling with natural forces and yet it still exudes harmonious beauty that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. And thanks to Iceland’s efforts people from all over the world can partake of its beauty for ages to come. For seeing Vatnajokull national park and surrounding this South Shore and Glacier Lagoon tour is a good option in the summer and a excellent hotel to stay at close to the park is Hotel Ranga.