In the Realm of the Vatnajökull Glacier
The region directly beneath the Vatnajökull glacier is a 260 km long, narrow stretch of land that spans from the west of Skaftafell to the town of Höfn on its eastern border. The lives of people of the region have been shaped and moulded according to the dictates of nature in a region which, until as recently as the 1970’s, was one of the most isolated parts of Iceland. The majority of its roughly 2,100 inhabitants live and work in Höfn, the area’s largest population centre; the rest are on farms scattered throughout the region.
A Photographer’s Dream
Driving through this enchanted area, the vastness of the glacier, with its various glacier outlets, makes a compelling impression on the mind. The extensive views across the black sands of Skeiðarásandur towards Skaftafellsjökull glacier leaves one in awe of the glacier’s sheer magnitude, relentless in its crushing effect upon the land beneath it. The beautiful Svartifoss waterfall, one of the main attractions within the Vatnajökull National Park, is well known for its underlying black basalt hexagonal columns.
Some impressive numbers
Vatnajökull is larger than all the glaciers in Europe combined, (there are smaller glaciers in Norway and Russia) and the largest glacier in the world outside of the polar icecaps. It boasts the highest elevation in Iceland—Hvannadalshnúkur at 2,115 m or 6,870 feet—as well as the lowest point below sea level at the famous Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon—260 metres at its deepest. As a national park, it’s the largest in Europe.
Points of interest
Activities in the area are numerous—take a snowmobile, jeep or hiking tour on the glacier, cruise gently around blue-tinged icebergs on a boat ride at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, observe puffins at Ingólfshöfði, or get a bird’s eye view over the glacier on a sightseeing flight. What could be more magical than basking in the midnight sun, in the warm natural hot baths at Hoffell? These are just a few of the possibilities in the Vatnajökull Region.
Taste some of those lovely langoustine dishes during the annual Lobster Festival in Höfn in June, and don’t forget the not-to-be-missed annual fireworks extravaganza at Jökulsárlón in late August.
For more in-depth information about Vatnajökull National Park, check out the visitors centre, a major hub for hiking and mountaineering expeditions in the area, open year round.