Your Complete Guide to a Skaftafell Glacier Hike

Is a glacier hike a must-do on your Iceland bucket list? We can assure you that everyone at Ice Guardians understands! Our range of Iceland adventure activities includes glacier hikes in Vatnajökull National Park — and no matter how many times we explore these glistening giants, they always take our breath away.

You have many glacier hiking options to choose from here in southeast Iceland. Vatnajökull Glacier is Europe’s largest by volume and it has ever-changing outlet glaciers waiting to be explored. In this guide, we focus on the Skaftafell wilderness area, home to numerous huge glaciers, including Skaftafellsjökull and Svínafellsjökull.

Scroll down to start your complete guide to a Skaftafell glacier hike! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our excursions.

Where is Skaftafell?

Skaftafell is a nature reserve within the larger Vatnajökull National Park. However, between 1967 and 2008, Skaftafell was a standalone national park before it was absorbed into the then-new Vatnajökull National Park.

The Skaftafell region isn’t just home to glaciers; you can also find adventure hiking trails, waterfalls, volcanoes, jaw-dropping vistas, and more here. Skaftafell covers an area of around 4,807 sq km, or around 1,856 sq mi. In comparison, the entire Vatnajökull National Park covers 14,141 sq km, or 5,459.9 sq mi. At around 14% of Iceland’s total area, it’s also Europe’s second-largest national park.

Located just off the Route 1 ring road on Iceland’s spectacular south coast, Skaftafell’s many wonders are easily accessible for all visitors. It’s easy to spend multiple days here taking in everything the area has to offer. Check out our picks for the best things to do in Skaftafell for an insight into what you can find in this incredible corner of Iceland. 

How to Get to Skaftafell 

Reaching Skaftafell is an adventure in itself. From major towns and cities such as Reykjavik and Höfn, you’ll embark on a scenic journey through Iceland’s stunning landscapes. 

  • Reykjavik to Skaftafell is more than a four-hour drive on Route 1 covering 428km. Given the distance and many attractions in between, and assuming you have a rental car, we recommend taking your time and stopping to admire the incredible sights.
  • Vik to Skaftafell covers 140km on Route 1, a journey that takes around one hour and forty minutes.
  • Höfn to Skaftafell covers 130km on Route 1, a journey that takes a little under one hour and forty minutes.

We have calculated these driving distances and journey times to Veitingasala restaurant, shop, and petrol Station. This is the meeting point for our Skaftafell tours, by the black and pink building. From here, the Vatnajökull outlet glaciers of Skaftafellsjökull, Svínafellsjökull, and Breiðamerkurjökull are within easy reach.

For the ultimate convenience, consider staying in one of the nearby accommodations, allowing you to wake up to the beauty of Vatnajökull National Park each morning. Hotel Skaftafell is located across the road from our meeting point, and there’s also a camping site (Skaftafell tjaldsvæði) near the Visitor Centre (Skaftafellsstofa) off Road 998.

Skaftafell Guided Glacier Hike Options

Exploring Skaftafell is simple with Ice Guardians’ guided glacier hikes. Choose from our selection of immersive experiences, each designed to showcase the unparalleled beauty of Skaftafell Glacier and its beautiful surroundings.

Just some of our options include:

  • Full-Day Vatnajökull Glacier Hike: Dive deep into the heart of the glacier on this exhilarating full-day expedition with a ratio of four guests to one guide. Led by this expert guide, you’ll traverse rugged terrain, explore hidden ice caves, and marvel at towering ice formations.
  • Full-Day Hidden Ice Cave and Glacier Hike: Uncover glacial secrets on this small-group tour. Venture off the beaten path to discover hidden ice caves that glow with startling blues, shimmering pools, and other ever-changing wonders concealed within the icy depths.
  • The Ultimate Glacier Hiking and Ice Climbing Tour: For the ultimate thrill-seekers, this adrenaline-pumping adventure offers an unrivalled opportunity to explore remote regions of the glacier with two guides. Prepare to conquer challenging terrain, navigate crevasses, and witness the raw power of nature in action.

Please visit each tour page to find out more, including difficulty level, inclusions, and plenty more important and inspiring information. Browse our full range of Iceland glacier hikes to see every hiking adventure we provide.

It’s important to note that conditions and changing ice formations influence where we take specific tour groups. We scout and monitor various potential locations between Skaftafell and Höfn, ensuring you enjoy the best possible experience.

Preparing for a Skaftafell Glacier Hike

Before embarking on your glacier adventure, it’s essential to prepare for the elements. Ensure you’re ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way by following these essential tips:

  • Physical Fitness Levels: Our glacier hikes in Iceland are moderate to challenging, so you must have a medium to high level of fitness. You should also feel comfortable spending a day outdoors in most conditions while tackling varied terrain. We do not recommend our adventures for people with back problems.
  • What to Pack: Be sure to pack your backpack with essential items such as clothing layers, waterproof gear, hiking socks, sturdy boots (already worn-in), two pairs of gloves, snacks, water (preferably a reusable water bottle), a camera, and sunscreen. Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, so come prepared for rain, wind, and sunshine!

You can find more detailed information about what to wear and what to bring on your trip by reading our smarter Iceland packing list.

Skaftafell Glacier Hike Highlights

Prepare to be awestruck by the natural wonders awaiting you on your glacier hike adventure. From towering ice formations to hidden crevasses, the glaciers in Skaftafell offer a myriad of highlights, including:

  • Ice Formations: Marvel at the intricate patterns and textures of the glacier’s ice formations, sculpted by wild winds, rushing water, and centuries of glacial activity.
  • Crevasses: Navigate through narrow crevasses, mighty cracks in the icy surface, with each one offering a glimpse into the glacier’s innermost depths.
  • Ice Towers (Seracs): A serac is a towering column or block of glacial ice that often forms near intersecting crevasses. They are typically house-sized or even bigger.
  • Vatnajökull’s Landscapes: Vatnajökull National Park is home to a diverse range of landscapes, from cascading waterfalls to awe-inspiring views across otherworldly expanses.

Discover more about the captivating sights you can see on a glacier hike by reading our Ultimate Guide to Visiting Ice Caves in Iceland

Skaftafell Glacier Safety and Environmental Conservation

As stewards of the environment, it’s essential to prioritise safety and conservation during your glacier hike. Play your part by:

  • Adhering to Safety Guidelines: Follow instructions from your experienced guides. They know the terrain well and how to keep you safe.
  • Sticking with the Group: Glacier terrain can be unpredictable, so it’s crucial to stick together and watch out for one another.
  • Following “Leave No Trace” Principles: Respect the fragile ecosystem of the glacier by minimizing your impact and leaving nothing behind but footprints.

As we near the end of this guide to a Skaftafell glacier hike, let us point you in the direction of a similar resource that we think you will appreciate — the Ultimate Guide to the Best Glacier Tours in Iceland.

Escape Your Comfort Zone on Our Iceland Adventure Activities!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this complete guide to a Skaftafell glacier hike. If you’re feeling inspired to get out of your comfort zone here in the Land of Fire and Ice, browse our range of Iceland glacier hikes and wider adventure activities in Iceland. Unforgettable adventures are waiting for you in Vatnajökull National Park!

Do you have any questions for the Ice Guardians team? Please feel free to get in touch for more information.

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