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Vatnajökull Glacier: The Largest Glacier in Europe

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Not only is Vatnajökull glacier the biggest one in Iceland, it’s the largest in Europe! In fact, covering 8,100 square km, Vatnajökull covers more land than all the glaciers on Europe’s mainland combined! It should be no surprise then that a plethora of activities exist on this wondrous body of ice to keep you occupied for your entire time in Iceland.

How To Get There

This glacier is surrounded by a national park of the same name, Vatnajökull National Park. The easiest way to access it is via Skaftafell, which is also a part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park. From Reykjavik, follow route 1 along the south coast for approximately 320 km, until you see a sign for Skaftafell National Park, where you will make a left turn. The journey will take around 4 hours in favourable conditions.

WHAT TO DO

  • Conquer Iceland's Tallest Peak 

Öræfajökull is Iceland’s tallest mountain and an active volcano, standing at around 2,110 m. Brave mountaineers attempt to conquer this stratovolcano, which takes around 15 hours in total. Hvannadalshnukur is the summit. This is a very challenging yet rewarding hike, so only experienced hikers should consider this a viable option. The hike to the summit can be completed between May and September.

  • Hike Around Vatnajökull Glacier  

If you’re looking for something a little less challenging than Öræfajökull, an introductory glacier hike may be perfect for you. Shorter hikes are available from May to October and children as young as 10 can participate. Hikers will witness the beauty glaciers are famous for from ice sculptures to crevasses and everything in between. Normally, these types of tours take up to 4 hours starting from Skaftafell, with an hour being spent directly on the ice.

The Vatnajökull glacier is also one of the best locations for a natural ice cave tour that is suitable for all ages! 

  • Visit the Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsarlon is a glacier lake located at the south end of Vatnajokull, with the looming Öræfajökull mountain in the background. Boat tours are available to explore the waters of Fjallsarlon, as icebergs calve from the encroaching glacier. This is a great activity for families as children as young as six years old. 

Vatnajökull National Park is one of the national parks in Iceland
Visitng a glacier lagoon in Vatnajökull National Park is a great family activity
Ice caves are found to be plenty in Vatnajokull glacier
An ice cave underneath the Vatnajökull glacier waiting to be explored

Good To Know

Driving in adverse conditions can often lengthen journeys so always allow adequate time. It is also imperative that you only head onto a glacier with a professional guide and always wear adequate clothing for the conditions.

Vatnajökull is of a size that is almost unfathomable from our humble human perspective. The Vatnajökull National park is home to so many natural wonders that it deserves the time and effort needed to explore this magical place. Visit Iceland’s national parks, glaciers, volcanoes and ice caves to see the unchanged beauty of this country. 

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