What makes Iceland’s three National Parks so special

Most people that have been to Iceland can agree that Iceland is a country of extraordinary nature and unique landscape. But what makes Iceland’s three National Parks: Þingvellir, Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull stick out from other areas of the country?

 

Þingvellir National Park:

Located only 40 km northeast of Reykjavík, Þingvellir – literally “Parliament Plains” is the location of the oldest parliaments in the world, Alþingi, established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798.
Þingvellir also lies in a rift valley caused by the separation of the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates and nowhere else can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir.
Some of the rifts are full of clear water, and one of them called Silfra has become a popular snorkelling and diving spot. It is a once in a lifetime experience where you get to dive between the two continental plates.
Þingvellir has been “a protected national shrine” since 1930 and is held in high regards by all Icelanders. Lake Þingvellir (Þingvallavatn) located alongside the National park adds onto the areas picturesque beauty and it’s the perfect stop to catch some great photos. Þingvellir National park is one of the three stops on the popular Golden Circle tour.

 

Vatnajökull National Park

Is a protected wilderness area in South Iceland and Iceland’s largest national park and Europe’s second largest. What makes the park so unique is mostly it’s dramatic landscape. The park circles around Europe’s largest glacier Vatnajökull glacier, with a surface area of 8.100 km2 and also includes Jökulsárlón, a picturesque glacial lagoon with icebergs, and Svartifoss and Dettifoss waterfalls. Skaftafell is the gateway to the park with a visitor center, campground and hiking trails. From there are short and easy trails that lead to Svartifoss waterfall and Skaftafellsjökull glacier. Vatnajökull has many smaller glaciers stemming from it like Breiðarmerkurjökull, which ends at the popular glacial lagoon, Jökulsárlón. There are several tour companies that operate in Skaftafell that offer guided tours and hikes in and around the National park.

 

Snæfellsjökull National Park

Is the country’s youngest national park and only park in Iceland that is situated at the coast.
As with the other National Parks, it is protected due to its extraordinary landscape and natural diversity. It features sites like the mystical glacier Snæfellsjökull, an inactive volcano that is actually visible from Reykjavík on a clear day. Snæfellsjökull volcano was made famous in 1984 by Jules Verne in his popular science fiction book ‘Journey to the center of the Earth’ as the featured volcano in the story.
Djúpalónssandur or the black Lava Pearl Beach is located in Snæfellsnes park. There you will find peculiar rock formations, one which has a large hole in the middle and by looking through it you will see Snæfellsjökull..great place to stop and take a photo.
Mineral springs can be found at various places, such as at the farm Ölkelda and at Lýsuhóll, which has a thermal pool with naturally-carbonated water. Learn more about Snæfellsnes peninsula in our previous blog: “Explore the majestic Snæfellsnes Peninsula”.