Within Skaftafell, some of Iceland's greatest natural treasures are to be found. The Skaftafell National Park was officially established September 15, 1967 and at that time it covered approximately 500 km2. The national park has twice been expanded. First June 27, 1984 when it was expanded to 1.600 km2, and again in 2004, when it became 4.807 km2. Skaftafell National Park then became a part of Europe's largest national park, Vatnaj÷kull National Park, which was established June 7, 2008 and covers over 12.000 km▓. That accounts for 12% of Iceland's surface, and makes it the biggest national park in Europe. Vatnaj÷kull is Europe's biggest glacier and the 3rd biggest in the world. To begin with, the national park will cover the whole of Skaftafell National Park and the J÷kulsßrglj˙fur National Park, in addition to almost whole of Vatnaj÷kull and the surrounding area.
Skaftafell is a rare oasis for flora, surrounded by sands and lakes. ÍrŠfaj÷kull (a part of Vatnaj÷kull) provides excellent cover in Skaftafell, which makes it renowned for its good weather. The tallest peak in Iceland is Hvannadalshnj˙kur (2.110 m) which is in ÍrŠfaj÷kull. The area has been shaped by volcanic eruptions, glaciers and lakes, that have created diverse and unique formations. In the area you can find around 250 types of vascular plants and the nesting places of around 30 different species of birds. It is therefore safe to say that Skaftafell is the home of luxuriant flora in between sands and glaciers, where unique natural beauty is to be found. The area is renowned for its good weather and beautiful scenery which can be enjoyed from various walking paths within the area, that are suitable for all. Access to glaciers on the outskirts of the national park is currently being improved with marked paths.
According to nature conservation laws, national parks are protected areas owned by national governments or privately. These areas have distinctive landscape, vegetation or animal life, or historical inviolability that gives reason to preserve them. The goal of nature conservation laws is to protect unique areas so that future generations can have the opportunity to enjoy them as we do. It is important to preserve land to be able to compare it to land that is used differently. To ensure that the purpose of the preservation is met, certain rules of conduct are in place in protected areas. National parks are open to the public, as long as they follow these rules. Therefore, it is important that you familiarize yourself with these rules before visiting a national park. This is especially the case for those planning is to drive within the area.
The Vatnaj÷kull National Park is extremely popular among both Icelandic and foreign tourists, especially in the summertime. National park rangers and other employees of the park provide tourists with information. The employees' role is to receive guests and provide them with information on the national park as well as enforcing rules of conduct. There are many interesting sights and natural wonders near Skaftafell worth visiting. Visitors are encouraged to seek information from park rangers.