Welcome to the western part of the Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður National Park

The south-western part of Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður includes many well-known places, such as Lakagígar, Eldgjá and Langisjór. The park contains areas of pristine wilderness and unique geological formations. These formations are due to volcanic eruptions on long fissures, forming surface features such as hyaloclastite ridges, crater rows, and gaping chasms. The area is also influenced by two glacial rivers, Skaftá and Tungnaá. All the land within the national park is highland, shaped by volcanic activity. It has been partially vegetated by vulnerable mosses. The aims of the protection order include helping visitors enjoy the area without damaging the volcanic feature or vegetation. 

Access to the area

Driving is only allowed on the roads which are marked on the maps published by the Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður. Here, as elsewhere, driving off-road is totally banned by law. Its high altitude means that it is not accessible by normal vehicles except during summer and early autumn, see more details at The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration. 

The road to Laki crater (F206) leaves the main road (no. 1) by the farm Hunkubakkar, just south of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Eldgjá and Langisjór are reached by the mountain road Fjallabaksleið nyrðri (F 208), west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The road to Langisjór (F 235) turns off from F 208 about 3 km west of Eldgjá. All roads to the western part of the national park are mountain tracks, only navigable for vehicles with four-wheel-drive; some only for large jeeps. Some sections of road are rocky and full of potholes, and loose gravel is common. It is necessary to ford (drive through) mountain streams or even glacial rivers which can suddenly become swollen, making them difficult, or even impossible, to cross. For further information please contact our visitor centre Skaftárstofa.

 

Public transport

During the summer, a scheduled bus departs from Skaftafell and Kirkjubæjarklaustur to Laki daily.  The bus stops at Laki for two hours and returns to Skaftafell via Kirkjubæjarklaustur (see www.re.is) the same day.

Sceduled bus (www.re.is) drives between Landmannalaugar and Skaftafell daily during the summer. The bus arrives at Eldgjá and gives passengers the opportunity to walk to Ófærufoss.
There are no regular trips to Langasjór or Jökulheimar.

Geology

The western part of the Vatnajökull National Park is influenced by four central Volcanoes and their fissures swarms. The volcano Katla lies to the southwest, below the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, with the Eldgjá fissure running to the northeast. Grímsvötn, a central volcano in the Vatnajökull ice cap, sends a fissure system to the southwest where the Lakagígar crater row is. On the western rim of the Vatnajökull ice cap lies the volcano Hamarinn, which is probably connected to the hyaloclastite ridges between Langisjór and Tungnaá. Furthest to the north is Bárðarbunga which sends a fissure swarm southwest to the Veiðivötn lakes, all the way south to Torfajökull.

Vegetation

The ecosystem of the area is shaped by volcanic eruptions, high precipitation, and a relatively warm climate. Although the precipitation is high, the water quickly trickles away through the porous lava and pumice, so vascular plants with a root system have difficulty making use of it. The vegetation is, therefore, typically mosses and lichens which absorb the precipitation directly through leaves and thalli. The thick hummocks of fringe moss on Skaftáreldahraun lava are typical for the area. They prevent higher plants from growing, nowhere else in the country is moss as prevalent in nature as it is in the uplands of Skaftárhreppur district, where it forms 90% or more of the plant coverage.