About Skaftafell

Skaftafell the farm

Skaftafell was a manor farm and a local assembly site during the Middle Ages until it was acquired by the Church. The estate subsequently became a possession of the Danish monarchy. The original farmhouse stood at the foot of the heath, at a site called Gömlutún (Old Hayfields), where ruins can still be seen.

As the course of the River Skeiðará moved closer, several fields slowly disappeared under layers of sand, and during the years 1830-50, the farm was relocated about 100 m up the hillside with the construction of three new farmhouses. Two of them are still in use although the third was abandoned in 1946.

The establishment of a national park in Skaftafell

By the middle of the twentieth century, farming methods in Iceland had changed. Even though three families shared the Skaftafell landholding, its cultivation was difficult and a change of land-use was inevitable. The weather conditions in Skaftafell are favourable and the land was considered ideal for forestry by the Iceland Forestry Service. Around 1957 the Service began discussions with the landowners on the purchase of land suitable for forestry. The purchase never took place, as the landowners 'wanted to preserve their land and not change it into a foreign forest'.

In 1960 the suggestion was made to declare Skaftafell a national park. The arguments were, among other things, the spectacular natural beauty of the area, including the incomparable view of Iceland's highest mountains. Other considerations were that the area boasted the biggest valley glacier, the most extensive sand flats and more fertile and varied vegetation than most other areas in the country.

In February 1961, the Nature Conservation Council (now the Environment Agency of Iceland) decided to recommend the establishment of a National Park in Skaftafell. The recommendation was approved by the Ministry of Education in May the same year. A national park in Skaftafell was officially established on 23 August 1968 by a government regulation.

In June 2008, Skaftafell National Park was integrated with the newly established Vatnajökull National Park.