About Snæfell Wilderness Area

The Eastern Territory of Vatnajökull National Park can be divided into three areas: Brúaröræfi, west of Hálslón reservoir; the Snæfell Wilderness Area, basically stretching east of the reservoir to Kelduá river; and the expanses of Hraun, east of Kelduá. Traditional place names further divide the Snæfell Wilderness Area into Kringilsárrani, which is the southeastern corner of Brúaröræfi; Vesturöræfi, which lies east of Kringilsárrani and west of Snæfell; Snæfell mountain and its foothills; the lower land below them and eastwards, called Undir Fellum; and the Múli plateau rising still farther to the east. Apart from the ancient central volcano Snæfell and its hyaloclastite foothills, the landscape mostly consists of a highland plateau, 600-900m in altitude.

Over time, this plateau has been scraped and shaped by glacial ice. Nowadays, it is one of the few places in Iceland where vegetation stretches continuously from sea to glacier. Due to the rain shadow cast by Vatnajökull, the area generally receives little precipitation, although precipitation is greater in the east and decreases westwards. In fact, few areas of Iceland get as little rain as Brúaröræfi. The Snæfell Wilderness has long provided the main summer range and calving ground of reindeer, which had died out everywhere else on the island by early in the 20th century. Actually, their only legally protected area even today is Kringilsárrani, declared a reserve in 1975. The Wilderness’s most notable bird is the pink-footed goose. For some years, the world’s largest moulting group of this species could be found in the Eyjabakkar wetlands, and efforts are ongoing to get the site listed under the Ramsar Convention.