Vatnajökull Glacier – Covering 9% of Iceland (15.08.16)

Plonked like a thick giant skullcap across over 8,000 km2 of south east Iceland, the Vatnajökull Glacier – or ‘Vatna Glacier’ – lies proud and mighty. Covering 9% of Iceland, it is Europe’s largest non-Arctic glacier and has a depth of ice measuring between 400-950m.


Naturally such a monstrous chunk of ice, covering such a vast area of Iceland’s interior, dominates the 13,900 km2 of National Park with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of gigantic run-off glaciers, thundering waterfalls, flowing icebergs and achingly beautiful big-sky landscapes.

Boat trip in front of Fjallsjökull Glacier.

Boat trip in front of Fjallsjökull Glacier.

The combined forces of volcanic and geothermal activity have a heavy impact on its glacial ice flows, plateaus, mountains, rivers and valleys.  Indeed, in a land so moulded by fire, ice and extreme weather – offering an almost lunatic variety of magnificent scenery and natural wonder – the Vatnajökull National Park stands out in my mind as one of the world’s most impressive nature regions.


The enormity and power of such an extensive landscape is hard to take in. As you stand and gawp at dramatic glaciers creaking towards the sea, with distant horizons awash with silvery rivers, brutal mountains and the constant glow of Arctic twilight, your own insignificance becomes abundantly clear.

The glacier cap, with its thirty outlet glaciers, also emanates a breathtaking silence. Even as the wind and weather whirl around, the peacefulness of the ice is spellbinding. Gazing over such calmness, the passage of time – only punctuated by the toe end of a glacier’s meltwater drips, or tumbling drops of ice – appears Zen-still.

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier.

The all-consuming silence stops you dead in your tracks.

Amidst such dramatic wilderness I also found the flora surrounding Vatna Glacier surprisingly varied with an endless carpet of wild flowers, lichens and multi-coloured mosses bursting up throughout the tundra.

Equally, as these photos highlight, the glacial meltwater run-off provides a smorgasbord of mesmeric natural exhibits, from the spider’s legs outlet glaciers flowing from the ice cap itself, to the Jökulsárlón glacial lakes in the south coast and Dettifoss waterfall in the north.


However long you have to visit Iceland, you can be sure we at Nomadic Thoughts will do our best to factor in a look/see trip to the landscape and sights created by this most magnificent of glaciers.

Personally I cannot recommend it highly enough. In my mind it’s a region rightly reserved for the top end of any discerning traveller’s bucket list.


Flea-sized boat ... mountain-sized glacier.

Flea-sized boat … mountain-sized glacier.