This website presents Skaftafell´s nature, especially geology and shows interesting viewpoints, many of which are not commonly visited.

Skaftafell geology

Geology covers a wide spectrum of Earth processes and in Skaftafell one can witness many of these, including glaciers and erosion by glaciers. Modification of Earth´s surface is here an active process by outlet glaciers and glacial rivers. "Jökulhlaups" is a term used for massive outburst of meltwater from beneath the Vatnajökull ice sheet.  Occasionally, Skeiðarárjökull outlet glacier may advance by a kilometer over 2 to 3 months. But here geology refers to bedrock or the solid rocks as opposed to the sedimentary strata. Rock diversity of the bedrock is immense in Skaftafell resulting from volcanism on dry land as well as below an ice sheet. Skaftafell´s bedrock dates back to almost 5 million years, during the last 4 of which Earth has witnessed many global glaciations. Strata in Skaftafell preserve environmental changes between glacials, when ice covered the area, and inter-glacials when the country was ice free.


Picture is worth a thousand words. The photos show Skaftafell from many different angles but the earliest date from 1988, taken while mapping the bedrock geology. The photos were taken in the area extending from Svínafell in the east to Skaftafellsfjöll in the west. Climbing gullies in remote locations often provided opportunity to frame the surrounding with a photo. Since my project began this partly glaciated terrain has withnessed enormous environmental changes. Glaciers have retreated to a point of amaze with lagoons forming behind glacial moranes. Dammed meltwater has now began to replace the glacier fronts. The Skeiðará glacial river no longer flows under her long bridge on Skeiðarársandur but has found a path behind the moraine where it flows toward west.  


Maps lead the way. Here, geological maps of Skaftafells are presented. These maps show what the bedrock is like in the area. If you are in doubt what rock type you pass it is interesting to examine a bedrock map of the area. To begin with the bedrock of Jökulfell, Rauðhellrar and Kjós will be dealt with. Also, bedrock maps of Hafrafell and Svínafell are presented. The maps are part of a geological map, scale 1:25.000, for sale in the Skafafell visitor center and in book stores in Reykjavik. The maps demonstrate how the strata accumulated during many glacial and interglacial periods but it is rare to find such wealth of information of the present ice age. Also, a link to a map of hiking trails in Skaftafell is presented.  

Vinir Vatnajökuls