Visit Vatnajökull

Why Vatnajökull is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Vatnajökull National Park is also known as the Land of Ice and Fire. In the middle, you have the mighty Vatnajökull glacier (Ice). The snowfalls have there over the last 2500 years formed a gigantic ice cap covering the land.It’s the largest glacier is Europe’s by volume. This despite losing more than 15% of it during the last 100 years. By size, it’s with it 7676 m2 the 2nd largest in Europe. That is if you count the Arctic island Novaya Zemlya 400 km off the coast in the north, north of Russia as Europe. The Severny glacier there is 20,500 km2, more than twice the size of Vatnajökull. Some sources also put Austfonna at 7,800 km2 ahead. It’s another Arctic island in the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway. That is even more north than Novaya Zemlya.Beneath Vatnajökull, there are no less than seven active volcanoes (Fire). Two of these, Grímsvötn and Bardarbunga are among the most active in Iceland. The oldest of the seven erupted some 10 million years ago and Bárðarbunga as recent as in 2014.Iceland is the only part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge exposed above sea level. There the Eurasian and the North American continents are moving apart by about 20 mm yearly. Iceland was created by this movement. This rift movement giving birth to volcanoes, and the Vatnajökull glacier on top is what makes the Vatnajökull National Park so incredibly unique.From Vatnajökull, water constantly flows through glacial rivers towards the Atlantic Ocean. Moving, it is shaping the land. Like a giant bulldozer, it’s digging in and pushing up a glacial garden in front. During eruptions, volcanic heat melts the ice creating huge floods called jökulhlaup. These repeating events have over the millennia created unique outwash plains, vast river systems and deep canyons. Areas home to groundwater animals that have survived since the Ice Age.

Why Vatnajökull is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

If Vatnajökull melted its 3000 km³ of ice would raise the global sea level with 1 cm. It would fill 1.7 billion swimming pools.

Glaciers are the world's largest source of clean water.

Vatnajökull is Outstanding

Highlight Major Stage of Earth’s History

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