Categories of protected areas

The Environment Agency of Iceland, under the auspices of the Ministry for the Environment, mandates Snæfellsjökull National Park and other protected areas in Iceland.

According to the nature conservation act a Nature Reserve is an area protected for its importance for wildlife (flora and fauna) and landscape.

In Iceland there are 31 plants protected according to the nature conservation act.

Permits for photography, cinematography, research and construction


Country parks are areas protected upon request of local government and mandated by them. The parks are primarily intended for recreational purposes and open to the general public. The parks may vary in size and restrictions but common is prohibition of unnecessary construction works.

  • Álfaborg, Borgarfjörður eystri, Norður Múlasýsla
  • Ástjörn and Ásfjall
  • Bláfjöll
  • Böggvistaðafjall, Dalvík
  • Hrútey, Blanda, Austur-Húnavatnssýsla
  • Hólmanes
  • Hlið, Bessastaðahreppi
  • Kasthúsatjörn og aðliggjandi fjara, Álftanesi
  • Neskaupstaður
  • Ósland, Austur-Skaftafellssýslu
  • Rauðhólar, Reykjavík
  • Reykjanesfólkvangur
  • Spákonufellshöfði, Austur-Húnavatnssýsla

Natural monuments are natural phenomena that are unique, of outstanding beauty or scientific interest. These include waterfalls, volcanoes, hot springs, rock pillars, fossils and minerals.

  • Askja, Ódáðahraun
  • Árnahellir í Leitarhrauni, Árnessýsla
  • Bárðarlaug, Breiðavík
  • Borgir, Kópavogur
  • Díma, Lóni, Austur-Skaftafellssýslu
  • Dverghamrar, Síðu, Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla
  • Dynjandi, Waterfalls in Arnarfjörður
  • Eldborg, Bláfjöll
  • Eldborg, Geitahlíð, Grindavík
  • Eldborg, Hnappadalur
  • Fossvogsbakkar
  • Gervigígar in Álftaver
  • Grábrókargígar, Norðurárdalur
  • Hamarinn, Hafnarfjörður
  • Háalda, Austur-Skaftafellssýsla
  • Háubakkar, Elliðavogur, Reykjavík
  • Helgustaðanáma, Suður-Múlasýsla
  • Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, Hvítá, Borgarfjörður
  • Hverastrýtur í Eyjafirði
  • Hveravellir
  • Jörundur, cave in Lambahraun at Hlöðufell
  • Kattarauga, Kornsá in Vatnsdalur, A-Húnavatnssýsla
  • Kirkjugólf, Kirkjubæjarklaustur
  • Lagagígar, Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla
  • Laugarás, Reykjavík
  • Skógafoss, Eyjafjöll
  • Skútustaðagígar, Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla
  • Steðji, Hvalfjörður
  • Surtabrandsgil, Barðaströnd
  • Teigahorn, Berufjörður, Suður-Múlasýsla
  • Tröllabörn, Lækjarbotnum, Kópavogi
  • Víghóll, Kópavogur
  • Valhúsahæð, Seltjarnarnes
  • Dettifoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss, waterfalls, Öxafjarðarhreppur

National parks may be established in areas considered outstanding in landscape, flora or fauna, or having special historic significance.

National Parks are established on state owned land unless there is special circumstance and an agreement between the landowner and the Minister of the Environment.

They are mandated by the Environment, division of nature conservation, that shall facilitate public access by making trails, provide visitor facilities and information on natural and cultural heritage that is found in the park.

National Parks

There are three National Parks around the country, each with its own particular points of interest.
Þingvellir, "Symbol of the Icelandic Consciousness", is in a rift valley between the American and European geological plates and Lake Þingvellir contains species of fish found nowhere else. Þingvellir is a World Heritage site.
Snaefellsjökull National Park is at the foot of a volcano and glacier, and is steeped in mystery and romance; it is the only Park that reaches from the seashore to the mountaintops.
Vatnajökull National Park is the largest national park in Europe, covering an area of 12.000 km2. The park encompasses, among other areas, the Vatnajökull glacier, Skaftafell, and Jökulsárgljúfur.

Nature reserves may be established in areas considered important of their landscape, flora or fauna. Common to all the reserves is protection of their wildlife and landscape and a restriction on development and public access. The degree of restriction may vary, as following examples show:

Surtsey Nature Reserve is closed to all public traffic whereas Hornstrandir, in the north-western most part of Iceland is restricted on development and construction but open to the public on certain restrictions.

  • Ástjörn, Hafnarfjörður
  • Bakkatjörn, Seltjarnarnes
  • Blautós and Innstavogsnes, Akraneskaupstaður
  • Búðahraun, Snæfellssýsla. Lava field
  • Dyrhólaey, V-Skaftafellssýsla, an island formation on the sandy south coast
  • Eldey, Reykjanes, island rock off the south west coast
  • Esjufjöll, Breiðamerkujökull, unique mountain range in northern Breiðamerkurjökull in Vatnajökull, with rich vegetation in the midst of the largest glacier in Europe
  • Flatey, Breiðafjörður
  • Fjallabak Nature Reserve
  • Geitland, Borgarfjörður, high country
  • Grótta, Seltjarnarnes
  • Grunnafjörður, Borgarfjarðarsýsla
  • Gullfoss
  • Herdísarvík, Árnessýsla, historic farm and fishing station
  • Herðubreiðarlindir Area
  • Hornstrandir nature reserve
  • Hrísey, Austur-Barðastrandasýsla, small island
  • Hólmanes. Suður-Múlasýsla
  • Húsafellsskógur, Borgarfjörður, near camping ground Húsafell
  • Kasthúsatjörn og aðliggjandi fjara, Álftanesi
  • Kverkfjöll Mountains and Hvannalindir
  • Ingólfshöfði, Austur-Skaftafellssýsla, high cliff formation on the south east coast where the first settler in Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson, came ashore and spent his first winter
  • Kringilsárrani, Norður-Múlasýsla
  • Lónsöræfi
  • Melrakkaey, Grundarfjörður, small island rock north of the Snæfellsnes coastline
  • Miklavatn, Skagafjarðarsýsla, lake in Skagafjörður
  • Oddaflóð, Rangárvallasýsla
  • Pollengi and Tunguey, Biskupstungur
  • Salthöfði and Salthöfðamýri, Austur-Skaftafellssýsla
  • Skrúð, Suður-Múlasýsla
  • Snæfellsnes, protected areas at Budir, Arnarstapi and Hellnar
  • Surtsey
  • Svarfaðardalsá, Eyjafjörður
  • Varmárósar, Mosfellsbær
  • Vatnsfjörður
  • Vestmannsvatn, Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla
  • Þjórsárver, high country heather, richly vegetated

Other protected areas

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