Vatnajökull National Park was established June 7, 2008 and was then over 12.000 km², about 12% of Iceland's surface, which makes it the largest National Park in Europe. Vatnajökull is Europe's biggest glacier and the 3rd biggest in the world. More than half of the national park is made up of glacier, but within it there is interaction between volcanic fire, geothermal activity, the formation of glaciers and their effect on land formation, and waterfalls. Vatnajökull National Park is quite unique when it comes to nature, among other things because of the ongoing struggle between fire and water. The geology of the areas that belong to Vatnajökull National Park is very diverse. Volcanic activity and water erosion, by catastrophic floods among other things, characterize Jökulsárgljúfur. The mountain Herðubreið and its surroundings are considered natural relics created in a volcanic eruption underneath an ice age glacier. There, you can see signs of how the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate have pulled apart. Askja is a typical stratovolcano in a powerful central volcano, Dyngjufjöll. There are a lot of central volcanoes in the national park and in some you can see fascinating interactions between volcanic fire, geothermal activity and volcanic eruptions. Kverkfjöll and Grímsvötn are prime examples of this. To begin with, the national park will cover the whole of Skaftafell National Park and the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, in addition to almost whole of Vatnajökull and the surrounding area. The Vatnajökull National Park is divided into four parts; the northern part, the eastern part, the southern part and the western part. Six visitors' centers and information centers will be located within the national park or in close proximity. Out of the six, one will be located at Kirkjubæjarklaustur, which belongs to the western part of Vatnajökull National Park.
Fast moving glaciers are characteristic for the western part of Vatnajökull National Part. Within the area, there are two central volcanoes, Grímsvötn, that's erupted the most times in Iceland in historical times, approx. 70 times, and Bárðarbunga, one of Iceland's biggest volcanoes. Geothermal activity at Bárðarbunga melts the glacier and the water gathers in a lake underneath the glacier. The lake overflows every few years, causing Skeiðarárhlaup, glacier lake outburst floods. In Skaftárjökull there's geothermal activity and the melt water flows into Skaftárkatlar, that are two cauldrons from which glacier lake outburst floods in Skaftá emerge. Skaftárhlaup (Skaftá glacier lake outburst floods) first occurred around 1955. Heljargjá, a graben, and other eruptive fissures characterize the western part. The best known of these is Lakagígar.