Iceland's national parks
There are three National parks in Iceland, Snaefellsjokull national park, Vatnajokull national park and Thingvellir national park. Thingvellir is also a cultural UNESCO site protected for it's historical and cultural value. In 2008 Jökulsárgljúfur and Skaftafell national parks were merged and incorporated into Vatnajökull National Park making it the largest national park in Europe.
Thingvellir national park is located 40 km east of Reykjavik According to the law, passed in 1928, the protected area shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation, under the preservation of the Alþing. No single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Thingvellir or Þingvellir in Icelandic, literally "Parliament Plains". Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. Thingvellir was used by the Viking settlers of Iceland as common ground for meetings and yearly parliamentary discussions, it is where the Alþing general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. It is well worth visiting national park on your holiday in Iceland and there are many guided tours which will take you here. Visitors of Thingvellir can therefore enjoy a thousand years of cultural history. The Þingvellir area is also important for geological reasons, it is a part of the North Atlantic rift system and can be described as an area of sea-floor spreading, displaying the close association of crustal rifting and volcanism. Þingvellir and the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa are the only sites on Earth where the effects of two major plates drifting apart can be observed.
Vatnajökull National Park encompasses not only all of Vatnajökull glacier but also extensive surrounding areas. These include the national parks previously existing at Skaftafell in the south and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north, so that today's national park covers 13% of Iceland. The unique qualities of Vatnajökull National Park are primarily its great variety of landscape features, created by the combined forces of rivers, glacial ice, and volcanic and geothermal activity. There are many tours for glacial walks and hiking available to tourists with a starting point in Reykjavik.
Snæfellsjökull National Park is situated on the Snæfellsness peninsula. The park was established on June 28, 2001 and its proximity to Reykjavik (approx. 2 hours drive) makes it one of the most visited parks in Iceland. It is a nice day trip that is easy to make in a rented car from one of the local car rentals in Reykjavik. It is considered by many to be the jewel of West Iceland. Snaefellsjokull was until recently the most famous volcano in Iceland until it was overtaken in popularity by its cousin Eyjafjallajokull which is also a glacier covered volcano. Snaefellsjokull was made famous by the science fiction writer Jules Verne who described it in his book of "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" as the starting point of the journey and the gateway to the centre of the earth.
In addition to the three National parks of Iceland the island of Surtsey is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its scientific and natural value. Surtsey is a brand new island that was created by an underwater volcanic eruption in the 1960s. It is under constant scientific observation and the Icelandic government does not allow visitors. You can, however, view this new island on some of the boat tours which head out from the Vestmann islands.