Iceland's first protected area was established in 1929 when Þingvellir National Park was designated a "national sanctuary". Today, Þingvellir is a protected national shrine and there are 102 protected areas in Iceland. Together they encompass over 21 per cent of the country’s area. In addition, one algae, the Cladophora aegagropila, is protected - together with 31 species of plants and a mineral, the stalactite.
National Parks and other protected areas
Three national parks have been established in Iceland; Þingvellir national park that was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1972, Snæfellsjökull National Park and Vatnajökull National Park which is also the largest national park in Europe.
Other Icelandic protected areas consist of nature reserves, natural monuments, habitat protection areas and country parks. All together, they contribute to safeguarding important wildlife, stunning landscapes, geological formations, ecosystem services and outdoor recreation.
Many protected areas are popular tourist attractions as they are one of the main natural treasures of Iceland. Tourists are encouraged to visit accessible protected areas and enjoy what they have to offer while complying with the rules that apply to these areas. Visiting the protected areas offers a unique opportunity to experience the variety of the Icelandic wonders of nature such as wilderness, interplay between the forces of glaciers and volcanic activity, powerful waterfalls and dramatic canyons, geological formations, reindeer grazing grounds and habitats for birds and other wildlife.
Management for today and tomorrow
Umhverfisstofnun, the Environment Agency of Iceland, is responsible for the daily operations of most of the protected areas. This is done in cooperation with local authorities and committees.
Each protected area has its own conservation agreement with specific rules that aim to maintain the conservation value of each area. By declaring an area protected we safeguard them for future generations to enjoy.
Please find more information on the Umhverfisstofnun, Environment Agency of Iceland, website.