Sjonarnipa Viewing Point Travel Guide
Sjonarnipa, spelled Sjónarnípa in Icelandic, is a beautiful viewing point in Skaftafell Nature Reserve located within the Vatnajokull National Park in South Iceland.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Moonbeep2016 No edits made.
Hiking enthusiasts often visit Sjonarnipa on self-drive tours along the South Coast. Guided tour packages also take tourists around the area, like this exciting helicopter tour, glacier hiking tour, ice caving tour, and many more.
Sjonarnipa is widely considered the best viewing point in Skaftafell Nature Reserve, a spectacular haven that was once a national park in its own right but is now part of the world-renowned Vatnajokull National Park. The viewing point is one of the few locations in the park where hikers can see the entire Skaftafelljokull glacier and other surrounding attractions.
How to Get to Sjonarnipa
Skaftafell Nature Reserve, where Sjonarnipa can be found, lies about 203 miles (327 kilometers) from Reykjavik City. Driving from the capital to Skaftafell via the Ring Road takes approximately four hours.
However, the journey may take longer for those who want to make several stops at other popular attractions along the way like the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers, Solheimasandur and Skeidararsandur black sand deserts, and many others.
Upon arrival at Skaftafell, visitors who want to reach Sjonarnipa may choose to hike directly to the viewing point or take the longer round route that passes by the famous Svartifoss waterfall.
This stunning waterfall is famous for the black basalt columns bordering it. The towering natural structures look otherwordly in their striking hexagonal shape.
Both routes start near the Skaftafell Visitor Center, where visitors take a 250-meter path through the campground until the trail turns right and uphill.
Visitors will then arrive at a crossroad where a signpost reads that Sjonarnipa is to the right. Those who prefer to hike directly to Sjonarnipa must follow the sign, whereas those who want to make a detour to Svartifoss waterfall will have to follow the path to the left.
Visitors should continue on this trail until they arrive at a viewpoint above the Svartifoss waterfall. Then they will have to go down into the canyon, across the bridge, and climb up the basalt column steps on the other side.
They will then see a sign pointing to the blue S6 trail leading to Sjonarnipa.
A Stunning Vantage Point
Sjonarnipa is famous among hikers for providing the best panoramic view of mountains, glaciers, glacier lagoons, black sand deserts, verdant trails, and incredible terrains surrounding Skaftafell.
Visitors will also cross the Austurheidi plateau and experience the Icelandic tundra with a mountainside backdrop on their way to Sjonarnipa. They may even spot a rare arctic fox along this portion of the trail.
Hiking to Sjonarnipa Viewing Point in Winter
Even to those who have experience on the trails, it's strongly encouraged to never hike alone to Sjonarnipa during winter and spring because fallen snow can quickly turn to mud during the day and ice during the evening, which can be risky.
Aside from that, the trail leading up to Sjonarnipa can be pretty windy because the area is mostly open land.
When hiking in Iceland, exploring the hiking trails with layers of clothing is the best way to stay safe and comfortable on the path. Sunglasses and hats are also great tools because the glacier reflects many of the sun's rays on clear days.
Other Notable Attractions Nearby
Since Sjonarnipa is located in Iceland's southern region, known for its many incredible natural wonders, other popular attractions are nearby.
As mentioned above, during the drive to Skaftafell alone, visitors will pass by the famous Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers, Solheimasandur and Skeidararsandur black sand deserts as well as the magnificent coastal rock formations in Dyrholaey and Reynisdrangar.
Then, there's the entire Vatnajokull National Park. Being one of the three national parks in Iceland, this one holds the largest glacier in Europe. Vatnajokull glacier covers eight percent of Iceland's landmass.
There's also the world-famous Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. This stunning site is located 35 miles (57 kilometers) from the Sjonarnipa viewing point. The lagoon is incredibly breathtaking in itself, but during winter, visitors may be able to catch a glimpse of the spectacular aurora borealis, which becomes even more beautiful when reflected in the ice below.