Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park has officially become a UNESCO World Heritage Site! At the 43rd annual UNESCO meeting session this month, the park became an official member of the esteemed list that includes other important landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef and Yellowstone National Park. The designation by UNESCO means that Vatnajökull National Park has a “unique value to humankind.”
Vatnajökull National Park combines two national parks, Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur, comprising approximately 14% of Iceland’s total territory. Known for its gorgeous landscapes and biodiversity, the national park features not only Iceland’s largest ice cap, but also various lava fields, waterfalls, glacial canyons, and Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur. Due to its natural biodiversity, UNESCO has nicknamed the national park a “dynamic nature of fire and ice.” In being named to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Vatnajökull National Park joins two other Icelandic landmarks: Surtsey Island and Þingvellir National Park.
The decision to include Vatnajökull National Park in the list of World Heritage Sites has been in development since 2016. Just last January, Iceland’s Ministers of Environment and Education, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson and Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, signed off on the application to become a World Heritage Site. Both ministers described the inclusion as “joyous” and “historic.”
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