No, it’s not the air temperature, but the heat of the earth’s interior, which is exceptionally noticeable in the Myvatn region due to the thin earth’s crust in this mieisljs.
Sometimes, walking here, one gets the impression that he is moving on very active ground. Cracked earth, various lava formations, tumbling water and craters make the landscapes beautiful but frightening at the same time….
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The surroundings of Lake Myvatn
The region was once under an ice cap (about 10,000 years ago), and volcanic activity has caused the region to change significantly since then. The last eruption was recorded in 1984, but scientists say the lava gathered in the 1990s and we can expect more eruptions in the near future. The number of things to see and experience here is really long, and there is quietly plenty to do for several days. All that matters is that the weather is good, which is no longer so easy in Iceland.
Almost traditionally, our day started out rainy and we already had to wear rain jackets for breakfast, which we had in the building next door. Undaunted, we packed up and drove toward Lake Myvatn and then Krafli. On the way, we bounced off Route 1 to the right to Goðafoss waterfall on the Skjálfandafljót River.
The waterfall can be reached by car from both sides, we were from the eastern side. The waterfall is very picturesque, probably even more so when it’s sunny ;)
Krafla – the most famous crater in Iceland?
We continued on towards one of the most famous craters in Iceland – Krafla. We turned left from Road 1 and followed the signs leading to Krafli. We passed geothermal power plants and lots of pipes transporting water around.
Depending on how the wind blows you have to, sometimes plug your nose ;) The characteristic smell for geothermal waters floats here. As for us, something to taste of rotten egg ;)
A winding road leads up to the crater with Lake Viti, where you have to walk about 50 meters and you are already at the edge of the hill. There is a path around the crater that can be walked to admire the view from all sides, if, of course, the visibility is a little more than a few tens of meters. Just when we were there the weather was at its worst. So we waited a bit and after a while we were even able to see the whole lake. However, the photos from this place didn’t work out for us at all :(
Active volcano Leirhnjúkur
Nearby is Leirhnjúkur, the most impressive and dangerous volcano, part of the Krafla volcanic system.
We left the car in the parking lot and set off along the designated route despite the increasingly inclement weather. It leads around cracked earth and solidified lava.
Then, the road leads on less stable ground, but in order not to scare away tourists, wooden footbridges are laid (beware, during the rain they are really slippery and easy to fall).
After about 20 minutes of walking, among various lava formations, one reaches the hot springs.
This is not the end of the route, you can go further up the mountain to the crater. You have to be careful, as it’s easy to fall, and you shouldn’t go near the attractive, colorful sulfur rocks that are heated up. The route is poorly marked, looking in vain for signs, so basically we don’t even know where we got to, but we continued walking for another 15-20 minutes or so from the source.
Of course, you can go even further, but we were already very wet, and water began to get into the equipment as well.
During the whole journey we passed maybe 4 people.
Despite the inclement weather, it was one of the best experiences during the entire stay on the island. Despite the terrible downpour and poor visibility, walking through such active terrain is quite an adventure, straight out of disaster movies (the weather only adds to the flavor ;) ).
It was already the peak of our backpacks and jackets, so we needed a place to dry off and rest. Going downhill, we stopped at the Tourist Information Center near the Geothermal Power Plant. Here you can use the restroom, drink warm coffee and, of course, learn interesting things about the local springs, their use and the geology of the surrounding region.
Returning to Route 1, we passed on the way a very interesting installation in the field itself :) Apparently, there used to be a loo on display there, so they probably change this attraction every so often, or someone finally clogged up the previous one for them ;)
Once back on the main road we headed west, again towards Lake Myvatn. On the way we passed thermal pools, where you can legally swim (paid, of course).
We then turned towards the more natural hot springs – Grjótagjá. Driving towards the caves, we saw holes in the ground covered with stones, where a local delicacy – Rúgbrauð bread– is probably baked.
The caves are inconspicuous, looking like uplifted rocks from the ground. At the parking lot there are immediately two holes through which you can enter and down the rocks to the water, which is extremely warm here – ok. 40 degrees. In cold temperatures, everything evaporates, so it’s hard to get pictures, too.
In theory, there is a ban on bathing, but in practice down there we saw several people bathing or at least soaking their feet :)
Climbing the Hverfjall volcano
Continuing on, we returned again to Road 1 and reached Lake Myvatn to turn left on Road 848 to Dimmuborgir and the Hverfjall volcano. The first, is an area, of various and most fanciful caves and volcanic rocks. Several paths lead here, depending on the time you have available.
The most popular is Church Circle, which is 2.25 kilometers long. We also recommend going up to the viewing platform, which offers a beautiful view of the entire area.
There is a souvenir store and a buffet next door, where you can eat something warm, and the specialty is the aforementioned Rúgbrauð (about 2,000 kroner for a buffet of soup and bread).
Above the area reigns the extinct volcano Hverfjall (Hverfell), whose shape resembles volcanoes known from movies – almost perfectly round with a diameter of about 1 km.
The volcano was formed some 2,500 years ago, is now extinct, and is 463 meters high. The crater is reached via an off-road gravel road, but ordinary 2WD cars can also handle it without any problems. It leads down the slope of the volcano to the path that leads to the very top (a straight path that is ascended very quickly).
As with the previous crater, there is a marked path around it, and here you can also walk across, through the crater itself.
Further on, we drove the road around Lake Myvatn from the south side – highly recommended! Beautiful views, rocks, nothing but stopping every now and then :)
Whale watching in Húsavík
The last point for the day was Húsavík, a fishing village that is famous for the whale “hunts” held there. Of course, this is hunting with a camera, and no harm is done to the animals.
The bay located here is a place where it is very common to see whales – it is the largest such center in Europe. There are two major players in the market who organize tours, and their offerings differ only in the dessert as part of the meal (literally!).
It is advisable to book in advance, as there may not be enough seats in high season. Both companies quote a very high probability of seeing whales (as high as 95%), but of course no one guarantees a return if the whales happen not to be there (although we have read that you can then try to sail in the second round if there is room). In general, we asked many people along the way if they were successful, and almost everyone nodded in the affirmative :)
The village also has some nice buildings, a whale museum and a fallological museum – something for everyone ;)
We stayed in the village for food, in a cozy pub right by the sea. Traditionally soup of the day and Icelandic burger ;)
Another day full of excitement and attractions is behind us, and Iceland does not cease to surprise us :)
See also our practical summary of a trip to Iceland.