Go North My Friends - To Lake Myvatn, Iceland!
Once the traveler arrives in Iceland, he soon realizes what he has read is true: it’s an incredibly safe country, with a friendly population and the most incredibly diverse landscapes he will ever encounter while traveling. The Icelandic traveler should bump it up a notch, and head north to Lake Myvatn. The lake is known for its pseudocraters, bird life and diverse terrain. The nearby area contains mud pots, plenty of geothermal activity, a nature bath, excellent hiking, and rare lava formations. Explorers should allow at least two days to truly experience this magnificent part of Iceland.
The Lake Myvatn area is just along the Golden Ring Road. If you happen to overnight in Akureyri, it’s just an hour drive to the lake. Be sure to stop at Godafoss along the way. There are walking paths along the river and falls, with some nice ledge viewpoints. These spectacular waterfalls have such an interesting legacy. It seems that around the year 1000, a law maker decided that Christianity would become the official Icelandic religion. After this decision, he threw all of his statues of Norse gods into the waterfall.
Moonscape areas are prevalent as travelers drive towards the lake. Most of the area was formed by fissures in the Earth, like a zipper opening up. Myvatnsstofa, the tourist information center, is a perfect first stop when one gets to the lake. It is in the village of Reykjahlid. Employees are eager to answer questions and give out maps. Lodging information is also available. A convenient supermarket is near the tourist center. While in Reykjahlid, also be sure to stop at the Reykjahlid Church. Long ago, this church experienced a miracle! The volcano Krafla, which erupted in 1729, destroyed the Reykjahlid village. However, as it approached the church, the lava flow split into 2 directions, sparing the building. The church has since been moved and enlarged (in 1972), but you can see the original foundation in the church’s cemetery. Spend a few minutes climbing on and looking at the massive hardened lava flows.
From Reykjahlid, head toward the Vitti Crater, which is in the Askja caldera. Visitors can walk on a smooth path around this 400 m deep crater. In 1783, the eruption that formed this crater, caused a haze that covered Europe for 1 ½ years. It is quite impressive to walk around this massive crater. On the way to and from Vitti, explorers will drive through a geothermal area. Notice the pipelines throughout. This power plant produces electrical energy and thermal water.
Hverastrond Sulphur Springs are close to the geothermal power plant. There is a nice pathway that leads visitors through the lunar-looking area. One will experience scorched yellow earth and sulphuric acid melting the ground into bubbling mud. The gurgling mud is fascinating to watch! The sulphur springs are at the base of Namafjall, a spectacular mountain that appears to have come from the moon.
As the visitor leaves the area, and drives back towards Lake Myvatn, he may notice small thermal vents on the moon-like hills. Take a close look: if there are several metal discs grouped together on the ground, you’ve discovered a bakery of sorts! Each family in the village “owns” a thermal hole, and bakes bread in them. They bake the bread in waxed milk cartons, and it takes about 24 hours for the bread to bake. When the traveler stops, he can smell both the sulfur (from the geothermal water) and the rye (from the bread).
Dimmuborgir Lava Formations
Another nice stop is at the Dimmuborgir lava formations. Travelers can walk on comfortable paths through the rare formations. This area was formed when lava was flowing, got dammed up, hardened, and then was forced upwards when more hot lava flowed. As travelers look at the towering formations, they should use their imaginations: do they look like birds, elves, trolls or other creatures? Enjoy a nice lunch at Kaffi Borgir Restaurant, located at the entrance to the Dimmuborgir. Try the homemade soup, served with Hverabraud: the molasses- based bread baked in the nearby geothermal vents! Diners can eat inside or out- and have a splendid view of Lake Myvatn. A nice souvenir shop is also located here.
As the visitor drives around Lake Myvatn, he should notice that there is only 1 river flowing into the lake, but there are many huge rivers flowing out of the lake. What the visitor doesn’t see is all of the snow melt from nearby mountains going under all the lava in the area, and into the lake! The rivers are great places for trout fishing!
The Sigurgeir Bird Museum is definitely a do-not-miss place at the lake. There are at least 25 kinds of nesting birds at Lake Myvatn, but the bird museum maintains an excellent display of all Icelandic birds, both residential and transitory. Visitors can use the outside telescope to watch birds near the museum.
Myvatn Nature Baths
The Myvatn Nature Baths has to be one of the region’s highlights. Travelers can experience a luxurious bath in a pool of geothermal water that is drawn from up to 2500 m below the earth’s surface. The warm waters contain minerals, silicates and geothermal micro-organisms, all of which will benefit the bathers’ skin. The Myvatn Nature Baths overlook an incredible vista of volcanic landscape, with snow-capped mountains even farther in the distance. Travelers will not want to leave the relaxing bath! The facility also has a gift shop and restaurant. Visitors can even purchase an entire loaf of Hverabraud to take home!
Pseudocraters in Lake Myvatn
The Skutustaoagigar pseudocraters are located along the southern shore of Lake Myvatn. There are two parking areas available, and two entrances to the easy hiking paths. The paths will take you to the top of the unusual pseudocraters, where you can overlook the lake with all of the varied landscapes in the distance. Sheep frequently graze in some of the pseudocraters. These pseudocraters were formed by steam explosions as hot flowing lava crossed over the lake. Don’t forget to bring binoculars. There is an amazing array of birdlife along the shore. Travelers will easily observe tufted ducks, pintails, Slavonian grebes, and gadwalls, among others.
Where to Stay
Lake Myvatn has numerous lodging opportunities. Sel Hotel Myvatn is directly across the road from the Skutustaoagigar pseudocraters, which makes for a lovely view out of the room windows! There is also a full service restaurant on the location, along with a well stocked souvenir shop.
Start Planning a Break
As you travel through Iceland, you will quickly discover how varied the landscapes truly are. Lake Myvatn is well worth a 2-day stop, so that travelers can appreciate the geothermal area and rich volcanic history of the area. The birdlife is incredible. There are abundant hiking trails, and after a long day of hiking, the Nature Baths await! Iceland is a living, growing island, and the visible geology in the Lake Myvatn area proves what an amazing process it is!
By Jennifer Perry