Grjótagjá - Rock ravine at Mývatn, N-Iceland.
Grjótagjá rift is one of the best known caves in Iceland. It is located on the North-Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Grjótagjá has got two entrances and steps leading down to it. It is half-full with hot water and people used to bathe in it, women on one side and men on the other side. During the eruption of Mt. Katla in 1975-1984, which is very close to Grjótagjá, the temperature of the water rose so it couldn´t be used for bathing again until 2004.
Be careful while walking down the few steps as they are steep and one does not want to fall into the hot water.
You can walk to Dimmurborgir "Dark Fortress" (see my tip on that) from Grjótagjá, the hike is a couple of km.
The Mývatn Naturebaths - Jarðböðin við Mývatn.
The Mývatn Naturebaths are sometimes called the Blue lagoon of the north. They are an excellent choice for relaxation after a day of visiting all the interesting sights in Mývatn area. They opened in 2004 so they are quite new.
The geothermal water in the Naturebaths is drawn from depths of upto 2500 meters from boreholes in Bjarnarflag and is rich in minerals, silicates and geothermal microorganisms, which are beneficial to the skin. The water is 130 degrees C hot but is cooled down to 36-40 degrees C for the lagoon.
The area of the lagoon is 5000 m2 of geothermal water, the water being hot in some places and colder in other places, so one just has to look for a spot which is agreeable enough. When the Naturebaths are crowded that is not too easy. There are also hot-pots and natural steam-baths and inside there is a caféteria with an outside terrace with a view of the lagoon and Mývatn. The view of the beautiful Mývatn area from the lagoon is also very good.
There is more sulphur in this nature bath than usual so take off copper or silver jewellery before you go into the lagoon, they become black and can even get damaged.
The Naturebaths are open daily all year. In the summer 1.06-31.08 from 09-24h and during winter 1.09-31.05 from 12-22h. The price is 2.800 ISK for adults.
Do use a conditioner after your visit at the Naturebaths, my hair became unmanageable, not as much as after visiting the Blue lagoon (see my tip on that under Grindavík), but still. The showers in the Naturebaths are few (6 I think), so be prepared to wait (in the nude) for your turn if there are a lot of visitors. I must say that it was a nuisance waiting like this. Apart from that everything was up to par.
Reykjahlíðarkirkja church at Mývatn and the lava.
Reykjahlíðakirkja - The Church at Reykjahlíð in Mývatn is a lovely church. I stayed at the campsite very close to the church and when the "mý" midge was starting to get on my nerves I sought refuge in the church - which fortunately was open. It was so peaceful, dusk, and the lights in the church were turned out and only the altarpiece was lit - a big cross lit up (see my photo). I sat there for hours.
An amazing thing happened here in the volcanic eruption in 1724-1729. The lava flow destroyed the farm, but spared the church and flowed on each side of it. You can see the BIG chuncks of lava next to the church and how it stopped there. The carved wooden pulpit in the church depicts this extraordinary event (see my photo).
The current church was consecrated in 1962. I recommend visiting this church, especially in the dusk with the cross lit - the tranquility and the extraordinary energy in this church is not to be missed while travelling in Mývatn. Especially as the Mývatn area is a very busy tourist destination.
And have a walk in the lava, there is a path leading from the church to the campsite, the lava there is amazing and very different from the lava in f.ex. Dimmuborgir which is close by. See my last photo of the lava - it is huge!!
Reykjahlíð in Mývatn is now a small town with Hótel Reykjahlíð, a convenient store and The Information Center.
Mývatnsstofa - The Information Center.
There is an information center at Mývatn called Mývatnsstofa. Here you can get detailed information the what there is to see and do in this area - countless of things as this is one of the most interesting areas in Iceland.
And here one can buy tickets for the buses and sightseeing. And there are scheduled bus tours to Krafla and Dettifoss f.ex.
There is a permanent exhibition at Mývatnsstofa on the biosphere and the geology of Mývatn.
Here all the buses stop and by the information center is a grocery store, so people stock up on food here for their ongoing travels, or for their stay here.
Between these unique formations are several hiking trails marked, each of which is indicated, posts by a separate color the walking times and the route
At the beginning of this labyrinth very clearly marked and range from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours of walking, so you can choose your time and its pretty easy walk as you follow the route and the indicated color, fauna and flora you sometimes met on the way
If you came here with a car not necessary to go back from where you started, the walking paths goes one way out to the car park area
Near lake Myvatn have a lava cave called Grjotagja and was a popular bathing place in the past however, geological activity in the period water flows through the cave, by volcanic activity, the water temperature had risen above 50 degrees, which makes bathing impossible and dangerous
You will see the entrance several warnings for falling rocks and cliffs
Thermal Nature Bath
Something of a "Blue Lagoon lite", the Myvatn Nature Baths offers mineral-rich geothermal waters drawn from depths of up to 2500 meters facilities include a reception area and cafeteria, changing rooms and showers, three natural steam baths accommodating up to 50 bathers at a time, and a 5000m2 geothermal bathing pool maintained at a constant temperature of 38-40ºC
Myvatn Nature Bath is located in Jardbadsholar, about 4 km from the village of Reykjahlid
Mt. Krafla caldera - Stóra-Víti (Big hell).
Krafla is a caldera of 10 km in diameter with a 90 km long fissure zone. The highest peak of Krafla is 818 m. It contains one of two Víti craters in Iceland (the other one is in Askja, where you can actually have a bath in the water). This one is called Stóra-Víti and was formed in 1724. "Víti" is the Icelandic word for Hell as people often believed Hell to be under volcanoes and one can imagine why when watching a volcanic eruption.
Krafla erupted 9 times from 1975-1984, giving us Icelanders a lot to think about. The last eruption lasted for 2 weeks with a lava flow of 24 sq.km and lava fountains up to 70 meters high lit up the sky the first days of the eruption. When visiting the Krafla area keep this in mind as it is really calm now, but when will it erupt again??!
To get to Krafla you have to pass the Krafla power-plant and drive up a steep hill, you might actually get stuck behind a truck of which there are many in this area and as the road is really steep, but paved, they have a difficult time driving up the hill. If you see a truck on the hill better wait by the power plant for it to pass. As you get to the top of the hill, Leirhnjúkur is on the left hand side, a view-point on the right hand side and just a little further is Krafla.
The parking lot is right next to the caldera and you can walk on the rim around the caldera. When I was last visiting it was extremely windy, but still people were walking way up on the rim, the flaw making it really easy flying off into the caldera. But behind Víti there is a hot-spring area to which you can walk to along the rim of the caldera.
Dimmuborgir - The Dark Fortress at Mývatn.
Dimmuborgir "The Dark Fortress" at Mývatn are a true wonder of nature and nowhere else to be seen in the world i.e on dry land. They are huge lava rock formations which make you feel like you stepped into another world - a world of fairy-tales.
Dimmuborgir are 1 km in diameter with several walking paths - keep to the paths and follow the colour of the path you have chosen. While in the middle of Dimmuborgir you could get lost if not following a certain path as some of the lava formations look exactly the same and one can be almost certain that "you've been there before".
There are several bird species in Dimmuborgir which should not be disturbed, f.ex. the falcon, so it is very important to keep to the paths and not walk on roped-in areas, which are roped in for the protection of the vegetation. There is one path which leads you to Grjótagjá rift, which is half-filled with hot water and some km away from Dimmuborgir (see my tip on Grjótagjá).
The formation of these extraordinary lava cliffs and pillars is caused by lava ponds, i.e. the hot lava streamed over these ponds trapping the water underneath the lava. Steam issued through vent in the lava pools and formed these pillars, which then remained standing even after the crust around them had gone away. The rocks are brittle and fragile because of how they came to be made, so there is no climbing in them.
The best known formation is The Church (see my next tip on that).
A café and a shop just opened at Dimmuborgir, which is greatly appreciated, with good toilet facilities (which is always very appreciated when travelling in Iceland).
On the 12th of May 2013 Dimmuborgir were closed temporarily for visitors for the first time. Spring arrived late in North-Iceland and the area is too delicate for visitors at the moment. It was opened again on the 21st of May.
The view-platform - and Krafla power station.
Krafla is a caldera of 10 km in diameter with a 90 km long fissure zone. The highest peak of Krafla is 818 m. Krafla erupted 9 times from 1975-1984. The last eruption lasted for 2 weeks with a lava flow of 24 sq.km and lava fountains up to 70 meters high lit up the sky the first days of the eruption.
Here is also Krafla geothormal power station. It is the main geothermal power station of the Icelandic Landsvirkjun. It has been operating since 1977, but Krafla erupted at that time, making it dangerous to be in this area, as the eruptions were only 2 km away from the power station. Krafla power station has drilled 33 boreholes, but only half of them are in use. There is a reception room at the power station and it is open to visitors.
To get to Krafla and the view platform you have to pass the Krafla geothermal power station and drive up a steep hill, As you get to the top of the hill, Leirhnjúkur is on the left hand side, the view-point on the right hand side and just a little further is Krafla.
The view from here is amazing, all those colours and steam coming up from everywhere. And all the activity here. There is a lot of traffic here, especially to Leirhnjúkur and Stóra-Víti crater.
Now this is a strange looking mountain. It looks like something you might encounter on the moon, as it were. It looks like a pile of black sand with a hole in the middle.
Mt. Hverfjall means literally Hot spring mountain and is a tuff ring volcano, or a tephra crater. It erupted ca 2.500 years ago.
It is possible to hike to and on the mountain. It is 1 km in diameter and 140 meters deep. It is only accessible from the northwest and south though.
Lava pillars by Lake Mývatn.
There is an interesting formation of lava pillars by Lake Mývatn almost next to Höfði (see my tip). Lake Mývatn is Iceland's 4th largest lake and was created in a basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago and the surrounding landscape in the Mývatn area is extraordinary. There are so many wonderful lava formations in this area, including the lava pillars by and in Lake Mývatn.
The lake is 36,5 km2, the depth is 3-3,3 meters and there are ca 40 islands in Mývatn. It is protected as a nature reserve. There is a very diverse waterbird-live here, including at least 15 species of ducks, and nowhere else on earth are there as many duck-species than in Mývatn. There is a lot of midge/blackfly at Mývatn, and the name of the lake literally means The Lake of the midge/blackfly. Due to the midge the fishing there is very good and Mývatn is filled with trouts and lake-char weighing up to 20 pounds! The farmers by Mývatn net thousands of trouts in the summer time and fishing through ice is popular during the winter time. The very rare Moss balls can be found in Mývatn. The only other lake where Moss balls are common is in Lake Akan in Hokkaido Japan.
The most beautiful lava pillars in Mývatn though can be seen at Kálfastrandavogar. There is a gravel road leading to Kálfastrandavogar and from there you can walk to see the lava pillars. But they can be seen up close from Höfði peninsula as well (see my tip). These are the lava pillars always depicted on the postcards from Mývatn. I include my last photo of them so you can see the lava pillars at Kálfastrandavogar.
Lake Mývatn is Iceland's 4th largest lake and was created in a basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago and the surrounding landscape in the Mývatn area is extraordinary. There are so many wonderful lava formations in this area, including the lava pillars by and in Lake Mývatn.
The lake is 36,5 km2, the depth is 3-3,3 meters and there are ca 40 islands in Mývatn. It is protected as a nature reserve. There is a very diverse waterbird-live here, including at least 15 species of ducks, and nowhere else on earth are there as many duck-species than in Mývatn.
There is a lot of midge/blackfly at Mývatn, and the name of the lake literally means The Lake of the midge/blackfly. Due to the midge the fishing there is very good and Mývatn is filled with trouts and lake-char weighing up to 20 pounds! The farmers by Mývatn net thousands of trouts in the summer time and fishing through ice is popular during the winter time.
The very rare Moss balls can be found in Mývatn. The only other lake where Moss balls are common is in Lake Akan in Hokkaido Japan.
Beware of the mud pools and sulphur poisoning
I accidentally put this tip under things to do - but this is a warnings and dangers tip.
There are many mud-pools and fumaroles in Iceland. Take care while visiting them as the sulphur fumes can overwhelm you at times there, especially when the wind is strong. Try to stay up wind as this can be toxic and can give you a bad headache and nausea. One time I visited the wind was so strong that I got the fumes in my face and I was ill for days. I refer to my tips on Mt. Námafjall by Mývatn in N-Iceland. Too much of the fumes can be deadly, f.ex. when there is a volcanic eruption underneath a glacier and there is a glacier-burst. If that happens run for your life and don't ever get too close a glacier-burst because of the fumes.
The sulphur can also damage telecommunication equipments, cameras and the computer equipment of cars by oxidising stuff that is encoated with silver and platinum. So keep those things away from the fumes
Jokulsárgljúfur (Vatanajokull) N. P: Dettifoss
The north of this park is closer to Husavik but the south, where Dettioss can be found is definitely closer to Myvatn.
During winter the roads are not great and the F-roads (which you may or may not be allowed to travel on in a hire car - check your rental agreement) are closed anyway. There is a new road that has been or is being made - it is difficult to tell in the winter conditions, certainly a lot of road building vehicles had been abandoned and were completely snowed in along the roadway.
Driving along the road we had the conversation regarding whether we thought we should continue driving to Dettoifoss (the road was worsening). We did drive there but it is not a short drive, especially in these conditions. We parked the car and staggered through the snow to use the bathroom facilities (brrr!).
Dettifoss is Europes most powerful in terms of volume. It is 44m high and has 193 cubic metres of water. My Lonely Planet book said that the water can be seen 1km away...
The best thing is to tell you my winter experience and then you can make an informed decision as to whether to attempt Dettifoss out of season!
We were not certain but we decided the red posts were markers to guide the way to the waterfall. We found a signpost that vaguely alluded to Dettifoss as being somewhere along the red post route. The yellow posts seemingly headed to Selfoss. Some of the red posts had snow alarmingly high... and then my eldest son pointed to the floor and said "I think we are walking on ice!" Looking down, yes! it did, certainly appear so... and of course, it is frightfully difficult to tell exactly how deep water may be beneath the ice and how thick/strong/safe/sturdy that ice is! The wind was howling, the snow and ice started pelting us and everywhere started to look remarkably similar! It was at this point we decided it would probably be churlish to continue - we had no idea as to the lay of the land or what dangers we could possibly put ourselves in in what was a very forlorne and isolated place, miles from anything remotely resembling civilisation. We turned around and headead back - wow! had we really trudged all this way or was it just painfully slow and hard because the weather was so punishing. It felt as though we were in the Antarctic!
By the time we got back to the car the blizzard was really in full blast and there was a sense of urgency to get going and for the road to remain clear for us... 5 minutes down the road we stopped for a flask b reak - the weather was so ghastly that we could not see... 5 minutes later we drove back with lovely blue skies and the sun shining in! mad weather!
- National/State Park