The amazing Mývatn Area in North-Iceland
Mývatn in North-Iceland is my all time favourite area in Iceland and should not be missed while visiting my country. The Mývatn area is called Mývatnssveit, but we Icelanders always refer to it as going to Mývatn.
At Mývatn, you can f.ex. walk on the rim of the pseudo craters Skútustaðagígar, see beautiful lava pillars by Lake Mývatn, walk through amazing lava formations in Dimmuborgir – Dark Fortress, visit a cave with geothermal water and bathe in the Mývatn nature baths, which are referred to as the Blue Lagoon of the North.
Here you can also visit the spot where the lava flood stopped right by a church, camp in a lava field, hike on the sandy volcano Mt. Hverfjall, crawl into the lava cave Lofthellirand see amazing ice sculptures and many, many more things, which I am going to show you in the Amazing Mývatn Area in North-Iceland I-IV series.
And if you travel a little bit further east you can see the bubbling mud pools by Mt. Nàmafjall and visit the area referred to as Hell’s kitchen. And in the Krafla area, you can go for a very interesting hike in the mud pool area of Leirhnjúkur by the Krafla central volcano and walk on the rim of a crater filled with the most beautiful blue lake, called Víti or Hell. There are just endless interesting things to see and do in this area.
Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters
As you enter the Mývatn area the first place of interest are the Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters. These pseudo craters are often called rootless craters or rootless cones as they have no end to them as do normal craters.
This natural phenomenon is formed when lava flows over wet ground and pushes the ground down. This causes a lot of steam to be trapped under the weight of the lava which then causes a lot of pressure. When the pressure becomes too great it causes steam explosions and the formation of these beautiful pseudo craters.
Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters were created in the eruption of Lúdentaborgir and Þrengslaborgir some 2,300 years ago.
It is possible to walk on the rim of the pseudo craters and paths will lead you to two of the craters. There is an excellent view from here of Lake Mývatn and the surrounding areas.
The Grænavatn Turf House
As those of you, who read my travel-blog, know, then I love turf houses and have written about almost all of the turf houses left in Iceland. I find the turf houses at Grænavatnto be so beautiful. The turf houses left in Iceland are all unique and the two-storey house with a turf roof at Grænavatn is so big and majestic.
I have written a special travel-blog on Grænavatn turf house, which was built in 1913. Grænavatn is a settlement farm, meaning that the Vikings built a farm here, so there might have been a turf house in this location since the Settlement of Iceland.
The turf house is not visible from the main road, but it is located midway between Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters and Dimmuborgir lava formations. The turf house is located next to the farm at Grænavatn, so let’s be respectful while visiting it as this is the driveway to the farm.
Lake Mývatn & the lava pillars at Kálfastrandavogar
Lake Mývatn, Iceland’s 4th largest lake, was created in a basaltic lava eruption some 2,300 years ago. 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, with a depth of 3-4,5 meters and dotted with ca 40 islands, many of which contain pseudo craters. The lake is protected as a nature reserve. The waterbird-life here is very diverse, including at least 15 species of ducks, and nowhere else on earth are there as many duck-species than at Mývatn.
By Lake Mývatn you will find an excellent museum, the Sigurgeir’s Birds Museum, which I visited last summer and on which I have added a special travel- blog. At the museum you will find specimens of all the breeding birds in Iceland bar one, the grey phalarope.
The photo of the Mandarin duck I took at the Birds Museum, but this duck can be seen by Lake Mývatn. I have never seen it myself, but would absolutely love to see it. It is amazingly colourful during the breeding season.
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 here is very good and Mývatn is filled with trout and lake-char weighing up to 20 pounds. The farmers by Mývatn net thousands of trout in the summertime and fishing through ice is popular in the winter time. The midge is very annoying at times and has been known to bite, I included.
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.
Kálfastrandavogar is the name of the place where the most beautiful lava pillars in Lake Mývatn, Klasar or Strípar, can be seen. A gravel road leads to Kálfastrandavogar and from there a relatively short hike leads to the lava pillars. Klasar can be seen from above from Höfði peninsula as well.
These are the lava pillars depicted on the postcards of Mývatn. Klasar were formed in the same way as Dimmuborgir when molten lava flowed over a lake and steam issued through vents creating these beautiful freestanding lava pillars.
Due to increasing traffic to the lava pillars in Kálfastrandavogar, the area closest to the lava pillars has been fenced off. It is still lovely visiting them, but it is no longer possible to peek through the holes in the pillars as I used to do when I was younger.
I do understand that they have to be fenced off as too much traffic could ruin this landmark of Mývatn. Better to be safe and sorry here and keep this wonderful pearl of nature for the future generations to enjoy.
Höfði is a beautiful peninsula in the Mývatn area. You can enter a gate at the parking lot and walk to the top of Höfði and have a breathtaking panoramic view of Lake Mývatn and the surrounding areas.
Höfði peninsula used to be barren until the proprietor of the peninsula and his wife started planting thousands of trees and plants during their summer holidays. They carried out this work for decades and after the husband died the wife donated Höfði to the county.
Thanks to these hard working people Höfði is now open to the public and we get to visit this beautiful green peninsula with a lot of vegetation, flowers and extraordinary views.
You will find paths around the peninsula and from the furthest point of Höfði, you will get a different view of the most beautiful lava pillars in Mývatn – the lava pillars of Kálfastrandavogar.
Lofthellir lava cave and the huge ice sculptures
Hidden away in Mývatn is the extraordinary lava cave, Lofthellir, where you can find the largest ice sculptures in a lava cave in Iceland. Only one tour operator takes people down into Lofthellir cave, the Akureyri based Saga Travel.
The visit to Lofthellir is quite an adventure as to reach it I had to squeeze through a narrow hole by the entrance to the lava cave – then swing on ice until I reached the main dome of Lofthellir with the amazing natural ice sculptures!
Lofthellir was discovered by chance, as it were, in the 1980’s after an earthquake. The roof of the cave seemingly collapsed in this earthquake revealing to us this amazing lava cave.
The lava takes on such beautiful colours and in the cave, you will see pink, red, yellow and multi-coloured lava rocks, some of them shiny and sparkling. And ice sculptures of all shapes and sizes – beware of not stepping on baby ice on the floor, honestly 🙂
I have written another detailed travel-blog on my visit to the Lofthellir cave, and I highly recommend visiting it given that you are not claustrophobic. See also:
I have only touched on a few beautiful spots to visit at Mývatn – in chronological order – and will continue to show you more interesting things to see and do in my series of Mývatn travel blogs. Next, we are going to visit Dimmuborgir – the Dark Fortress.
You will find several guided tours to Mývatn to choose from, apart from the Lofthellir tour, f.ex.:
Mývatn is also included in the 7 Day Self Drive Tour | North Iceland & Mývatn.
To reach the Mývatn area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up here in a couple of days.
I have added many more travel-blogs on the Mývatn area, there are just so many things to see and do here in my favourite spot in Iceland: