Driving around Myvatn

Myvatn… Where to start? The Myvatn area is amazing. Possibly one of the most diverse areas in Iceland and catering to almost anybody’s desires. Myvatn itself is first and foremost a lake and while it is a beautiful and rather big lake, it just falls a bit short when compared to the other geological landmarks in the area.

But let’s start from the beginning.  On our way to Myvatn we happened to come about the Goðafoss. Foss is the Icelandic word for waterfall, I will be using it quite a lot over the next few posts. Goða means gods. So the complete name is the waterfall of the gods,  legends say that this is the water fall into which the Icelanders dropped the statues of their gods when they decided to convert to Christianity.  The amount of water plunging down the fall certainly lets you believe that nothing thrown in the river could possibly remain intact.

After this promising prelude we continued on to Myvatn lake itself. Once again the map we used was somewhat misleading as route 1 suddenly became two roads leading along both sides of the Myvatn lake and reuniting behind it. After some back and forth the decision was taken to drive up one shore and back down the other side of the lake.

We picked a side at random and were almost immediately rewarded with the superb view of the pseudo-craters of Skútustaðir. These pseudo craters look like miniature volcanoes and run alongside lake Myvatn for a few kilometres. Sometimes being half emerged into the lake, sometimes showing up as islands or simply sitting warm and dry on the shore. From the top of these craters, one could already see the  smoke rising from the fumaroles of Námafjall, or so we thought. As we would soon find out, Námafjall actually lay behind a mountain chain, so whatever we saw steaming, it wasn’t Námafjall.

Continuing on through surreal landscape of Dimmuborgir with its bent and disformed lava-pillars we reached the other side of the lake and from there slowly started the ascent towards Námaskarð. On our way up to the pass, we stopped at an incredibly turquoise lake, surrounded by incredibly beautiful red mounds and incredibly ugly industrial buildings. Luckily the billowing steam covered them up occasionally, allowing us to take some pics where the buildings were hidden. Unluckily the billowing steam was actually composed of sulfurous gases. The entire place stank horribly. After a short stop there we fled back to the car and continued on to the solfatara at  Námafjall, only to find out that it stank equally as bad as that lake.  Anybody familiar with solfatara would probably have expected this, as the name already implies the sulphur, but I didn’t and I wasn’t too happy when I found out. Nevertheless the solfatara are a real sight, as is the view from the mountain range into the valley that spreads out before you. The solfatara are an interesting play of colors of greys, yellows and reds, which showed of beautifully in the sun.  We hiked back up the mountain in clean air, to get a view of Námafjall from above. Shortly after reaching the top we were surrounded by steaming ridges more fumaroles poisoning the air with that unmistakable smell. The way down, was pleasantly free of  smells.

Since the day was still young and the area offered so much more to see, we quickly decided to view a few more sights in the area. The order in which we visited them, though, led to us crossing the same pass at Námaskard several more times that day. So we went to visit a small hot spring idyllically located in a cave, but unfortunately more suited for boiling things than for bathing.  Afterwards we went to a lovely deep blue crater-lake called Viti, which was suitable for swimming according to my travel guide.  We decided to pass on the experience because even though the guide did say swimming was safe, it also recommended to do it naked, because the high level of sulphur in the water would decompose any clothes you might be wearing. Directly opposite  of the crater were the lava fields of the eruption back in 1996. You could see how the lava had tried to escape, but did not make it very far.

Late in the evening, happy and satisfied, we made our way back around the other side of the Myvatn lake, enjoying the view onto the hverfjall vulcano, the pseudo craters and all the other things we had seen that day.


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