Myvatn, Iceland: Hverir Steam Vents

From Seydisfjordur, it’s about a 2.5 hour drive to Lake Myvatn, which is one of the most interesting areas we visited. This day also turned out to be as much of a marathon as the day we accidentally walked 8km to the crashed plane in the wee morning hours, our sense of time and logic confused by the midnight sun.

We had planned to do the Hverir steam vents the next day, but on our way into town, we saw team rising just off Ring Road and stopped.

Welcome to the earth at it’s most primal (so much so, that it doesn’t feel like Earth at all but rather, other-worldly). We are greeted with a strong, sulfurous scent. Paths wind across cracked ground, through dozens of burping, bubbling, blue clay pits (sometimes shooting up like mini-geyers) and small piles of hissing clay emitting big puffs of stinky steam. It’s brings to mind the very literal concept of hell drilled into my childhood by Southern Baptist churches.

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The pop-science explanation: These vents are situated along a fault line, the steam and boiling mud (much of which is earth mixed with rainwater) caused by subterranean geothermal activity.

A quick google search doesn’t turn up anything similar in the mid-east (although there is a Door to Hell in Turkmenistan, just north of Iran, and a Gate to Hell in Turkey), but there are boiling mud-pots in numerous countries in Africa’s Sahara desert. I definitely think this is where early people came up with the concept of a fiery, terrifying underworld (that isn’t without allure, in some myths).

P.S. If you go, watch your step. In some places, the ground is supposed to be hot enough to melt rubber.

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