Myvatn, Iceland: Viti and Krafla Lava

After Hverir, we drove past the Krafla Geothermal Plant, which looks like something off the set of the 1985 sci-fi flick, Brazil, and has been providing this area with heat since 1977.

Just past the plant, you can park essentially at the rim of Viti, a 300 meter crater formed by a 5-year eruption, beginning in 1724. From 1724-29, the Myvatn Fires spewed orange flames and ash along deep cracks in the earth (some of which are visible at Hverir) called fissure vents. Viti was the site of a massive volcanic eruption that kept “burping” fire for a few years, and then became a huge boiling mud pot for about a century.

Now it is a lake, with chalky, sky-blue water in summer. But when we saw it, it just looked like a giant frozen puddle. You can hike the rim, which takes about an hour, but we were satisfied with a quick scramble-up and a snapshot.

Also in this area, there are the Leirhnjukur Lava Fields (sometimes just called the Krafla Lava Fields). This part of our expedition quickly became reminiscent of that long, late-night walk to the crashed plane. We saw a sign and parked, but nowhere did the sign tell us we were about to walk roughly 8km.

It was nearly midnight, sun still high, when we set out. (At least we were dressed warmly, the still-deep-in-patches snow giving us a helpful visual clue.) It was beautiful, the open spaces, distant mountains, the pale blue and green earth further out, where snow had melted. But it was also exhausting trudging through snow, trying to step in the packed footprints of long-gone tourists, looking out to avoid the sunken holes of melted snow, where we could only assume the ground was piping hot.

Eventually we reached two steaming crater ponds (they were a lovely shade of robin’s egg, and you could feel the heat wafting, to the point where we had to remove layers), and a boardwalk that winds through the steaming lava field.

Kafla Geothermal area

There are two trails, one longer than the other, and in the summer, it’s supposed to be a fantastic walk, full of colorful earth. But we were inching our way towards north Iceland, and it was still only late-May, so we skipped the boardwalk and started the trek back.

Around 2 a.m., we parked in the lot for a public campsite alongside Lake Myvatn and slept in the car.

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