Myvatn, Iceland: Nature Baths, Elves and Sleeping on the Moon

Myvatn lavascape

After the waterfalls, we checked out the Myvatn Nature Baths — the north’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. MNB’s are smaller, less crowded and, at $36, about $20 cheaper than the Blue Lagoon.

Myvatn Nature Bath

The baths are man-made, but they’re heated to about 100° F with natural springs. There are two sulphur steam rooms and a smaller, hotter pool. The water is that now-familiar gorgeous, chalky blue, covered with a rolling layer of haze, and the view is all open sky and distant volcanos and lava-scape.

Myvatn Nature Bath

Afterwards, we checked into our hotel-on-the-moon, aka Hlid Hostel. We had a teensy private room with a teensy private bathroom, and everything felt clean, modern and very bright. But right outside our door, the world was rocky, flat and grey-scaled. I could have spent a full day just reading in the breakfast room, every once in awhile, glancing up at the lunar terrain.

Hlid Hostel Myvatn

It was early evening, and as always, we were up for cramming more adventure in the day. So we went to Dimmuborgir (“Dark Castle”) and wandered winding paths through the kingdom of the elves. The techy explanation is “unusually shaped lava formations,” but this place was seriously Gondolin.

Dimmuborgir

There were plenty of your basic, pointy-piled-rock elf habitats, guarded over by a crowned queen (Galadriel, is that you?) who shape-shifts into a unicorn. And there was the magnificent hollowed-rock castle, the center of all political, social and ritualistic life.

Dimmuborgir
Dimmuborgir

By the time we were done, we were hungry for more than carrots and blummus (the world’s blandest hummus). At first we thought we’d eat at Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe, where you can basically hang out with the dairy cows while you enjoy the fruit of their labor. (Their barn is separated from the dining room only by plate glass).

But it seemed like maybe it was closing, so we went to Gamli Bistro, where things were lively and cozy, and some tourist was playing party tunes on the piano. We had wine and expensive, not-very-filling vegetable soup and met the head chef, who manages several restaurant kitchens in different towns, and he and Jamie got into a heated conversation about veganism (Jamie does realize that it’s much more plausible/environmentally sustainable in some parts of the world than others), and I talked to some local teenagers about what they do for fun. (They only come to Myvatn in the summer, to work tourist jobs. Otherwise they go to college or live with their families in the cities and go to metal and rap shows.)

 

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