Iceland’s Hverfjall, mini-craters, folk art, Akureyi and another fabulous pool

Lunar terrain Iceland

Before leaving the Myvatn area, we breakfasted on the moon and had our first taste of lava bread—a heavy rye, baked in the ground with geothermal heat. Then we hiked Hverfjall.

Hverfjall

It’s a a steep climb to the top of the black, gravelly volcano, which is a kilometer across and offers fab views. (You can tell by the sliding tracks that some people actually attempt to hike down into the volcano. We didn’t.)

Hverfjall Top

There were only a few other hikers, so Jamie had her mp3 player, and I played Sigur Ros on my phone, because it seemed like the perfect accompaniment to this odd terrain.

Myvatn Iceland

On our way out of town, we walked the paths winding between the nearby mini-craters, which were a bit anti-climatic. But no matter—Iceland had already impressed us plenty.

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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.

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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.

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Myvatn, Iceland: Grjotagja, Dettifoss and Godafoss

Up early, since sleeping in the car isn’t conducive to much sleeping, and our first stop was the tourist information center. It happened to share a parking lot with a grocery store, where we stocked up and grabbed coffee.

At the tourist center, we learned that the lava field hike we began at midnight is still considered too dangerous to recommend, because of the snow and cold and boiling puddles. Oops.

We left our car and set out from there, following a path that begins just behind the center. The path goes all the way to Mt. Hverfjall and Dimmuborgir (14km), but we turned around at Grjotagja (about 7km? Sigh for the lost journal, where I kept detailed notes). Early on, the path meets another path…keep straight, and you’ll be on the right track.

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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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Pit stops: Jokulsarlon and Hofn

Forty-five minutes east of Skaftafell, we hit Jokulsarlon, a well-known glacial lake. We’d seen pictures of the iridescent blue water and baby icebergs, and we knew sometimes there are seals, but it was actually kind of disappointing. There were a lot of cheesy tourist boats on the water (and jeepers, were those tours expensive!), and there were lots of cheesy tourists (like us, I guess) along the shore.

There is a shop with coffee and a few tables, so that was pretty great. We were able to get our morning caffeine fix and use wifi to plan our day. We spent maybe an hour there before heading towards Myvatn, by way of Seydisfjordur— an artsy fjord town that hadn’t been on our itinerary but came highly recommended by Long, a friend we made in Vik.

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