In the north of Iceland, a lake is renown for its huge quantity of midges and birds : Mývatn, which means “the lake of midges”. However the surroundings of this lake are also famous for something totally different, something that interests me even more : its past and present volcanic activity. First of all, let’s start with a quick hike under the sun on the 2500 years old caldera of Hverfjall. The textures inside it are pretty interesting but the most interesting is definitely the experience of walking on its border. Thinking that this place was once highly explosive makes the experience even more exciting!
Metal fans probably know this name. But few of them might know where it comes from. Dimmuborgir (“The dark castles”) is made of many weird friable lava formations. A couple of paths lead you to the most iconic ones trough nice and easy walks. It is quite impressive to see how magma and air can form such strange shapes!
As in every other volcanic places in Iceland, Myvatn surroundings are home of numerous hot springs, which might probably be among the most impressive we have seen so far. Hverir springs are made of a handful of big holes filled with a thick boiling grey mud. The smell of rotten egg is really strong and you can easily imagine how painful it must be to fall inside this 100˚C mud without any possibility to escape. Yes I know, I have morbid ideas sometimes but they are to consider before going closer to take “the best picture ever”! :)
Just next to the “mud holes” a quick but steep path leads you to the top of Námafjáll. We try to walk along this path twice. The first trial is a real failure. We barely reach the summit and get stuck in a terrible rainstorm. The second trial is risky due to the very grey sky above, but fortunately successful. Once on the top, I am happy to see some more hot springs, but the most interesting is the impressive view over Mývatn.
Last but not least (and I usually keep the best for the end), Leirhnjúkur. Next to Krafla volcano and its geothermic power plant, this place is one of the many gates to hell where you can walk on the freshest lava field of Iceland, dating back to 1984. As you can imagine, everything is black and rough.The magic happens as the ground starts to smoke beneath our foots. Silence is morbid and the smelly smokes makes it even worse. But this place is so fascinating that you can spend hours here watching the weird forms of black dried lava surrounded by sulphuric fog.
We finish our trip to Mývatn with a hot bath/hammam in the caves of Grjótagjá. The water is really hot (around 45˚C) and the bath is under a rift. It is a good occasion to have a good time with Icelanders, Germans and Florian, a french photographer we met a couple of hours ago (and that presented us this place). Because of The Rule (everybody must bath naked), tonight only men will bath. But temperature is really high and we quickly finish the “party” next to our cars drinking beers and smoking cigars, while the sun is rising over a smoke-covered landscape looking like a war field after the war. A delicious Icelandic evening … I mean, morning :)