When I wrote about the Diamond Circle in the North of Iceland, I mentioned that there are so many things to see in the Myvatn area that it needs a separate blog post… and here it is. 10,000 years ago, the area was under an ice cap. Time and a handful of cycles of fierce volcanic activity formed this spectacular gem with volcanic craters, smelly mud pots, massive lava formations, and steaming fumaroles.
There is a 36 km road going around the whole lake, and most attractions are right on the side of the road. If you are biking or planning to explore longer hiking trails in the area, You should set aside 2-3 days. Myvatn and its wetlands are protected as a nature reserve. We kindly ask you not to step off the walking paths, respect nature and leave it as you found it.
The name Myvatn translates as the lake of midges. Therefore, during the summer months, get ready for the swarms of little flies around your face at all times, annoying to the point of madness. The solution is to bring a protective net. If you don’t have one, ask around in Reykjaflíð; usually, some local shop has them for sale.
You will see the landscape changing quite a bit if you drive around the lake: from smoking hot springs to grey lava rocks to bright green pseudocraters. It might look like a group of very aggressive meteorites attacked the lake. That or a bunch of tiny volcanoes erupted next to each other. It’s neither of those things.
In short, we call them PSEUDO craters because crater-like shapes appeared when hot lava was flowing through the area. Wetlands caused tiny steam eruptions forming these dimples. Some of these craters are small islets in the lake. You can take a walk between them on the south side of the lake. The area became a national natural monument in 1973. Most importantly, since the wetlands around it are very fragile, we ask people to stay on the paths at all times.
Speaking of real craters – Hverfjall Crater is the real deal. It is impossible to miss this giant volcano on the east side of Myvatn. 1 km wide and 140 meters deep and ridges going up to 200 meters, Hverfell is a popular hiking destination and offers awe-inspiring views of the surrounding area. You can walk around the edges of this crater, and the hike is relatively easy. The crater is consists of primarily loose gravel, but as long as you follow the path, you should be fine.
The last time I went to Dimmuborgir, it was early April, and we arrived just as the sun was setting. And it was a fantastic experience. These massive lava formations genuinely look like a small city. MoreoverAccording to Nordic Christian mythology, Dimmuborgir, or the Black Fortress, is where Satan landed when he was cast from the heavens and created the apparent “The Catacombs of Hell.” In Icelandic Folklore, Dimmuborgir is home to Iceland Yule Lads. More attentive Happy Campers might even stumble upon their hidden cave.
Upon entrance, you will find a map marking many colorful trails through Dimmuborgir. The most popular is the Church Circle (Kikjan route) which is over 2 km (±2.3 mi) long. Depending on how much time you have, you can choose a path that suits your schedule. The short one circles back under 20 minutes, or you can take a long one that leads all the way to Hverfjall Crater.
Grjotagja and Storagja
You can not enjoy this small cave with water by taking a dip. However, if you are a fan of Game of Thrones, this is one of the most famous filming sites to visit. I’m not going to spoil it here, but you can google if you don’t know which scene exactly they shot here. Not far from it, there is another watery fissure Stóragjá. Once a popular bathing spot, we do not recommend getting in the water due to dangerous algae. Since there is little to no filtration, there is plenty of bacteria that past visitors left behind. However, both of these fissures have bright blue water and are really beautiful. If you want to soak in the warm geothermal water, I’d suggest stopping by the next destination.
Myvatn Nature Baths
I bet, after visiting Grjotagja, you want to chill in some geothermal waters. Myvatn nature baths are one of the most visited places in Iceland, offering a rejuvenating experience. Think of it as the Blue Lagoon of the North. Here you can soak in warm baths and enjoy the scenic landscape of the Myvatn area. Bonus: Happy Campers get 10% off.
Myvatn Nature Baths are located next to Bjarnarflag – Iceland’s oldest geothermal power station opened in 1969. They harvest the energy from the Namaskard mountain pass and power the whole Myvatn area.
A true hidden gem in the Myvatn area is Lofthellir cave. To enter the cave, one must crawl through a narrow opening. Because of it, if you are really claustrophobic, I’d suggest skipping it. The drops of water make their way through the lava above and freeze into beautiful sculptures in the cave. The temperature in the cave always stays below freezing point, so ice formations do not melt. Not even during the warmest months. To get to the cave, you will need a professional guide to assist you. Therefore, you will have to book a tour to visit this ice cave.
Namafjall – Hverir
´But, Greta, where could we experience the overwhelming smell of rotten eggs that comes out of the tap in Iceland?’. Well, I’m glad you asked because the Hverir area is quite breathtaking. Not just because you will want to hold your breath due to the smell of sulfur. It is spectacular to look at and walk around. You’ve got boiling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and unearthly colors! The scenery will make you question whether you are still walking on Earth or suddenly were transported onto some other planet.
Viti in Krafla
Viti is another volcano crater in the Myvatn area but looks completely different from the Hverfjall crater. It is colorful with a bright blue lake on top of it, while Hverfjall is dark and mysterious. However, they are both worth visiting though. The road to Viti leads all the way to the top. There is a lot next to the rim where you can park and take a walk.
You can visit this crater with a 2WD car. However, there is another Viti with milky blue waters up in the Askja area. For that one, you will need a Happy 4×4 or similar vehicle.
If you are doing the Diamond Circle, visiting all of the spots in one day might be tricky. However, if you can spend more time in the North, take a chance to hike around. The only downside is… flies. Many, many annoying flies, so if you are taking walks around the lake, have something to wrap around your face. Otherwise, the flies will be on your face, in your mouth, in your eyes, in your ears… Well, you get the point. Pretty much all of the destinations I’ve mentioned above are connected with hiking paths. Therefore, if you have time, park your campervan and spend many hours walking around the spectacular Myvatn area.
Campsites in the Myvatn area
Reykjahlíð (Hlíð) Campsite
Adress: Hraunbrún, 660 Reykjahlíð
Opening times: open all year
Phone: +354 899 6203
Reykjahlíð (Bjarg) Campsite
Adress: Bjarg, 660 Reykjahlíð
Opening times: 1st of May – 20th of September
Phone: +354 464 4390
Vogar / Myvatn Campsite
Adress: Vogar, 660 Mývatn
Opening times: open all year
Phone: +354 464 4399
To learn more about the campsites, check out Happy Campers Campsite Map