Friday, July 17, 2015

Day 10 - Myvatn - Craters, Sulfur Pots, and Steam Vents

Myvatn Geothermal Area
What a day!  Exploring the Myvatn area was like stepping onto another planet.  Steam blasted into the air through cracks in the crust.  The ground was cracked and folded like poorly rolled pavement.  Craters rose out of the mist across the land.  It was clear to see the earth was alive.  Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Day 10 - Myvatn - Craters, Sulfur Pots, and Steam Vents

Pseudocraters on Lake Myvatn
The day started with enjoying a wonderful continental breakfast at Guesthouse Stöng before heading out to explore the Myvatn area.  Myvatn is a large lake located in northern Iceland.  The lake was created by a large eruption 2,300 years age.  The explosion created a volcanic landscape of pseudocraters, lava rock formations, and calderas.  The lake itself is an important bird and fish habitat.

Our first exploration was to take a short hike at Kálfaströnd to observe the lake and surrounding pseudocraters (rootless cones created from steam eruptions).  We also got to see some arctic terns and other waterfowl.
Lava Rock Formations in Dimmuborgir
We continued to Dimmuborgir - a large lava field covered in tall, unique formations.  Ali wasn't feeling like hiking so she agreed to be our shuttle.  She dropped us off at Dimmuborgir, and we followed the trail system through the lava fields and over to Hverfjall crater.  This impressive cone looks like a massive pile of black lava rock...and essentially, it is.  From the Dimmuborgir, we were able to scramble up a steep trail to the ridge of the crater.  It was a tough climb but worth it.  From the top, we could stare into the crater and walk the edge toward the Hverfjall parking area.  The approach from the opposite side was not as difficult, and we were easily able to get back down to Ali.
Leanne climbs up the Hverfjall crater.
Next, we headed to the town of Reykjahlíð to gas up and grab lunch at the supermarket.  After a quick break, we headed on to Hverir - a geothermal area with bubbling mud-pots and steaming fumeroles.  Walking around Hverir was like stepping onto another world.  The ground was red and brown and lacked any vegetation.  Hot steam shot out of vents in the ground and the entire place smelled strongly of sulfur.  Visitors were free to meander through the area with signs alerting them to hot temperatures and danger.  It was similar to some things I've seen in Yellowstone National Park.  This place was truly an amazing sight.

We continued to Viti Crater.  Viti in Icelandic means "hell" and although it might have caused hell in 1734 when it erupted, Viti looks nothing like it now.  The perfectly round crater is filled with turquoise water.  Ice sheets were still present in part of the rim in summer.  We enjoyed walking the rim and admiring the surreal landscape.

Viti Crater

With still more to see and a long drive ahead of us, we reluctantly left the Myvatn area.  Our next stop was the formidable and famous Detifoss waterfall.  Detifoss is the largest waterfall in Iceland according to volume of water that discharges over the falls.  It was a 5-10 minute walk from the parking area to the falls.

What power!  We marveled at the impressive falls and when the sun broke out, got a glimpse of a waterfall across the canyon.  Before leaving, we also strolled down to Selfoss, a smaller, but still beautiful, waterfall upstream.

Rainbow over Detifoss
Back on the Ring Road (Rt 1), we cruised to the town of Egilsstaðir.  We stayed at Icelandair Hotel Herad.  This was a nice hotel and we enjoyed happy hour in the hotel bar before heading out for a terrific dinner at Cafe Neilsen.  We also grabbed soft serve ice cream (another Icelandic ironic favorite) at Salt.
Selfoss is upstream from Detifoss

Our day in Myvatn and Detifoss was nothing short of amazing.  The geothermal activity and stark landscape makes Iceland incredibly special.  It's a shame that most tourists don't have the time to drive up north to these treasures.  They are truly a wonder to behold.

Please leave comments or questions below, or visit us on our Facebook page at The Freelance Adventurer for more photos and stories or visit us on Instagram @FreelanceAdventurer.

Scortched Earth
READ ABOUT THE NEXT DAY HERE: Day 11 - East Iceland - Hot Tubs, Lobster, and (more) Waterfalls