Iceland the Ring Road, day 5. Lake Myvatn and the geologist's dreamland.
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
The area around this northern Lake Myvatn is just packed with all types of geothermal phenomenons. You can easily spend a week in the area enjoying the nature baths and exploring the caves, lava formations, and fumaroles, hiking all the mountains and craters etc...
We didn't have enough time to see them all, so had to settle for a quick drive through the sites that are easily accessible around the lake. It turned out to be a good decision because Lake Myvatn means Lake of Midges. There were clouds of tiny flies clustering around the heads of any tourists who forgot to bring mosquito head nets.
From our hotel west of the lake, we drove south and counterclockwise to the Skútustaðagígar pseudocraters (which were formed when piping hot thin-flowing molten lava flows over a wetland around the lake. The hot lava boils the water of the wetlands and the steam pressure causes explosions, creating clusters of pseudocraters), then to the Dimmuborgir (Dark city) lava field with its tall spires and deep caves, to the gigantic Hverfjall crater that dominates the view west of the Lake. Bruce and the boys hiked up the big crater while the girls and I stayed in the car since we were not fond of the midges.
We then drove east out of Lake Myvatn, past the pretty blue Nature baths area to the boiling mud pots and fumaroles of Namafjall Hverir where we spent an hour walking around orange-red steaming fields with bubbling gray mud pots and playing with whistling mounds of smoking sulfur.
Leaving the actively boiling and steaming earth, we crossed Highway 1 and drove north on the 864 looking for the cobalt blue water of the Krafla crater lake.
Halfway up the drive, we saw a couple of people taking a shower in the middle of the field where the Perpetual Shower runs, apparently always at the perfect warm temperature just right for a shower after a long hike through the mountains. One of them even stripped down to his bare bottoms so I didn't feel right taking pictures.
We drove through the geothermal plant at Krafla, Iceland's largest power station, and the world's hottest geothermal boreholes. There were pipes running everywhere, arching up to form a gateway across the road. The discharge water turns the stream milky white with minerals for miles.
The Krafla crater lake was but a short hike up from the parking lot and the color was just stunning. I thought about hiking to the Krafla lava field but it was already after noon. It was time for lunch, and I really wanted to try the pizzas at Daddi's pizza in Lake Myvatn.
The restaurant was an unassuming shack at the entrance to a campsite. And yes, it was the perfect pizza. The crust was light, the cheese was fresh and my lamb pizza had a garlic aioli sauce that was just right.
We left Lake Myvatn in the mid-afternoon, knowing we had a long drive ahead of us to get to the Snæfellsbær peninsula, with a quick stop by the famous Godafoss waterfall, where the Vikings of Iceland tossed their Gods to convert to Christianity.
The drive through the northwest of Iceland was just as mesmerizing as the northeast and I would have liked a chance to explore more of the northern metropolis of Akureyri and those northern peninsulae but we didn't have much time, what with our covid testing appointments and flights out of Reykjavik in 2 days.
When we entered the Snæfellsbær peninsula late in the evening, the fog slowly set in and we drove for an hour in a dense fog that made it seem like life itself was all a muffled dream. We had to climb up the mountain range in the middle of the peninsula to get to the other side. As we were driving up out of the fog, the whole space around our van started turning brighter, each molecule of water in the air caught and reflected a sun that was nowhere in sight. For several minutes, we were driving in a ball of light. Our bored and jaded kids sitting in the back of the van sat up and asked "what's going on? what's happening? why is it so bright and white?". Cameron even claimed he saw Jesus. Then, we broke through the cloud with the sun shining directly in front of us. It was so surreal, I forgot to take a picture but remembered to snap one as we were heading back down into the fog once more.
The whole point of driving nonstop for 6 hours was so that we could get to our hotel Gamla Rif before they closed for dinner. We had read that Gamla Rif was a cafe that served the best fish stew in Iceland. Unfortunately, it turns out they had closed down the restaurant when they turned it into a room rental. It was a house with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, living and dining rooms for us to hang out. Luckily, we had some leftover pasta and noodles and there was a lovely French couple there for us to have dinner with. After that very packed day of sightseeing, we were glad to have a space to wind down together as a family.