In June, we started our road trip around the Ring Road in Iceland and have discovered erupting geysers on the Golden Circle, remarkable waterfalls on the South Coast, pastures of Icelandic cattle, an immense glacier lagoon, and an eventful drive along the eastern fjords.
How can you top that?
Iceland’s answer is the Mývatn region: the most otherworldly part of Iceland.
Here’s a map of where we’ve traveled over the course of two days. I will be referring to these places from right to left.
A Glimpse of the Most Powerful Waterfall in Europe!
Heading into the Diamond Circle of Iceland, our first stop was Dettifoss, known as the most powerful waterfall by volume in Europe. During our visit, the main road to Dettifoss was under construction, so we had to loop around and observe the waterfall from a limited viewpoint. Still, not bad.
Travel Tip — if you have a 4WD car, you should continue north to see Ásbyrgi Canyon.
The Heavenly Viti Crater Lake
Ironically, Viti means “hell” in Icelandic. But when we visited, the crater lake looked absolutely heavenly! We walked around its massive rim and enjoyed the turquoise water and the panoramic views of the surrounding snowy mountains. This crater was so wide that we could barely see anyone hiking the opposite side. Check for the tiny specks along the rim in the photo below, those are people!
Getting Steamy in Namafjall Hverir
Namafjall Hverir is the hot spot in Iceland, known for all its geothermic activity. This place is often described as otherworldly. Everything from the orange mountains to the steam vents reminded us of Mars. Not that we’ve ever been, but we can imagine!
The volcanic craters were constantly secreting sulfur dioxide gas, which smelled like rotten eggs. We could smell it the second we opened our car doors. There’s really no escaping it, so we didn’t stay for long. By the end of our walk, we had mushy orange sand stuck to the bottom of our shoes.
Relaxing in the Mývatn Nature Baths
By now, everyone has heard of the Blue Lagoon. But have you heard of the Mývatn Nature Baths?
Located in the North of Iceland, Mývatn Nature Baths is cheaper and less crowded than the Blue Lagoon. Naturally because it’s not as convenient to get to from the airport. This place is low-key and not very commercialized, which some people prefer. What a great way to relax and warm up from Iceland’s brisk weather!
Sorry for the lack of a more glamorous shot. But as you can see, there’s not many people in the baths. Behind me is the first and hottest pool. There’s a second, cooler (but still warm) pool farther out to the right. In addition, there is a smaller out-of-ground pool and sauna nearby. By the entrance of the building, there’s a restaurant and gift shop, best to visit as you’re leaving.
A Desolate Volcanic Crater Worth Hiking
Compared to all the colorful geothermic activity and bubbling water that we just saw in Namafjall, Hverfjall didn’t look all that photogenic. Regardless of its desolate appearance, we climbed up to the rim and circled around to enjoy the views. Perhaps you science buffs out there would appreciate these volcanic rocks more than me.
A day trip to the Whale Watching Town of Húsavík
Húsavík is a charming, small town on the North Coast, known as the whale watching center of Iceland. Along the shore is the Húsavík Whale Museum, a popular attraction. Additionally, there are a few whale watching companies to pick from that guarantee whale sightings. Since Húsavík is so close to the Arctic Circle, I’d believe them!
Exploring the Waterfall of the Gods
Conveniently on the Ring Road, between Mývatn and the town of Akureryri, is Goðafoss waterfall. Legend has it, when Iceland was converting to Christianity, the villagers threw statues of their idols, deities and past gods into these falls. Hence, the name Goðafoss. Be sure to stop here and spend time wandering around the many pools above the falls. This was Dan’s favorite destination in the North!
Icelandic Trolls and Goodies at the Gift Shop
Across the bridge from Goðafoss is a small gift shop where you’ll find Icelandic snacks, hand-knitted sweaters and fuzzy hats. You wouldn’t want to miss out on all the troll figurines or you’ll regret it! I bought a cute Icelandic headband which I’ve worn all this Winter in Connecticut!
On the Road to Akureyri
Nestled at the head of Iceland’s largest fjord and surrounded by mountains is the town of Akureyri. Nicknamed as the “Capital of the North,” Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest populated town, after Reykjavik. You can learn a lot about the Icelandic culture here by visiting their museums, churches, schools, gardens, restaurants and bars.
Places We Missed
We stayed in the Mývatn region for two days. However, if you can afford another day here, take that opportunity! In two days, we couldn’t cover everything there was to see in the North region. Below is a list of other places you should look into that we hadn’t mentioned in this post.
- Ásbyrgi Canyon
- Lake Mývatn
Would you rather smell like the geothermal mud pots (i.e., rotten eggs) for a year or dress like an Icelandic troll for a year?
HAHA! I might have to go with dressing like an Icelandic troll. My fashion sense isn’t far from it anyways 😉