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A Complete Guide to Lake Myvatn, North Iceland

The Land of Geothermal and Volcanic features

February 13, 2019
Lauren Renyard

Almost 6 miles (9.5 km) long and 4 miles (6.5 km) wide, the volcanic Lake Myvatn area covers an area of 14 square miles (37 square km), making it Iceland’s 4th largest lake, after Thorisvatn, Thingvallavatn, and Logurinn. The deepest point of the lake is 4.5 meters deep (15 feet) but on average it's only around 2.5m.

The Complete Guide to Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn

Unlike anything you’ve seen before, the Lake Myvatn area isn’t a place of trees and glaciers, it’s truly the remnants of geothermal activity and volcanic eruption, that make up the ‘heat’ element that is so important in the land of ice and fire! Myvatn Lake or Midge Lake got its name from the insects that live in the water - but don’t let that put you off! The lake is in a great area with a selection of attractions and activities to explore, and is one of the highlights of the Diamond Circle!

History of Lake Myvatn

Around 10,000 years ago the entire Myvatn lake area and surrounding territory was a barren wasteland, covered with glaciers. After eruptions started happening it didn't take long for most of the glaciers to disappear. Due to the volcanic nature of the area, over the course of thousands of years, the area has suffered from multiple volcanic destructions. As Mývatn is a volcanic lake in northern Iceland, most of the mountains in the area were formed in subglacial eruptions a few thousand years ago. 2300 years ago, Lake Myvatn was formed by a huge lava fissure eruption, when a series of volcanic craters erupted at a range of 12 km (7.5 miles) when a river was blocked by the sudden creation of a large lava field.

Lake Myvatn Attractions

Ásbyrgi

Ásbyrgi

Ásbyrgi

Ásbyrgi is a glacial canyon on the Diamond Circle road, approximately 3.5 km in length and over 1 km wide. A rock structure 25 meters high called Eyjan (Island) divides the canyon through the middle. Ásbyrgi was probably formed by intense flooding from the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river after the last Ice Age, 8-10,000 years ago leaving the canyon with steep slopes and cliffs up to 100 meters (330 ft).

 

Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir

The Dimmuborgir lava formations are made of different volcanic caves and rock formations, with a collapsed lava tube formed by an old lava lake. Several scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here.

 

Fishing and Camping

If you enjoy getting back to basics, there are camping and fishing facilities in the nearby Laxa – where the most common catch is salmon and trout.

Hverfjall

Hverfjall is a 396 meter (1,300 ft) volcano crater, of a high tephra explosion which erupted in 2500 BP, found on the eastern shore of Lake Myvatn. Hiking to the top of Hverfjall mountain is a popular activity and the crater is approximately 1km across.

 

Krafla Caldera

Located along a 90 km long fissure zone, the caldera at Krafla is 10 km in diameter, 818 meters tall and 2 km deep. The volcano has 29 total eruptions in recorded history and erupted nine times between 1974 and 1984.

Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn

Leirhnjukur Mud Peak

Leirhnjukur is an active volcano not far from the Lake, which makes up part of the Krafla. The last eruption was from 1974 - 1984 and it is over 520 meters high. The area is active and geothermal and walking around the fumaroles make for an enjoyable hike!

 

Lofthellir Ice Cave

While you’re in the area, make sure you take a special trip to the largest natural ice sculptures in an Icelandic lava cave! located in the Búrfell lava field discovered by plane in the 1980s after an earthquake! The cave is 370 meters long and 10-15 meters high at some points and is a whole spectrum of bright colors.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Mývatn Nature Baths

Mývatn Nature Baths

The baths in Myvatn are naturally heated with health-giving, mineral-rich waters. The water for the lagoon comes straight from the borehole in Bjarnarflag, with an average temperature of 130°C which is then mixed with cool water to give the 3.5 million liters of water which make up the baths an average temperature between 36 – 40°C. The spa is open all year round - and we recommend trying it in the winter, while it’s snowing for a truly unique experience!

 

Namafjall

Namafjall (Mine Hills) is a natural spring stretching for almost a kilometer, at temperatures reaching over 200°C! There are many smoking fumaroles and boiling mud pots and the earth is a spectrum of blues, greens, browns, and reds.

Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss Waterfall

Skutustadagigar

Skutustadagigar is the name given to some pseudo craters which were formed by steaming lava covering the wetlands. Skutustadagigar is an especially popular place for avid birdwatchers and is also a protected region as a natural wetlands conservation area.

Waterfalls

There are so many beautiful waterfalls all around Iceland, and Myvatn is no different! Aldeyjarfoss has a 20-meter cascade down dark basalt columns. The waterfall of the Gods, or Goðafoss, is 12 meters high and 30 meters wide, one of the most famous in North Iceland. Dettifoss the most powerful waterfall in Europe with dimensions of 44m tall and 100m wide and Selfoss may only be 10 meters tall, but the width is more than Dettifoss, which really means there’s more to look at!

Wildlife

The birdlife around Myvatn is world class, and the reason many tourists choose North Iceland over Southern cities like Reykjavik. Many different duck species; Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup and Eurasian Wigeon; reside on the lake and Gyr Falcons are often found in the area. During the summer, Mývatn lake and Laxá river are home to more duck species than anywhere else in the world.

 

Diamond Circle

Most visitors come to Lake Myvatn on a Diamond Circle tour. This trip incorporates the waterfall of the Gods; Goðafoss waterfall, the most powerful waterfall in Europe; Dettifoss, The hot springs of Namafjall; and the canyon of Asbyrgi.

Godafoss

Godafoss

Where is Lake Myvatn, Iceland?

Lake Myvatn is found in Northern Iceland, near to the Krafla volcano and along Route 1, right off the famous ring road! Roughly 55 miles from Akureyri and 300 miles from Reykjavik, Lake Myvatn is a popular destination for travelers who want to experience all of Iceland, away from the city and the tourist spots of the Blue Lagoon, but as the spectacular nature of the land of fire and ice.

How to get to Lake Myvatn

GPS 65.6039° N, 16.9961° W

Only one very modest town can be found in the Lake Mývatn area, Reykjahlíð. This is the only place where you will find basic necessities, like a gas station and a small supermarket. From Reykjavík, in good conditions, it takes between six and seven hours to drive the 300 miles to Reykjahlíð. Depending on the weather during winter, this could be longer, but the Ring Road that connects the two towns should still be open. From Akureyri the drive is a lot shorter, taking just over an hour to follow route one to the town.

 

There are multiple ways to get to visit Lake Mývatn. There are organized tours, a convenient ring road and several flights from Reykjavik to Akuyeri or Húsavík! You can even take an hour-and-a-half bus to Reykjahlíð from Akureyri (number 56) and it’s worth it for the scenery alone!

Myvatn

Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn Advice

  • Exploring via car is the best way to see all of the sights.
  • Wear your hiking shoes
  • If you truly want to experience the lake area and have about 30 minutes extra time, I would suggest driving all the way around.
  • Drive the full perimeter of the lake you will see many different landscapes, which make for excellent picture taking
  • take mosquito nets, use insect repellant and wear long sleeves
  • A 4x4 or 4 wheel drive is necessary for winter due to deep snow
Summer in myvatn

Summer at the Lake

When is the Best Time to visit Lake Myvatn?

The Lake completely transforms between each season! In the summer the colors are bright and vibrant, with plenty of wildlife and birdlife all around, whilst from the colder season, the area is quiet and peaceful, colors are replaced with frosty whites and blues, and the lake freezes over in some parts. The geothermal areas have steam which rises from the snow-covered mountains and icy grays for some real juxtaposition! The land of ice and fire! During the northern light season the lake is a great place to catch them, but wrap up warm! The highest temperatures are in July, around 11° during the day and 5° at night, coldest November - January averaging at 1 but dropping to -8° during nights in February. Whatever time of year, the whole area is mystical and beautiful to see. In the summer the lake is a great place to relax, bird watch and take photos, but make sure you are prepared for the levels of mosquitos - it’s called Midges Lake for a reason!

Be sure to use road.is to check for road conditions and vedur.is for the weather. If you aren’t sure about tackling the harsh conditions- especially in winter- join a guided tour!

Filming in the Lake Myvatn area

Grotagja

Game of Thrones Cave

Iceland is very popular as a movie and TV set location! Normally playing a role in creating a post-apocalyptic landscape. If something was filmed in Iceland - chances are it was around Lake Myvatn!

  • Tree of Life (2011) The opening scene from the Tree of Life showing the creation sequence is filmed throughout Mývatn, including Námafjall, and at Krafla Caldera.
  • Oblivion (2013) The film starring Tom Cruise spent 10 days filming in various places around Iceland! The remains of the large baseball stadium is actually played by the crater, Hrossaborg, which is found only about 30 min away from Lake Myvatn.
  • Game of Thrones (2013) films all over Iceland, and used Grjótagjá Hot Springs and Cave as inspiration for the famous John Snow and Ygritte cave scene. Some shots were partially filmed here but the majority had to be filmed in a studio, as the fumes inside the cavern were obstructing the cameras. The cave is unfortunately closed to the public.
  • Noah (2014) The epic biblical drama film is filmed almost entirely in Iceland, including around Lake Mývatn. Also featured are Lake Kleifarvatn, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Reykjanes peninsula.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) An intensive action scene between the Empire and the Rebels was filmed at Lake Mývatn, with the volcanic calderas Krafla and the bubbling mud pools at Námaskarð making an appearance.
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Lake Myvatn, Krafla Volcanic crater, and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach create the backdrop for the spooky planet Eadu.
  • Fast 8 (2017) The latest Fast and the Furious film was shot in multiple locations around Iceland, including around and on the stunning Lake Mývatn. You may remember the scene which includes a car traveling through the ice of lake Mývatn!
Hotel Room

Example Hotel Room

Places to Stay near Lake Myvatn

  • Fosshótel Mývatn
  • Hótel Laxá
  • Icelandair Hotel Myvatn
  • Sel - Hótel Mývatn
  • Hótel Gígur by Keahotels
  • Skútustadir Guesthouse

 

 

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