Lake Mývatn, Iceland

By Marcia Reynolds
This item appears on page 14 of the December 2018 issue.
Dimmuborgir “Dark Castles” lava formation on the east side of Lake Mývatn. Photos by Marcia Reynolds

After completing a tour of southern Iceland highlights, my husband, Roger, and I flew to Akureyri, Iceland, on July 30, 2018, to see the north on our own. We rented a car at the airport and drove to Goðafoss, a large, beautiful waterfall. Because there was parking access on both sides, we saw the waterfall from all angles.

We drove on to Lake Mývatn, where we were booked for three nights at the Fosshotel Mývatn (Grimsstaðir; phone +354 453 0000, for about $775, including breakfast. Located on the Ring Road north of Lake Mývatn, the Fosshotel is relatively new and very nice. We had a lovely view of the lake from our room.

We took a day trip with Saga Travel (Akureyri, Iceland; phone +354 558 8888, for the Diamond Circle, which included the Hverir geothermal area, Dettifoss, Ásbyrgi canyon, puffin sighting and Húsavík. They picked us up at the Fosshotel in a large van holding seven people.

The tour cost about $185 per person, and it was very worthwhile. It included a bit of hiking, and the guide was knowledgeable. We especially liked the powerful Dettifoss, and the pool in Ásbyrgi canyon was very peaceful, with a good place for our picnic lunch. (We each had to bring our own lunch.)

Roger and I continued by car to Lake Mývatn, where we had mostly sunshine, which made all the difference! It was beautiful. We went for a walk at all of the important sites around the lake, each of which was different.

The Hverir geothermal area had fumaroles, bubbling mud pools, steam vents and beautiful colors. The "Dark Castles" at Dimmuborgir were spectacular lava formations. There were trails of varying lengths for walking around the formations.

The path at Höfði took us down to the edge of the lake for more bizarre lava formations in the lake, with beautiful reflections. Be sure to wear your bug net; we had never seen so many bugs! This was the only portion of our trip where we felt the need to wear the nets. We were never bitten; the bugs were like very small flies.

(The bug nets we wear cover our hats and faces and are secured at the neck. We bought ours in Australia, but they're similar to "head mesh nets" you can find on Amazon.)

The Skútustaðir pseudocraters are grass-covered craters that never erupted. They were formed when lava flowed over frozen ground. They surround a pond next to the lake, and there are several trails in the area.

There was not as much bird life as we expected, but that may have had to do with the time of year. We did see a great many swans and nearly grown cygnets. You need good binoculars to really enjoy the bird life.

Roger and I also drove to the Krafla area, where we walked up the Viti Crater to view a pretty blue lake at the bottom. An easy trail leads from the parking lot to the active Leirhnjúkur area, which has hot springs, steam vents and amazing lava formations that were formed as recently as 1975-1984 in the fires of the Krafla volcano.

Pseudocraters in the Skutustradagigar area at the south end of Lake Mývatn, northern Iceland.

For more adventurous hikers, there are several other, more strenuous trails up a mountain called Vindbelgjarfjall and the Hverfjall volcano, to name just two, which we didn't do.

The food in Iceland was very expensive. We took advantage of happy hour during our stay at the Fosshotel, enjoying wine for about $6 a glass (half the normal price), with a beautiful view of the lake. One evening we had dinner from the happy hour snack menu, ordering a very good chicken sandwich and a hamburger for roughly $44.

Another evening we went to the Gamli Bærinn – Old Farm tavern at the Icelandair Hotel Mývatn in Reykjahlid for pizza and fish-and-chips for about $51.

On our final night, we ate in our hotel's lovely dining room overlooking the lake. They allowed us to split an excellent dinner of stuffed pork tenderloin for $45. For dessert, we savored Icelandic chocolate bars.

We returned to Akureyri for one night and stayed in an overpriced bed-and-breakfast type of accommodation that we didn't care for. We felt Akureyri did not have many attractions that appealed to us, so we were glad we had opted to stay in Lake Mývatn instead.

On our last day, we thoroughly enjoyed the drive along the west section of the Ring Road back to Keflavik. Along the way, we took a detour east of Reykholt to see the final waterfalls of our trip: Hraunfossar and Barnafossar. On Aug. 4, we returned our rental car at the airport before our flight home.

We felt that seeing the north on our own really rounded out a wonderful trip to Iceland.

Orange, CA