“ Country: Iceland / World Region: Polar Regions „
On a trip to Iceland last summer, we arrived at the self-proclaimed cosmopolitan and unpronouncable port town of Seydhisfjordhur which main attraction is bombed out German WW2 boats from the boat that was arriving from the Faroe Islands. A rough crossing had worn out a lot of people and the vomity smell of the corridors followed by vomit filled lifts killed the rest of. I'd made good use of the duty free shop, to get quite drunk the night before, it worked for pirate's and living it large on the deck certainly didn't leave me feeling as worse for wear as those who huddled in their rooms clenching paper bags. Well aware there is no public transport system on the island, we'd planned our route much around the circular no.1 road and had planned to go the northern way round it. Foot passengers were allowed off first, so providing we didn't get stopped at customs for smuggling in dirty socks or dairy products as had been the case leaving the Shetland Islands (not socks!), we had a whole ferry full of cars to hitch and surely some of them had to be heading the 180km to Lake Myvatn.
Get off the ferry and it's raining a hell of a lot, a campervan soon stops, an elderly German couple.. better not mention the bombed out boats! My fiance (then girlfriend) seems to think they also stopped for us in the Faroe Islands, unfortunately they're heading south on the ring road, so they took us about 25km to the ring road where we bought some food and changed money. A great first insight to the country as the road heads up hill passing various waterfalls along a pot holed road. Sure enough, the first car on the ring road stopped - a Faroese chap going the whole 600 or 700km to Reykjavik. He'll take us to Myvatn, super! The scenery was amazing on the way and we took quite a few photos whilst endulging in a bit of Faroese rock n roll on his CD player in the car. We had met various people in Torshavn, Faroe Islands.. who were also going the northern route, even though most head south but when we pulled up at the campsite, we were the first ones there.. hurrah!
Now a bit about Myvatn, it's a very small village with one supermarket, one pub/restaurant/hotel, a few other houses, a campsite and a horse riding centre. It's the only shop around for miles and people pull up in their super large 4wd's there like a shop in the middle of nowhere getting a visit from ZZ Top in their monster trucks. All staff in the campsite and pub were foreign (either Swedish or Australian that year). It is situated on a nice large lake with some islands in the middle and flat shores, the lake was created by volcanic activity and the campsite itself goes right up to the shores. I recommend putting your tent back a bit though because the lake is teeming with birdlife and some of the ducks get pretty noisy, Donald was a good example after all.
Behind Myvatn, going in the direction that we arrived from there is a winding hill with a viewing point on the top, here you get the best view of the lake. Nearby there are plenty of hot springs, pretty good fun initially but the smell of sulphur soon becomes wearing, I can't say my girlfriend was at all endeared to them. Myvatn is a nice relaxing place to stay and it was also probably the best campsite we had to stay but it does feel a bit isolated, particularly if you've just arrived. 2-3 days is probably as long as you want to spend here. Make sure you use the Myvatn Spa, it is one of if not the best in the country. We had a fabulous time there and it's much cheaper than the likes of Blue Lagoon which when compared is overcrowded and a much less enjoyable view. I will be reviewing both the campsite and nature baths, separately. Myvatn is an excellent hub for making some smaller trips, highly recommended are the following:
Detifoss - Europe's largest waterfall, incredibly powerful and undoubtedly one of the best sights in Europe, also because it's not exactly the most accessible place on earth, you are likely to more or less have it to yourself! If you have no transport, better make friends at the campsite and ask around! They also organize tours though.
Husavik - Europe's Whale Watching capital, the whales are known to play alongside the boats and most people get some spectacular whale watching here. Tricky to get a ride to if you are hitchhiking but not impossible.
Godafoss - On the road to Akureyri, you have Godafoss, much smaller than Detifoss but a very beautiful layout of the falls that give it a picture postcard look that is often used to advertise Iceland!
Hverfall - The aforementioned fumeroles and mud pots, it's only a few km out of Myvatn and you are naturally going to have a nosy on the way to either Detifoss, the port or Krafla volcano.
Krafla - A slightly active volcanic region about 15km away from Myvatn, full of fissure vents, moon like landscape, boiling mudpools and a general hell bound feeling of isolation, walking around here is I imagine what it's like to fry your brains in a plug socket!
Viti - Viti is right next to Krafla and after walking around the scorched world, you may be tempted to give it a miss but I highly recommend popping along, it's the inside of a volcano with a green lake inside and is pretty interesting. It's not everyday you can find these down the market!
Apart from the relaxing lake with the cool campsite, there's also some volcanic activity in Myvatn, I actually only checked it out because it was called Dimmuborgir, the name of a Norwegian black metal band.. well I just had to have some photos there. It's actually pretty cool, there's an enormous crack across the earth that looks like an earthquake and I wouldn't recommend jumping it because there is boiling water below but what you can do is crawl in underneath through cave like entrances and then stand in slight darkness underneath the cracked molten whilst warming yourself next to the water, also take lots of photo in the dark and then remark that they're not coming out right because your flash lights up stuff you can't see! I was disappointed to find it just means "dark cities" in Old Norse and the said heavy metal stars had probably never been there!
So there you go, that's the low down of one of the nicest places in Iceland! As I said at the beginning, transport options are limited - there's a ridiculously expensive tourist bus that runs through there a few times in July but apart from that no public transport, so take your own vehicle, rent one or hitch (people know the transport options are limited and are very willing to stop)
Incidentally Lake Myvatn translates to "the lake of Midges" but I wasn't particularly bitten!
Mývatn is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. The lake and its surrounding wetlands have an exceptionally rich fauna of waterbirds, especially ducks. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters).