Taking it easier at Myvatn

After two long and very busy days, I resolved to take it easier today and left late to explore Myvatn,  a large, shallow lake formed by a volcanic eruption 2000 years ago. The lake is lush and green, with lots of small islands, bubbling rivers entering or leaving the lake, and lots of bird life. It is surrounding by many interesting volcanic structures.  My only plan for today was to drive around the lake clockwise and see what I would find.  

Myvatn lake

My first stop was to climb the small mountain called Vindbelgjarfall, on the western side of the lake.  It was a steep but short walk, and from the summit there were fantastic views across the lake.  I found a little hollow in the mountain to shelter from the strong wind and enjoyed my sandwich lunch whilst taking lots of pictures.  

The view from the summit
Another view from the summit
Yet another view from the summit – this time with “pseudo-craters” (more about these later)

Next stop was Dimmuborgir, on the east side of the lake. Here the lava from the eruption had made many strange shapes. I stopped for a coffee in the cafĂ© at the entrance to the site and noticed an interesting item on the menu – “lava bread”.  This is bread made by placing dough and yeast underground, where the cooking is done by geothermal heat. I resolved to set off on a short walk and to buy some bread when I returned. After wandering around a bit on the many marked paths, I spotted a path leading to the volcanic cone of Hverfjall, about 2km away.  The path up to the foot of the volcano was very pretty, with lots of flowers and strange lava forms.

An arch of lava at Dimmuborgir, with Hverfjall in the distance
On the way to Hverfjall….

In contrast, the climb up was extremely hard and monotonous – the soft grey ash that formed the cone gave way under foot, and for every two steps up, I slid one step back.  When I finally reached the top, the view was only average – the crater had no water, and resembled a giant grey ashtray. The view of the surrounding area was good, but not as good as I had experienced in my morning climb of Vindbelgjarfall.  

….and on its rather disappointing summit

Remembering that the cafĂ© closed at 5pm – even in peak tourist season many things close really early in Iceland – I hurried back, only to find that they had sold out of “lava bread”.  I guess it probably tastes exactly like normally bread, but who knows…….

I regained my car and continued my drive, this time to the southern shore of the lake.  Here the main attraction are the many small “pseudo-craters” – structures that formed when lava flowed over an expanse of water.  The water boiled, and the steam created exploded through the solidifying lava to leave lots of small craters.  

Pseudo-craters at the southern end of the lake

It was time to go back to my rental cottage.  For some reason I feel sleepy here all the time – maybe it is the fresh air, maybe the big variations in temperature during the day, or maybe a subtle effect of volcanic gases. I had dinner and slept well.

The drive north – Waterfalls, Canyons and Lunar Landscapes

Today I made the long drive to the north coast of Iceland.  I left early and drove back over the pretty mountain pass to Egilstadir, and then my route lead straight across Iceland’s interior.  At first the road went through green rolling hills, like the countryside I had seen before – with the inevitable waterfalls.  

Yet another waterfall just off Route 1

Then the landscape turned grey and barren, and it looked like I had arrived on the moon or another planet.

The Lunar Landscape of Iceland’s interior

I drove for about two more hours along these straight, empty roads, before reaching my first destination for today – the waterfalls Selfoss and Dettifoss.  These are not the highest waterfalls in Iceland but still impress through the power of the huge volume of water hurtling through the steep river canyon. I made the short walk to the smaller Selfoss first………

Selfoss waterfall (the “smaller” one)

…..before standing in awe in front of mighty Dettifoss.  It was a great stop for my lunch sandwiches, and when the sun periodically appeared, the waterfall’s spray made a pretty rainbow.

Views of Mighty Dettifoss

Dettifoss was just one of things to see in the “Jokulsargljufur” area, a long canyon formed long ago by a volcanic eruption under the Vatnajokull glacier in the centre of Iceland (which I visited earlier on my trip in the South).  The melted glacier water surged down the valley in a cataclysmic flood, and carved out the canyon in a matter of days.   I followed the canyon by a new road leading along its west side, and stopped for another walk to explore further. I saw weird volcanic lava shapes that looked like sleeping monsters (Icelanders would call them trolls),  a lave cave (formed when the outside of a lava river solidifies but the inside keeps flowing) and pretty mountain flowers, with purple heather.

A sleeping troll
A Lave Tube (nicknamed the “chapel”)
Rolling countryside with arctic flowers
I found the river again!

Further down the road, I explored the last part of the canyon, a huge horseshoe-shaped ridge surrounding a lush forest covering the floor of the old, now dry, river bed.

It was now later in the day, and my remaining route took me through the town of Husavik (my destination for tomorrow) where I stocked up on food and took photos of the mountains lining the other side of fjord.

Views over the bay from Husavik

I finally found my rental cottage in the evening evening, and cooked myself Icelandic lamb for dinner.  It had been a very long but very fulfilling day.

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