Lake Mývatn Travel Guide

Not everybody who visits Iceland wants to drive around the Ring road and try to see as much as possible. A few wants to stay put in one area and explore the area in their own pace. Destinations like Snæfellsnes, Westfjords and the area around Lake Mývatn are places where more and more people want to stay for longer periods. For you who are interested in staying in and around Lake Mývatn, we prepared a Travel guide for you so you’ll know what you’ll find there.

Campsites around Lake Mývatn Camping sites  Hot springs around Lake Mývatn Hot Springs Crossroads Crossroads Places of interest around Lake Mývatn Places of Interest Swimming pools around Lake Mývatn Swimming Pool


Driving to Lake Mývatn

When you drive to Lake Mývatn, the shorter route is to go north on the Ring road. It’s 479 km/297.6 miles and will take you about 6 hours to get there but in reality, it will take much longer for you will want to stop here and there for refreshments, take pictures and enjoy the ride.  The Ring road is paved all the way to Mývatn.

If you want to drive the east route, going south on the Ring road, it’s 803 km/499 miles of ten hours nonstop driving.

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn is the Iceland’s 4th biggest lake with it’s size of 36,5 km²/14.1 mile² but is a very shallow one with the deepest part being 4.5 m/14 ft. The lake is full of Arctic char and it runs out into the river Láxá í Mývatnssveit which is one of the finest Brown trout rivers in the world. The lake area is famous for the many breeding duck species (15-16) and the abundance of other fauna. The lake’s surroundings varies in landscapes and amazing geological formations. The area is very volcanic. Nine eruptions took place there during the period 1975-1984 and the continental drift was measured 4,8 m. The area east of the lake shows clearly how active the area is. Like Hverarönd is a bubbling, steaming, smelly place but such an amazing place to visit.

Lake Mývatn Midge cloud
Click on the picture to see the video

This area is one of the coldest places in the country during winter but also boasts fantastic summers. The one thing the summer visitor must be prepared for is the clouds of nasty little Midges that can appear from nowhere. When they come, they come in such amount the locals call it “The age of the wolf”. As scary and intimidating as it sounds (don’t take it wrong, they are no fun), but when they come, they only stay for a short amount of time and then disappears. So make sure you carry insect repellents (apparently the electronic ones works like a charm) and something to take care of those irritating little bites if you do get stung.

Camping & Accommodation

There are 3 campsites directly by the lake (see map) and a few hotels too but with only Hlíð campsite open all year around! Bjarg campsite lies just by the water and has a fantastic view over the lake. If you camp/stay by the lake, you’ll have a bunch of great places to visit just a short drive away.

There are a few others further away too one can stay at if the campsites should be full or if you choose to stay in Ásbyrgi or Vesturdalur, incredible places to both visit and stay in or there is one too close to the highlands. (see map). All campsites has all the things you need like showers and such except Vesturdalur which only have toliets.

In the small village of Reykjahlíð you have a supermarket, a gas station, post office and there is a restaurant too. In Vogar, the village south of Reykjahlíð has a pizza joint too.

Hot springs

There are a few all natural hot springs in the area but only one you can swim in and that one, Stóragjá, is just in Reykjahlíð. This spring is fantastic where you have to climb down a ladder to reach and the water is always crystal clear and perfect in temperature. If you look at the map and go through the pictures in the pop up menu, there is a video showing you the spring. It might now be for everyone to go there but this editor loves it.

Grjótagjá got to be very famous due to the location used in Game of thrones. It’s a fantastic natural spring in a cave but unfortunately it’s too warm for swimming but one is allowed to go there and see it.

Mývatn Nature baths is the North’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. Many prefer this one over the Blue Lagoon in the south due to it being much less touristy and much more affordable too.

There are hot tubs and swimming pools all over the place and you can find them on the map above.

Grjótagjá hot spring

Natural wonders

Hverfjall Crater

Hverfjall aka Hverfell is a tephra cone or tuff ring volcano and erupted some 2500 years ago. The crater is roughly 1 km/0.6 miles in diameter making it one of the biggest tephra cones in the world.  The edge of the crater is only accessible by two paths, from the northwest and south. It is strictly forbidden to use any other route to go up or down the crater. The paths are well marked and it’s a very interesting light hike up and around the crater.

It’s a short drive south from Reykjahlíð to Hverfjall. Just drive straight south and turn left at crossroad 2. (see map)

Hverfjall - Hverfell

Dimmuborgir Rock Formations

Dimmuborgir by Lake MývatnDimmuborgir means “Dark cities” or “Dark Castles” and is a massive lava tube that collapsed some 2300 years ago.  There you will find all kind of odd shapes of lava pillars, formations and caves. The area is characterized by large hollow cell-like structures formed around bubbles of vapor, and some dramatically standing lava pillars. Several of the chambers/cells and pillar bases are large enough to house humans, giving rise to the term “castles”.

In Icelandic mythology it’s believed Dimmuborgir connects to hell and in the Norwegian Christian lore they believe Satan landed there when he was thrown our from heaven. The Norwegians used to call the place “The Catacombs of Hell”.  Nowadays you’ll only find quiet tourists wandering around in awe on the trails built there.

Dimmuborgir lies further south than Hverfjall but it’s only a 7 minutes straight south from Reykjahlíð and is well marked. (crossroad 1)

Námaskarð & Hverir Geothermal Area

Looking down at HverirOn top of NámafjallFrom Reykjahlíð, you don’t have to drive for long on the Ring road, going east, before you arrive to Námaskarð and Hverir. It’s only a five minute drive to the moon. It’s a surreal area with holes bubbling and sizzling and the smell of Sulfur lies thick over the area. When walking around there, stay in the designated paths for you never know if you would set your foot through a sink hole, only to find burning hot water below.

If you hike up to the top of Námafjall, you’ll get an excellent view over the whole area, including Hverarönd.

Viti Crater

The crater Viti (Viti = hell) was created in a very violent fashion in 1724 when Magma exploded and created this 300m/1000ft big hole which started the Lake Mývatn fires that lasted for 5 years. For a century the crater was nothing more than a bubbling mud pit but is now a calm, green lake worth visiting.

To get there you drive east from Reykjahlíð and take a left at crossroads 3. The road is good and you can hike around the whole crater which takes about 40 minutes. It’s 15km/9.3 mile drive to the crater. While in the area, make sure to visit Krafla too, a geothermal plant with interesting structures.

The crater Viti

Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss has the biggest volume of water of any waterfall in Europe. A stunning 500m³/17.657ft³ a second ravages over the edge An amazing amount of glacial water passes this canyon. It’s 45m/147.6ft high an 100m/328.1ft wide. One does feel small standing on the edge seeing, feeling and hearing the water rush by you.  It is fed by water the river Jökulsá á fjöllum which gets its water from Vatnajökull glacier which in turn is very rich in sediments so the color of the water is very brown.

One can approach the waterfall from both sides of the fall. (see map). During winter these roads are usually closed and are not maintained. The road on the west side leading to the road to the parking lot was categorized as an F-road but in 2011 it became an ordinary gravel road. There are restrooms too by both parking lots. The viewpoint of the west side has some water spray fro the fall.

To get to the west bank, drive to crossroads 4 where you take a left turn and drive until you arrive to crossroads 4B and do a right. A short drive further is the parking lot.  To go to the east bank, drive to crossroads 5B where you take another left. Both these roads can be rough so keep your speed and eyes open. From Reykjahlíð to the west bank parking lot is a 47km/29.2 miles drive and to the east bank it’s a slightly longer drive og 68km/42.2 miles.

Dettifoss - Europe's biggest waterfall Dettifoss waterfall

Hljóðaklettar Rock Formations

HljóðaklettarA bit further north on the same road as you drive going to the west side of Dettifoss you will find Hljóðaklettar. (crossroads 6). This area is full of the most bizarre and amazing lava formations.  From the campgrounds you have access to a few fantastic hikes taking you around the area.

About 8000 years ago a volcano erupted and its lava ran parallel to the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. When the glacier river overflow and covered the lava stream, it started to explode and creating all these stunning rock formation. A fantastic place to visit.

Ásbyrgi Canyon

Folklore in IcelandAccording to Norse mythology, the giant, horseshoe shaped canyon of Ásbyrgi was formed by the hoof print of Sleipnir, Odin´s eight-legged horse. The “hoof print” is 3.5km/2.2 miles in length and 1.1km/0.7 miles wide. According to legend, Ásbyrgi is also the capital of the hidden people, the Elves in Iceland.

Inside the canyon, there are numerous hikes to choose from. In the most southern part of the canyon is a small lake called Botnstjörn where a group of green-winged Teals have made their home.  (PS: Don’t feed the birds as you are in a National park) There is also Arctic Fox, Ptarmigan and Gyrfalcons there.

The canyon is divided into two by a massive cliff in the middle called Eyjan (the island) and you can hike to the top from the campsite. From there you will have quite a stunning view over the area. All together the hike is about 5km/3.1 miles.

Ásbyrgi Canyon in North Iceland

Goðafoss waterfall

This beautiful waterfall has similarities in shape with Niagara falls. The name means “The waterfall of the gods” and came from the time when Iceland conformed to Christianity around the year 1000. When the Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði took it upon him to throw all his Pagan symbols into the waterfall, the symbols of the old gods, hence the name.

Goðafoss is in average 12m/39.4ft high and 30m/98.5ft wide and the fall is fed by the river Skjálfandafljót.  It is possible to see the fall from both sides. The west side has a proper park lot but coming from the east, you have to park the car a bit away and walk the rest but it’s a very nice walk, easily done.

From Reykjahlíð, it’s a 49km/30.4 mile ride west on the Ring road.

The waterfall of Goðafoss

To do around Lake Mývatn

There are of course too many things to do in and around the lake for us to line up here but here are a few things you would enjoy.

  • Hike up the 524m/1719ft high mountain Vindbelgur and enjoy the tremendous view from there.
  • Drive around the lake in a leisurely speed or you can rent a bike from Reykjahlíð and bike around it. It’s about 38km/23.6 miles around the lake.
  • Taste the traditional Hverabrauð, a very dark bread baked in geothermal heat. Delicious with smoked fish.
  • Visit Sigurgeir´s Bird Museum and then hike around the lake.
  • Enjoy a sightseeing flight from the local airport in Reykjahlíð.
  • Hiking on the numerous trails found in the vicinity and beyond.

Unfortunately, fishing in the river fed by Lake Mývatn is not for everyone despite it being one of the best Brown trout rivers in the world. You need to order your license the year before and if you are very lucky, you’ll get a license but the chances are very slim unless you are a member of the fishing club owning the rights.

When you are driving around in these areas, make sure you park properly when you want to take pictures. There are other cars around and you might put them in jeopardy by stopping in the middle of the road.  Going north from the Ring road might mean rough road at times so just drive carefully. During winter some roads might be closed so check out with to find out what the road conditions are when you are there. No use doing it weeks before.

Safe Travels!  #GoIceland


The Ring road Travel Guide  The Hot Spring Travel Guide  Mountain & F-road Travel Guide

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