Lake Myvatn is only a 1-hour drive from Akureyri, which means that you can take a low-cost domestic flight from Reykjavik to Akureyri and spend a few days seeing some of the best geothermal wonders with a fraction of the crowds of the south and golden circle.
These pseudocraters were formed by when hot lava flowed over the wet marsh area causing steam explosions. Take an easy 1-hour walk among many pseudocraters on the shores of Lake Myvatn and loop around the smaller lake Stakhólstjörn. You can hike up to a few of them or just walk around them all. Enjoy the nice views across the lake where you will see steam rising from the geothermal areas and other volcanic craters in the distance.
Dimmuborgir Lava formations and “The Church”
Take a 1-hour walk beneath large, strange, contorted lava formations caused when lava flows cooled. You can see the start of the formations in only 5 minutes or hike the small loop in 15 minutes. But you should really take your time and walk the bigger loop (2 miles) where you will see Kirkja (“The Church”), a natural lava formation that resembles a vaulted church arch, and a nearby cave a bit further.
Hverfjall Cinder Cone and Crater Walk
This Cinder Cone is hard to miss from anywhere around Lake Myvatn. Climb up the side for a great view of the surrounding area where you can see the Skutustadir Pseudocraters and steam from the Myvatn Nature Baths and Hverarond Geothermal area. Walk around the top of the crater in about 40-60 minutes for even more vantage points of the lava fields below. If you want a bit more of a hike, you can get here via a trail from Dimmuborgir (10-15 min) or hike on towards the Myvatn Nature Baths (2.3 km / 1.5 mi).
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Grjotagja Lava Cave and Geothermal Spring
The small lava cave of Grjotagja comes with an added surprise inside, a natural geothermal spring. Bring a light and follow inside the cave for perhaps the most interesting hot pool in the country. Test the water carefully, it can be quite hot!
Hverarond Mud pits and Steam vents
As you leave Lake Myvatn heading East along the ring road your first detour is the Hverarond geothermal area. Here you can walk around various bubbling mud pits, and steam vents, admiring the interesting red and orange colors. Exploring the entire area takes 30 minutes to an hour.
Krafla/Viti Crater hike
Drive past the Krafla power station (also worth a stop) and you will find the Viti crater, part of the Krafla volcanic system. This crater is filled by a bright blue lake, and you can walk around the ridge where you’ll pass a few other hot springs and steam vents in about 30 minutes total.
Leirhnjúkur Lava Fields and Geothermal Area
Walk around the Leirhnjúkur area and you will think you were on another planet. After 10 minute walk, you will arrive at some steam vents. Follow the path through lava fields where you can see where lava oozed over until it cooled. Make sure you stay on the trail, as there are steam vents all around and the ground can be very hot in other places. You can hike a big loop in around 1 hour to see all the highlights.
Myvatn Nature Baths
After all that hiking you deserve a break, and you should take it by relaxing in the Myvatn Nature Baths, the North’s equivalent of the Blue Lagoon, but with fewer people, cheaper prices, and better views. You won’t find all the spa extras that you do at the Blue Lagoon, but you will find a couple large geothermal pools, a sauna, and a steam room. You can enjoy views down over the lava fields and the craters around Lake Myvatn as you sit in the mineral water.
Dettifoss and Selfoss Waterfalls
A 40-minute drive from the Nature Baths will bring you to Dettifoss waterfall, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Hike 5 minutes to the viewpoint and you will be amazed by the volume of water pouring over the edge. If you are up for another short hike (10 minutes) you can continue upstream to Selfoss falls as you walk along the cliff above to the river. The entire loop is 2.5 km / 1.5 mi and takes about an hour to see.