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Lake Myvatn: a complete guide with 18 sensational must-see places

by Elisa Flitter Fever
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There are a lot of sensational natural wonders to see when visiting the area around Lake Myvatn in north Iceland. Volcanic craters, lava fields, bubbling mud pools, hot springs… Spend your days exploring and hiking around the different sights as described in this article, and finish the day soaking your sore muscles in ‘the Blue Lagoon of the North’. You might even see the Northern Lights! And most sights can be visited for free, yah!

Lady standing next to smoking fumaroles produced by georthermal activity at Hverir
Strike a pose at sunny Hverir – Namafjall

Why visit Myvatn

What makes Lake Myvatn (Icelandic: Mývatn) and its surroundings so attractive to visit is definitely the geothermal activity. Crater lakes, lava formations, fumaroles, boiling mud, hot water caves and even Lake Myvatn itself are all the result of the volcanic activity here. The Icelanders have been able to convert the geothermal energy to heat the houses, water, etc. so it is also sustainably used by the locals.

There are various hiking trails on and around the unique objects and wonderful landscapes that are the result of the volcanic activity around Lake Myvatn. In this article you will find 15 sensational places in the Lake Myvatn area that I would recommend to visit. Spend at least 3 nights here, it is also a great base for the Diamond Circle for instance.

No Golden Circle-like crowded scenes here, no parking or entrance fees, except admission to Mývatn Nature Baths. You will need a short week to do everything described in this article, so you might have to pick a few things out.

Lake Mývatn is actually a tautology since mý means ‘midge’ and vatn means ‘lake’ in Icelandic, so Mývatn is Lake of the Midges.

The crystal clear water of Lake Myvatn
The crystal clear water of Lake Myvatn
Mt. Namafjall seen from Dimmuborgir
Mt. Namafjall seen from Dimmuborgir

1: Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn is located in the north of Iceland, between Egilsstadir and Akureyri. Just to be clear: Myvatn is the name of the lake, not of a town or village. The biggest village at Myvatn is on the upper east side of the lake, called Reykjahlid.  With app. 37 km2 Lake Myvatn is the 4th largest lake of Iceland. At its deepest point Lake Myvatn is nearly 4.5m deep. Even in winter the lake never really completely freezes because the geothermal activity in the area keeps the ground and water relatively warm. There are about fifty islands in Lake Myvatn, of which Geitey, Háey, Hrútey and Mikley are some of the largest. 

Lake Myvatn is bird watchers’ paradise. There are five main spots for bird watching, counter-clockwise around the lake: the bay of Neslandavík, the bay of Álar, the river banks of River Laxá near the parking lot over the river bridge, Skútustaðir & Stakhólstjörn (#17 below) and Höfði (#16 below). Many different kinds of ducks can be spotted, but also gooses, ravens, owls, gulls, etc.

When hiking anywhere on Iceland, please pay attention to signs and make sure you do not enter any private land without prior permission. You can also walk the North Bank Circle (2-3 hours) along the lake front, which starts across Hotel Reykjahlid and includes several good bird watching spots. See the royal blue colored dot #12 on the hiking map in the last part of this article.

Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn

Distances mentioned are measured from Reykjahlid, the main village on the northeastern side of Lake Myvatn.

2: Storagja Cave

  • Distance: 1 min by car (400m)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: between sunrise and sunset

Some people think that Stóragjá is another name for Grjótagjá; that it is the same place, but it is not. Both Storagja and Grjotagja are caves with crystal clear blue thermal water, but Storagja is at another location, pretty close though. Storagja is located in the village Reykjahlid, near the Mývatnsstofa Information Center, where road 848 and Ring Road 1 cross.

Contrary to Grjotagja, which is right at a parking lot and surrounded by a pretty flat lava field, when you want to visit Storagja you will have to go down into a small gulch formed by lava walls before reaching Storagja cave. Entering Storagja cave and going down to the thermal water requires ropes and ladders. But you can also just stick your head inside to have a quick peek.

The royal blue colored dot #5 on the hiking map in the last part of this article indicates a hiking route that goes from Reykjahlid to Storagja, Grjotagja, Hverfjall crater and Dimmuborgir lava formations, which is worth taking if you have a spare 3-4 hours (8 km). This trail starts at the crossroads of Ring Road 1 in Reykjahlid village, turning eastwards to Egilsstadir. The path takes you to Grjotagja, the top of Hverfjall crater and then steep down on the southern side towards Dimmuborgir.

Desolate landscape with big cracks in the surface
On top of Grjotagja cave near Lake Myvatn

3: Vogafjos Farm

  • Distance: 4 min by car (2.5 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: Wed-Fri 16:00-21:00h, Sat-Sun 12:00-21:00h (breakfast for hotel guests only)

Vogafjós Farm is THE place to eat and – if you can also – sleep when you are in the Lake Myvatn area. The accommodation is called Vogafjós Farm Resort. Vogafjós Farm is located right by the lake on its east side, just south of Reykjahlíð. The food is one of the best we had in Iceland, absolutely delicious. The prime lamb, yummy! Also one of the priciest we had (ISK 20K EUR 122) but who cares?! Enjoy.

You eat at a table with just a window in between you and the cows in the barn and the milking station. Lovely! Reservations recommended. There is also a terrace outside with lake view and some typical Icelandic souvenirs are available, such as salt in different flavors (lava, moss, licorice, etc.).

Cute calf at Vogafjos Farm Resort and Restaurant at Lake Myvatn
Cute calf at Vogafjos Farm Resort and Restaurant (photo credits booking.com)

4: Grjotagja Cave

  • Distance: 7 min by car (4.5 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: between sunrise and sunset

Grjótagjá is a cave with crystal clear blue thermal water and two entrances (left and right). Grjotagja used to be a popular bathing place for some decades, with men entering on one side and women on the other side. Until Krafla erupted in 1975-1984, which brought magma streams under the area, resulting in a sharp rise in water temperature to nearly 60°C. Nowadays the water temperature cooled down to about 43-46°C, but it’s still too hot to bathe.

Besides, Grjótagjá cave is private property, not public. The farmers who own this land tolerate tourists to visit and take photos, but it is not allowed to bathe or sleep in the cave. I’m not kidding, sometimes people ignore that rule and get caught sleeping over, brushing their teeth in this water, etc. So disrespectful! Going into the cave is at your own risk. There are no proper stairs, the rocks can be slippery, rocks may fall down and you really do not want to fall into the hot water.

Grjotagja is also known as the Love Cave. The nickname comes from a scene in the Game of Thrones where a couple makes love in this cave for the first time. The scene was not actually shot here, but in a studio. How romantic. The entrance and parking are for free. You can visit between sunrise and sunset. Grjótagjá can be reached by car from the 860 road, or via foot path from Dimmuborgir.

Cave with hot, crystal clear blue water near Lake Myvatn
Grjotagja cave inside (left side)
Crystal clear blue water in cave near Myvatn Lake Iceland
Grjotagja cave inside (right side)

5: Myvatn Nature Baths

  • Distance: 5 min by car (4 km)
  • Costs: ISK 5500 adult (ISK 5700 as of Jan 1, 2021) + consumptions
  • Opening hours: varies (temporarily closed from Oct 31, 2020 due to COVID-19)

Jarðböðin við Mývatn, known in English as Mývatn Nature Baths or the Blue Lagoon of the North, opened its doors in 2004.  Not nearly as crowded as the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Nature Baths has the same gorgeous lagoon style bright blue water and – as icing on the cake – an amazing view. We loved it here! There are different nooks where you can sit between amidst clouds of steam. Simply enjoy the warm water (36-40C°) that is good for your skin and muscles. The geothermal water comes from a depth up to 2,500 meters underground.

You can get drinks from a small bar right at the pool and sip while soaking. In addition, there are also a restaurant and a steam bath. Visiting Myvatn Nature Baths is a good idea any time of the day, any season. Enjoy a beautiful sunset or if very lucky the Northern Lights! Please take a shower before stepping in. You may also want to take off any jewelry that you may be wearing before entering a geothermal bath because the Sulphur may irreversibly affect it. I would also recommend to bring older swimwear that you can discard after your Iceland trip. It is also possible to rent a towel, swimsuit and bathrobe.

Pool with very blue water and mountain view on Iceland
Myvatn Nature Baths, the Blue Lagoon of the North

6: Hverir – Namafjall

  • Distance: 8 min by car (6.5 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

Namafjall, also known as Namaskard or Hverir, is a must-see high-temperature geothermal area east of Lake Myvatn of app. 4m2. The Icelanders nicknamed it ‘eldhús djöfulsins’, which means Hell’s Kitchen. A Mars-like landscape where steam spurts from solfatara hot springs, colorful fumaroles hissing on the ground and mud pots are boiling. This geothermal activity comes from deep underground, where at a depth of about 1000m the temperature rises above 200°C. Pretty sensational, right?!

Namafjall is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, but be prepared. The characteristic hot spring smell will intrude your nostrils as soon as you get out of your car at the parking lot. This unpleasant smell comes from the fumarole gas hydrogen sulfide, simply said: sulfur smoke that most describe as rotten eggs. It reminded me of Rotorua, New Zealand. Centuries ago, sulfur was mined in Iceland to produce gun powder.

Walking around this spectacular desolate scenery comes with a risk, so be careful where you stand. These natural phenomenon are bloody hot; temperatures above the ground are between 80 and 100°C. Please walk only on the paths and do not cross any lines that indicate the trails. You won’t be the first who gets burned with boiling mud as an immediate punishment by Mother Nature for crossing a line and getting too close. Standing too long in a strong stream of sulfur may cause physical discomfort too. Stay safe!

Boiling mud pool at Hverir - Namafjall
Boiling mud pool at Hverir – Namafjall

7: Namafjall Mountain

After visiting Namafjall a.k.a. Hverir, you may want to make the effort of hiking to the top of Mt. Námafjall (482m). Mt. Namafjall is the orange/yellow colored mountain right next to the Namafjall Hverir geothermal area. Mt. Namafjall is actually an active volcano! The acidity in the ground causes the little vegetation of the mountain and its surroundings.

The top of Namafjall Mountain gives a beautiful panoramic view over the area. It is right next to Krafla and close to Ring Road 1 that goes all around Iceland. When you drive to Mt. Namafjall from Lake Myvatn, you go drive through the so-called Námaskarð pass, after which you will see Namafjall – Hverir geothermal area on your right hand side.

Mud, sulfur and Namaskard Pass seen from Hverir
Mud, sulfur and Namaskard Pass seen from Hverir
Namafjall Mountain
Namafjall Mountain

8: Dalfjall Mountain

Dalfjall Mountain (451m) is clearly visible from the 863 road, on the west side between Ring Road 1 at Hverir and Krafla Power Station. There is a 3-5 hour hike that passes Dalfjall Mountain on foot. It goes from the south of Leirhnjukur to the highway at Námaskarð pass (Hverir). This hiking trail provides an excellent view of the entire area, is varied and interesting. See royal blue dot #9 on the hiking map in the last part of this article.

9: Hlidarfjall Mountain

Hlíðarfjall Mountain (711m) is located between Reykjahlid village and Krafla. Most hikers visit Hlidarfjall as an extra when already doing the Krafla Route as described below (#8). Mt. Hlidarfjall is not an easy climb due to its steepness. It takes about 30-45 min to reach the top, but it’s worth the excellent view from the top of the mountain to the lake and lava fields. See royal blue dot #9 on the hiking map in the last part of this article. Not to be mistaken with the eponymous Hlíðarfjall Mountain that is located west of Akureyri, which becomes a ski slope in winter.

Skutustadagigar pseudo caters and Hverfjall crater
Many lava formed fields and objects are covered by moss, like these pseudo caters

10: Krafla Lava Fields

  • Distance: 16 min by car (14.5 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

Krafla (818m) is a volcanic caldera near Lake Myvatn, one of the most active and explosive volcanoes of Iceland. The caldera is app. 10 km (6.2 mi) long and 2 km deep. At least 29 eruptions were recorded, for the last time in 1984, which resulted in a lava flow of 24 km2 in 2 weeks’ time. The eruption in 1984 was the 9th eruption in 9 years’ time. This most recent series of eruptions is called Krafla Fires, or Kröflueldar in Icelandic, not to be mistaken with the so-called Myvatn Fires, or Myvatnseldar in Icelandic, in the 1720s.

Krafla is right in between two earth plates of North America and Eurasia, which ridge actually splits Iceland into two and constantly drift apart, which causes volcanic activity. This geothermal activity of Krafla is used and converted into energy since 1977 by the nearby Krafla Power Station Leirbotn. Its visitor center is open in summer. When visiting the lava fields, please use the marked paths only in order to prevent the fragile moss gets damaged.

Krafla Power Station
Krafla Geothermal Power Station is not the prettiest sight
Foot prints in places they should not be (Hverir Namafjall)
Foot prints in places they shouldn’t be

The Krafla Lava Fields are the visible result of the eruptions around Mt. Krafla. Krafla Lava Fields consist of a moon-like, surrealistic landscape alternated with big lava rocks covered with moss, in winter covered by snow. You will see the Krafla Lava Fields when driving from Hverir to Viti crater lake. Along this road (863) there is a hot spring outdoor shower at a public parking lot on the right hand side, ideal for travelers with a small camper. A bit further you will pass the Krafla Power Station on your left hand side.

Discover the mysterious Krafla Lava Fields and its surroundings by hiking the so-called Krafla Route, indicated by the royal blue colored dot #8 on the hiking map in the last part of this article. The Krafla Route takes 3-5 hours and goes from the south side of the Leirhnjukur circle trail southwards to Reykjahlid village.

Colorful mountains of Krafla volcanic area Myvatn
Krafla may turn out to be more colorful than you would expect

11: Viti Crater Lake

  • Distance: 17 min by car (15 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

Viti, fully named Víti Maar, Stóra Víti or Helvíti (Big Hell), is a volcanic explosion crater with a striking opaque, teal green lake. Apparently the color of the lake changes from more blueish to more greenish, depending on the wind. The 320m wide crater formed by a huge eruption in 1724, is part of the Krafla volcanic area.

Viti is located right at a parking lot so very easy to access. We were so lucky when we were here at about 9 am; bright blue sky, no wind and the place was deserted! No other people around. After walking around the crater itself, you could consider taking the 45-60 min trail east of Viti, which goes through a geothermal field.

Beautiful opaque, teal green lake near Myvatn Lake
Viti Crater Lake

Viti Askja

Note: besides Viti Maar near Lake Myvatn, Iceland has another beautiful Viti (which actually means hell in Icelandic) called Viti Askja. Located near the Askja caldera (volcano, last eruption 1961), in the highlands of central Iceland, Viti Askja is only accessible in summer via either the unpaved F roads by 4×4 car or by helicopter from Möðrudalur for example (EUR 1000 for 3 pers. 45 min, yikes!). You can also book this guided tour to Askja from Lake Myvatn. Contrary Viti Maar, it is possible to swim in the warm sulfur water of Viti Askja. Askja is app. 3.5 to 4 hours (140 km) drive south of Myvatn.

12: Leirhnjukur

  • Distance: 16 min by car (14.5 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

Leirhnjúkur is an active, Crevasse type of volcano near Lake Myvatn, that is part of the Krafla volcanic area. Leirhnjukur was created during the Myvatn Fires (1720-1746) and erupted last during the Krafla Fires (1975-1984). Mt. Leirhnjúkur (592m) is a so-called tuff mountain, consisting of multicolored rock made of volcanic ash spit out during a volcanic eruption. A spectacular steaming sulfuric terrain with a large number of mint green colored hot springs, mud pools and lava field is located at the foot of Mt. Leirhnjukur. Like Namafjall a.k.a. Hverir, the sulfur (rotten egg) smell is present here as well.

There is an easy trail of 1-3 hours that goes from Leirhnjukur parking lot, along the hot spring area to the beautiful Hofur crater north of Leirhnjukur Mountain. This trail is indicated by the royal blue colored dot #7 on the hiking map in the last part of this article. The view on top is great. From the nearest parking lot to Mt. Leirhnjukur takes only about 15 min via a path made of wooden planks. This is definitely one of the must-see places when visiting the Lake Myvatn area of Iceland.

Leirhnjukur near Lake Myvatn  iceland turqoise pond
Leirhnjukur near Lake Myvatn (photo credits Agnieszka)

13: Hverfjall crater

  • Distance: 10 min by car (6km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

The black Hverfjall (420m), also known as Hverfell, is a cinder cone type of volcanic crater on the east side of Lake Myvatn. It is approximately 2,500 years old, the crater hole is app. 1 km wide and 140-200m deep. Worldwide, Hverfjall is one of the largest of its kind. The rim of the Hverfjall crater can be reached via two paths, on the northwestern and the southern sides of the crater.

When you exit the Myvatnsvegur (848 road) it takes about 5 min gravel road by car before you reach a parking lot. From the parking lot up to the rim of the crater it is a steep walk of app. 15-20 min. You can walk around the crater and enjoy the panoramic view. It’s also possible to walk to Hverfjall from Dimmuborgir (2060m from parking lot).

Volcano crater with warm glow due to sunset
Hverfjall volcano at sunset
Hverfjall volcano crater seen from Dimmuborgir
Hverfjall volcano crater seen from Dimmuborgir

14: Dimmuborgir

  • Distance: 9 min by car (6.5 km)
  • Admission: free, toilet ISK 200, Yule Lads Christmas ISK 1500 adult
  • Opening hours: 11:00-17:00h

The unique lava pillars and fascinating peculiar geological formations at Dimmuborgir are leftovers of a gigantic volcanic eruption that caused a 12km fissure towards Lake Myvatn about 2,300 years ago. Basically Dimmuborgir is an emptied lava lake. Such extraordinary formations are very rarely found on land, a sensation to see. You may feel like stepping into a fairytale kind of landscape with its unusual, dramatic shaped formations. Dimmuborgir means Dark Cities.

Walking around the lava formations of Dimmuborgir
Walking around the lava formations of Dimmuborgir

In the early 1940s local farmers voluntarily handed over Dimmuborgir so that the Icelandic government could maintain it as a public nature reserve area. Fences and stone barriers were placed to prevent grazing sheep from entering. The heather was blooming when we were here at the end of August and we saw only a few people on our way in 1-2 hours. Visitors should stay on the officially marked trails and please take any waste with you to help preserve the area. The soil is particularly sensitive due to wind erosion and the rocks are brittle and fragile. So no rock climbing, unless marked as a clear trail or steps.

There are at least 7 hiking trails in/from Dimmuborgir, ranging from 600m to 8km, all marked with their own color. All crossings include information signs for direction and distance, several a map. Two paths lead outside of Dimmuborgir, one to Hverfjall crater, Grjotagja and Storagja (#2 above), and another trail to Birtingatjörn by Lake Myvatn. Most trails here are easy to walk.

Woman standing in hole formed by lava rocks
The hole in the lava rocks at Dimmuborgir

The smallest circle path at Dimmuborgir is paved and takes about 10-15 min to walk (570m). The big circle takes app. 15-20 min (840m) and the Church circle that leads to the most well-known formation known as ‘the church’ (kirkja) after its dome-like ceiling (1160m from parking lot). However, most people will take photos at a hole in the rocks that you will pass when walking between the entrance and the church.

Yule Lads at Christmas

In winter (Nov 30-Dec 24) Dimmuborgir becomes a true winter fairytale when the 13 so-called Yule Lads settle in the caves. They make jokes with adults and hand out gifts to well-behaving children. This is the Icelandic folklore version of Santa Clause; surrounded by fire pits, sledges, cinnamon aroma and the surreal lava pillars of Dimmuborgir may give you that magical December feeling. Nowadays, for your convenience there are a restaurant with toilet and a small souvenir shop at the parking lot of Dimmuborgir.

Odd lava formations, bushes and heather at Dimmuborgir
Odd lava formations, bushes and heather at Dimmuborgir

15: Lofthellir Lava Cave

Lofthellir Lava Cave is a permafrost, ice cave in a lava tunnel that was formed over 3,500 years ago. Something is called permafrost when completely frozen (below 0°C or 32°F) continuously for at least two years. Bring warm clothes, cap and gloves as the cave has its own freezing microclimate. Wear sturdy hiking boots as the path inside can be slippery from ice. As far as I know, the magnificent scenery of the cave inside can only be visited with a professionally guided tour.

Lofthellir is located underneath the Laxardalshraun lava field, east of Lake Myvatn. The 30-min hike to the lava fields and cave entrance is pretty easy in summer. In winter you will need a 4×4. Together with the guide you will go down into the cave via a rope ladder. As a group you will walk along the cave’s ice formations via ropes and explore the different chambers with flashlights. Lofthellir Lave Cave can be visited all year round, although access depends on weather conditions, which is occasionally a restricting factor in winter.

16: Hofdi and Kalfastrond

  • Distance: 9 min by car (7.5 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: 10:00-22:00h (summer)

Höfði is a small peninsula at the eastern side of Lake Myvatn at the Myvatnsvegur (848 road). Since Iceland barely has any forest, it is nice for a change to walk through a wooded piece of land for a while. No ancient, tall trees here, but it’s a nice green area that kept us busy walking around for about 30-40 min.

Path with trees on Iceland
Walking around Hofdi on a path with trees (which is pretty rare on Iceland)

After you start the trail from the parking lot (Parking Hofdi north) and go to the right after a few hundred meters, you will reach a hill via steps, from where you can enjoy a nice view over Lake Myvatn in northeastern direction towards Reykjahlíð. The view on the lava formations sticking out of the water of Lake Myvatn at the western side of the peninsula is pretty stunning too. The water is so crystal clear, I wonder how snorkling or diving would be in there.

Kalfastrond is the peninsula southwest of Hofdi, excellent for bird watching and a short hike. There is an easy walking trail, see the royal blue colored dot #3 on the hiking map in the last part of this article. It starts at the gate of Kalfastrond Farm (Parking Hofdi south), goes through bizarre lava formations and landscape. It goes along the northeastern shore of Kalfastrond, leading to jagged lava formations in the water called Klasar, right in between the Höfði and Kálfaströnd peninsulas.

Lava formations sticking out of Lake Myvatn seen from Hofdi Iceland
Klasar lava formations sticking out of Lake Myvatn (seen from Hofdi)

17: Skutustadagigar pseudo craters

  • Distance: 15 min by car (16 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

Right opposite Hotel Myvatn, you will find Skútustaðagígar, a group of so-called pseudo craters on the south side of Lake Myvatn. The pseudo craters are located around a pond called Stakhólstjörn, which has therefore become a Natural Monument. There is a hiking route around the Stakholstjorn pond that takes about an hour (3 km). A shorter route (1.5 km, 30 min) takes you through the western part of the area with Skutustadagigar.

The pseudo-craters, also known as rootless cones, are formed when boiling lava from gas explosions encounters a lake, pond and/or wetland. With pseudo-craters there is no opening from which lava has erupted and no connection with the magma deep down inside the earth. A few of these pseudo-craters can be found on Iceland, Hawaii and… on Mars!

Pseudo crater at Skutustadagigar and the Stakholstjorn pond
Pseudo crater at Skutustadagigar and the Stakholstjorn pond

18: Vindbelgjarfjall Mountain

  • Distance: 10 min by car (11 km)
  • Admission: free
  • Opening hours: n/a

Vindbelgjarfjall a.k.a Vindbelgur Mountain (529m) is a mountain on the west side of Lake Myvatn. There is a hiking trail starts west of Vagnbrekka Farm. The trail is steep at times. It takes about 1 hour to reach the top, from where you have a great view over the region. See also the royal blue colored dot #1 on the hiking map in the last part of this article. Nice to visit early morning, to see the sun come up from behind Lake Myvatn. Vindbelgjarfjall is a bit off the 1 ring road. On the other side of the road, there is also a lake view point.

Diamond Circle

Lake Myvatn is a great place to start the 260 km Diamond Circle and use as the basis for your accommodation (for tips see below Where to stay). Check out the article The Diamond Circle in North Iceland: the most breakthtaking highlights for a complete overview of this impressive route that you should not miss when visiting this area.

The Diamond Circle links some of northern Iceland’s most impressive sights, such as:

Victory - what a great feeling to stand here on top of Asbyrgi Canyon at golden hour
Victory – what a great feeling to stand here on top of Asbyrgi Canyon at golden hour
Woman sitting in front of watching waterfall dettifoss on Iceland
Mesmerized by the powerfull water rushing down Dettifoss waterfall

Map Myvatn

This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.

Hiking map Lake Myvatn

Check out below specific map indicating the hiking trails around Lake Myvatn that are mentioned in this article and indicated on this map with royal blue colored dots.

Hiking map Lake Myvatn area Iceland

Midges at Lake Myvatn

Myvatn means ‘lake of the midges’ in Icelandic. Midges are fundamental for Myvatn’s birdlife. Midges are small flies that the birds and fish feed on. These midges are absolutely harmless, they do not sting humans, but they can be pretty annoying. We noticed midges around Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters, Hofdi, Dimmuborgir, Hverir and Vogafjós Farm in the second half of August. Horse riding can be fun in this area, but would not recommend it for summer days when midges are active.

According to locals, the midges only come out of the water on windless summer days, which days/weeks cannot be predicted long in advance. So you may be lucky or unlucky when you get to Lake Myvatn. To be honest, my boyfriend found them really annoying, I guess because he did not expect their presence. Luckily, I brought our inspect nets and baseball caps. Not so charming for the looks, but in this way we could walk around without having any annoying midges in our face. Unfortunately that did not help preventing some of my photos got ruined by midges flying around.

Just to be clear: these midges are not everywhere, mostly at the sights immediately around the lake, and definitely not always (summer only). Don’t let midges stop you from visiting Lake Myvatn but good to know about them in advance.

Stuff to bring to Myvatn

Visiting the Lake Myvatn area soon? I would recommend to bring the following items:

  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Camera
  • Water bottle
  • Shirt with long sleeves
  • Pants with long legs
  • Fleece sweater
  • Coat (suitable for season)
  • Insect net for head (summer)
  • Baseball cap
  • Warm hat or hood
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Gloves

How to get to Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn is located at Iceland’s Ring Road 1 (RR1).

  • RR1 southeast: the ride from the east fjords (Egilsstadir) to Lake Myvatn is pretty boring actually, perhaps the most less spectacular part of the RR1. Definitely make a pit-stop at Fjallakaffi next to Möðrudalur/Fjalladyrd for one of the best fish soups I ever had.
  • RR1 northwest: if you come from Akureyri, don’t miss Godafoss waterfall on your way to Lake Myvatn.

Reykjahlíð does have its own airport (MVA) but it’s tiny and only for private domestic flights. The closest international airport is Akureyri (AEY). Keflavik Airport (KEF) near Reykjavik is the largest airport of Iceland.

Hitting the road around Lake Myvatn Myvatnsvegur 848 road
Hitting the road around Lake Myvatn


  • Husavik – Reykjahlid 55 min / 45 km
  • Akureyri – Reykjahlid 65-75 min / 85 km
  • Godafoss – Reykjahlid 40 min / 50 km
  • Dettifoss – Reykjahlid west 40 min / 50 km
  • Egilsstadir – Reykjahlid 3 hours / 165 km
  • Reykjavik – Reykjahlid 6 hours / 470 km

Rental car

A rental car and being able to drive around yourself gives a lot of freedom and flexibility. You will be able to see more in a shorter period of time compared to public transport, and the airconditioning is a bit plus too! Just make sure it is insured all-risk and that you bring your EU or international driver’s license.

Personally, when it concerns renting a car, I would recommend Sunny Cars, an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. I am a big fan and use them all the time! In most countries the 2nd driver, free cancellation up to 4 hours in advance and all-risk insurance are standard included. Ideal, I use them all the time!

Sunset at Lake Myvatn with car in front
Driving around Lake Myvatn with our rental car from Sunny Cars

Camper van

Driving around with a campervan on Iceland definitely comes with several benefits, including more freedom in your schedule. You can either rent a campervan, or – if you live in another European country like Denmark or The Netherlands and you have one yourself – travel with your own campervan to Iceland by ferry.

  1. Get a quote from Worldwide Campers for a rental camper van, or
  2. Check out this Dutch article about traveling to Iceland with your own campervan from The Netherlands

When to visit Myvatn

Lake Myvatn can be visited throughout the year. Obviously the seasons have different pros and cons. I liked visiting the area in summer, but the midges were annoying in some places. When coming in summer, dress up for four seasons in a day, so layers. There were moments during the day I wished I had worn a zip-off pants (which I do not have) as it felt like 25°C. Early and later in the day I was glad I brought my woolen buff as it was cold, especially when the wind started to blow.

When it is freezing very hard, Myvatn Nature Baths may provide a special cap. When you come to Lake Myvatn in winter, you can go dog sledging, which I did in Finnish Lapland a few years ago. It’s awesome!

Northern lights at Lake Myvatn

The northern lights may be observed on Iceland between mid-August and mid-April. Myvatn calls itself the Northern Lights capital of Iceland. Not kidding. Myvatn is right in the middle of the zone with the best chances to see the Northern lights, between 65° and 72° Latitude North, at about 100 km south of the Arctic Circle. Lake Myvatn is indeed a great area for northern lights, but you need to be lucky and willing to get out of your bed in the middle of the night without knowing if you’ll actually see it. Good luck!

Green streams of light above Lake Myvatn
Northern Lights above Lake Myvatn (photo credits Martin Brechtl)

Where to stay at Myvatn

We liked the Lake Myvatn area more than Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city. I would definitely recommend staying near Lake Myvatn for at least 2-4 nights to explore all the places and hiking routes as described in this article. As mentioned before, Lake Myvatn is also a great base for the Diamond Circle. Or simply drive from Reykjahlid to Husavik for whale watching.

Reykjahlíð is the village at Lake Myvatn with a supermarket and most accommodation. The best accommodation (in my humble opinion) is just outside the village. Vogafjós Farm Resort is a wonderful place to stay, if only already because of the fantastic restaurant next-door (see #3 mentioned in this article).

Vogafjós Farm Resort is great but definitely not cheap and often fully occupied. So should you be looking for alternative accommodation, then check out the map below. COVID-19 may influence the number of hotels that you will currently see available. Would not recommend Sel – Hótel Mývatn, especially not the restaurant. The location is fine, quality poor.


Sulfur smell water

When staying at any accommodation in the Myvatn area, you will probably notice the sulfur smell (like rotten eggs) when turning on the hot water. The geothermal activity in the Lake Myvatn area is sustainably used to heat up homes, water, etc. The cold water is fresh water and perfectly good for immediate consumption, like anywhere on Iceland. So bring your own bottle and fill with tap water, one of the things you can do to travel climate friendlier.

I hope that you like this article. Please do not hesitate to ask any question you may have or share additional tips via below comment box. Should you miss anything relevant, please let me know. I would also appreciate it if you’d say a few words if this article was helpful for your trip. Have you been to Iceland already?

Interested to read more articles about Iceland? Check out the Iceland Blog Archives! More articles will follow soon.

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Last Updated on 07/25/2021 by Elisa Flitter Fever

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