8 Highlights of Iceland’s Lake Myvatn

Sunday, 10th July 2022

Will Gray

iceland north east myvatn kalfastrond sunset rth

What are the must-see sites of Lake Myvatn – a huge spring-fed freshwater lake on the Diamond Circle of North Iceland? Read our guide to find out…

From Akureyri it’s only a one-hour drive east to reach Lake Myvatn. A road encircles the natural wonder, making it easy to visit the lake’s surrounding geological features, ranging from volcanic craters and moss-covered lava fields to geothermal springs and bubbling mud pits. Lake Myvatn is about two and a half times bigger than Lake Windermere in Cumbria, so you should allow at least a full day for exploring its dramatic scenery.

Tip: Make sure to break your journey between Akureyri and Lake Myvatn with a stop at Godafoss – one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls.

The highlights below can be visited, in order, by following the A848 road anticlockwise around the lake:


iceland north east myvatn psuedocraters from above istk

These are the so-called pseudocraters formed by gas explosions when lava flowed over areas of wetland some 2,300 years ago. All is calm and green now. You can hike amongst them – and the birdwatching is excellent. Lake Myvatn is renowned for its waterbirds – find out more at Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum (below).


north iceland dimmuborgir istk

There’s more evidence of ancient volcanic activity at Dimmuborgir, or the Dark Fortress – a spooky basalt labyrinth where walking trails weave beneath strange columns, arches and towers. It’s no surprise – being in Iceland – that the place is riddled with folk stories. Keep an eye out for the Yule Lads – 13 trolls who spend most of the year hiding in the caves here before venturing out at Christmas to cause mischief. With names like the Door Slammer, Sausage Swiper, Meat Hook and Window Peeper, they used to be much scarier characters, but in 1746 the government banned parents from telling their children frightening stories about the trolls. Today, they usually bring presents – the Icelandic equivalent of Santa Claus.

Hverfell crater

north iceland hverfjall winter istk

Only 420m tall, but a proper volcano nonetheless, it’s a steep but straightforward path to the crater rim of Hverfjall. You can walk right around the rim. Don’t worry, it’s dormant! Hverfjall erupted 4,500 years ago, covering the surrounding area in ash.

Grjotagja hot spring cave

north iceland grotagja cave myvatn istk

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you might remember this subterranean pool as the setting where Jon Snow got on more intimate terms with the wildling Ygritte. In fact, several locations around Lake Myvatn (and indeed Iceland) were used to film the epic series. In case you’re wondering – no, you can’t take a dip here (the water temperature’s too volatile), but read on to discover somewhere where you can…

Myvatn Nature Baths

north iceland myvatn nature baths evening sun rth

Geothermal power is – quite naturally – a big thing in Iceland, and here in the north it’s put to good use at the Myvatn Nature Baths, a glorious outdoor lagoon, steaming away at a balmy 36-40 degrees, rich in rejuvenating minerals and offering wonderful views across the lake.


north iceland path through namaskard gt

Just to the north of Lake Myvatn things are still hot and steamy. Námaskarð on the flanks of Mount Námafjall, is a surreal landscape of hissing fumaroles, hot sulfuric springs and bubbling mud pools. It’s whiffy, but the eggy stench won’t stop you from wandering around this unearthly place, mesmerised by the rich palette of colours and geothermal mayhem. Like many places around Lake Myvatn, it’s a photographer’s dream.

Viti in Krafla

north iceland viti crater lake at krafla do

More hot water can be found here at Víti or ‘Hell’, a flooded 300m-wide crater at Krafla – a large volcanic system to the north of Lake Myvatn, which last erupted in 1984. A hiking trail runs through the still-warm lava fields – an almost lunar-like experience.

Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum

iceland birdlife harlequin duck istk

Driving back down to the lake, route 1 skirts the western shore of Lake Myvatn. There are plenty of stunning viewpoints along this stretch of road. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, however, be sure to visit Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum. Lake Myvatn is home to around 60 species of birds, 14 of which are ducks. Most migrate here late April to breed, including the rare Barrow’s goldeneye and horned grebe. You can also spot short-eared owls and gyrfalcons.

Close to where you turn west to return to Akureyri, the River Laxa flows out of Lake Myvatn – it’s worth a stop to catch a glimpse of the elegant harlequin duck, which prefers the faster flowing water.

Feeling inspired?

Lake Myvatn, and other natural wonders of the Diamond Circle such as the Dettifoss waterfall and Asbyrgi canyon, can be experienced on our 7-night Northern Highlights self-drive holiday.

If you have any questions or want to start planning your trip to North Iceland, call our Iceland Specialists on 01737 214 250, or send an enquiry to start discussing your options – including a tailormade itinerary to suit your timeframe and interests.

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