Lake Mývatn, and surrounding areas in North Iceland, is one of the loveliest places in all of Iceland. Its summer vegetation is particularly dense and its animal life particularly prolific. But none of this matches the area’s extreme volcanic features.
Lake Mývatn as we know it today was only created about 2,300 years ago by a massive volcanic eruption. Thanks to that eruption and the various things that happened to its lava when it came into contact with things like silt and water, and when it drained away again, we now enjoy one of the most varied and interesting volcanic landscapes you could hope for.
The area has caves (some filled with bathing-warm water), lava columns (both in and out of water), the shallow Mývatn Lake itself, many islands, geothermal fields, cone volcanoes, you name it!
We even have the volcanoes to thank for the lake’s astonishing richness of life. All the nutrients still pouring into the lake from geothermal vents are the perfect food for millions upon billions of insects and larvae. These in turn are the perfect food for thousands upon millions of birds. And these are in turn perfect food for hundreds upon thousands of scavengers and the occasional predator. It is even likely that the area’s vegetation benefits from the seed spreading and fertilising qualities of the other animals’ ‘leavings’.
The name Mývatn means ‘Midge Lake’ and there can be no escaping the fact that there are a lot of midges. Some summers there are more than others. Just take the usual precautions and use a good quality bug spray and you should be fine…
From a bird- watching perspective, Mývatn has more birds than any lake should ever expect to be blessed with – largely ducks – and they are a totally unique mix of Eurasian, North American and Arctic species. The nutrients combined with expansive wetlands make Mývatn literally one of the best twitching spots in the world.
What else is there to do in this amazing area? Well, in addition to excellent walks and frequent campsites and country guesthouses, there is also the small town of Reykjahlíð, where you will find essentials like food, cash and fuel.
Visitors to the area are usually wowed by the Dimmuborgir volcanic area of solid lava pillars and caves. Then there’s the superbly relaxing Mývatn Nature Baths, the Grjótagjá geothermal pool cave, the home of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads, and the Vogafjós open farm, guesthouse and café with a twist…
Lake Mývatn is on Route 1, a couple of hours east of Akureyri