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The enchanted lake of North Iceland

Lake Mývatn is often named as the most beautiful place in Iceland by locals and travellers alike. The area surrounding the lake is one of the most actively volcanic in Iceland. 

The landscape is made up of marvellous  juxtapositions: lave pillars, lava rocks, lush green vegetation, stark volcanic landscapes, yellow fields of sulphur, thundering waterfalls and of course the picturesque lake itself.  It’s worth mentioning that many of these magical landscapes have been the backdrop for some of the most famous scenes in the Game of Thrones series.

The name Mývatn translates to “the lake of midgets and owes its name to the vast amount of midgets who make it their home, forming dense clouds in summer. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and pseudocraters.

A road trip to the north

This astounding landscape of Mývatn and surroundings makes it into one of the most interesting parts of the country to visit.  A road trip up to Mývatn from Reykjavik takes around six and a half hours with a couple of sightseeing stops on the way there.  It’s also possible to fly directly to Húsavik with Eagle Air or fly to Akureyri in North Iceland using Air Iceland Connect and then drive for approximately one hour to Mývatn, and the fourth option is to fly Mýflug air to the local airport.

Fosshótel Mývatn is located right next to the lake and offers the perfect base to stay and relax within close range to the major attractions of the area.  It’s a beautifully designed modern hotel which opened in 2017 designed by award-winning architects Basalt with an emphasis on ecologically sound and sustainable architecture.  And indeed the low rise level building of three floors blends in perfectly with the surroundings, a blend of laminated timber, grass thatching and subdued light.  The interiors are wooden, fresh, airy and modern and above all, welcoming, warm and cosy.  Windows are a principal feature of course with the surrounding lake-scape forming almost a painting-like backdrop.

Award-winning design and Scandinavian-style comfort

The hotel offers various types of accommodation ranging between standard and family rooms to lake view rooms and suites that include a bathtub where you can soak whilst enjoying the natural beauty of the surroundings.   Another fantastic feature is a Scandinavian style sauna on the third floor where you can unwind at the end of the day and, following a sweating session, enjoy views from the balcony in your bathrobe!

An evening at Fosshótel Mývatn is an all-round wonderful experience. The downstairs bar offers happy hours every day. You can enjoy a cold beer, a cocktail or a glass of wine after an activity filled day in a cosy setting.  With warm, friendly service and the spectacular setting with lakeside views, the restaurant offers an excellent a-la-carte menu offering either lighter dishes or a three-course meal featuring the finest of Icelandic ingredients. Special mention goes to the seafood soup, the langoustine pasta and the melt-in-the mouth lamb!

Mars-like landscapes and a dark fortress

Activities near Fosshótel Mývatn are plentiful.  First of all, take a short drive to the Krafla area and Námaskarð. At the top of the road you will find Víti, a beautiful crater filled with teal blue water. Once you go across the hill, you will enter a Mars-like sienna yellow sulphuric landscape. This incredible geothermal area offers springs of boiling mud, hissing chimneys of steam and hot springs accompanied by the rotten-egg like smell of sulphur.  Watch your step as you walk amongst what looks like a scene from Dante’s inferno and if you have time, hike up the Námaskarð mountain for fantastic views.

The next stop not-to-be-missed is Dimmuborgir, a mystical endless field of lava pillars and rock formations covered in moss and trees. The area has been called the Dark Fortress in English and certainly is reminiscent of some ancient collapsed citadel.  There are several walking paths through Dimmuborgir, and even if you’re short on time, make sure to take the one leading to the “church,” a rock formation that resembles a church and where elves are believed to host their religious activities.  In this eerily beautiful landscape it’s understandable that people in older times believed in elves and trolls!

Dettifoss, Iceland’s most powerful waterfall is only just over an hour’s drive away and it’s thoroughly worth the journey.  A majestic thunderous mass of water just off the main road heading east, Dettifoss holds the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, or some 500 cubic metres of water per second that plunges over it’s terrifying edge.  There’s a nice hiking trail along the canyon but be extremely careful during the winter months as paths can become slippery and dangerous

Driving back to Lake Mývatn you should definitely check out Grjótagjá, a small cave that lies underneath lava rocks and used to be a very popular bathing spot due to it’s hot natural water.  It’s now famous as the cave where Jon Snow had his erotic moments with Ygritte in Game of Thrones. But don’t try to copy them- the water in the cave has risen since the eighties and is now too hot and dangerous for bathing!

North Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon

At the end of your afternoon the Mývatn Nature Baths are an absolute must. These baths, surrounded by the majestic scenery around the lake are known as the Blue Lagoon of North Iceland, with  warm and milky alkaline water beneficial to the skin.

The water supplies for the lagoon run straight from the National Power Company´s bore hole in Bjarnarflag. The water has a temperature of about 130°C when it arrives to the huge basin beside the lagoon itself forming an impressive, man-made hot spring. Altogether, the lagoon and the basin contain around 3.5 million litres of water with a temperature of 36 – 40°C.  There are good changing facilities at the nature baths and if you want to enjoy a beverage whilst in the pool you need to order one beforehand with your entry ticket and receive a wristband. There’s also a great café, Café Kvika, offering light lunches, cakes  or dinners.  You’ll feel super fresh, relaxed and healthy after a dip into the Mývatn nature baths before heading back to the cosy haven of Fosshótel Mývatn.