Námaskarð Geothermal Area

People standing and photographing a steaming crater in Námaskarð Pass.

Námaskarð Pass is a narrow strip of land characterised by countless hot springs, colourful mud pools, and gas-filled craters. It’s less than a 30-minute drive from Lake Mývatn, in North East Iceland, located just off the incredibly accessible Route 1. 

Námaskarð is a geothermal area on Námafjall Mountain linked to the Krafla volcano system, which was responsible for eruptions between 1975 and 1984. Anyone interested in Iceland’s volcanic activity will be sure to find exploring Námaskarð a fascinating day out.

Námaskarð Pass Geography

The uniqueness of Námaskarð lies in its distinct lack of vegetation. Much of Iceland, particularly its lava fields and wide plains, is covered in moss, including flowers during the summer months. However, the soil acidity and heat from the underground volcanic activity means that plant life struggles to thrive there. You’ll also notice fumes in the air being expelled from various fumaroles, pumping out an egg-like smell, which is also not beneficial to flora species.

Although the lack of green might convey the impression of barrenness, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Elements and minerals brought to the earth’s surface via steam from under the ground make the region vibrant and colourful. Orange, yellow, red, green - the earth in many places is streaked with bright colours, particularly where there are holes in the ground. 

Small hill of rocks emitting steam on Námaskarð Pass.

Where is Námaskarð?

When travelling through North West Iceland via the Ring Road, Route 1, you’ll find yourself driving through the Námaskarð Pass. The area sits north of Lake Mývatn, around 105 km (65 miles) from Akureyri, the capital of the North. 

If you’re heading out of Reykjavík in a clockwise direction onto the Ring Road, you can complete the trip in 6 hours without any stops. However, there are countless highlights on Route 1 that are simply unmissable, so it’s bound to take longer.

When To Visit

No matter the season, Námaskarð is a stunning natural attraction. During winter, snowfall creates a magical scene, coating the steaming pools and colourful mud pools with a white blanket. One thing to note is that the roads might be more difficult to navigate when there’s snow. In summer, however, the weather is simply perfect so you can explore the area with ease and snap some equally incredible photos.

People standing and photographing a steaming crater in Námaskarð Pass.

What To See and Do

While walking around the area might seem dull in theory, you’ll find the colours and steaming pools and springs in real life difficult to tear yourself away from. Rock formations litter the landscape, making for almost unbelievable spectacles as you wander through the paths. If you’re looking to spend your day here, here are a few things of particular note to add to your itinerary.


To the east of the narrow Námaskarð Pass, you’ll find the Geyser Strip - also known as Hverarönd or Hverir. This area has a fascinating concentration of fumaroles and hot springs, all streaked with the rainbow colours of volcanic minerals. 

Krafla Crater

Being so closely connected to the Krafla volcanic system, the area is bound to have seen some action in the past. The nearby Krafla Crater is just one scar from Iceland’s volcanic past. The crater has a diameter of 10 kilometres, with a recorded 29 eruptions to its name, and contains smaller craters with proven devastating potential. Due to the high frequency of geothermal activity here, a power station was constructed at the crater in 1977.


Another way to enjoy the spectacular surroundings is hiking. Gentle walking can be a great way to immerse yourself in the geothermal power of Iceland, especially in locations like this. If you’re looking for more adventure, you can enjoy a short walk to the Leirhnjúkur lava fields nearby. This is a stunning point for observing the pure geothermal power of the region.

Volcanic fields at the Námaskarð Pass near Lake Mývatn.

Dangers at Námaskarð

When exploring the geothermal area, it’s important to be aware of the obvious danger around you. The water you see bubbling from the earth’s surface is at boiling point, so it’s imperative that you don’t attempt to touch or swim in any of the Námaskarð hot springs you see. Keep to the paths and follow signage on site to keep yourself safe as well as preserve your surroundings. 

With so much to see in the Námaskarð area, staying nearby is a great way to make sure you don’t miss a thing. North Iceland is a fantastic location for your trip to Iceland, and Fosshotel Mývatn is the perfect base for all things north. Enjoy a peaceful stay with endless opportunities for adventure all around you!