North Iceland: Myvatn
North Iceland has much to offer visitors: stunning scenery, geothermal hot springs, whale-watching, unique cities, towns and villages, sod houses, wildlife, and powerful waterfalls. One of the most fascinating areas is surrounding Mývatn Lake. It's just off the Ring Road about 90 km (55 miles) from Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland. Mývatn is a unique natural area with a volcanic lake in North Iceland. Throughout Iceland, the land is continuing to be shaped and formed through volcanic action and this area includes much thermal activity. Travellers will enjoy walking through the eerie atmosphere of Hverir, near Námafjall Mountain with its steaming and boiling mud pots, and sulphuric fumaroles. and can enjoy the healing waters of Myvatn Nature Baths also known as the "White Lagoon" and rival to the much more well-known Blue Lagoon near Keflavik.
Myvatn has it all from natural geological phenomena and unique plant and wildlife. There is a wide range of restaurants, accommodations, and entertainment choices. It attracts visitors throughout the year.
Mývatn is the 4th largest lake in Iceland, and is very shallow. The plentiful growth of freshwater seaweed is important habitat for the arctic char living in the lake. Bird nerds will delight in the many lake and marsh birds but the big draw will be the huge variety of duck species that gather during the summer.... more species than anywhere else in the world.
Namafjall The area around Námafjall Mountain, sometimes called Hell's Kitchen, is a steaming hot geothermal area with constantly boiling mud pools and fumeroles (volcanic fissures in the ground).
The heat here is intense and the stench of sulphur is omnipresent. The mud pots literally boil. The orange-yellow colour is from sulphur which was once exported for use in gunpowder.
The beauty of the colourful minerals is quite stunning. The gigantic size of the mud craters in a vast unvegetated plain will awe visitors. The constant emission of fumes and sulphur makes the soil sterile and infertile, and prevents anything from growing. Be aware not to breathe in the fumes as they can be harmful to humans, too.
Mývatn Nature Baths
A favourite evening visit while in the area should include relaxing at Myvatn Nature Baths, located a mere 105 km (65 miles) south of the Arctic Circle. This is a designated nature preserve. Businesses have been developed to cause little disruption to the very delicate ecosystem. Visitors are reminded that to enter Icelandic hot springs, you must shower naked and wash your head, feet, underarms, and naughty bits before putting on your bathing costume and entering the water.
Mývatn Nature Baths is located in Jardbadsholar (about 4km from Reykjahlid) and is known as one of Europe's most spectacular spas. The large and beautifully-designed complex is a man-made lake that is naturally heated from a fissure deep in the earth's surface. Admission including one drink, a bathrobe and a towel costs about $86 CAD ($63USD) or about $57 CAD ($41USD) for admission only. In the summer, the baths are open until 11pm but close an hour earlier in the winter.
The waters contain a unique blend of mineral, silicates, and geothermal micro-organisms said to be beneficial to skin and spirit. There is a café and bar area serving lunch and dinner, indoors or on a patio overlooking the Lagoon. The complex includes steam rooms and expansive changing areas.
Whether you choose to soak, scrub your body with mud, or swim, you will thoroughly enjoy spending several hours in the soothing milky-blue waters. For travellers along the Ring Road in North Iceland, the Myvatn area is not to be missed.
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