Welcome to the Northern Lights capital of Iceland.
Mývatn is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the northeast and is increasingly a must-see winter location. Travelers are lured by unique nature, fun winter activities along Lake Mývatn, the soothing Mývatn Nature Baths, and the chance to see northern lights in a remarkable atmosphere. The region has been shaped over time by punishing volcanic eruptions and visitors come to soak in the rugged landscape, with its vast lava fields, gigantic craters, soaring mountains, and, of course, the 36.5-square-kilometer lake that is home to scores of bird and fish species. The town culture is warm and welcoming and there are of hotels and guesthouses ready to accommodate guests for the their stay, and an eclectic mix of restaurants serving up fresh and local fare as well as international cuisine.
Northern Lights Hunt
In the winter months, Mývatn is the perfect location to hunt for northern lights. The large region has minimal light pollution, favorable weather conditions and the perfect place for photographers to capture the aurora borealis dancing in the sky. Nothing beats bundling up on a cold, clear night and waiting for the show of flickering lights changing colors, disappearing and popping up again, stronger and brighter. Mývatn holds the perfect backdrop to experience this jaw-dropping phenomenon.
In addition to the glorious northern lights, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep travelers entertained. Thrill-seekers love snowmobiling in the plush snow, roaming the region in jeep tours, and experiencing the charm of dog sled rides. After a long day of outdoor excursions, many guests love to relax in the local swimming pool, or plan to visit the renowned Mývatn Nature Baths. The baths get obvious comparisons to the Blue Lagoon in the south near Keflavík, but Mývatn’s baths have their own unique personality and atmosphere. While tourism has increased to Mývatn in recent years, it feels downright secluded compared to the Blue Lagoon. There’s more room to wade and fewer people in the locker rooms, and the steam baths are far from full. Overall, the basin and lagoon holds about 2.5 million liters of water.
The bottom of the lagoon, which is 3km east of Reykjahlíð, is covered by gravel and sand, and it contains a large amount of minerals. Because of its chemical composition, vegetation and bacteria are not a problem. There is some sulfur in the water, which is beneficial for skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as respiratory issues. The bathing experience is heavenly, soothing your skin and relaxing every inch of your body. The views of the landscape are striking, with the volcanic crater of Hverfjall and the edge of Lake Mývatn in the background. If you are in the area, this is a must-see. You simply cannot leave without experiencing the baths.
During the day, travelers can experience the winter beauty by visiting some of the region’s special nature attractions. www.visitmyvatn.is, which means “Dark Cities” or “Dark Castles,” are interesting rock formations jutting out of the ground, resembling a fort from an ancient city. The black lava pillars were born from a collapsed lava tube from a large volcanic eruption more than 2,000 years ago. Hverfjall is the largest tephra crater, which is created from volcanic debris, in the Mývatn region. The crater is striking because it’s almost a perfect circle, and considering its size (140 meters deep and 1km across), it’s quite impressive. Scientists have said that the crater was formed after repeated eruptions over 2,500 years ago. The Krafla area is home to Víti (which means “hell” in Icelandic), one of the best-known craters in Iceland. Viti is huge, about 300 meters in diameter, exposing interesting formations that resulted from lava flows and water over the ages. The area is another reminder of how active this island has been, and continues to be, with spectacular eruptions resulting in the reshaping of land.
The Mývatn region is perfect for the independent traveler that prefers to roam on their own time. Jumping into a rental car and discovering everything from the charming town of Reykjahlíð, which is 9km north of Lake Mývatn, to roaring waterfalls, volcanic craters, and black lava rock pillars. There are also a number of tours in the region that include dog sledding and jeep tours. Be sure to include Mývatn on your next trip to the north.