The Ring Road, Iceland – Day 4 – Mývatn to Akureyri

Day 4 on the Ring Road, Iceland…On our fourth day road tripping, we got an early start just at sunrise as we were planning to do much more today than we had the day before. The place we stayed the night before (pictured below) was actually a bit nicer than I thought it would be but the water in the place must be pumped straight from a geothermal hot spring as you could smell the sulfur coming out of the tap and it went from cold to burn your ass hot with no adjustment in between. There wasn’t much need for an extra ‘Instant Hot Water’ device in this place.

Sunrise over Mývatn Iceland

Sunrise over Mývatn


5 Star Hotel in Mývatn

Our 5 Star Hotel in Mývatn with our MazdaRati parked out front ready to tear up the road. These units were all connected on the inside like one big house.

Our plan for the day was starting with a drive around Mývatn Lake. And the area shown below which was just about a ten minute drive from where we stayed the night before.

NASA training at Mývatn Lake

This is one of the areas where NASA had trained its astronauts for their Apollo mission.


Mývatn Lake

One of the sections we pulled off on around the lake

Further down the road, we came to Skútustadagígar which is an area of pseudo-craters. They are the result of steam explosions when lava comes across a lake or wetland. The ones here basically looked like mini craters. We spend about a half hour walking around them and found some sheep running around in some of them too.

Mývatn Lake

Another section we pulled off on around the lake

Next up was the Dimmuborgir area. This was one place I had really wish we had more time to hike around in as it was so diverse. Without going into a huge geological explanation of the area, it was basically formed by a lava field from a nearby eruption that came in contact with a small lake and later had cooled, leaving its present state. In other words, walking through it gave you the impression you were on another planet like so many other places do while traveling in Iceland. The only vegetation around were some small bushes as you can see from the photos.

Paths in Dimmuborgir

Walking the paths in Dimmuborgir


Paths in Dimmuborgir

There were several paths running through this area, some that could take 3-4 hours to walk

When I was walking out of the Dimmuborgir area, we came across these two signs.

Dimmuborgir sign

Needless to say, I think we can all agree the Icelanders have a great sense of humor…

Next up was this monster…Hverfell crater on the outskirts of Mývatn.

Hverfell crater

Ok, so it looks like a big pile of sand from here… but upon closer inspection… very much a crater

Although the hike seemed a bit intimidating, we were told by a local that there was route on the backside of the crater that wouldn’t take too long to hike.

Path up Hverfell crater

Doesn’t look too bad of a hike right??? Can you see the two cars at the bottom of the trail? Yeah, those are cars…

It was true, the hike didn’t really take too long but it was still a sandy surface and was also quite steep which made for a bit of an early morning challenge. I was fully awake when we reached the top…The view we got at the top however was well worth it, not just over the Mývatn Lake area but inside the crater as well of course. I’m sure its hard to grasp the size of this crater just from the pictures below but the crater’s spans one kilometer in diameter and its height is close to 1,380 feet.

View from Hverfell crater

View over Mývatn from the top of Hverfell crater


Panoramic view of Hverfell crater

Panoramic view of Hverfell crater


Rocks on Hverfell crater

Alex is keeping up with Icelandic tradition. It’s very simple really… where you see the stones piled up, you add a stone…no questions

Hverfell crater was our last stop in the Lake Mývatn area but on our way out of town, we stopped in at the Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe.

The freshest milk ever - Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe

Just as it says…


Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe

Hmmm…. the Cowshed Cafe? What could that mean?? It means you get to watch the cows getting milked while you’re sitting at your table drinking milk of course

Unfortunately we were only in for a quick coffee to check the place out but you can sit there and watch the cows right from your table. By the way, the inside of this place was immaculately clean and the coffee was excellent.

Bjork Road in Iceland

I’m convinced, either the street came first or she grew up on it

You should stop by there on your next trip through the Mývatn area… And whats better was Björk road right next to it. We searched this road up and down(which was about the size of a driveway) but no Björk in sight…
As we drove out of the Mývatn area, we stopped by Grjótagjá which is a small lava cave with a thermal spring at its base.

Grjótagjá in Myvatn


As tempting as it was, you really didn’t want to get down into this cave too far as you could tell the area was still developing and changing all the time as the rock continuously shifted and pulled apart. I did get down a little ways just to take some pictures of the thermal spring which you can see below but I didn’t hang out too long…

Grjótagjá in Myvatn

Inside the cave with the sun shining through one of the cracks above


A geothermal energy plant

A geothermal energy plant we drove past on our way out of town

Just a few miles from Lake Mývatn was Námafjall which is a large geothermal area of hot springs and mud pots. The springs temperature reach as high as 200 degrees Celcius and the smell coming from the hot springs was an intense smell of sulfur. It was so strong while we were there, we didn’t really hang out too long.


The mountain separating this area from Mývatn. You can see the hot springs scattered up the mountainside as it changes color.


Námafjall Mud Pool

One of many mud pools in the area.


Námafjall hot spring

Hot spring covered with rocks

From here, we were headed to Dettifoss falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. When we were in route to get there, the landscapes kept changing so quickly from one extreme to another, it was hard to believe we had been driving only 20 or 30 miles.

Driving the Ring Road

We went from driving through this area covered with brush…


Driving the Ring Road

 …To driving through this area, which to me looks almost like a lunar surface.

We did finally reach Dettifoss but the road to get there was a bit crazy to say the least. I was starting to wonder if the MazdaRati was going to make it as the road we were on was far from your average dirt or gravel road.The road was littered with so many potholes, you just had to drive over them. It had been probably an hour since we’d seen a car after turning off the main ring road to get to this waterfall.

The path to Dettifoss falls in Iceland

Thank god for this huge detailed sign en route to the falls!!

Dettifoss was well worth drive however and is considered to be the largest waterfall in all of Europe in terms of water volume. It is 45 meters high, 100 meters across and averages over 190 cubic meters of water per second. Of course its hard to imagine how powerful Dettifoss is but  you can literally walk right up to the very edge of the falls on top of the canyon’s cliff which makes it even more intense.

Dettifoss falls in Iceland

I can’t even describe how loud it was behind me… Ok, it was really loud

We lucked out with the weather again today and with sun out and the spray coming off from the bottom of the falls within the canyon, there was a double rainbow that was just lingering, right there between the canyon walls.

Dettifoss falls in Iceland

It actually came up out of the canyon and extended even further over the land to my right

After taking too many photos, I decided to try and get both the falls and the double rainbow in one great panoramic shot and this is what I ended up with below.

Dettifoss falls in Iceland

Pretty cool? I think so…


Heading back to the ring road

Further down the canyon with Dettifoss behind us

From Dettifoss, we decided to head further down the canyon to another falls called Halfragilsfoss.


Once again, when we arrived, there was not a tourist in sight and we were able to make a short hike up to a rocky peak that gave a view of both sides of the canyon including another waterfall off in the distance. It was probably one of the best places we visited that week and its not one you will find in every guide book.

Halfragilsfoss canyon

View looking back up through the canyon to Hafragilsfoss

About an hour more down the road after crossing back over the river we had just come from, we took a side road to a canyon area that was basically in a weird horseshoe shape. There was a scenic road that would take you all the way to the end point of the canyon and then you would snake your way back out.

Scenery along the Ring Road Iceland

This was taken on our way back out of the area.

We continued driving until we finally reached the northern Iceland shoreline. We were headed to a town called Husavik which was actually quite a large town in northern Iceland and is meant to be one of the best places to go whale watching.

Part of the shoreline in Northern Iceland

Part of the shoreline in Northern Iceland


Driving along the northern fjords in Iceland

Driving along the northern fjords


Northern coastline in Iceland

So we did make quite a few stops along the shoreline… it was hard not to

In Husavik, there are several different types of whales that you will typically see on their boat tours and we were actually trying to make it there in time to get on the last boat that went of for the day but we missed it by about an hour  so we didn’t stay long and continued driving onward to Akureyri which was the town we would stay in for the night.

Shoreline on our way to Akureyri

A short drive down a side road to the shoreline on our way to Akureyri

But before we reached the town, there was one more stop to make at Godafoss falls which was right off the ring road. Godafoss has a story behind it too. It was said that in the year 1000, an Icelander in that area was given the task to decide whether Icelanders should adopt Christianity. Once his decision was accepted, he went home and grabbed all his statues of Pagan gods and threw them into this waterfall. After this act, the falls was named Godafoss which means ‘waterfall of the gods’. Standing next to it, the waterfall wasn’t near as large as others we’d seen the past week but the water was a bright blue and the waterfall was in an almost semi-circle shape. Oh and we looked but didn’t find his statues either.

Godafoss falls

Walking up to Godafoss


Godafoss falls

It was tempting to just jump in but I think it was safe to say the water was just above freezing

When we finally reached Akureyri, we realized it was a much larger town than we had expected. With a population of about 17,000 it was said to be Iceland’s second largest urban area. Many have wanted it to be declared a city but Reykajik is still Iceland’s only official city. Akureyri is set against a mountainside and is a port town with fishing boats up and down its coast. After eating Icelandic Doritos and hot dogs in the finest of gas stations the past couple days, we decided to set out for some authentic Icelandic cuisine. For me, this meant trying whale.

The Chuck Norris burger in Iceland

I could have opted for the Chuck Norris burger but couldn’t get past the fact there was no Jack Bauer fries to go with it or even a Bear Gryills beer to wash it down.

Yeah, I know, whale is a bit controversial and its the only country I know of that still serves it except maybe Japan. However, the species of whale they serve here is in no way part of the endangered list and it is something they have been eating for centuries and they are well aware of why it is an issue. Some of the other ‘traditional’ dishes you can find in Iceland are rotten shark, dung-smoked fish (which I did try but not tonight), sheep’s head jelly and pickled rams’ testicles. Obviously they waste nothing here and for good reason… it’s an island sitting out in the middle of the northern Atlantic.


 I had to try it….


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10 Comments... Join the conversation below

  • Aura Main November 28, 2011, 9:19 pm

    This was an amazing post full of wonderful details and informat ion about this beautiful yet desolate place! I found the hotel at Myvatn different and wondered how it looked inside. It sure looks like you are getting a workout walking . The crater, the inside of the cave and the enormous waterfall photography is fantastic! Really enjoyed reading and learning so much. Thanks!!

    • Rory November 30, 2011, 7:22 am

      It truly is an amazing country. I’m almost tempted not to rave about too much for fear that it will be over run with tourists in a few years… but maybe I’m not getting that much international readership yet…

  • Rosanne Losee November 29, 2011, 1:40 am

    Holy Heart Attack, Batman! Rory, these are just glorious photos. I felt like I was there. Fantastic landscape….as you say, almost every type of landscape and some that are eerie and sci-fi looking. No wonder NASA set up some little shop there. And I can see why you are enjoying this part of the world, there is nothing like it anywhere on earth.

    BTW, how far north is Iceland to the Arctic? I’m too lazy to look it up. How cold is it, and do they have their warm seasons. Who’s Alex?

    • Rory November 30, 2011, 12:57 am

      Its actually very close to the Arctic circle. While there, it actually wasn’t too cold but the wind along the coast could be pretty intense. And Alex is the friend that did the whole ring road trip with me from Reykjavik…

  • Leee Kaufmann November 29, 2011, 5:17 pm

    Hi Rory,
    What a nice way for me to spend my lunch 1/2 hour! The pictures are gorgeous. It looks like you are on another planet. You used the word “we” often as you described your travels. Who were you with?
    We missed you at Thanksgiving. Love you.

    • Rory November 30, 2011, 12:55 am

      Hate I missed it! And yes, it is quite another planet there… Oh and the ‘we’ is my friend Alex who did the road trip with me….

  • Courtney Grosenick December 27, 2011, 6:28 pm

    Wait, so how did the whale taste?! Love that picture looking back up throught the canyon at the Hafragilsfoss. Amazing!

    • Rory December 28, 2011, 5:02 am

      The whale was good but nothing like I’d ever tasted before. It has the consistency of steak but tastes like seafood… if that gives you any idea of what its like. And being at that canyon was probably one of the best experiences I’d had while in Iceland. I can’t wait to go back!

  • Danielle November 9, 2013, 8:44 pm

    Hey, where did you stay in Myvatn? I am heading there and I haven´t been able to find anything reasonably priced. Thanks!

    • Rory November 10, 2013, 1:04 pm

      Hi Danielle, if you look on that post for the second photo I posted… that is actually where we had stayed while in Myvatn. For us, we had the similar problem of finding a place to stay but it was more of a cost factor than availability. I honestly can’t remember the name of the place but I can tell you that the lady that owned it has a small pizza eatery/restaurant off the main road/highway that loops around Myvatn Lake. We actually went in there just to grab a bite to eat and had asked her if she knew of any places to stay. That place we stayed we decent and clean and very affordable so it worked out. But I don’t think it was visible from the main road and can’t remember if there was lodging sign at the time. Hope that helps and best of luck on your trip! Don’t miss the chance to visit the geothermal pool in Myvatn!

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