This is the eighth story in our series on the Magic of Iceland.
OUR SATURDAY TOUR of the Myvatn region in northeast Iceland — one of the most volcanic areas on the island — had the makings of being the most surreal day of our journey.
Kicking it off was a trip to Hverir, and if it was anything like going to the planet Mars — as some had suggested — at least it wasn’t going to take light years to get there! From Hotel Reynihlid in Reykjahlid, getting to Hverir required a mere 10-minute drive up and over Mount Namafjall.
Our itinerary included sites in Vatnajokull National Park along the historic Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and included Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The route was significant because much of the area near Dettifoss was closed off for several months following the August 2014 eruption of the Bardarbunga volcano, which was almost 90 miles away in east central Iceland. More on that later.
The weekend had already gotten off to a good start for us because for the first time since Tuesday in Reykjavik, we were going to sleep in the same bed two nights in a row. Ahh, the price to be paid for constant adventure! It allowed us to plan our day freely, and after grabbing some coffee we were on our way.
Our arrival at Hverir confirmed the earlier scouting reports.
“Are we still on Earth?” I asked out loud in Nora’s direction as we walked onto the barren landscape and among the bubbling mudpots. She barely acknowledged my question as she gawked at the terrain and wondered out loud how was it possible for us to safely walk on ground that appeared so unstable.
Nora and I had traveled to exotic locales before, but had never seen or experienced anything like Hverir. A trip to Mount Haleakala, the dormant volcano on Maui in Hawaii, had its defining moment when we hiked to the crater’s edge. From there, I could see the outline of an eruption that took place an estimated 145,000 years earlier. Part of the top of the crater appeared to have been blown off, and you could see a lava field marking a path all the way down the mountain toward the Pacific Ocean.
It was awesome.
But Hverir was different. In addition to the surreal setting, the pungent smell of sulphur was the byproduct of actual volcanic activity. The rotten egg scent was created by the process of surface water seeping into the earth and colliding with magma. The resulting gaseous steam bounces back to the surface through fumaroles or vents in the earth which are found on or near active volcanoes.
The boiling mudpots are created when fumarole gas rises through surface water, producing sulfuric acid water which liquefies and dissolves soil and rock.
We went to the Myvatn region to experience the “fire” part of Iceland, and we were seeing its unique power in an up close and personal way.
Nora and I were blown away. But we had a long Saturday ahead of us too. We walked wide-eyed around the grounds of Hverir for a short time, but Vatnajokull National Park, Tjornes peninsula and the village of Husavik were still on our list. And powerful Dettifoss was up next, a short drive away off Route 862….
Check out the entire Magic of Iceland series right here (Click on each link):
Part 1-Overview, Part 2-The Golden Circle, Part 3-Latrabjarg, Part 4-Midnight Sun Drive, Part 5-Westfjords and Isafjordur, Part 6-Fire and the Mountains, Part 7-Date Night at Hverfell, Part 8-Surreal Saturday, Part 9-Beyond Fire and Ice, Part 10–Taking the 939, Part 11-Lost in Skaftafell, Part 12-F208 Dilemma, Part 13-Volcanic Highlands, Part 14-Homestretch to Remember