This is the sixth story in our series on the Magic of Iceland.
GOODBYE, WESTFJORDS. Hello, Lake Myvatn!
Our first and only weekend in the “Land of Fire and Ice” was going to have a decided tilt in the “Fire” direction, and Nora and I were looking forward to it. Most of our first four days in Iceland had been spent driving through majestic fjords, discovering amazing waterfalls or strolling through downtown Reykjavik.
Only a small part had been spent delving into the volcanic activity that is so much a part of Icelandic life. Starting with our 300-mile journey across the country to Lake Myvatn, that was going to change.
Iceland has been aptly described as one giant volcano, and the Myvatn region is one of its most active areas. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that collide in Iceland form a seam, called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs through the country. Similar seams are usually found on the ocean floor but in Iceland it is elevated enough to be on land. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge cuts across the island from the northeast near Myvatn and where Mount Krafla is an active volcano to the southwest where Mount Hekla is also active.
Nora and I were discussing Iceland’s fiery features when we stopped at Engimyri Guesthouse, an oasis in the mountains near Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland and a hub of activity in the northern region.
We were warmly greeted by Bodvar Ingi Adalsteinsson, the proprietor, who engaged in our conversation.
What was it like to live in Iceland year round, we wondered? Did the volcanic activity on the island concern him? Our stop at Engimyri was only supposed to last five minutes, but it became closer to twenty as Nora and I also shared stories from our travels through the Westfjords and that we were headed to Lake Myvatn.
Bodvar spoke of the beauty of the Northern Lights, and how his property was a perfect location from which to witness it. Having grown up in the Westfjords, Bodvar was quite familiar with the details Nora and I offered from our explorations.
Bodvar chuckled when he revealed a secret plan should a volcanic apocalyptic event occur. Noting Iceland’s landscape as constantly changing, he pointed out the Westfjords are connected to the rest of Iceland by an isthmus only 7 kilometers wide.
If such an event happened and the Westfjords were disenjoined from the rest of Iceland, Bodvar’s goal would be to return to his old home region and run for president of the new island!
We thanked Bodvar for his hospitality and got on our way. We reached Lake Myvatn a short time later and were steered onto a road that brought us around the south side of the lake. Our destination was Reykjahlid, a small village on the east shore, and we had to drive up an elegant winding road to get there. Along the way numerous pseudocraters were within eyesight. Plumes of steam emanating from the ground could be seen from the road as well.
Hotel Reynihlid was going to be our home for the weekend and we were excited by its five-star quality. Looking out the picture window of our hotel room we had a perfect view of Reykjahlid Church, less than 100 yards away and an historic landmark in the region.
The epic story of Reykjahlid Church – as depicted by this carved wooden structure in the church (photo left) – is that on Aug. 27, 1729 the church was miraculously spared from destruction. As lava poured down the mountain toward Lake Myvatn during an eruption on Mount Krafla, the lava path split in two, with the streams mysteriously slipping around both sides of the church.
It’s a remarkable story. But it was getting late and we needed to have dinner. Our hope was to hike up and around Hverfell crater under the long shadows of the midnight sun before the night was through.
We were not going to be denied.
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