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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Mývatn lake

Updated: Dec 20, 2022


Mývatn lake
Mývatn lake

Mývatn is among the most popular destinations in Iceland. It is in the northeast region and is one of the most beautiful places you can visit for its fascinating landscape—including a lake, a crater, and a small hamlet or village—and its interesting lava formations. This is, indeed, an excellent place to find accommodations in Iceland.


The Lake


The lake in Mývatn is one of the country’s largest, which is approximately 37 square kilometers or 15 square miles. It was created from an eruption that happened about a thousand years ago at Þrengslaborgir, which east of Mývatn. The lake is relatively shallow, the deepest part being only 4.5 meters or 15 feet. For a long time, it has been one of the main tourist attractions among Icelanders—a place renowned for its landscape, beautiful small islands, extraordinary shoreline, exceptional flora, the notorious midge (a super annoying non-biting small fly), and abundant birdlife. The area has a dreamlike and mysterious quality, having been formed from a large basaltic lava eruption 2,300 years ago. Landforms from the volcanic eruption dominate the surrounding landscape like lava pillars and pseudo-craters, Dimmuborgir being the best known. Accordingly, hiking by the lake is a great option for a day activity.


Map of Iceland north east region
Map of Iceland north east region

Like many places in Iceland, an active volcano as neighbor

Mývatn a beautiful lake
A beautiful lake and a great place to overnight

The area surrounding the lake lies on the western border of the volcanic fissure zone, cutting across northeast Iceland and extending out of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. For instance, the Krafla, a volcanic caldera in the neighborhood, was still very active only a few decades ago; in fact, a series of eruptions created severe concerns for nine years between 1975 and 1984. Moreover, many islands on the lake have one or more craters, and most of the mountains in the vicinity were formed by eruptions under the ice during the Ice Age. Like many similar places in Iceland, it is a geological wonderland that presents fascinating stories to those who can read the landscape.


Birdwatchers’ paradise

Mývatn is an excellent place for birdwatching
Mývatn is an excellent place for birdwatching

The lake in Mývatn and its surrounding wetlands have an exceptionally rich fauna of waterbirds. Indeed, it is a birdwatcher's paradise. Apart from thirteen types of ducks, the Slavonian grebe, red-necked phalarope, great northern diver, red-throated diver, and the whooper swan can also be found here. Occasionally, the gyrfalcon, the Icelandic falcon, can be observed here as well. The locals around the lake have a long tradition of harvesting duck eggs for domestic use. However, to ensure sustainability, the collection follows a strict, age-old rule of leaving at least four eggs in each nest for the duck to incubate.


Residents very protective of nature

Mývatn Nature Baths
Mývatn Nature Baths

Maybe one of the most amazing aspects of the lake in the Mývatn area is how mindful the locals have always been of its delicate beauty. It is not the easiest place to cultivate and live on as the altitude is almost 300 meters—basically at the edge of an uninhabitable highland. The locals’ respect for the lake is apparent everywhere, and the inhabitants have fought serious battles to protect nature, including blowing up dams with dynamite, which is almost unheard of in the peaceful little Iceland.


A Center for Activities in the Northeast

You will find many interesting places at Mývatn
You will find many interesting places at Mývatn

Mývatn is one of the fascinating places to stay at if the intent is to explore the northeast and all its magnificent natural wonders. In addition to exploring the Dimmuborgir lava field, the Hverarönd geothermal area, and Hverfjall crater, waterfalls like Dettifoss, Goðafoss, and Aldeyjarfoss can also be visited as they are close by. Whale watching in Húsavík is also another activity to try out. Doing day tours into the mysterious highland and visiting Askja and Herðubreið is also a good choice. Additionally, the area around Reykjahlíð offers good campgrounds and good accommodations with fine restaurants and many exciting activities. These are good places to stop by when on a family vacation, to explore the nearby natural wonders and participate in some excellent hiking tours.


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