I’m on Mars! I’m on the moon! I’m in FernGully! I’m in Game of Thrones! One of those is true. But first, I’ll tell you where I am.
I’m in Myvatn, in the northern region of Iceland. It’s the most beautiful, incredible, breathtaking place that I’ve ever explored.
Imagine boiling mud pots in a vast red terrain. An aqua lake inside a crater. A dark lava fortress. Picture a waterfall that looks like it was ripped from the pages of a fairytale. And go inside the iconic Game of Thrones filming location where Ygritte learned that Jon Snow did know something, after all.
If you’re like me, the current political climate is making you feel crazy–or at the very least, tired. I watched our President mock a woman who was a victim of a sexual crime, on national television. Other women stood behind him and cheered him on.
It’s disheartening that people find this behavior acceptable. Luckily, there are places on Earth where you can escape and feel like you’re not just outside of the United States, but on another planet.
Let’s be real, that probably sounds extremely appealing right now. Yeah?
I’ll show you all of the places you must see while you’re way up near the tippy top of the globe. Then I’ll talk about how to get there and where to stay.
Now let’s get out of this world for a day.
Hverir Boiling Mud Pots
The first stop is Mars. Or if we want to use the official name, Hverir. We stopped by on a beautifully overcast day in October, which provided the perfect backdrop to this eery, extraterrestrial experience.
The Námafjalll mountain overlooks the boiling mud pots of Hverir. There’s no vegetation in the area and it smells like eggs because of the sulfur. In addition to the sound of thick mud bubbling and boiling, you can hear steam venting from the beneath the surface. You’ll wonder how it’s possible you’re still standing on Earth.
A short 10 minute drive from the boiling mud pots is an ancient volcanic crater filled with an aqua blue lake. Scoot on over and take in the views as you check “stand on top of a volcanic crater lake” off of your list of things to do that you didn’t even know you should be doing.
This volcanic crater was formed during an eruption of the Krafla volcano in 1724. The eruption lasted for five years and the mud boiled for another 100 years. Víti means hell, but it looks a lot like Heaven now.
Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. It was fairly muddy when we went.
Grjótagjá (Game of Thrones Filming Location)
This was the most anticipated stop of my entire Iceland trip. Which is why I had to wear my Game of Thrones sweatshirt. This volcanic cave lake is where Jon Snow and Ygritte had a very intimate moment Beyond the Wall.
I had never been to a Game of Thrones filming location but I’m obsessed with the show. I still get excited looking back on this memory and knowing that I got to step foot somewhere that seemed so out of reach. Even if you haven’t seen the show, it’s magical.
There are two entrances leading down into the cave. Both require a short descent over large rocks, so wear the appropriate shoes. The water is too hot to bathe in, but you can still take in it’s beauty. It’s warm and humid inside the cave, which is a nice change from the cool and crisp temperatures outside.
After you’ve gone inside, climb on top where the ceiling of the cave splits down the middle. Then pose for a picture, of course.
Right behind Grjótagjá is the Hverfjall Crater. Walk around and explore the view of this gigantic volcanic crater, and then take a short drive to it’s base. You can also hike to the top and walk around the perimeter, but we skipped this portion due to time constraints.
Below is a picture of Julie getting into our rental SUV. I felt like she was having a very Dora the Explorer moment and I wanted to capture it.
If you’ve noticed by now, there aren’t any people (besides us) in these photos. October is off-season, so it felt like we had this alien planet to ourselves. I highly recommend vacationing during the off-season for this reason.
Dark Fortress Nature Reserve
The Dark Fortress Nature Reserve, also called the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations, features mystical trails and walkways where the vegetation is thriving and green atop the hardened lava.
Spend 15 minutes in here or a few hours, depending on the time you have. We spent about 30-45 minutes. It’s easy to get lost, so keep an eye on the turns you’re taking.
Pay attention to the story of the Yule Lads and trolls, which is told through markers along the pathways.
Vogafjós Cow Shed
Now it’s time for a meal. This restaurant was recommended to us by a chef at a restaurant in Akureyri. I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t partake. But my friends enjoyed their meal.
You can walk through the cow shed that’s attached to the dining area, and ummm, pet your food? It sounds morbid, but the beef is the freshest you’ll get.
On our way to our next stop, we passed Lake Myvatn.
This is one of the most famous waterfalls in all of Iceland. And it was only a seven hour plane ride, seven hour drive north, and another one hour drive northeast, from where I live in Nashville, Tennessee. Easy to get to.
The remoteness of this waterfall adds to the feeling of being transported into an enchanted fairytale. If I haven’t said it enough, I couldn’t believe that places like this exist on the same planet where I work and sleep and grocery shop with my Kroger plus card. My home is one world and this felt like another. Yet they are on the same planet.
I wish everyone could experience the feeling I had as I stood at the edge of this wild waterfall with no guardrails. I thought about how truly wonderful our planet is, and how incredibly lucky I was to get to see it like this.
Myvatn Nature Bath
We’re not finished with our day in Myvatn yet. We saved the Myvatn Nature Bath for last because it can be enjoyed without daylight, unlike everything else on this list.
This turquoise Icelandic nature bath is like a smaller version of the Blue Lagoon. Honestly, I liked this better than the Blue Lagoon.
It felt more intimate and quaint, plus the water was warmer, which was nice. I’ll review the Blue Lagoon in a separate blog post soon.
Admission to the Myvatn Nature Baths included a beer (about $36 USD). We unwound in the warm hot spring, Icelandic adult beverage in hand. It was the perfect way to end our day in Myvatn.
Because it was dark, I didn’t take any photos. Here’s a link to their website with photos and more information.
Can you believe we did this entire itinerary in a day? I can’t, and I lived it. Most of these sites are close together, within a short drive.
Where to Stay?
Our cabin was located in Akureyri, the largest town in northern Iceland, which I’ll write about in a future blog post. From Akureyri, the drive to Myvatn is about an hour and a half.
If you’re staying in Akureyri, I’d recommend doing the Goðafossmwaterfall at the beginning of your Myvatn adventure. That was a lesson learned for us.
Our cabin was wonderful. It was located about a five minutes drive from the center of town, but still felt remote and private.
There was a hot tub on our deck, which we gladly soaked in as we took in the sights of the Northern Lights and sipped on Birkir, an Icelandic liquor. I’ll link to the Airbnb here.
It took us about seven hours to drive from the the main airport in Iceland, Keflavik International Airport, to our cabin in Akureyri. But it only took us four hours to drive back. You can also fly directly to a small airport in Akureyri.
On our way north to Akureyri, we stopped at a hot dog stand in Reykjavik for lunch.
I’ve long been an advocate of international travel because you not only learn about other cultures and ways of living, you also see how your own country is viewed by the outside world.
I learned that Iceland is not only a country featuring out-of-this-world terrain, but their people also share a similar distain for Trump. On that note, stay wild and wonderful, Iceland.
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