A winter's tale

What to do at Lake Mývatn

What's on at Lake Myvatn

Relax - Experience - Enjoy

The Wonders of Myvatn

Volcanic Lava Fields

Dimmuborgir Lava Field 

Dimmuborgir - the Dark Fortress at Mývatn are a true wonder of nature and nowhere else to be seen in the world, i.e on dry land.  Dimmuborgir consist of huge lava rock formations which make you feel like you stepped into another world - a world of fairy-tales.

The formation of these extraordinary lava cliffs and pillars is caused by lava ponds, i.e. the hot lava streamed over these ponds trapping the water underneath the lava. Steam issued through vent in the lava pools and formed these pillars, which then remained standing even after the crust around them had gone away.

The rocks are brittle and fragile because of how they came to be made, so there is no climbing in them.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/10259776@N00/3672285389/">Stig Nygaard</a> Flickr via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Krafla Caldera

The Krafla Caldera is a 10km long, 2km deep, cauldron-like geological feature perched on the edge of the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. A collapsed, but still active volcanic area, in total there’s been 29 recorded eruptions, the most recent of which was the Krafla Fires in the 1970s.

For tourists, there are three main highlights to the Krafla area. Leirbotn (the geothermal power station), Víti Maar (a volcanic crater with an opaque, teal green lake) and Leirhnjúkur (steaming sulphuric terrain and multicoloured lava field landscapes).

Leirhnjúkur Lava Fields


"With steaming sulphuric terrain and craggy, lava field landscapes, this is truly one of the must-see gems of the Mývatn area, according to Visit Húsavík". This is a nice place to walk around to experience this still warm beautiful lava. The area that inhabits the magma is very colorful, full of moss and lichen painted with sulphur and rhyolite. This is an active volcanic area with beautiful formations and an extraordinary view. We recommend to everyone to take the time and visit Leirhnjúkur Lava Fields.

Hverir

Hidden from the view, if you’re coming from Mývatn, behind Námaskarð is a large geothermal field of Hverir that is a unique wasteland where boiling mud, hot springs and hissing chimneys give life to a desolate Mars-like scenery. It is a high-temperature geothermal area with fumaroles and mud pots that bubble to a temperature of over 200 degrees Celsius. According to many, the Hverir Geothermal Field is one of the most spectacular (and overlooked) places in all of Iceland. 

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Northern Lights

This is our favourite time of the year! When this „art of nature“ illuminates the sky with spectacular displays of green, purple, pink, even red, our hearts jump with joy over the chance of exploring and experiencing with our customers for the next 8 months the warm feeling accompanying such a sight. Just imagine standing in the cold dark night, not a sound to be heard. The wind barely moving a strand of hair, and the sky is flaring with colors of green and purple.

It’s the end of the world, or something…
The first question we get when we meet our fellow spectators is ‘What are the Northern Lights and what causes them?’ and our first response is normally:

“The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding.” (Aurora Center)

But the best explanation is from Finland where it was believed that the lights were caused by a fox who ran so quickly that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky creating the Northern Lights. Indeed, the Finnish word for the Northern Lights “revontulet” translates literally as “fire fox”. Not necessarily correct, but a good story, and you should never ruin a good story with the truth…

Why go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights?
If you really want a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights, come to Iceland. There are several reasons for that. First of all there are several tours, holiday packages and short breaks available that focus on hunting the Northern Lights.  Iceland also has the infrastructure to welcome you wholeheartedly. Secondly, Iceland is perfectly located. We are middle of the zone that offers the best changes to see the Northern lights, between 65° and 72° Latitude North.  Finally we have the correct weather here, you may not believe it but it is often very favorable towards Northern Lights spotting, but more on that later.

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon beyond our control.
To witness the Northern Lights you will need four things to be in order. You need to be relatively close to the North Pole, you will need a dark night and you will need relatively clear skies, clouds don’t necessarily mean no sightings. Finally you will need some sort of solar activity and solar winds, but as we said before the Lights are caused by a collision of particles from the sun with gaseous particles from the earth. But the fact is however that the Northern Lights are unpredictable. We’ve had clear nights following a very active solar phase but seen absolutely nothing and then sometimes following very low solar activity the sky has turned green.

How do I make sure I will see the Northern Lights?
There is no worldly guarantee that you will see the northern lights on your trip to Iceland, for they are beyond human control. But we can plan a holiday were the chances are very good, up to 90-95% chance if you stay for 5 nights. If you spend one night in Iceland and expect to see the lights we would call you an optimist, but the chances increase with every night spend here. And don’t wait until the last night of your Iceland visit to go out on the hunt, try the first night, and then try again if nothing is happening, or if you want to see them again. We also recommend to everyone to plan their Northern Lights holiday not just for the Northern lights, but also go for a destination that has more to offer. This means that when on your holiday you should look at the Northern Lights as a perfect and desirable bonus to a great trip to where ever you go. 

Reykjavík City or North Iceland?
You should always try for the Northern Lights in Reykjavík. All international flights arrive in Reykjavík and visitors of Iceland almost always need to stay 1 or 2 nights in the capital. And as we said before, when on the hunt for Northern Lights, start straight away to not miss the ever evasive Northern Lights. The chances of spotting the Northern Lights are slightly better in North Iceland for several reasons. The area is receives less precipitation then other in Iceland and has less cloud coverage on average. The area is also less populated and has larger inhabitated areas and less light pollution from towns and villages. Sel Hotel by Lake Mývatn, a popular destination in our tours, conducted a research of visibility and found that the likelihood of spotting the Northern Lights went from 41% for one night in the area to 71% for three nights. The situation is similar in Akureyri and Eyjafjörður Fjord area. If you are staying in Reykjavik and have no luck spotting the Northern Lights, you have the option of visiting North Iceland for a day or two, it could be worth the while.

Happy spotting from Team Saga Travel

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Birdlife

Lake Mývatn is a paradise for birdwatchers. Everywhere you stop there are birds around you, particularly on the lake itself. When at lake Mývatn, always be on the lookout for Gyr Falcons as they are often found hunting near the lake. If you drive anti-clockwise around the lake until you reach another superbly rich area at the bay of Neslandavík. There are often large flocks of Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup and Eurasian Wigeon in the bay. This area is also particularly good for Common Scoter. A thorough scan of these flocks is likely to yield scarce vagrants such as American Wigeon, Common Pochard and Ring-necked Duck. Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum is located at the farm Ytri Neslönd by the bay. The museum is conveniently located in one of the best birdwatching locations by the lake.

Continuing south from Neslandavík past the farm Vindbelgur you will reach another bay called Álar, nearly as rich in birds as Neslandavík, though the birds are sometimes quite far from land. Again, a thorough scan of flocks of the common ducks of the area is likely to reveal scarcer species. Just (50 m) before you reach the bridge over the river Laxá, take a left turn to a small parking lot by the river and walk towards the river banks. It won’t take you long to find Harlequin Duck, a species which is often quite confiding. This uppermost part of Laxá is the prime habitat for Harlequin and Barrow’s Goldeneye in Iceland. Cross the bridge and drive eastward on road 848 to reach the lake again at the bay of Álftavogur by the farm Álftagerði. Álftavogur is yet another perfect place to search the flocks of ducks for scarcer visitors. A nice little stop is at the church of Skútustaðir. Behind the church there are small lakes in extensive wetlands. This area is good for many species of ducks, including Long-tailed Duck and the occasional Common Pochard. The bay at the farm Garður is sometimes rich in ducks. Another nice viewing area is from the parking area by road nr. 1 just north of the road to the farm Kálfaströnd. This site always holds some Barrow’s Goldeneye and the scenery is very picturesque.

A stop at the woodland park at Höfði will provide an opportunity for a walk through beautiful woodland, with views towards some unusual lava formations in the lake. Birding in the park is interesting as there are plenty of Common Redpoll, Redwing and Winter Wren nesting in the park and ducks on the lake. Quite often, vagrant passerines are found in the park. The large bays of Bolir and Vogaflói north of Höfði often hold interesting ducks and the small bays of Kálfstjörn, just north of the farms of Vogar, and Helgavogur north of Kálfstjörn are excellent places to look for dabbling ducks including Gadwall and the scarce Northern Shoveler. This concludes the circle around lake Mývatn. Head back to the uppermost part of Laxá river and follow the river downstream by road nr. 1. Barrow’s Goldeneye and Harlequin Duck should be seen and you might want to search for the odd Goosander by the river. 

 

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Waterfalls

Aldeyjarfoss

This is the second in a successive row of beautiful falls in Skjalfandafljót river and has a 20 meter cascade. As with Svartifoss, here you‘ll see a fascinating contrast between the white water of the fall and dark basalt columns, perfect scenery for photographers.

Goðafoss

This waterfall, 12 meters high and 30 meters wide, is at once the most famous of the Skjálfandafljót waterfalls and one of the most famous in North Iceland and the country at large. According to the sagas, lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi settled a religious crisis in Iceland by throwing the idols of the old Nordic gods into the fall, wherefrom it gets its name “The waterfall of the gods“. Certainly, those who witness the sheer beauty of the fall will agree that the name is fitting.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/26641025@N07/33354165593/">FlickrdeChato</a> Flickr via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Dettifoss

Perhaps a waterfall so wild and fierce was befitting of an area that just screamed natural and raw as it flowed on the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum meandering through Iceland's version of the Grand Canyon - Jökulsárgljúfur. This waterfall has a flow of about 500 cubic meters per second at high flow, with dimensions of 44m tall and 100m wide and is considered one of the most powerful waterfalls in all Europe.

Selfoss

Selfoss waterfall is located in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon in the Northern Region in Iceland only one kilometer south of the mighty waterfall Dettifoss. Both waterfalls are part of the natural wonders in Jökulsárgljúfur as well as the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. The glacial river in the mountains. Although Selfoss has always stood in the shadow of Dettifoss it is a great construction of nature and equally as enjoying to visit. The height is only 10 meters, but the width is more than Dettifoss. And of course the visit is only half an hour hike from Dettifoss, and both waterfalls share the same parking lots, both on the east side and the west side. If you are visiting Dettifoss, be sure not to miss this beautiful waterfall.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/97006177@N00/36232240706/">Anna & Michal</a> Flickr via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

 

 

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