Ring Road day 4: Krafla and Mud Pools

This was our 6th day in Iceland and 4th day on the Ring Road. Day 1 was Golden Circle and day 2 was Westman Island. Our initial plan for the day was to hike one of the mountains near Seydisfjordur for exceptional views of the fjords. But how often do we have a nice porch at the edge of a fjord surrounded by so many waterfalls. We decided to make breakfast at the Airbnb, sit on the porch and have a relaxing morning instead. It also saved us a little money. This was by far my favorite Airbnb of all time.

breakfast on the porch

After a few hours of relaxing at the porch, we decided to start driving the ring road again. Good thing about Iceland in June/July is there’s no such thing as darkness so we can start our day late and end late. We can go on a hike at 10 pm and it’ll still be bright outside. Besides, I really wanted to take advantage of the private porch at the edge of a fjord. I’m sure we’ll make dozens of stop before reaching our next Airbnb in Husavik.

blue church
blue church

We can’t leave Seydisfjordur without stopping by the blue church and the rainbow walk. I didn’t go inside but it is a beautiful church and on a sunny day it looks gorgeous. The church is surrounded by mountains, fjord, and waterfall. It’s so idyllic. The rainbow walk leads to the church and the whole area is very cute. It was also sunny and warm today so that just made everything look nicer and prettier.

rainbow walk

There is a huge waterfall just outside Seydisfjordur. There’s a small sign that’s very easy to miss. Anywhere else, you’ll see huge signs for a waterfall of this caliber but in Iceland, it’s no big deal. Iceland is full of such waterfalls. A bigger sign is definitely needed for Gufufoss. We filled up all our water bottles here before continuing our drive.

filling up our water bottles

Our Airbnb host was very happy when I told him we haven’t spent any money on water in Iceland. I told him in south Iceland, we just drank tap water and in the east, we’ve been stopping at random glacial streams to fill up our bottles. He gets so sad and frustrated when tourists waste money on water bottles. Buying plastic water bottles is not good for the environment. That was a common trend we noticed with everyone in Iceland. They’re sad about global warming and glaciers melting. It was comforting to know we weren’t the only ones feeling this way.

near the Blue Church

The drive from Seydisfjordur to Egilsstadir is definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. We made a few stops to enjoy the drive but as I mentioned in my previous post, there aren’t a lot of places to pull over safely. We had lunch at Askur Pizzeria where I had goose meat pizza for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect but it actually tasted very nice.

desert in north Iceland

There’s a pull off point near the bridge that connects east Iceland to north Iceland for some nice views. After crossing the bridge, there are a few more waterfalls before the landscape changes completely, again. We didn’t make as many stops because while the drive from Egilsstadir to Krafla is nice, it’s nothing exceptional. The landscape reminded me of southern California. We’ve seen far more impressive landscape in the last few days. This is the only section of the Ring Road where there was no data coverage or bathrooms.

Lake Viti <3

Then again, north Iceland has a population of about 36,000 people and about half of them live in Akureyri, the capital. Once we turned for Krafla, we started to smell sulfur and the smell got more and more intense as we got closer. We drove all the way to the end of the road to Krafla and parked in the very last parking lot. There is a big explosion crater, almost a 1,000 feet in diameter, and lake Viti at the bottom of the crater.

Lake Viti at Krafla

The crater was formed in 1724 when the Krafla volcanic region erupted and it lasted for 5 years. It was called Myvatn fires and it was visible from the South Coast. Krafla Volcanic Region is about 10 km (6 miles) wide and 90 km (about 55 miles) long. This is one of the most active region in Iceland. There’s a geothermal power plant here that takes advantage of the volcanic activity.

fumes rising from the ground

The aqua blue color of the water in Lake Viti was so intense my jaw dropped to the floor. The color is because of the elements from the geothermal activity. There’s a short and easy trail here so, off we went. We’ve been driving for 2 hours and needed to stretch our legs. We walked counterclockwise. On the trail, we could actually see fumes rising from the ground. It’s a reminder that this volcano could erupt at any time.

fumes rising from the ground

As we continued on our hike, we saw another smaller lake but the color of this lake was so different than Lake Viti. And both these lakes were right next to each other! And there was snow on top of this lake. Everything around it was brown and had fumes coming from the ground but this lake still had a thick layer of snow on top of it. Iceland truly is the land of fire and ice. And we could still smell sulfur.

such a thick layer of snow

There’s so much going on here. Crater, aqua blue crater lake, active geothermal area with fumes coming up from the ground, snow, water, grass, moss, volcanic soil, sulfur, mountains in the back. Iceland is an active volcanic island. The Eurasian and North Atlantic tectonic plates are violently forced apart by boiling magma from earth’s mantle, separating these plates by as much as 2 cm per year. Here are more pictures of Krafla.

The entire hike took us about 45 mins at the most. It’s definitely worth a stop and the hike was easy. We decided to skip Detifoss since it’s a waterfall and we’ve seen a few hundred of them so far on this trip. I’d rather spend my limited time in Iceland exploring more unique geology and landscape. With that said, it’s time to move on to our next stop, Namafjall Hverir. It’s a geothermal area with bubbling hot mud pools. This place also has a very strong smell of sulfur, stronger than Krafla.

Cool ground water seeps down to magma where it’s heated and rises to the surface as steam. Along with steam comes sulfur hydroxide which is the very strong smell. The gases from magma mixes with the silica and creates sulfuric acid. This mixes with the rock and soil creating mud pools. These are very hot and it’s strongly recommended to stay on track. People have gotten severe burns when they get too close to these mud pools. Here’s a cool video.

After walking around for about 15-20 mins, it was time to move on. Pictures of mud pools. Our next stop was Grjotagia, an underground hot spring but this also does not allow swimming. Not any more. It used to be very popular bathing place until 1974. During the 1974-1985 eruption of Krafla, the water temperature was raised and swimming is no longer allowed here unless you get special permission. Game of Thrones did just that because this is the site where Jon Snow and Ygritte hook up for the first time. It’s on a private property but it’s open to public.

at Grjotagia

Right next to this hot spring is a big volcanic fissure. It was so cool to look down. I would have loved to continue exploring this area but our Airbnb in Husavik has a check in time of 9 pm at the latest. So that’ll be our next stop. It was a huge room with lots of windows which isn’t good during summer because it’s too bright to sleep. Luckily we had our eye masks. Another thing to keep in mind when traveling through the north is there are no bathrooms at any of these tourist attractions.

bottom of volcanic fissure

After checking in, we left for dinner. Nustid was the only restaurant open until 9 pm in Husavik. We walked into the restaurant at around 9:10 pm. We got very lucky because the chef decided to take our order provided we don’t order appetizer or desserts. They’ll only take an order for entree. I ordered fish of the day, Tusk. This was another fish I’d never heard of and it was divine! I’ve never been disappointed ordering fish I’ve never heard of in Iceland.

While we waited for our food, we ordered local Icelandic liqueur. We had crow-berry, blueberry and rhubarb liqueur. After a few drinks and delicious dinner we went back to the Airbnb and called it a night. Tomorrow will be another long, fun and active day. Follow me on Instagram for my latest travel adventures: @rupal.kakkad