Ring Road day 5: Lake Myvatn

Our 5th day on the Ring Road started somewhat early. It was a little chilly in Husavik so we had to add an extra layer. We are in the north, after all. We were ready and out of the Airbnb by 9:50 am. Our first stop of the day was Dimmuborgir, aka the Black Fortress. It’s unusually formed lava fields with unique rock formations. It was formed in an eruption 2,300 years ago. There are many options for hikes ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours.

Dimmuborgir

In Icelandic tales, lava fields are home to brutal and vile trolls. As we walked around Dimmuborgir, we learned about the Icelandic Yule Lads. They are 13 brothers who love to sing, tell funny stories, and trick people. They live in Dimmuborgir. Centuries ago, Yule Lads were created to stop kids from leaving in the middle of the night in winter. As time passed, they are now more tricksters who also bring gifts. On some of the hikes, you actually see caves with Yule Lads clothes and other items.

easy hikes at Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir is also the location for Mance Rayder’s wildling army camp. Game of Thrones scenes were filmed during winter so it’s covered in snow and looked very different when we visited in summer. We hiked around for a while on different trails enjoying the sights. This is one of the few tourist destinations in the north that actually has a bathroom but it costs 200 ISK (about $1.60 USD).

After about a an hour, we decided to move on. Our next stop of the day was Hofdi, a peninsula in lake Myvatn. We hiked around on random trails. There’s a path that overlooks the lake and is a great location to spot birds. One of the trails took us to a meadow with beautiful benches. We continued walking around and watched a few different duck species in the water.

Hofdi

The vegetation in the area is so different than the surrounding places. After spending almost 2 hours walking and bird watching we drove to Fuglasafn Sigurgeirs Bird museum, largest private bird collection in Iceland. Sigurgeir was born and raised in Myvatan region. He had the largest collection of eggs and stuffed birds. He wanted to turn his collection into a museum but drowned in lake Myvatn at the age of 37.

hiked to the top of the hill

He had 180 species of birds and 100 types of eggs when he died. His friends and family made his wish come true in 2008 by opening the museum in his name. The entrance fee is 1,500 ISk, about $12 USD. The staff enters the museum with you and explains the flow of the museum. There’s a small stream running through the room under glass floor which is very soothing. We spent about an hour at the museum.

lake Myvatn

We had home made rye bread wtih smoked arctic char at the museum. The bread was actually baked in a hot spring. It tasted delicious and had an earthy flavor. There’s also a shed with an old fishing boat. Lake Myvatn has lots of ducks and other water birds. It was rainy, windy, and cold so we didn’t couldn’t spend too much time outside because we weren’t dressed warm enough.

Fuglasafn Sigurgeirs Bird museum

Lake Myvatn is unique because it’s a shallow lake over an active magma bed. It’s the reason why there are so many water birds, especially ducks. It’s warmer than the surrounding. After exploring Lake Myvatn region, we were ready to continue to Akuryeri. On our way, we saw signs for Godafoss so we decided to make a quick stop. It was cloudy, windy, and cold so we didn’t stay too long here either.

Godafoss

There was a gift shop near Godafoss so we went there to use the bathroom which cost 200 ISK (about $1.60 USD). This and Dimmuborgir are the only two tourist attractions that have bathrooms in north Iceland. I have to say, Diamond circle is far more impressive than Golden Circle, not that Golden Circle was bad by any means. Diamond circle is just way more impressive, unique, and diverse.

drive to Akureyri

Diamond circle includes Husavik, Krafla, Hverir, lake Myvatn, Godafoss, Dimmuborgir, and a few other locations we didn’t visit. If you have more time in Husavik area, there are plenty of other options. Husavik is a great place for whale watching. There are 23 species including Blue Whale. If the weather is bad, check out their Whale museum. There is a 25 meter long blue whale skeleton on exhibit.

Siglufjordur

Also, if you couldn’t get a reservation at Blue Lagoon, than Myvatn Nature Baths is a great alternative. It’s also slightly cheaper than Blue Lagoon. I wish I had more time to spend here but, it’s time to drive to Siglufjordur. We drove the Ring Road counter clockwise so just before Akureyri there’s a 7 km long tunnel where you have to pay 1,500 ISK (about $12 USD) toll within 3 hour of passing the tunnel.

stretching my legs

If you drive the Ring Road clockwise, it’ll be as you leave Akureyri. If you wait more than 3 hours, you’ll have to pay an additional 1,000 ISK (about $8 USD) fine so your total will be about $20 USD. Paying the toll online was very easy and simple. In Akureyri we were able to continue our international travel tradition of eating local chinese food. The seafood noodle soup was delicious and the kung pao shrimp was surprisingly spicier than expected at Sjanghae.

drive to Akureyri

The meal had left us very full so we walked around the cute town of Akureyri for about half an hour before getting back in the car. We continued driving to Siglufjordur. Between Akureyri and Siglufjordur there’s a 4 km tunnel that’s a bit challenging. The tunnel is single lane two way tunnel. It was scary, to say the least. Every time you see a car coming from the opposite direction, you have to pull over in the small area marked M, let the other car pass and then continue your drive.

M area is on the right

Since it’s a tunnel, sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly how far the oncoming car is so it can get a little scary if you wait too long to pull over in the marked area. If you drive the Ring Road counter clockwise, it’s your responsibility to pull over in the marked area. If you drive clockwise, you have the right of way. But,that 4 km was probably the most stressful drive of my life.

Siglufjordur

We finally made it to Siglufjordur, a tiny and colorful fishing village. By the time we got to this little village, most of the restaurants were closed. The only place open until 9 pm was Harbor House Cafe. It’s a tiny restaurant with only 6 tables and it’s right on the harbor. We ordered Plokkfiskur, Icelandic comfort food. We’ve had it all over Iceland but this was by far the best. It’s a mash of fish, potatoes, and herbs in buttery goodness.

Harbor House Cafe

After dinner we checked in to our Airbnb for the night. Turns out, our host is part owner of the Harbor House Cafe and the Plokkfiskur is his father’s secret recipe. He made huge batch just earlier in the day with some fresh fish. Our Airbnb for the night was….unique. It was a huge 3 story warehouse that was converted into part hostel and part private rooms Airbnb.

such a colorful town

The building used to be a Shell warehouse, a fishing warehouse, an office building and now an Airbnb. Most of the private rooms were rented to a group of fishermen. They were all out on a fishing boat for the next few days so we had the entire warehouse all to ourselves. It felt a little like The Shining but less creepy. Our room had 6 beds and skylight to watch Aurora in winter.

the other side of the tunnel is Siglufjordur

For a long time Siglufjordur was the Herring capital of Iceland. the Herring museum is the largest maritime museum in Iceland. Skiing in this area is known as the Alps of Iceland. It offers steep slopes, beautiful ocean views, and geothermal swimming pool. This was one of my favorite places in Iceland.

Dimmuborgir

Fishing villages in the north are more like what I expected. There are fish stores and markets that sell fresh fish in every town, unlike fishing villages in east fjords. Unfortunately for us, all the fish markets are closed on weekends and that’s exactly when we’re visiting these towns. If you like visiting these fish markets, make sure you visit during weekday.

view before entering Siglufjordur

Siglufjordur is such a cute and idyllic town in the Troll Peninsula. There are small and medium sized boats docked on the harbor. Beautiful and colorful houses along the mountain side, overlooking the fjord. Everyone knows everyone so tourists like us are easy to spot. People we chatted with at a bar were friendly and pleasantly surprised when we ordered Brennivin, Icelandic aquavit. After a few drinks, we went back to our private warehouse to relax. Tomorrow, we continue our drive.

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