While traveling around the entirety of Iceland is an adventure all on its own, the real beauty of the country comes with the ability to pick a specific region and really get to know it. If you're looking to connect with one Icelandic region on your next trip, Lake Myvatn will not disappoint.
Located in the northern region of the country, directly north of Vatnajökull National Park, Lake Myvatn is exactly what its name gives away: a lake. But what makes it special is the incredibly wide variety of things to do and see in such a small region — the entire lake area covers around 14 square miles.
Another perk of heading north: It's a little tougher and takes longer to get to from Reykjavik. Most visitors fly into Keflavik International Airport and head toward Reykjavik. Heading south is much easier and time efficient if you've only got a long weekend; heading north will take you away from some of the crowds.
Take note that the Lake Myvatn area can be hard to reach during the winter (late October through late March). Heavy snowfall and unpredictable weather can cause road closures and you'll need a 4x4 vehicle to navigate some of the gravel roads, if you're looking to venture off of the main Ring Road.
All technicalities aside, allow yourself to get a little lost planning your mental vacation. Ahead are the eight best things to do on your trip to Lake Myvatn.
Soak in a Hot Spring
Myvatn Nature Baths are known as the Blue Lagoon of the North for a reason. The views are unforgettable, the amenities are luxe, and it's busy — but it's far less crowded than Iceland's most photographed hot spring (Blue Lagoon).
This area is known for its bird watching opportunities and Myvatn Nature Baths may be one of the best places to take in the birdsong.
Make sure to schedule your visit and buy a ticket in advance. They even offer beer and wine bracelets, which will allow you to order drinks to enjoy in the hot spring from the spa's staff.
Hverir is a geothermal hotspot located at the foot of the Namafjall volcano — and you'll be able to tell there's something going on here the moment you spot it. The area is full of bubbling mud and steam vents. The color palette can only be described as earthy, presenting itself in deep red and orange vistas.
You may also hear this area referred to as Namafjall or Namaskard. You can hike around the entire area in half an hour, but make sure to allot some extra time for sightseeing. The environment here is truly otherworldly.
The steam floating around Hverir played a huge role in the opening scene of episode one of season three of "Game of Thrones." As Sam is wandering through a blizzard, it appears that he's battling white-out conditions. The truth: The steam from the vents in Hverir are what's providing the thick blizzard-like curtains.
Walk Across a Volcanic Crater
One of the most special things you can see in Iceland is a volcanic crater and Hverfjall is one of the most well-preserved craters in the world. You can hike all the way up to the ridge of the crater via two different paths, but don't explore past those walkways as it can be dangerous.
The crater itself is thought to be nearly 3,000 years old. Walking around the entire thing will take the better part of two hours, so plan accordingly. If it's windy, consider bringing along hiking poles or attempting your hike on a different day. As mentioned earlier, weather in Iceland is incredibly unpredictable and a particularly strong gust of wind can do more damage than you'd think.
Camp on the Shore of Lake Myvatn
One of the best parts about visiting northern Iceland is that the camping rules are much more lax than in the south. In short, you can't camp anywhere that isn't a designated camping area in the south, but there are only a handful of restrictions in the north. You can read all about them on Visit North Iceland's website.
While you're visiting Lake Myvatn, consider spending the night at the Hlíð campsite, which is open year-round. Its location on the northern shore of Lake Myvatn promises you'll wake up to an idyllic view.
Crawl Through a Lava Cave
So much of the ice that Iceland is named for lies underground and exploring deep into Lofthellir is a great reminder of that. You'll need to join an official tour operator to head into the cave, as it is very dangerous to do so on your own.
You'll start at Lake Myvatn before hiking across a lava field and squeezing into a small opening. Inside the caverns, there are massive ice sculptures varying in size. If you've ever seen the original "Journey to the Center of the Earth" film, this cave is about as close as you can get to the scene where the encounter caves full of crystals.
Photograph a Traditional Turf House
Iceland's traditional homes have long been the subject of photography across the world, and turf homes are no exception. As the name suggests, these homes have roofs covered in grass. Icelanders built homes this way to combat the unpredictable weather and improve insulation inside. Near Lake Myvatn, you can visit to Grænavatn Turf House.
This particular house is known as a settlement farm, meaning there's a good chance that a turf home has existed in this very spot since the Vikings walked through the country. The interior of the UNESCO site is now used mainly for storage, but exploring the exterior is a thrill in itself.
Hike Around Höfði
If you've seen a photo of Lake Myvatn, chances are it was taken in or near Höfði. This peninsula is known for its lava rock pillars, jutting straight out of the ground in all kinds of interesting shapes. But the rocks aren't the only strange thing you'll spot: There is also a mini forest of sorts in the area — something you won't find really anywhere else in the country. Rumor has it that the trees got there after a couple spent many years vacationing in the area and planting the trees themselves.
You can hike a majority of the peninsula in less than an hour, considering the entire hike spans 2 miles. Follow the paths and be rewarded by an incredible view of Lake Myvatn.
Learn About Local Wildlife
Lake Myvatn is known for the many birds that pass through and you can learn all about them at Sigurgeir's Bird Museum. It's a quirky museum that gives you a great feel for the passion the community feels for its beautiful home. There you'll find specimens of all of the birds local to Iceland; there are also telescopes set up on site for any impromptu bird sighting. And when you spot one, don't forget to add it to the museum's bird-spotting log.