Grjótagjá rift is very close to Dimmuborgir. It is half-full with thermal water and is one of the best-known caves in Iceland. Grjótagjá has got two entrances and steps leading down to it. People used to bathe in it, women on one side and men on the other side.
During the eruption of the close-by Mt. Krafla in 1975-1984, the temperature of the water in Grjótagjá rose so much (up to 60-70 degrees C) that it couldn't be used for bathing. The temperature of the water has cooled down a bit but is now still too hot for bathing.
Top photo: inside Grjótagjá cave
I have dipped my finger into the water and it was very hot, somebody said it was around 45-50 degrees C! Be careful here as we don't want anybody to fall into the hot water on their way down the rocky entrance.
Grjótagjá belongs to the farmers at Vogar, so it is private property and forbidden to bathe in it - even if the water would be less hot. But examining this beautiful pearl of nature and taking photos of it is allowed. The difference in the blue colour of the water in my photos is due to the flash.
A path takes you from Dimmuborgir to Grjótagjá thermal spring. It can also be accessed by car and there are some parking spaces right by Grjótagjá.
Inside Grjótagjá cave
I got quite startled when I read in Morgunblaðið - our morning paper (July 2018) - that the landowners had to resort to closing off the Kvennagjá part of the cave, where the women used to bathe.
Some visitors had not followed any of the rules and had slept in the cave, brushed their teeth in the beautiful blue water, washed their shoes and dishes and even defecated there :(
I read in the newspaper in June 2020 an interview with one of the owners of Grjótagjá that once 20 tourists had camped inside Grjótagjá!
No bathing in Grjótagjá
Why some people show this disrespect is beyond me and it makes me so sad. I can only keep saying: "Take only photos and leave nothing but your footprints" to those who show such disrespect.
Grjótagjá has been nicknamed the Love Cave as here Ygritte and Jon Snow from the Game of Thrones series supposedly made love for the first time. But the scene was apparently shot in a studio.
A much lesser-known cave, Stóragjá rift, is located close to Grjótagjá. The landscape here is different from Grjótagjá as you descend into the vegetated rift and walk between the lava walls before you reach the entrance to the thermal water much further down in the rift.
A couple of stairs have been put up to help you descend into the rift. And ropes and ladders have been fitted inside the rift leading down to the thermal water. My husband went into the rift and took some photos of the blue water, but I only peeked through the hole.
From what I have read in the book Thermal Pools in Iceland then the temperature of the water is about 29 degrees C, but as I didn't venture down into the rift I don't know that from my own experience.
I zoomed in on the water in Stóragjá
The thermal water in the cave is blue as in Grjótagjá, but I wouldn't recommend bathing in it. It used to be a popular bathing place, but I have heard that some algae grow in it now and there are talks of e-Coli bacteria having been measured in the water.
Anyhow, it is nice just exploring Stóragjá rift and peeking into the holes at the fairy-tale looking rift and clear blue water. While walking inside Stóragjá I found another hole in the rift where there was a rope fastened with chains to a rock wedged in between the rift (see my photo below).
From there I could also peek down into the blue water - peeking is as far as I dare go regarding Stóragjá ;)
My husband peeking into Stóragjá rift
Stjóragjá belongs to Reykjahlíð and you can reach it from the junction of ring-road 1 and road 848.
Saying hi to the calves at Vogafjós
If you fancy something to eat during your exploration of Mývatn then Vogafjós restaurant is a good place to stop at. It is both a restaurant and a cowshed and from the restaurant, you can have a peek into the cowshed. And visit the cows and calves if you want, but they are very friendly.
Vogafjós means Cove Cowshed and is owned by the farmers of Vogar, who own a large part of Mývatn including Lofthellir cave. They put their pride into offering their guests a local menu and make their own cheese and mozzarella. The jam is made from berries from the area and the tea is made from locally picked herbs.
Having dinner on a guided tour of Mývatn
They smoke trout from Lake Mývatn in a turf shed and the beef comes from their cattle. The rye bread they cook in hot springs at Mývatn. It cannot get any more local than that :)
The church at Reykjahlíð in Mývatn, Reykjahlíðarkirkja (built in 1962), is such a lovely church. I once stayed at the campsite very close to the church and when I had had about enough of the annoying fly "mý" midge I sought refuge in the church, which fortunately was open.
It was so peaceful, dusk, and the lights in the church were turned off and only the altarpiece was lit; a big cross lit up. Being a devout Christian, then this was heaven for me.
The pulpit at Reykjahlíðarkirkja church
Marvels happened here in the Mývatnseldar volcanic eruption in 1724-1729. The lava flow destroyed the farm, but spared the church and flowed on each side of it. You can see the BIG chunks of lava next to the church and how it stopped there. The site of a church built in 1876 is next to the newer church.
The carved wooden pulpit in the church depicts this extraordinary event.
A similar marvel took place in South-Iceland. On the 8th of June 1783, the largest recorded volcanic eruption in Iceland started in Lakagígar (a row of craters) called Skaftáreldar volcanic eruption. People sought shelter in the church and prayed and the lava flow also stopped right before it reached the church!
Reykjahlíðarkirkja church in 2020 - it was closed
Now back to Reykjahlíðarkirkja church. The current church was consecrated in 1962. I recommend visiting this church, especially in the dusk with the cross lit - the tranquillity and the extraordinary energy in this church is not to be missed while travelling in Mývatn.
I hope it is still kept open, but sadly, due to vandalism in our churches and people sleeping in them and even cooking in them - we have been forced to keep most of our churches locked. Hopefully, this is not happening at Mývatn.
Camping at Mývatn - the midge filled our tent
The church is located next to one of the campsites at Mývatn and parts of the campsite are actually lava fields. So if you want to camp in a lava field then this is the place to visit :)
You can have a walk around the lava field, there is a path leading from the church to the campsite through the lava field. The lava here is amazing and very different from the lava in f.ex. Dimmuborgir which is close by, the lava here is huge.
I hopped on top of it to show you how huge it actually is.
Huge lava at Reykjahlíð
This type of lava is called helluhraun - pahoehoe lava and you will see it on the north side of Lake Mývatn. It is so even that it looks like man-made concrete. Both the photos of the lava are taken at dusk, that is why they are so dark.
Elves live in lava rocks, so one might even spot an Icelandic elf while camping here, given that they want to be spotted, as it is always up to them.
Now, what is this white spot in my photo of the lava field?
I took a lot of photos in this area while I was camping here and one of them had a white "spot", might be an elf?
Jarðböðin á Mývatni - the Mývatn Nature Baths
The Mývatn Nature Baths are sometimes called the Blue Lagoon of the North. Visiting the Nature baths is an excellent choice for relaxation after a day of visiting all the interesting sights in the Mývatn area.
The Nature baths were opened in 2004 so it will be their 17th anniversary this year. The geothermal water in the Nature baths is drawn from depths of up to 2,500 meters and is rich in minerals, silicates and geothermal microorganisms, which are beneficial to the skin.
Jarðböðin á Mývatni - the Mývatn Nature Baths
The area of the lagoon is 5,000 m2 of geothermal water. When I have visited the water has been hot in some places and colder in other places, so one just has to look for a spot which is agreeable enough.
Just one word of warning - there is more sulphur in these nature baths than usual so take off copper or silver jewellery before you enter the lagoon, they become black and can even get damaged.
You can get your tickets to the Mývatn nature baths here:
Jarðböðin á Mývatni - the Mývatn Nature Baths
Here you will also find hot-pots and natural steam baths and inside you will find a café with an outside terrace from which there is a view of the lagoon and the Mývatn area.
In the winter of 2013, the temperatures in Mývatn dropped to minus 30 degrees C, but the lagoon was kept open. The visitors were given caps though so that their wet hair wouldn't freeze :)
It is wonderful sitting in the warm water surrounded by the beautiful nature of Mývatn. And just imagine what it must be like when the Northern lights show up!
I have twice seen the Northern lights from our summer cottage at Mývatn and they put on a spectacular show which lasted for the whole night! I have never seen anything like this before, a truly breathtaking experience.
Soaking in Jarðböðin á Mývatni - the Mývatn Nature Baths
Now we have visited the most interesting parts of the Mývatn area and will drive across Mt. Námafjall and visit the boiling mud pools at Hverarönd geothermal area. And visit the very colourful area of Krafla and Leirhnjúkur in my Mývatn - Part IV travel-blog.
Just to name a few of the many interesting tours in this area. I have joined a couple of them f.ex. the fun tour into the lava cave Lofthellir with amazing ice sculptures and A Wonderful Day of exploring the Extraordinary Mývatn Area in North-Iceland.
To reach the Mývatn area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up here in a couple of days.
I have added a couple of more travel-blogs on the Mývatn area in chronological order so you won't miss out on anything noteworthy during your visit to Mývatn:
Have a lovely time at the amazing Mývatn :)