The Northeast, Part II
Hverir and Krafla
Thursday, July 12th
Heading back northeast on our washboarded road (regional highway 864) brought us back to the ring road. A short drive west and we arrived at the volcanically active area east of Lake Myvatn. Our first stop in this area was the Hverir geothermal field.
Hverir was in many ways like the other geothermal fields we had already seen in Iceland, but its area of effect seemed a lot larger. The otherwordly-colored ground of the geothermal field stretched off into the distance, encompassing even the nearby mountain of Namafjall - all colored in that strange unearthly orangey-yellowy ground that is typical of active geothermal areas. Jaundiced ground, you could call it.
A brilliant blue sky and a bright sun made the surroundings at Hverir extra-colorful and bright - almost painful to look at without your sunglasses.
We took a half-hour tour around the geothermal area, observing the various features. The high-pressure steam vents - mounds topped with sulfur-coated boulders - hissed furiously while streaming large amounts of billowing clouds and smelly gas into the clear sky. These were the most distinctive feature of this field - something we hadn't seen the likes of at the other geothermal sites [we'd visited].
From Hverir, we headed north, along a paved side-road, to the nearby Krafla area. Krafla is a volcano that has erupted several times in Iceland's near past, the most recent being in the 1970s, when fissures opened up and started spewing lava right next to an under-construction geothermal plant. We passed through the geothermal plant on the way up to the Krafla viewpoints and trailheads. Apparently they were able to complete the construction after the volcanic activity, although apparently not without incident: One of the boreholes they drilled at the time exploded, and for many years the plant ran at only half capacity.
There are several scenic and geological destinations at the end of the road at Krafla: one is the fresh lava flows from the 1970s, still black and steaming, and the other is the crater viti (meaning 'hell'), created in an older eruption of Krafla. We only had time for one, so we chose to hike around the rim of Viti (well, some of us did, anyway). It was a short but scenic hike, offering nice views of the turquoise waters of the crater and of the lands and lava flows of Krafla beyond. Nearby on Krafla's slope we could see the many boreholes of the geothermal plant, busy sucking heat and fluids from the living volcano beneath.
Since it was such a beautiful sunny day, we decided to picnic right on the grassy ground next to the Viti trailhead. This was most enjoyable, this roadside scenic picnicing thing, and as long as the weather was good, we resolved to do more.
A video sequence covering the various visits we made to some of Iceland's many geothermal areas. Click directly on the image below to start it.
Video Sequence - Geothermal areas - Click on video above to start