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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day 6: Myvatn

As usual, we started our day early and went to the bus station in Akureyri for an early trip after enjoying coffee and homemade breakfast in our cozy Hraffninn Guesthouse. This time we took a regular SBA-Norduleid bus at 8:00 a.m. to the little village Reykjahlið at the Lake Myvatn. We had planned a day of hiking, going to the hot nature bath and also visit the fishing town of Húsavík afterwards. On the way to Mývatn we even had another short stop at the Goðafoss waterfall, which we had seen already the day before.


When we arrived in Reykjahlið at the bus station, which is the parking space in front of the (only) supermarket, we first went to the tourist office right there to get a map. We've read online about the hike from Reykjahlið to the Hverfjall Crater and from there to the Mývatn Nature Baths and back to Reykjahlið. We arrived at 10 a.m. in Reykjahlið and weren't sure if that's enough time until the last bus to Húsavík at 4:00 p.m. would leave, but we wanted to try. At the tourist office they told us that the marked trail starts just across the Ring Road. The trail leads up to Dimmuborgir, which is about 7 km away and which we visited the day before and the Hverfjall Crater is located in between Reykjahlið and Dimmuborgir, while you pass another geological attraction, the Grjótagjá Fissure.


The first part of the trail was mostly flat grassland with some holes, which always reminds one to stay on the trail. After that it started to go up and down a bit before it completely changed into a more black and volcanic landscape - our destination, the majestic Hverfjall already in sight. The 3.8 km long trail was well marked and soon we arrived after 2 km at the Grjótagjá Fissure (which is also accessible by car). Some parts had already collapsed so we better thought against going inside the small opening. There was also a sign for a direct path to the Mývatn Nature Baths, but we decided to go to the Hverfjall Crater first.


When we finally arrived at the Hverfjall we were greeted by some busses at the foot of the hill. There were already some people hiking up the trail to the top. We were on our way up after catching our breaths. The view on top is fantastic. The whole volcanic and lava landscape is simply amazing and outer-worldly.


After looking at my watch we decided it's enough time to continue from Hverfjall to the Mývatn Nature Baths on another marked trail that started right at the trail up to the Hverfjall. At one point, there was no clear mark on the trail, and we obviously went around to the longer trail but we eventually found the path to the nature baths. We just had to open and close a fence at the end of the trail. We then came along at what looked like the real trail with the two-steps-stair on either side of the fence. Actually, the nature baths can be reached directly from the Grjótagjá Fissure along the road.


The Mývatn Nature Baths are accessible via 3 km hike from Reykjahlid or by car. There are also some guided tours that include a stop at the Baths, but there are no regular busses plying that route. There wasn't too much time left for us because we still have to walk back to Reykjahlið to catch the last bus of the day leaving the area. So we bought our tickets - just as expensive as everything in Iceland - and went directly to shower. (Please be reminded that they have a strict pre-bathing regimen. Iceland has a strict code of hygiene and guests are required to shower totally naked before and after bathing.). We went out with our trunks and immediately fled the cold by going into the first steam sauna but then decided to go to the hot pool outside. The bath is basically in the middle of endless volcanic landscape. The pool itself has a varying degrees of hotness. One part was really scalding hot that I barely dared to swim, and the other was mildly warm.


We went back to Reykjahlið the same way we came in. We made a little detour to the Grjótagjá Fissure by going on the asphalted road instead of the lava landscape then walked back from the fissure to the information center. You can actually see the area from afar, but it was just a long walk. Our only concern was catching the last bus. As it turned out, there was enough time so we decided to grab some food from the only supermarket for our very late lunch. I've also purchased there the fabulous Icelandic dark Rye bread (baked underground in Lake Mývatn).

At 4:00 p.m. we took a regular SBA-Norduleid bus from Reykjahlið to Húsavík, which took about 40 minutes and stops directly at the harbour. Húsavík has a nice harbour and a mountain as a backdrop. There are also two big whale watching operators, Gentle Giants and North Sailing as well as the Húsavík Whale Museum. Húsavík is also called "The Whale Spotting Capital of the World". We just came for the museum and a view of the town because there was not enough time left for the three-hour whale watching tour and besides, we've gone whale watching in Norway already. The whale museum turned out to be excellent - it was large, had information on numerous whales, skeletons, a movie and even free coffee.


After sometime at the museum we just walked around a bit at the harbour and to the church before rewarding ourselves a piece of cake and coffee at a small café. We went back at around 7:30 p.m. to Akureyri with a regular bus operated by straeto which departed not from the harbour where we arrived, but from a gasoline station just a block away behind the harbour. Thankfully every straeto bus stop has a sign with a timetable, so you can always check the schedule. The other bus operators mostly just had a timetable inside a gasoline station.


At about 9:00 p.m. we were back in Akureyri for our last night there, as we had booked tickets online for a long bus trip from Akureyri through the Highlands to our next destination, Hveragerði.


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