August 6th, 2011



Several people who had been there, before we actually went to Iceland and saw for ourselves, when trying to describe the landscape of the country referred to it as a moonscape. In the late 1960s, Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew came here to train for their impending moonwalks, so I guess the impression the place leaves is accurate!

Our last stop on our Mývatn tour was the Leirhnjúkur geothermal solfatara. It is a very stark area, devoid of trees or much growth other than the ubiquitous lichens and moss on the ancient lava fields surrounding it. A solfatara is a volcanic area that gives off sulfurous gases and steam.

The hills and mountains around Leirhnjúkur are rather spectacularly colored: oranges, yellows, blues & whites, from the mineral deposits and emissions: sulfur causes the yellow and pyrite adds blue. It's a dangerous place. You are strictly warned to stay on the path because the surrounding crust is very thin; people have been known to fall through in places, ending up with severe burns. There is an easy trail of about 2 kilolmeters from the parking area through the lava fields up to the viewing platform for the mud pots. First it's a dirt path through the lava fields, which Martin & Karin said looked like bubble-wrap, then a wooden platform path that winds up the mountainside to overlook the mud pots.

Lava bubble-wrap!

Mineral deposits on the ground

Walking to Leirhnjúkur

The dark grey area to the right in the center of the photo above is the actively bubbling mud pots on the surface. We could see 4 of them, rather fact, so small that Martin was hugely disappointed: "That's IT?!" haha! I guess our excitement to see REAL! LIVE! BUBBLING! mud pots rather raised his expectations.

From here we walked around the right side to look directly down on the mud pots and the area behind them, which was cracked and split in fascinating ways. See that big black spot in the bottom right corner? Not the one right next to the edge, the other one. Guess what it was? A high-end extremely expensive camera lens! What a bummer for whoever dropped it! Anders pondered ways to get down and fetch it up, but from our vantage point, we could see that it was already partially melted, plus hello! SEVERE BURNS.

From the viewing platform over the mud pits we continued to the top of the mountain to find the SERIOUS moonscape spread out before us. Check this out:

This moonlandscape went on for MILES. Most impressive, and rather sobering in that "I'm standing over an active volcanic area" way. Here's a great website an amazing 360° image of the Leirhnjúkur crater row in the Krafla caldera to get a feeling for what it is like.