The Krafla Caldera is a 10km long, 2km deep, cauldron-like geological feature perched on the edge of the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. A collapsed, but still active volcanic area, in total there’s been 29 recorded eruptions, the most recent of which was the Krafla Fires in the 1970s.
For tourists, there are three main highlights to the Krafla area. Leirbotn (the geothermal power station), Víti Maar (a volcanic crater with an opaque, teal green lake) and Leirhnjúkur (steaming sulphuric terrain and multicoloured lava field landscapes).
Krafla Power Station
Vivid blue hot streams, bizarre sci-fi architecture and the photogenic plumes of the geothermal power station make the approach to Krafla almost as exotic as the volcanoes themselves. The 2000 metre deep boreholes here supply geothermal energy for most of the surrounding region, pumping it out through enormous pipes which form a sort of gateway over the road. Many people stop and take a photograph or two here, but most don’t realise there´s a visitor centre too, where you can step inside for a closer look. If interested in this, make sure you time it right, as it’s only open on summer afternoons.
Víti Maar (The Crater of Hell) is a volcanic crater formed in 1724 by an eruption of steam. Its opaque teal green lake and easily accessible road create one of the photographic hotspots on the circuit around Lake Mývatn. For those wishing to take a walk, there is a 30 minute trail around the edge, which leads on to a hot spring. Take care with children or if it’s a rainy day, the slopes are steep and the path can be slippy.
Leirhnjúkur Lava Fields
With steaming sulphuric terrain and craggy, lava field landscapes, this is truly one of the must-see gems of the Mývatn area. You can walk 20 minutes to get to the edge of the area, or if you have time, it’s an unforgettable experience to spend an hour or two traversing the rest of the field. A full spectrum of colours inhabit the magma, with the greens of moss and lichen next to the scorched earth colours of sulphur and rhyolite. With weird textural formations, expansive views across the caldera and less tourists than other nearby Mývatn highlights, this is a magical, magnificent chance to walk within an active volcanic area. Just watch out not to step on the pale coloured clay, it might well melt the soles of your shoes. For those looking for a bigger trek, there is also a 3-4 hour walk from the information centre at Reykjahlið to Leirhnjúkur and back.
Take the east road from Lake Mývatn, towards Egilsstaðir. As you leave the lake and pass over Mount Námafjall, turn left, away from the bubbling mud pools and sulphuric landscape of Hverir, up road 863 towards Krafla. The road passes beneath the geothermal pipes of Leirbotn, swinging up and around, past the car park for Leirhnjukur, to the impressive viewpoint across Víti crater.
View route map from Húsavík