The Lavafield of Leirhnjúkur

Not far from the Viti Crater on the northeastern side of Mývatn, we encountered the lavafield of Leirhnjúkur, which is part of the Krafla volcanic region. Nearly thirty years after the last eruptions, the ground here is still smoking and hot to the touch.

There’s a five-kilometer path leading through Leirhnjúkur, which took us a couple hours to complete. It should have been faster, but we were slowed significantly by both the snow and the scenery. Many of the trail markers were completely buried and, for safety’s sake, we took our time. With hot pools, steam vents, craggy lava rocks and sections of super-heated dirt pockmarking the ground, Leirhnjúkur is not the kind of place you’d want to accidentally veer off the path.

The lavafield provided a study in contrasts. It was bizarre to be standing ankle-deep in snow, while touching a scorched-black patch of earth that was still painfully hot. The latest volcanic activity here occurred between 1975 and 1984, a period during which there were nine eruptions. These “Krafla Fires” gained fame across the world for their curtains of lava.

Another amazing sight in a region simply full of them, Leirhnjúkur was the most exciting hike we did while at Mývatn.

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