Iceland 2009: The North

Wednesday 10th June: ReykjahlÝ­ (Mřvatn) - Day trip to Krafla (36 km)

You know you are cycling in Iceland when ... you ride past a geothermal power station.

Of the 24 countries that generate electricity from geothermal sources, the ones that generate the most are the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and Iceland.

Iceland is a world leader in the production and use of clean energy. One quarter of its electricity is generated from geothermal power and three quarters from hydro power. Two of the five main geothermal power plants, both near ReykjavÝk, also produce significant quantities of hot water, which are used as the hot water supply and also for heating buildings and footpaths. Not all towns have geothermal hot water (particularly in the West Fjords) but in many places you can stay under the hot shower as long as you like.


Krafla: the crater of VÝti


Krafla: steam rises from the Leirbotn geothermal power station


The Hverir geothermal region east of ReykjahlÝ­


Steam vents at Hverir

Lake Mřvatn

Looking over Mřvatn. ReykjahlÝ­ is the settlement next to the lake.

The Jar­b÷­in Nature Baths

The Jar­b÷­in Nature Baths. The distant mountains are covered with snow, but the water in the pool is warm

Karen's diary:

We slept late today (after 7.00am!), enjoyed a long, leisurely breakfast (with jam!) and chatted with the German boys about their experiences, and about ours. They had three days of fine weather to start with, followed by day after day of heavy rain and demoralising headwinds. They have spent a lot of time on the bus and have realised that they have too many summer clothes in their luggage.

Today, however the sky is a clear, flawless blue from one end to the other and there is not a breath of wind. We are all feeling cheerful. It is their plan to cycle up to Krafla (a dormant volcano with a crater lake) and back, then pack their gear and head for Fosshˇll. We wished each other well and said goodbye. After packing a small bag each we set off to go sightseeing. Brian was also keen to see Krafla so that was our first stop. The ride included a few more steep hills than we expected! There are two geothermal power stations along the way, each with very impressive roaring steam chimneys. There are warning signs everywhere telling people (i) not to drive their cars off the road, (ii) not to walk off the footpaths and (iii) not to bathe in some of the lakes as they can be dangerously hot.

The road ended at Krafla and we admired its beautiful jade green lake. There was a walking track around the crater rim but we didn't have suitable walking shoes. Despite the sunshine the wind was cool so we needed our jackets for the ride down to Hverir, a colourful and smelly geothermal area dotted with boiling mud pools and ferocious-looking steam vents. Brian said it was just like Rotorua in New Zealand (but not as big). After Hverir we headed for the Jar­b÷­in nature bath, a large outdoor thermal spa. It is regarded as the 'Blue Lagoon' of the north, but less touristy. It was a fine place, nicely landscaped and with comfortable facilities. It's not the cheapest swimming pool to visit but one of the loveliest. The pale, milky blue water is very warm and soothing. The pool is set on an elevated terrace overlooking Mřvatn and there are stunning views to distant mountains. It was very quiet, only 3 or 4 other couples in the water and a few more visitors milling about on the terrace.

Icelandic pools are not chlorinated and visitors must shower and wash properly (with soap, without swimsuits) before bathing. Icelanders have no hang-ups about nudity but foreign visitors can find the communal showers a bit confronting. (Don't panic, males and females are segregated.) After two showers and a bathe we are very clean! Geothermal water has a high mineral content and is very harsh on the hair and skin. I am using a lot of moisturiser.

At last it was time to leave... back to our cabin for a late lunch, then shopping and laundry. Brian is washing our bikes as I write. Today's weather has been almost unbelievable - the best we've had.