Iceland // Mývatn and the northeast //


West of Krafla is Leirhnjúkur, a black, compellingly grotesque lavafield whose eighteenth-century eruptions nearly destroyed Reykjahlíð’s church. A similar event between 1977 and 1984 reopened the fissures in what came to be called the Krafla Fires, and this mass of still-steaming lava rubble is testament to the lasting power of molten rock: thirty years on, and the ground here remains, in places, too hot to touch. Pegged tracks from the parking area mark out relatively safe trails around the field, crossing older, vegetated lava before climbing onto the darker, rougher new material, splotches of red or purple marking iron and potash deposits, white or yellow patches indicating live steam vents to be avoided – not least for their intensely unpleasant smell. From the high points you can look north towards where the main area of activity was during the 1980s at Gjástykki, a black, steaming swathe between light green hills. As usual, apply common sense to any explorations.

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