The geothermal area of Leirhnjukur near lake Myvatn has been one of my favorite places to visit in Iceland. Even though I had just admired the colorful Hverir and the surprising Viti crater, I still managed to be blown away by the volcanic nature of Iceland. The particularity of this place? The lava field is still fuming!
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Leirhnjukur & the Krafla Lava Fields
Leirhnjukur is a great example of why I love Iceland: this is a place where you can feel the power of Nature. Indeed, this geothermal area in North Iceland is partly composed of a lava field that is still steaming 30 years after the last volcanic event. As you will see in the photos below, this small hike was like landing on another planet.
There are 2 trails around the area starting from the carpark. The small loop is nice but the geothermal features might disappoint those who have visited Yellowstone, USA or Wai-o-tapu, New Zealand. For me, the big loop is the fascinating part, walking in the middle of the steaming lava field is an experience I will never forget and this is why this location is first on my list of top 5 things to see in Myvatn.
Leirhnjukur is part of the Krafla Caldera and the Krafla Lava fields.
The Caldera is 10km long and 2km deep.
In the last few centuries, two major periods of volcanic activity have occurred, the former in the Myvatn fires 1724-1729, and the latter in the Krafla fires 1975-1984.
What is called Leirhnjukur is an area of the Krafla caldera around a rhyolite formation (593 meter above sea level). The hill rises less than 50 meters above the surrounding lava field. The rhyolite of the hill is porous due to the geothermal heat and has in several places turned into clay, hence the name “clay hill”.
Planning Tips - Leirhnjukur Iceland
Getting to Leirhnjukur
- North Iceland, close to Lake Myvatn
- From Myvatn, drive East on Road 1 for 6 km. Then turn left towards Viti/ Krafla and drive past the power plant
- The various features of the area are not well indicated. You will see other carparks. After driving past the power plant, the first parking on your left is the one for the Leirhnjukur trail.
Leirhnjukur (with its GPS coordinates) is included in my eBook to help you easily plan your road trip:
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Visiting Leirhnjukur - Trail map
- Small loop (1h) -the first half of small loop is a board walk which was actually the slippery part
- Big loop (2h taking my time, 5km) – Nothing steep but wear good shoes
- DO NOT go off-path unless you want to melt your shoes.
- Amenities: toilets at the parking
- Be careful in the lava, some trail markers disappear in the snow in Winter. Watch Leirhnjukur covered in snow on the 91 days in Iceland website
Staying close by
There is a good offer of accommodations around Lake Myvatn.
I chose the Dimmuborgir guesthouse on the shore of the lake and had a great time - Check out photos and book
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
- You can choose from some great local companies - Iceland has a lot of specificities and their offerings are adapted - you can compare cars and prices of quality local brands on this expert Icelandic website
- Otherwise you can compare offers from international companies on RentalCars.com
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Walk from the parking of the Leirhnjukur Lava Fields
Just 100m from the parking, you get in the mood: you enter amazing scenery that looks post-apocalyptic with interesting colors. No need to push me to continue walking further. The bar is set.
The pools at Leirhnjukur mountain
One of the first features on the small loop is the pools. The boardwalk goes 3/4 around it. As often in a geothermal area, the colors are fascinating, I especially liked the view with Viti and Krafla in the background.
If you like geothermal areas, don't miss Hverir not far from here - check out my article!
The fuming lava field of Leirhnjukur
As I wrote earlier, my favorite part was walking in the lava that was still fuming. It was an incredible experience and I took all my time walking the loop discovering interesting rock formations. On this part there are no boardwalks. Little poles indicate the path to follow to avoid melting the sole of your shoes 🙂
Other geological features of the Leihrnjukur hiking trail
Part of the small loop goes across the rhyolite hill where you can see strange colors: some features are very white, others red, many dark and grass still manages to strive!
Along the way I found many fissures. I love photographing them. I think this one looks very impressive.
This was taken on my way back. The lava has created here some soft shapes. In the background are Viti and Krafla.
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