The geothermal area of Leirhnjukur, Iceland, is one of my favorite places to visit near Myvatn.
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!
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with map, tips and photos.
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Leirhnjukur & the Krafla Lava Fields - why visit?
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 40 years after the last volcanic event.
As you will see in the photos below, this small hike was like landing on another planet:
About the Krafla Lava Fields
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.
The Krafla Caldera (or Krafla lava fields) is 10km long and 2km deep.
Leirhnjúkur geology & trail
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”.
There are 2 trails around the area starting from the carpark. The small loop is nice but the geothermal features might disappoint.
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.
This is why this location is first on my list of top 5 things to see in Myvatn.
How to pronounce Leirhnjúkur
To facilitate the reading of this article, you can listen to the pronunciation of Leirhnjukur here.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips and Map - Leirhnjukur Iceland
Where is Leirhnjukur in Iceland?
- North Iceland,
- Close to Lake Myvatn
- Reykjahlid (Lake Myvatn) to Leirhnjukur = 20min drive
- Akureyri to Leirhnjukur = 1h30 drive
- Below is a map to help you get oriented
Leirhnjukur (with its GPS coordinates) is included in my eBook to help you easily plan your road trip:
Plan your dream road trip in Iceland
How to get to Leirhnjukur
- You need a rental car
- No public transportation
- Rare are the tours visiting it
- 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.
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Local experts - Iceland has a lot of specificities and offerings by local companies are adapted - compare cars and prices of quality local brands on GuidetoIceland.com
- Option 2 - International Brands - compare offers on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- If you plan on driving on F-roads in the Central Highlands, a good 4WD is mandatory
Leirhnjukur hiking Trail & map
- Small loop (1h) - the first half of small loop is a boardwalk 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
Leirhnjukur in Winter
The lava field of Leirhnjukur is less accessible in Winter.
The poles indicating the path can disappear under the fresh snow before it melts, and then you don't know where you can walk or not for your soles not to melt...
Staying in the area
Lake Myvatn, with the town of Reykjahlid, is a great option to visit the area - Check out the Lake Myvatn accommodations
I stayed at the Dimmuborgir Guesthouse (I booked myself and paid entirely for my stay) - it is right next to the lake and with the Hverfjall crater in the background... perfect! Check out more photos and book.
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 sheets of lava are cracked and superposing.
The rhyolite formation (593 meter above sea level) has a very contrasting color with the dark soil of the lava.
Remember to stay on the walking path and to look behind you. It is fascinating!
The pools at Leirhnjukur mountain
After an easy walk from the carpark, a boardwalk appears. It takes you to the geothermal area on the side of the rhyolite mountain.
The main feature on the small loop is the deep with colorful pools.
The boardwalk goes 3/4 around them so you can see them from different angles..
As often in a geothermal area, the colors are fascinating. I especially liked the view with the Viti crater, and Krafla, higher in the background.
The colors are simply fascinating. They depend on the temperature and bacteria that live inside.
Here are some zoomed shot of the pools:
If you like geothermal areas, don't miss Hverir not far from here - check out my article!
The fuming lava field
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 section of the hiking trail, 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.
And the shape of the lava can also be mesmerizing:
This was taken on my way back. The lava has created here some soft shapes. In the background are Viti and Krafla.
But it feels like another planet everywhere!
Other attractions in the area
- Very close to the lava field is the Krafla Viti crater - see article
- Dimmuborgir - and old lava field with huge formations - see article
- Myvatn Nature Baths - see article
- Hverfjall - a beautiful crater where you can walk on the rim - see article
- The Hverir geothermal area - see article
- The Asbyrgi canyon
- and more...
Find them in my eBook:
Plan your dream road trip in Iceland
Want to see more of the best Iceland has to offer?
- Tips to plan your Iceland road trip - read article
- Tips to rent a car and drive around Iceland - read article
- Itinerary suggestions - read article
- 45 Most beautiful landscapes in Iceland in pictures - read article
- The best stops on the Ring Road - read article
- The best locations off the beaten path around Iceland - read article
- 21 Most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland - read article
- The 10 best lava caves in Iceland - read article
- The 5 most beautiful black sand beaches in Iceland - read article
- The Golden Circle - read article
- The Snaefellsnes peninsula - read article
And keep track of your own trip!
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