Volcanoes have shaped much of Iceland’s history and identity. They’ve also literally shaped the country’s landscapes, from the black sand beaches of Vik to the basalt columns of Svartifoss. Part of Iceland’s Diamond Circle route features three different types of natural attractions related to these fiery giants. The turquoise Viti caldera in the Krafla volcanic fields shows us the remnants of what happens when an erupting volcano collapses in on itself. In stark contrast are the colorful bubbling mud pools and steaming geysers in the Hverir geothermal area. Lastly, the dried lava rock formations at Dimmuborgir that resemble a crumbling fortress are out of this world. Part of the time on your Diamond circle itinerary should definitely be to stop at these three sites. While they are entirely different in scope, they’re all tied together by the common element of volcanoes and fire.

Lava flow around Lake Myvatn in Iceland's Diamond Circle

How to Arrive

We’re going to assuming that this isn’t your first stop on the Diamond Circle route. Going counter-clockwise, you will need to have already made your way past the whale watching town of Húsavík, the historically significant Godafoss waterfall, and the stunning Lake Mývatn zone using Road 845 and Route 1. From here, you can easily reach the three destinations featured in today’s post. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s good to spend a few days in this area. Lake Mývatn makes an excellent base for exploring. Continue along Route 848 on the southern shore of the lake to reach Dimmuborgir.

Dimmuborgir Lava Formations

While most lava fields are interesting enough on their own, the lava formations at Dimmuborgir are especially intriguing. Not only is the area vast, but it’s also home to a plethora of usual shapes, designs, and structures. The piles up dried lava and arches will remind you of the ruins of a castle, and this makes sense. Dimmuborgir actually means “dark forts” or “dark castles” in Icelandic. But that’s not the most interesting part. The volcanic rock itself features dramatic patterns of waves, honeycombs, and diagonal lines. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular natural attractions in Iceland among tourists.

Grjótagjá Cave

If you’ve got time extra time before heading to the geothermal area, be sure to stop by Grjótagjá cave on the way. This is the cave from Game of Thrones where the famous love scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte took place. Keep conservation in mind while visiting, though. There have been talks about shutting the site down due to careless visitors leaving it trashed and ruining it for everyone.

The Grjotagja cave in Iceland is famous from the Game of Thrones love scene between Jon Snow and Ygritte

Hverir Geothermal Area

The Hverir geothermal area is one of the most exciting zones in the Diamond Circle (and Iceland in general). Often described as otherworldly or alien-like, the colorful landscapes here do not disappoint. Punctuated by bubbling pools of mud and hissing steam vents, the barren landscape is definitely unlike few things you’ll find on planet earth. While desolate, these lands are anything but boring. The deep oranges and yellowish goldenrods of the land’s surface juxtaposed with the greyish blue hue of boiling mud pits easily resembles the dry, oxidized, windswept surface of Mars. While most of us will never get the chance to explore Martian territory, this is definitely the next best thing.

Krafla Volcanic Fields and Viti Caldera

Iceland has over 30 active volcano systems and 150 volcanoes. The Krafla volcanic fields are home to both the Krafla volcano and one of the two famous Viti calderas. The warm surface and geothermally heated deep blue water are quintessentially Icelandic. In fact, when walking around the path of this still semi-active area, there are signs telling you to keep moving. It’s not because they don’t want you there. It’s actually because the soles of your shoes might melt if you linger on the geothermal area for too long. You’ll find parking right next to the main area, and it takes about an hour to walk around the rim of the crater.

The Viti caldera in Krafla volcano in Iceland

Other Stops on the Diamond Circle Route:

The Diamond Circle: Highlights of a Land Shaped by Fire

The Dimmuborgir lava formations, Grjótagjá cave, the Hverir geothermal area, the Krafla volcanic fields, and Viti crater are must-sees on the Diamond Circle route. Not only will you experience the geological legacy of the land of Fire and Ice, but you’ll see some natural wonders not found other places on our big beautiful planet. And isn’t that why you’re coming to Iceland in the first place? To see and do things you can’t encounter anywhere else?

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