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Geo-thermal Iceland

Iceland is known as a geothermal powerhouse so visiting some of those otherworldly geological wonders is a must on any visit. Right near the ring road, Námafjall, is a must see attraction.

As we were traversing the wild island that is Iceland, we had been having pretty good weather. Yes, there were drizzles, a few rain showers here and there, but overall the sun would shine, the clouds came out, and we had some beautiful days. The day that we were exploring some of the geo-thermal areas was pretty miserable.

It was one of those days where the gray just takes over and doesn’t let up. The sun couldn’t poke through, there was almost no difference in land and sky; it was all one gray landscape with a black blot of land rising up in the distance. It was, to say the least, a little gloomy. Thanks to the weather, the plumes of steam rising up from the ground at Námafjall Geothermal Area near Lake Mývatn was even more otherworldly than usual.

Námafjall Geothermal Area, Iceland

Sulfur pits and steam billowing from the ground at Námafjall Geothermal Area.

Thanks to all the volcanoes that make up Iceland, we were walking by plenty of sulfuric holes in the fields, with steam escaping in a single line not unlike my teakettle. It was almost comforting to wander and feel the heat coming out of the various holes.

If you look closely at the photos, you’ll notice that everyone is completely covered up from head to toe.  It was the first day that I saw folks sporting hoods, woolen caps, and even gloves. It was almost the Icelandic day that I had been expecting all along; maybe we all were. No one was surprised, and everyone was ready for it.

Visitors walk the paths around the boiling mud pots and sulfur pits.

Paths and small wooden bridges led us around and up, down and through a variety of mud pools, steamy plumes, and a hidden warmth. One farmer explained that no one really had to pay for heat in Iceland, because it all comes from the ground. Some places it’s just a little deeper than others. In fact 87% of all homes get their hot water and heat from the ground, and it provides power and heat to five power stations as well.

A mud-pot at Námafjall bubbles gently away.

It’s not just the government or big business that’s harnessed this natural resource. Plenty of individuals, hotels, spas (Blue Lagoon) have also tapped in and built hot pots or natural hot tubs. It contributes to heating the community pools all over the country, which is one why it is so cheap to camp. However, these are not the mud pools that you want to crawl into and smear the mud all over your body.  No, these were way too hot.  From a few feet away, you wouldn’t feel it, but the closer you got, the hotter it got.

Otherworldly landscape at Námafjall.

A barren, mud-stained ochre-colored landscape, it looks like what I would expect another planet to look like.

The landscape looks a little Martian at Námafjall.

It was so cold, we only braved it for about 40 minutes, but then after this last pile of warmth where even though it doesn’t show it in the photo, there were plenty of chilled visitors clamoring for some heat, we warmed up, shook the drizzled raindrops off our shoulders and went to find the jeep where we could crank up the heat.

A standard example of a fumerole releasing hot steam and gases from deep within the earth.

What would you expect weather-wise if you visited Iceland?  Would these geo-thermal fields warm you up?

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Visitors walk around sulfur pits in Iceland.


Tuesday 25th of November 2014

I don't do well with cold so I would definitely go to the geo thermal fields to warm up.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 26th of November 2014

Rachel, I agree. I like the cold, but that was a bone-chilling, wet cold...too cold for me.

rhonda albom

Tuesday 25th of November 2014

Once again, really cool photos. Every time you write about Iceland, I want to visit, and it moves up on my bucket list, although I will eventually choose summer time to go.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 25th of November 2014

Rhonda, I think you would enjoy it!

Phoebe @ Lou Messugo

Saturday 22nd of November 2014

We had the opposite weather to you Corinne even though we were in Iceland only days apart. In 2 weeks we only had 2 days of sun and we wore hoods, gloves and even rain trousers over our jeans much of the July! The day we went exploring in Krysuvik geothermal area we got soaked through to our underwear!!! But we loved every minute of it.

Corinne Vail

Saturday 22nd of November 2014

Phoebe, Yeah, we loved it, too, but oooohhhhh was it cold!


Friday 21st of November 2014

How crazy that so many of the houses get there heating and hot water from the ground! Wish heat was that cheap and easy here in the UK!

Corinne Vail

Saturday 22nd of November 2014

Catherine, I know! We are kind of addicted to having a warm house in winter, but we pay for it!


Friday 21st of November 2014

Love it :)

Corinne Vail

Friday 21st of November 2014

Thanks Muza-chan!