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July 22, 2013 / Jim Fenton

Iceland Day 8: Ice Cave and Warm Baths

July 8, 2013

Today was the mid-trip day where we stayed in the same hotel, the Húsavik Cape Hotel,  for two nights, so we got laundry done (the hotel sent it out for us). The itinerary for today featured a trip to an ice cave near Lake Mývatn.  We were advised to dress warmly.

Entrance to the ice cave

Entrance to the ice cave

Mývatn translates as “midge lake”, and midges — annoying insects not unlike mosquitoes — were there in clouds. Accordingly, we waited inside at the information center in the town of Reykjahlíð for as long as possible to avoid the bugs. Anton, our guide from Saga Travel, met us in a 4 wheel-drive van with extra large tires, whose function would be evident shortly. We were fitted for studded boots, and set out for the cave. We soon went off the paved road onto a secondary road that got worse and worse. It became an incredibly bumpy ride; we were thrown all over the place, held in place only by our seat belts. After about 45 minutes of this we stopped, gathered our things (and endured more midge attacks), and did a 20 minute hike across a lava field to the entrance of the cave. We climbed down a ladder and changed into our studded boots.

Ice stalagmites

Ice stalagmites

The cave opening is protected by a locked door to protect the delicate environment inside. We slid through a small opening to access the main chamber, which had many stalactites and stalagmites formed very slowly from dripping water; the cave stays at exactly the freezing point. The cave floor was solid ice, about 10 meters thick. There were a number of unusual and beautiful ice formations. One of these called “the chandelier” particularly impressed me: it was a section where there were hundreds of tiny droplet icicles hanging from the ceiling. I didn’t think that surface tension would allow water to do that.

The Chandelier

The Chandelier

After our return hike and another bumpy ride back, we went to the nearby Nature Baths for lunch followed by our first experience with Iceland’s many public paths. Like the famous Blue Lagoon near Reykjavík, these baths draw from the output of a geothermal power plant. Locker room facilities were very nice. The water is an eerie bluish-white at about 97 degrees, and it has a very slippery feel. We spent about a half hour in the bath, then continued south along Lake Mývatn.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Mývatn Nature Baths

We stopped at a nearby park called Dimmuborgir, and took a short hike to some lava tubes that were fun to climb around. Then, ready for dinner, we went to the nearby Vogafjós Cafe, which was recommended by Anton. It’s a local cooperative of several farms and serves mostly locally-produced food. It had both excellent food and authentic farm surroundings.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Iceland. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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