As such,Note: All images in this article about the Myvatn Nature Baths are from their official Instagram account.
Iceland is well known for it’s cold, freezing temperatures, unforgiving climate, and a wealth of polar flora and fauna. This area, especially the North, is a volcanically and geologically hyperactive region. As such, it is home to a boundless amount of geological features and sites. Among these spectacles are Lake Myvatn, and the Myvatn Nature Baths.
There is only one very small town in the Lake Myvatn area that is Reykjahlíð. It would take you about seven hours to drive from Reykjavík (the capital city of Iceland) to this remote northern village. But if you are debating the viability of a trip, we highly recommend you take in this Mars-like landscape firsthand.
Note 2: We did the Myvatn Nature Baths on Day 4, after a treacherous drive along the full East coast of Iceland and an incredible trek up a mountain to Hengifoss.
About the Myvatn Nature Baths
Lake Myvatn is Iceland’s fourth largest water body, spanning 36.5 square kilometers. The baths are in the middle of a large lagoon, with temperatures ranging between 36 and 40 degrees Celsius (97 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity levels just below 100%.
The Baths were opened in the summer of 2004, and quickly became one of the most popular attractions in the area, and the most well-known alternative to the often tourist-packed Blue Lagoon. The geothermal bath concept found here is borrowed from a hot-spring bathing tradition practiced by locals for hundreds of years.
Note 3: We compare and contrast Myvatn Nature Baths and the Blue Lagoon in our article Myvatn Nature Baths vs The Blue Lagoon: Pros and Cons, one of the most popular on Iceland In 8 Days.
The Power of the Waters
The Myvatn Nature Baths are a world renowned tourist attraction. This is not only because of their magnificent steam bath experience in one of the coldest and most unforgiving areas of the world. It is also because the waters in Myvatn are full of minerals, most particularly sulphur.
Sulphur’s properties are known to be very good for both the skin and respiratory system. Additionally, the natural waters are alkaline, making it ideal for bathing.
The presence of sulphur and other minerals work to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and any vegetation in the water. For this reason, chlorine and other common disinfectants are not necessary.
Tourists from all over the world make their way to Lake Myvatn every summer for the chance to bathe in these hot, healing waters. Within the Nature Baths, you will also find steam baths located on top of churning geothermal waters.
The typical Myvatn Nature Baths experience begins with a rejuvenating dip into clouds of steam from volcanic fissures. They usually end with unforgettable swims in hot water that is naturally pumped up about 2,500 meters.
A Few Notes on the Baths
There are a few things that should be noted about visiting the Myvatn Nature Baths. For one, unlike the Blue Lagoon, there is no way to make a reservation. This cuts down drastically on the crowds, but at the same time makes availability unpredictable.
Also, those who shy away from nudity, beware. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, where you can sequester yourself in a stall or be hidden from others by the dark colors of the locker rooms, the changing rooms at the Baths are bright, open and exposed. Expect to see plenty of nudity, and expect nobody to care about yours.
Creation of the Nature Baths
Lake Myvatn is a volcanic lake, formed as a result of massive volcanic activity about 2,300 years ago. It continues to display geothermal characteristics today. Volcanic lakes are very rare as they require an intricate balance of volcanic heat flux working against atmospheric cooling and evaporation.
The Myvatn Nature Baths are man-made lagoons, supplied by naturally-heated water. The bottom of the lagoon is covered in gravel and sand. This is a repercussion of the nearby geothermal power station warming the underground water.
Water to the lagoons runs from the national power company’s borehole. It is first channeled to a huge basin beside the lagoons. At this point the water has a temperature of 130 degrees Celsius (266 degree Fahrenheit) thus forming a man-made hot spring.
Health Benefits of Myvatn Nature Baths
The Myvatn Nature Bath waters are rich in various minerals, the most prominent being sulphur. This chemical element is present in all living tissues, and is the third most abundant element in the human body after calcium and phosphorous. It also promotes healthy skin, and is an effective element in the management of respiratory problems.
Sulphur for Healthy Skin
Sulphur has proven antibacterial effects against acne-causing bacteria. It is widely used in management of seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, scabies, cold sores, lice and sumac infections. It also helps loosen skin for proper, natural shedding.
Sulphur for Respiratory Disease
Asthma is a fairly common condition in which a person’s airways narrow, swell and produce extra mucous. This triggers coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths (which have high concentrations of sulphates) have muscle relaxing effects. Spending time in these baths helps to relieve symptoms of this and other kinds of respiratory problems.
Hydrotherapy for Arthritis
Research shows that warm water therapy helps reduce symptoms of all kinds of musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia and low back pain.
Soaking in warm water is actually an age-old form of alternative therapy. It gives 360 degree support to inflamed joints, reduces the compressing force of gravity on joints, helps to reduce swelling and improves overall blood circulation.
Other Attractions in the Myvatn Area
Besides the Myvatn Nature Baths, the area is home to numerous other wonders of nature. We cover everything possible in our article Things to Do in and Around Myvatn, Iceland.
Wildlife around Myvatn
Northern Iceland is home to a rare variety of polar wildlife. These include 23 species of aquatic mammals, 7 species of land mammals and 80 species of birds. The area is especially renowned for rare birds including 13 species of ducks.
This is one of few places in the world where you can view the largest animal in the world, the blue whale, along with the grey seal.
The Dettifoss Waterfall
This is a waterfall on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland. It is famed as the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Dettifoss falls drop 44 meters down into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and are 100 meters wide. The average water flow is 193 m³/s.
Its reputation as the most powerful falls on the continent come from a calculation of water flow multiplied by fall distance. Its characteristic greyish white water comes from sediment-rich runoff. Incredibly, this waterfall is one of the top 10 waterfalls in the world (#8), says authority World of Waterfalls.
Grjótagjá Hot Spring Cave
Grjótagjá is a small lava cave near Lake Myvatn. It is famous for its hot springs and surreal otherworldly, scenic beauty. This dreamlike beauty made it the choice for producers of the world famous series Game of Thrones, who shot one of the most iconic scenes of the third season at this location.
Here is our documented experience from the Baths, along with some of the photos we took on our journey:
We went inside and checked in, then received our accessories and changed into our bathing suits, showering off after changing in the open locker room setting. I got confused as to how to exit, and ended up missing the sign to get to the bath area, walking back out into the lobby in my bathing suit. A kind-hearted employee guided me in the right direction.
The baths were a beautiful, deep blue and incredibly warm. The bathing area to the right was slightly cooler than the bath across the bridge, which explained the lack of fellow bathers in this area. The water is blue from sulfur, so expect a strange, egg-like smell to persist. You’ll get used to it eventually. However, make sure you keep your key on your wrist at all times as well, as this is the only way to get back into your locker after you are done!
The view from the baths was stunning, and unlike the Blue Lagoon, these were nature-made, with a rocky bottom. While the baths were relatively busy, there was still ample room to swim about and relax. A sauna provides natural steam soaks as well. But, I lasted about three minutes inside before I thought I was going to stop breathing.
Wrapping Up the Baths
The Myvatn Nature Baths are something that need to truly be experienced. While it is a similar concept to the Blue Lagoon, there are many large factors that make it a very different experience.