Fourth Sunniest Reykjavík Winter in Recorded History

Reykjavík at dawn

This winter was the fourth sunniest one in the history of Reykjavík since recording began. Only 1947, 1966 and last winter were sunnier, Vísir reports.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office recorded 313.5 sunny hours this winter, which is 106.5 hours above average. March was particularly sunny in Reykjavík, with 68.2 hours of sun more than the average of 1991 to 2020. Akureyri was also sunnier than usual, with 134 hours of sun, 15.4 hours above the average.

Nicer March than usual

The Meteorological Office also reported that March 2024 was sunnier, drier and warmer than usual. In the northwest, however, the weather was colder with more precipitation. Heavy snow in the north and east at the end of March, in addition to windy conditions, caused traffic issues and a number of avalanches to boot.

The average temperature in Reykjavík was 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is half a degree warmer than the average over the last few decades. In Akureyri, the average temperature was negative 0.3 degrees Celsius, lower than average. The warmest conditions were to be found in the south and southwest of Iceland, with the north and northwest colder.

Hottest day in Húsafell

The highest temperature measured was 12.4 degrees Celsius in Húsafell, inland from Borgarfjörður in the west of Iceland. The lowest temperature was negative 22.3 degrees Celsius in Mývatn and by Setur to the south of Hofsjökull glacier.

Iceland’s Diamond Circle: A Guide

Húsavík in Northern Iceland

What is the Diamond Circle in Iceland?

The Diamond Circle showcases some of northern Iceland’s magnificent waterfalls, geothermal, and volcanic sites. It consists of Goðafoss waterfall, Mývatn lake, Dettifoss waterfall, Ásbyrgi canyon, and Húsavík fishing town. The Diamond Circle itself can be completed in a day, as the driving distance with Akureyri as a starting point is about 224 km [139 mi]. The total time will vary based on the time spent at each site. Guided excursions and tours are available, but you can also choose to explore The Diamond Circle independently, at your own pace. The roads connecting the Diamond Circle are paved.

We will start in Akureyri, the third-largest city in Iceland, with a population of 20,000. The 390 km drive to Akureyri from the capital area is quite simple, as you drive on the same road the whole way- Route 1 or the “Ring Road” as it’s often called.

Goðafoss Waterfall

From Akureyri, you will continue on Route 1 for about 34 km [21 mi] before turning right towards Goðafoss.

On the sightseeing platform, you can take in the panoramic view of this 12 m [39 ft] high, 30 m [98 ft] wide waterfall that runs from the glacial river Skjálfandafljót. Goðafoss waterfall is a historic site in Iceland. In the year 1,000, Þorgeir Þorkellsson, the lawmaker of Iceland, had concluded that Iceland should become a Christian country. Believing in the Norse gods was still allowed, but that religion had to be practised in one’s home. He is said to have gone to Goðafoss waterfall (translated as “Waterfall of the Gods”) and thrown his heathen idols into the water.

Goðafoss Waterfall, Iceland
Photo: Golli. Goðafoss Waterfall in Iceland.

The geothermal area of Mývatn Lake

Return to Route 1, turning right to keep driving towards Mývatn lake. 30 km [22 mi], turn left to stay on Route 1, following the Húsavík/Egilsstaðir/Fuglasafn sign. Shortly, you will see the lake and can pick a stop of your choosing along the route- there will be several.

Mývatn lake was formed about 2,300 years ago due to a volcanic eruption. With an area of approximately 73 km2 [28 mi2], it’s the fourth-largest lake in Iceland. Mývatn lake is known for its rich birdlife and its surrounding geothermal area, including hot springs and mud pots.

You may want to experience the Mývatn Nature Baths for a relaxing stop. To get to the baths, stay on Route 1. Following the sign for Egilsstaðir, turn left to continue on Route 1. Follow the signs for Jarðböðin við Mývatn (Mývatn Nature Baths) and enjoy the beauty of this geothermal lagoon. This area also has a cafe where you can stop by for a snack.

Dettifoss Waterfall

From the baths, turn right to continue on Route 1 for 23 km [14 mi]. Then, turn left towards Dettifoss on Route 862 and follow the signs for Dettifoss. You will arrive at a parking lot. From the lot, there will be about an 850 m [0.52 mi] walk to the viewpoint. Dettifoss waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, with a flow rate of 193 m3 [6,815 ft3]. Dettifoss is located in Vatnajökull National Park, and its water runs from the glacial river “Jökulsá á fjöllum” directly from Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The waterfall is 44-45 m [144-147 ft] high and 100 m [328 ft] wide.

Ásbyrgi Canyon in North Iceland

Return to Dettifossvegur (Route 862) and turn right. When you approach the intersection of Route 862 and Route 85, turn right. Shortly, there will be a sign for Ásbyrgi canyon.

Ásbyrgi is a glacial canyon in the shape of a horseshoe. Like Dettifoss waterfall, it’s a part of Vatnajökull National Park. Ásbyrgi was formed due to a glacial flood from Jökulsár á fjöllum river during a volcanic eruption in Grímsvötn volcano. Ásbyrgi is about 3.5 km [2.2 mi] long and 1.1 km [0.7 mi] wide. In the middle stands a large 25 m [82 ft] high rock formation called Eyjan (The Island), emphasising the canyon’s horseshoe shape. Its surrounding cliffs are about 100 m [328ft] high. You can choose from several hiking trails with stunning panoramic views along the way.

Húsavík: Whale Watching Capital of Iceland

To get to Húsavík from Ásbyrgi, drive back towards Route 85 and make a left. The drive is 62 km [38 mi] long.
Húsavík is a small fishing town in Skjálfandi bay, with a population of about 2,300. It is home to The Exploration Museum, The Whale Museum and Húsavík Museum. The Húsavík Museum is a cultural centre displaying the historic exhibitions “Daily Life and Nature-100 years in Þingeyjarsýslur” as well as the “Maritime Museum”. This picturesque town is a prime whale-watching destination, offering tours to see some of the 23 species of whales. Húsavík has several restaurants and cafes with a beautiful view of the harbour.

Akureyrarkirkja Church, Akureyri Iceland
Photo: Akureyrarkirkja Church, Iceland.

Back to Akureyri

To return to Akureyri, drive south on Route 85 for 45 km [28 mi] until you hit Route 1. Make a right and continue for 30 km [19 mi] following the signs for Akureyri.

From the trembling power of Dettifoss waterfall to the tranquillity of Mývatn lake, the Diamond Circle is a great route to experience the distinct beauty of northern Iceland. It unveils the region‘s geological wonders of volcanic and geothermal areas, waterfalls, and cultural sites, making the trip an exciting adventure for any explorer.

 

Newly Discovered Cave in North Iceland Closed

mývatn cave iceland

A newly discovered cave near Mývatn, a lake in North Iceland, has been closed by the Environment Agency of Iceland. The closure comes into effect today, March 14, and will be in effect for two weeks.

The Environment Agency recently received a tip on the discovery when a construction crew was laying the foundations for a new building near Mývatn. When the roof of the cave opened up, it revealed unique and fragile mineral formations associated with the geothermal area.

mývatn cave iceland
Umhverfisstofnun

Experts at the Environment Agency undertook several trips into the cave and determined that, prior to its accidental opening, it was likely filled with hot, geothermal air. These special conditions gave rise to the unique formations that can be seen in the picture above. Some of these formations stretch for several square metres on the floor of the cave.

In light of the unique nature of the cave, the decision was made to close it while further decisions can be reviewed. During this time, further investigative trips into the cave will be permitted to relevant researchers and staff, but it will be closed to the public.

Initial reports indicate that navigating the cave without disturbing the many mineral formations there is difficult.

Currently, efforts are underway to map and digitally scan the cave, while also marking out a footpath that is minimally destructive.

 

 

 

Collapse of Midge Population Impacts Mývatn Birdlife

The ubiquitous midge is almost completely absent from Mývatn, the pointedly named ‘Midge Lake,’ this year. But while many people might celebrate the scarcity of the thick clouds of blackflies that generally characterize the region, RÚV reports that the population collapse, which happens on a cycle of six to nine years, will have a long-lasting impact on local birdlife.

In a normal season, there are as many as 100,000 hatchlings around Mývatn, says Árni Einarsson, director of the Mývatn Research Station. But this year, there are just under 1,000.

Mývatn, photographed by Bernello, CC 3.0

Midges are a vital food source for birds around the lake, but there are almost none now, Árni reports. As a direct result, “we’re not seeing any chicks on the lake,” he explained. “There are 20,000 pairs of ducks, but very few are raising any young. They’ve largely neglected their nests and stopped laying. Have abandoned their eggs, left them behind in the nests. And so those chicks that do hatch only live a few days.”

Árni estimates that the midge population has decreased by ten thousandfold this year. The drastic drop in midges can be attributed to fluctuations in Mývatn wherein midges devour all their food sources at the bottom of the lake. “The food on the lake bed runs out and then the midge population collapses and then the fish come and finish off whatever remains of them […] and there are no midges left.”

Árni says this happens every seven to nine years—it’s now been about eight since the last time the midge population collapsed. As a result, the bird population will be much smaller for the next two to three years. “This makes a dent in the stock,” he concluded. “It doesn’t renew itself.”

Coldest Night This Winter and Frosty Conditions Ahead

The coldest temperature of the winter thus far, -21°C [-5.8°F], was measured near Mývatn lake in North Iceland on Friday night, RÚV reports, and meteorologists say that the cold snap will continue, with temperatures between -2 and -15°C [28-5°F] on Saturday.

Temperatures will continue to be coldest in inland areas in the Northeast of the country, although otherwise, weather conditions are expected to be mild and good for outdoor activities.

The window for winter fun will be brief, however, as in much of the rest of the country, there is a yellow alert in effect for wind on Sunday. Gale or severe gale-force winds of up to 15-23 m/s [49-75 f/s] in the capital area and similar conditions are expected in South Iceland, Southwest Iceland, Northwest Iceland, the Westfjords, Northwest Iceland, and the (uninhabited) central highlands. Sleet or rain is expected in low-lying areas on Sunday afternoon.

Roads are open throughout the country, but ice can be expected in most places, as can occasional snow cover on roadways.

 

Closures Extended at Three Popular Sites Near Mývatn

The Minister for the Environment has approved a request issued by the Environment Agency of Iceland to extend closures at three popular natural attractions in the Mývatn region in North Iceland, Vísir reports. Access to Hverir geothermal area, Leirhnjúkur mountain, and Stóra-Víti crater will remain restricted until November.

The Environment Agency restricted foot traffic to these three sites on August 2 while their condition was assessed. During the initial closure, the Environment Agency also began work on elevated foot paths to facilitate future access to these areas without causing more damage to them. Two weeks since the initial closure, however, all three areas are still extremely wet and muddy, making it necessary to extend foot traffic restrictions while the ground recovers.

[media-credit name=”Umhverfisstofnun, Facebook” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

The restriction of foot traffic to natural areas of interest is permitted under law 60/2013 on nature conservation, which allows for traffic to be limited or prevented entirely when an area is at risk of damage.

“If there is a significant risk of damage due to heavy traffic or because of the particularly sensitive condition of a natural area, the Environment Agency of Iceland may limit traffic or temporarily close the area in question to travelers on the recommendation of stake-holding municipalities, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, landowners, or on its own initiative,” reads the law. Closure or traffic restriction decisions are made in consultation with representatives of the tourism industry, as well as the aforementioned stakeholders, and can be extended with the approval of the Minister for the Environment.

Scientists Propose New Theory Of How Marimo is Formed

Scientists researching the ecosystem of Lake Mývatn in North Iceland may have finally answered the longstanding question of how Icelandic marimo, or lake balls—are formed, RÚV reports.

Marimo are perfectly round spheres measuring 10 – 15 cm across and are, as National Geographic explains, composed of an algae species that is actually quite widespread in the Northern hemisphere: Aegagropila linnaei. But the spherical form of this algae is extremely rare and only found in a few places: Lake Akan in Japan, Lake Svityaz in Ukraine, and Lake Mývatn in Iceland.

Although Mývatn’s marimo were designated a protected species in Iceland in 2006, they almost entirely disappeared from the lake in 2013. It’s thought that an excess of cyanobacteria in the lake contributed to the marimo’s decline: photosynthetic cyanobacteria obscure the surface of the water and prevent sunlight from reaching the lakebed where marimo are formed. According to Árni Einarsson, the director of the Nature Research Institute at Mývatn (Ramý), cyanobacteria are a natural part of the Mývatn ecosystem, but pollution in the lake caused an unnatural increase that then had a trickle-down effect on species like marimo.

Despite their decline, however, a small number of Mývatn’s marimo have endured. For reasons that scientists cannot entirely explain, there is less cyanobacteria in the lake this summer and the water is unusually clear—clearer, in fact, than it has been since the 80s. As such, researchers have spent the season investigating, among other things, the necessary conditions for marimo formation. This has been something of a mystery up until now.

Árni says that the scientists now think that marimo can only form in shallow and rather turbulent water. They think they begin to grow on rocks and crags on the shallow bottom of the lake, like moss. Then, as they get larger, they are ripped from their perches by waves and agitation and sent rolling freely through the water. It’s still unknown if this explanation can be applied to the large marimo that once proliferated on the Mývatn lakebed, but it is currently the scientists’ best hypothesis.

Efforts have been made to reduce the amount of cyanobacteria in the lake and hopefully, this will mean that less of it will obscure the surface of the lake in the future.

Locals Repair Off-Roading Damage by Mývatn

Extensive damage left by a tourist’s off-road driving in North Iceland was repaired yesterday by the members of a local 4×4 association. Volunteers from Ferðaklúbburinn 4×4’s Eyjafjörður division repaired the deep tyre tracks left near Mývatn, North Iceland by a Russian Instagram influencer who bragged about the incident.

The repairs were carried out in collaboration with the landowners, who were very grateful to the club members for their help. They showed their thanks by treating the volunteers to a trip to Mývatn Nature Baths. “It’s safe to say that everyone was left satisfied after this job well done,” says a notice on the club’s online forum.

Russian Instagram influencer Alexander Tikhomirov sparked outrage among local and foreign nature-lovers when he posted pictures of himself on social media three days ago, posing and smiling at the scene of the crime with the caption “Congratulations, today I got a big fine.” Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland, as the sub-arctic landscape is fragile and takes decades to recover from damage. Tikhomirov paid an ISK 450,000 ($3,600/€3,200) fine for the incident.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByOMk7FIigg/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Brags About Off-Road Driving on Instagram

“Congratulations, today I got a big fine,” reads the caption of Alexander Tikhomirov’s Instagram post showing his jeep stuck in the clay in North Iceland. The Russian man shared pictures of himself posing and smiling in front of the vehicle after he was fined for illegal off-road driving near Mývatn. Mbl.is reported first.

Icelanders have expressed outrage at Tikhomirov’s apparent lack of respect for Iceland’s fragile nature as well as its laws. “Please never return to Iceland,” one comment on the post reads. Another user writes: “This is incredibly disrespectful, after you got fined by the police for banned offroad driving you pose by the rental car at the scene. Shame on you.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByOMk7FIigg/?utm_source=ig_embed

Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland, as the sub-arctic landscape is easily damaged and takes decades to recover. Witnesses who saw the incident take place yesterday notified Northeast Iceland Police. Officers completed an investigation before Tikhomirov’s vehicle was towed out of the soft clay-rich soil where it had gotten stuck. Tikhomirov paid an ISK 450,000 ($3,600/€3,200) fine for the incident this morning in Akureyri.

The Instagram personality seems to have little understanding of locals’ reactions. He shared some comments criticising him in an Instagram story yesterday, writing “why you guys so angry.” Tikhomorov’s account, which shares photos of travel destinations and scantily-clad women, has over 300,000 followers.