Ok — of Midges, actually.
Right. We’ll be the first to admit that the name isn’t very appealing, but then again, back when our Viking ancestors were still roaming the land, having those ridiculous feuds and thinking up names for places, they probably weren’t too concerned about how they would play in tourist brochures a thousand years later.
Still, the Lake of Midges — or Mývatn, as we call it — is an amazing place to visit and an absolute must if you’re going up north. It’s only about an hour’s drive from Akureyri, the official capital of northern Iceland, and you pass it on the way to Húsavík, the self–proclaimed whale–watching capital of Iceland.
While we won’t pretend that those pesky midges aren’t a problem, they are only there for a few days in the summer. By now you should be okay. But if they do find you, just remember that they are the base of the food chain up there. Chris Martin would approve.
Once you’re there, keep in mind that the name Mývatn is not only used for the lake itself, but also for the entire surrounding area, officially called “The Mývatn-Laxá Nature Conservation Area”. And that’s no joke — it’s so rigorously conserved that you’re not even allowed to take a small pebble home with you. (Though we wonder what will happen if you do. Will they dispatch the pebble police?)
The area around Lake Mývatn is kind of like a greatest hits collection of Icelandic nature. There are all sorts of geological wonders, such as pseudo-craters and bubbling clay, and enough birdlife to drive the pensioners of England into a frenzy of excitement.
A few years ago, the Mývatnssveit Association of Bathing — no, not an arty band, but an association of respectable farmers who just really, really enjoy bathing — rigged up something similar to the Blue Lagoon, except with not nearly as many tourists having what they believe to be discreet sex. Still, it’s well worth a stop, if you ask us.
For the people living around the lake, all that geothermal stuff is as much a part of everyday life as watching Desperate Housewives. Guðný of Reynihlíð, for example, bakes pretty great rye bread, burying dough in the warm ground and leaving it there for 24 hours. Then she tops it with smoked trout from the lake, prepared by her husband’s nephew, Héðinn of Strönd. (And by the way, these are actual people, not actors.) You can find their products in Gamli bærinn, a tavern by the lake, near Hótel Reynihlíð. The taste is great, and it really channels the surroundings; the lake, geothermal heat (yawn) and what my colleague who posted that Amiina video would probably call ‘man’s harmony with nature’.