Hverarönd is a couple of kilometres south of Reykjahlíð, just east of Mývatn, and is absolutely outstanding. It is entirely otherworldly. It’s like the set of a sci-fi movie, and probably has been at some point. It’s a collection of geological geothermal features; a freak show of nature. It’s set on the most gorgeous plain, with snow-streaked mountains at each perspective, and a unique pastel-peach-orange-coloured soil that looks like it’s been smudged together by an over-enthusiastic art student.
There are wooden footpaths to save you from getting boiled to death in the natural hot pots, but there is no escape from the billowing plumes of sulphur. Signs advise visitors not to stray from pathways, or to stand in the caustic sulphur plumes, but the smell of sulphur is intense. It smells like eggs, and not in a good way. A good lungful would make the strongest person gag, for sure. Whereas near Geysir in the south-west there are hot pots of water, at Hverarönd there are mud pots. They look like a mistake in the Dulux paint factory; thick, gloopy emulsion bubbles and spits in the most alarming manner. Some are several metres across, complete with caked mud sides that have cracked like porcelain in their own heat. Then there are fumaroles, which look like pyramid stacks of rocks that have pushed up from the earth and are continuing to push and heave. They are the source of the sulphur; they hiss and scream angry shoots of white sulphuric steam. Between the mud pots and fumaroles are streams and vents, all red hot, all belching and bubbling. The colours are exquisite. The white-out of the steam clears to show the orange scenery: there are yellows and whites on the ground, the fumaroles are streaked with red and greens, and the mud points range from grey to blue. They are familiar colours, but in the wrong places, like the printer had malfunctioned. It’s weirdly, weirdly beautiful. It’s exactly the sort of strange yet compelling landscape that drives me to visit Iceland. Scenery like that can’t be found anywhere else, except my dreams.
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