Friday, 3 June 2011

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, IcelandPhoto from Völundur Jónsson

Iceland is filled with geographical wonders that are immensely. The wide, open horizons of this indigenous land draw its visitors with a sense of unspoiled freedom. You feel an undying quest to explore the topographical diversity of Iceland the moment you set foot on its soil. Námaskarð pass situated in the north of Lake Myvatn is one of the many such wonders you must visit.

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 01Photo from hkvam

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 02Photo from asmundur

Traversing Mt. Námafjall at an altitude of 410 m, this pass derives its name from the 19th century sulfur recovery. The best way to reach it is by taking up the No. 1 Ring Road that passes between the Mývatn and Egilsstaðir. Alternately, you could also follow the serpentine routes from Reykjahlíð that lies 5 km away. Lake Mývatn, counted as the hottest resorts of Iceland, is a 45 minutes drive away from the nearest town. Once you reach Hinauffährt, you get a commanding view of the entire Mückensee and make out Jarðbaðshólar, the hissing volcanic crater that has the Jarðböðin lagoon behind it.

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 03Photo from marcus5s

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 04Photo from elfis gallery

At the foothills of this spectacular volcanic mountain is an expanse of hot springs called Hverarönd or Hverir that are known for their changing variety. You may also find a number of fumaroles, mud pools and mud pots that all seem to be boiling with relentless energy. The pass Námaskarð is strategically located at a short distance from the Krafla volcano system as well as other interesting geological spots like Búrfellshraun and the desert Mývatsöræfi. While visiting Námaskarð, you must not miss the Heißquellengebiet, lava formations of Dimmuborgir, pseudo craters of Skútustaðir and the historic waterfall Goðafoss by the road.

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 05Photo from bishop72

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 06Photo from **ANNE

However, Námaskarð earns its notoriety chiefly because of its sulphurous mud springs called solfataras and steam springs called fumaroles. Though you will scarcely find any pure water spring in this wonderful geothermal site of Iceland, the beauty of the colorful minerals defies all comparisons. The gigantic size of the mud craters is what makes you go ‘wow’ at the sight of them. You get parking, accommodation and dining facilities at Grýtubakki.

The other thing that is sure to strike you about Námaskarð is the sheer lack of vegetation. However, if you give a thought to the high temperature range, it does not appear an impossibility altogether. The constant emission of the fumes has made the ground utterly sterile and acidic, unfit to sustain any floras and faunas. You must bear in mind that the fumes can be harmful for humans as well.

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 07 Photo from oskarpall

Hence, better not forget to cover your nose or wear a mask while enjoying the hues of mineral deposits. You also must be careful about where you walk. Do not try to get over adventurous and cross the ropes that surround the pools. The ground beyond might crumble any moment and accidents do occur every now and then due to the erosive nature of the mud springs. There are no guards or guides to keep you off from the impending danger and so you must look after yourself.

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 08 Photo from hkvam

Gateway To Hell – Námaskarð, Iceland 09Photo from skarpi

It needs a visit to Námaskarð and Lake Mývatn to dispel the myth of icy coldness that people tend to associate with Iceland. In fact, Mývatn ranks fourth among the largest lakes of Iceland and remains the favorite haunt of various species of birds. The efflorescence of the sulphuric gases and hydrogen sulphide lets loose a riot of colors to flood the neighboring rhyolite rocks of this region. The view of the magnificent Lake Mývatn coupled with the turbulent bubbling and overhanging fog gives you a feeling that you have arrived at some extraterrestrial land or is it the gateway to hell!

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