The heavy volcanic activity in the region surrounding Lake Myvatn over the last few thousand years accounts for extraordinary and sometimes eerily beautiful land formations and geology. Dimmuborgir, on the east side of the lake, are a badlands of lava pillars, caves, rugged crags and towering rocks. Some of the rocks reach 20 meters (65 ft) in height, forming almost unearthly and alien castles and towers.

Dimmuborgir, which loosely translated means ‘dark castles,’ are thought to have been created about 2,300 years ago in the violent throes of an extensive volcanic eruption.

There are three different routes marked for walking in the labyrinth of ethereal lava formations. The formations provide shelter for unexpectedly rich vegetation during summer. The hiking routes are all relatively easy and the longest one only takes a few hours to complete. Each will offer a fantasic view of the strange natural phenomenom that Dimmuborgir is. They also offer plenty of great photo opportunities. Make sure you don’t forget your camera in the car.

During winter the caves provide temporary shelter for the Yule Lads who make them their home around Christmas time.

Dimmuborgir in culture

In Icelandic folklore, Dimmuborgir is said to connect earth with the infernal regions. In Nordic Christian lore Dimmuborgir is believed to be the place where Satan landed when he was cast out of the heavens. There he created the catacombs of hell.

Perhaps many metal fans recognize the name, since a popular Norwegian black metal band has the same name.

Check out our complete guide to travelling in North Iceland.