Dimmuborgir ("Dark Castles" in Icelandic) is the giant lava field in northeast Iceland. Surrounded by steaming geothermal landscapes and rich history, this natural lava sculpture park will make your jaw drop. Photograph eerie pillars and crags created about 2000 years ago. Visit Dimmuborgir as you explore the east side of Lake Myvatn.
Dimmuborgir is a jagged lava field east of the Mývatn area packed with sky-high rock pillars and lava caves. The dramatic expanse formed in a volcanic eruption 2300 years ago. Today it stands still creating an opportunity for moss and other durable vegetation to flourish. Some of the caves in the area are large enough to fit several humans which is where the name comes from, Tiny Dark Castles. The area is located right off the famous Ring Road so it is an easy stop to add to your adventure in Iceland.
Dimmuborgir is truly an enchanting place with endless different ways to go about exploring it. The area is somewhat round with about a 2 km radius. It's tallest at the center where the rock formations rise up 20 m above the surrounding terrain. The rough landscape and unusual lava pillars and compositions set the scene for some magical moments for those who visit and a stop is greatly advised while exploring the North of Iceland.
There is a great deal of Icelandic folklore that surrounds Dimmuborgir and some even say that the Icelandic Yule Lads (the Icelandic Santa Clauses, 13 in total) live in the area. In Nordic folklore, you can find tales of the dark lord in the area but this is believed to be the place where Satan landed when he was cast from heaven turning it into the catacombs of hell. This might have to do with the dark array of colors of the place.
About 2,300 years ago an eruption began in the Þrenglsborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater rows. That is the biggest eruption known to have occurred in the Mývatn area since the last ice age.
The volcanic ravine was 12 km (7,45 mi) long and had an even longer side crack which was about 5 km (3,2 mi) west. All together the open ravine in the ground that the eruption came from was 16,5 km (10,2 mi).
When the lava flowed down from the ravine it started reaching over a pre-existing lake that sat in the area. When this happened, the water and the wet terrain around it started to boil. This collision of extremes caused vapor to rise through the lava which formed lava pillars. As the lava continued to flow a part of the top crust collapsed but the area of Dimmuborgir remained partially intact. This is why the area you can visit today has so many different levels.
Dimmuborgir is distinguished by large yet hollow lava chambers that formed around the bubbles of the vapor and the towering rock pillars. These rock formations combined make up the most enchanting scene. Some lava pillars are only the height of a foot but others seek many meters into the sky.
The lava field that formed was named Laxárhraun yngra or Salmon River Lava Field the Younger and was believed to cover about 220 sq km. This is the same lava that forms the bottom of Lake Myvatn. The field is covered with pseudocraters which are found all around Dimmuborgir and Myvatn down to Aðaldalur Valley.
GPS Coordinates: 65° 35′ 25″ N, 16° 53′ 58″ W
Dimmuborgir is located right under the black sand mountain Hverfjall within the powerful Mývatn geothermal area. The distance from Egilsstaðir is about 170 km (105,6 mi), from Akureyri about 82,3 km (51,1 mi) and from Reykjavík 470 km (292 mi).
Dimmuborgir can easily be reached, especially in summer. You can join a multi-day tour around Iceland or you can simply get your own rental car and drive there yourself.
Driving from Reykjavik to Dimmuborgir will take about 6 hours but is not recommend to do in one go. There is simply far too much to see. Drive out from the city heading north following Route 1. Through the Hvalfjarðargögn tunnel and into the birch region of Borgarfjörður. Continue up and down heaths and into Húnavatnssýsla, the region famous for being a seal colony. Next up is the capital of the Icelandic Horse, Skagafjörður. Continue further east on the Ring Road. Drive into Akureyri, the capital of the North, and onwards towards Mývatn. Soon you will start to see the moon-like terrain and you are there!
Driving from Akureyri to Dimmuborgir will only take a little over an hour and is certainly a recommended stop while staying at Akureyri.
Dimmuborgir Guesthouses, B&Bs, and Farmstays
There are two different camping grounds near Dimmuborgir: Hlíð and Bjarg.
Hlíð camping ground is located on the north side of lake Mývatn, right by the village of Reykjahlid and only 5 minutes walk away from the tourist information center.
Open: All Year Round
Price: Adult (16+) per night 2000 ISK
Services on site:
Bjarg camping ground is smaller but has a stunning view over the lake and all the basic services you might need.
Open: 1st of May to the 20th of September
Price: Adult (16+) per night 2000 ISK
Services on site:
The world-renowned TV series has been filmed all around Iceland but a memorable scene of the HBO series was filmed in Dimmuborgir. This is the scene where Mance Rayder’s wildlings army camp was built in season three, episode 5: ‘Kissed by Fire’ and where Ygritte stole John’s sword and lures him into a hidden cave.
The team had to take on extreme circumstances while filming as temperatures went down to about -11°C so if you are planning on visiting in winter bring warm clothes!
Dimmuborgir is an extraordinary place to visit in winter, and for all you GOT fans, it's the perfect time to experience the area in the same way as in the show. But keep in mind that it can be quite challenging getting there. The roads can get slippery, and so do the trails and rocks, so be extra careful and mindful of the road conditions.