Námafjall or Mars: an exoplanetary experience in Iceland

Double, double toil and trouble;
Acid burn and mud will bubble.
Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp
From the gray desolation of the highlands to the grandiose beauty of the fjords, much of Iceland makes you feel like you're in an alternate reality on a distant planet. Perhaps the most bizarrely different place that we visited during our Ring Road Trip was Námafjall, a site that we hadn't heard of before driving around the country.

Námafjall is about an hour and a half away from Akureyri, the largest city in the northern region of Iceland. We drove through incredibly thick fog that day, which luckily had mostly cleared up by the time we reached this area. 

Surrounded by a landscape of iron-rich, red dirt are the solfataras (sulfurous mud springs) and fumaroles (steam springs) that make this spot so unique. The smell of rotten eggs fills the air, so it's probably not the best spot for a picnic, but it's an interesting place for a short walk and an impromptu photo shoot.

According to Visit North Iceland, the desolate lack of vegetation at Námafjall is caused by the heat of the geothermal activity combined with the acid in the steam and mud.

The site was brought to our attention because we saw the looped square symbol on a road sign, which is used in Iceland to point out places of interest. These signs can be seen in great frequency throughout the country, so we didn't stop at all of them, but we were certainly glad to have stopped here.

A fumarole (steam spring) at Námafjall.
Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp

Mud boils in a solatara (mud spring) at Námafjall.
Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp

A shot of a beautifully colored spot on the ground
at Námafjall.
Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp

The informational sign at Námafjall shows the looped
square symbol, which denotes places of interest
throughout Iceland.
Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp


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