Pseudocrater Isle

These gigantic craters in the earth near Lake Mývatn in Iceland weren’t formed by asteroids crashing to earth in some cosmic game of ping-pong. And they’re not craters left by an exploding volcano either — although they look just like ancient volcanoes that blew their tops.

They are volcanic in origin, though. They’re called pseudocraters, and they were created when lava flowed over the wet swampy ground here a long time ago. Water beneath the ground heated up from the incredibly hot temperature of the lava; pockets of steam burst up from below, and these craters were formed.


The Mývatn Wetlands


In the summer, when these photos were taken, the area around Lake Mývatn is covered with a delicate system of fragile wetland plants. This is a protected environment, so you can only tour the pseudocraters and surrounds via special pathways.

During the long Icelandic winters, though, all bets are off and you’re free to climb the frozen hills and explore as much as you want. After a day romping through the ice and snow, warm up and relax in one of the area’s many geothermal springs — the Mývatn Nature Baths are probably the most popular.


Going behind the wall

Pseudocrater & Homestead

Cover this mysterious landscape with a blanket of ice and snow, and it might start to look familiar — that is, if you’re a fan of the TV series “Game of Thrones.” Part of the show’s third season was filmed here.

Perhaps as a result of this recent world exposure to the stark beauty of Iceland in the winter, it’s quickly becoming popular with intrepid travelers. And the whole area around Mývatn is pretty spectacular. It’s full of geysers, waterfalls, hot springs, amazing lava rock formations, and of course, the dramatic pseudocraters. As a bonus, this is one of the best spots in the world for viewing the Northern Lights.

Photos: Chris Zielecki via Flickr