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Grjótagjá is a small cave with a thermal pool of water in the middle of the Dimmuborgir lava fields on the outskirts of Lake Mývatn in the northeast of Iceland.

Diamond Circle

Staying in Akureyri or Húsavík, two of the biggest towns in the northeast, it is possible to take the Diamond Circle to reach Grjótagjá. The Diamond Circle is a circuit stretching over 250 km which runs through some of the most magnificent sights in this part of Iceland. The magnificent Goðafoss and Dettifoss waterfalls, the awe-inspiring Ásbyrgi canyon, and of course the volcanically alive area of Lake Mývatn and its surroundings.


When visiting Mývatn, it is well worth allocating a bit of extra time to explore the surroundings. Being part of the volcanically active zone of the nearby Krafla caldera volcano makes for quite an adventurous landscape.

The eastern side of the lake is covered in vast lava fields known as Dimmuborgir (Dark Cities or Citadels), so named for their appearance, reminiscent of the ruins of some ancient castle or city. Within these Dimmuborgir lava fields are many hidden nooks and crannies, Grjótagjá notable amongst them, but many unnamed and hidden caves as well.

Most of them share the characteristic thermal pools within, with the water emanating from underground channels linked to the massive Mývatn lake nearby and the thermal energy provided by the temporarily dormant volcano, Krafla.


Once entering Dimmuborgir, there are several snaking walking paths, one of which leads to Grjótagjá cave. The walk requires a bit of effort, as the path to the entrance is quite rocky.

Visitors are warned, however, not to enter the pool within the cave under any circumstances. Not only is the cave private property, whose owners have forbidden any dipping in the water, but the water can also reach dangerously high temperatures. That is due to the volcanic activity of the nearby Krafla volcano, whose nine eruptions between the years 1975 to 1984 have raised the water’s temperature significantly.

Meanwhile, fissures have opened underneath the pool which can make the temperature highly unstable. Visitors are welcome to take pictures of the beautiful cave but risking their life and wellbeing by attempting to bathe in the pool is strongly discouraged.

The history of Grjótagjá

The history of Grjótagjá is first noted in the 18th Century as a famous hideout of the infamous outlaw Jón Markússon who took refuge in the cave in between terrorizing the area. After his death, the cave became a much-loved spot for locals to visit and bathe in, which was common practice in the surrounding countryside until the mid-1970s, when the volcanic activity made it unsafe.

Game of Thrones

Nevertheless, the cave remains a popular place to visit and explore, famously featured as the backdrop in a steamy love scene in Game of Thrones, between Jon Snow and the wildling Ygritte. There is always something otherworldly about caves, and Grjótagjá is no exception. Just remember to watch your step and avoid the near-boiling water inside while enjoying the atmosphere and the beauty of its depths.