Walking on Mars: Discovering Iceland's Hverir Geothermal Field

It really felt like I was on another planet...

Have you ever felt like you've walked into another world? That the place you had discovered was so beautiful it seemed almost...other worldly? That's how I felt when I discovered the Hverir Geothermal Field in Iceland. 


Everyone at work made fun of me for traveling to Iceland in the winter. Everyone thought I'd freeze to death and have an awful time of it...but boy were they wrong. Around day 6 of my two week trek through the country, I heard of a hot springs in North Iceland that I should check out about an hour and a half from where I was staying. So I got up really early in the morning, threw on my boots, jacket, beanie and grabbed my camera before heading out to find it. Two hours later...I made it, but I was stupid enough to not bring a swim suit. There is only four hours of daylight in Iceland in the winter, and I was cursing myself for wasting half of it. I shrugged it off and decided to keep on driving to see if there was anything further up the road, and that's when I stumbled on Hverir. 

At first I was skeptical. There are so many places in Iceland that claim to have something amazing that just turn out to be something you could see just as easily from the highway, but for whatever reason, I pulled into the parking lot in Hverir. I could see the steam rising up from the ground a long ways off and was curious if I had found another hot spring, but what I found was even better. Hverir is a rare geothermal field that contains pools of boiling mud pits and steam fumaroles that are over 100 degrees Celsius. The walkway around these mud pits contains bridges and small planks of wood to keep from sinking deep into the muck. Hverir is extremely close to the volcano Kraft where hot magma was found extremely close to the earth's surface just a couple years ago, and it's from here that Hverir gets it heat It was astonishing to walk around the pits of boiling hot mud and around bright blue hot springs, it felt like I was walking on Mars, like I was on a completely different planet.


That's the thing I think I love about traveling the most, you can never explore it all, you'll always discover something new. Even coming back to the same place, you'll discover something you had overlooked before! It doesn't matter how good your plans are, traveling screws most of those up anyways, it's the mindset you have when exploring. When I landed in Iceland, I couldn't see past the front door step because of a snow storm. Six days later...well, you see the pictures, right? 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Matt Van SwolExplorer

Matt Van Swol is a self-taught landscape photographer, writer, and nuclear scientist for the US Department of Energy. After personally struggling with depression for many years, he is passionate about showing others t...