A warning sign at Gunnuhver.

You need to tread carefully when wandering around the striking mud pools and fumaroles of Gunnuhver, close to the Reykjanes town of Grindavík. And if you have a child with you, don’t let go of their hand! Mine stopped complaining after watching in awe as the first wave of steam passed over us, completely obscuring my parents who were only a few steps ahead, and making our senses well aware of the sulphuric nature of the place.

Gunnuhver geothermal field

The walkways here make it easy to watch your step, but they weren’t here 300 years ago when the troublesome ghost of Gudrún Önundardóttir—who gives her nickname ‘Gunna’ to this beautiful geothermal field—was tricked into taking hold of a charmed knotted-rope that led her across the field and into the big fumerole (see picture below). Some say she didn’t fall in with the rope, but is stuck holding onto the end of it, and paces around the rim of the steamy abyss for all eternity. I can’t be sure, but it was uncanny how the steam shifted in the breeze but never cleared completely, as though veiling something, or someone…

The Gunnuhver geothermal field reopened in June 2010 after being closed for a couple of years due to instability—one of the dangers being that the high-pressured steam might suddenly find another outlet underneath the visitor walkway. This photo shows a ruined section of the old walkway, obscured by steam (barely visible top right)—I’ll let you be the judge of whether the temporary closure was justified!