Iceland; land of glaciers and lava (2018)

We knew Iceland was going to be a challenge and an adventure. We had read the stories of other people and decided on a route we would like to ride. And it indeed turned out to be an adventure and a challenge. While at home and in all of Europe they were suffering through the hottest summer ever, we were in Iceland suffering through their wettest summer ever. And that while it’s not the driest destination anyway.

The adventure already started straight from leaving the house. We wanted to go to the airport by train, but part of the route was not possible due to construction. So we were taken to the first train station from where we could reach the airport without problems. From there on the train ride went fine and we arrived at the airport quickly.

At the airport we had to go look for bike boxes, which we found in the basement where there also was a nice area to calmly put the bikes in the boxes and repack for the flight. The flight left nicely on time and about 3 hours later we landed on Keflavik airport in Iceland.

Then the real adventure started. We had found out a view days before that the shuttle service the hostel offered, was no longer running. The company had gone bankrupt. They had told us that we could take a bus or a taxi. The bus wasn’t an option because then we would have had to walk, with our bikes in the boxes and our luggage, for about 10 minutes to get from the bus stop to the hostel. We needed to bring the boxes because we could store them at the hostel and wanted to use them again for the return trip. So we decided to take a taxi. But then it turned out that there were no large taxis available because it was Saturday night and all those taxis were in the city driving people going out around.

We called the hostel, but they didn’t have another solution. So there really wasn’t another option but to cycle the 7 kms (4,5 miles) to the hostel. But we also had to bring the boxes…. At the airport there’s a really nice place to (re)assemble the bikes. There are stands for the bikes and tools to use. So we took the bikes out of the boxes and reassembled them. And then we rode to the hostel, holding the boxes underneath our arms. And that was pretty hard! The boxes were heavy and unhandy. Fortunately the weather was really good, sunny and calm, or else we probably wouldn’t have made it.

When we finally arrived at the hostel, it was really late already and we were dead tired. We were offered a bigger room because of all the trouble we had gone through, but couldn’t really enjoy it for very long because it was so late already. We finally were able to go to bed around midnight, which was 2 am at home.

We got up early the next day, to ride to Reykjavik. It was dry, but there was a strong wind. Fortunately, we didn’t have a headwind but wind coming from the side for a while and pretty much a tailwind for the last part. So we were lucky with that, even though it started raining not long after we had hit the road. We had a pretty hard time finding our way into the city without getting on the highway, but we were helped out by a local cyclist who rode with us for a bit and then explained how we should continue. We pitched the tent on the big and busy campground in Reykjavik and got ready for a stormy night. We didn’t go into the city center because of the bad weather.

When we left the campground the next day, the sun came out for just a short while. A good start of our first real cyclingday. Again, we had a hard time getting out of the city, but we made it. Because we didn’t want to ride on the highway to Selfoss, we had chosen an alternative route. A beautiful, but very hard route because of very steep hills. The wind almost blew us off the road and then it started raining to yet.

After going over a pass, we entered a different world. The road into a gravel road and the scenery changed to green moss-covered hills and black sand. And we had it all to ourselves, there was nobody there. Also may lupins. The last part to Selfoss was on a normal, busy road again, very hilly and in the pouring rain.

We stayed in Selfoss for a day to rest and to buy food for the long and hard trip ahead of us. It was only a short ride to the next town, Hella, but we had a very strong headwind and pouring rain in our faces the whole time. So we were happy to arrive there and take a hot shower. From there on, we would go inland and take a detour to famous thermal area Landmannalaugar. All the roads had finally opened, so at least we could try the route we had planned. We just had to see what we would find on our way, since it had rained so hard and for so long already.

After another whole night of rain it was dry the next day. For the first part, we rode through meadows, but after a while the road turned into gravel and the scenery changed. We entered a landscape of high, green hills and black lava. Beautiful! It kept changing to. The road started out good, but became rocky and sandy at some point. The sandy parts were hard because we dug into the sand deep and we ended up pushing a lot. There also were very steep hills. The weather was good, de clouds disappeared and we could see more and more of the scenery.

The weather forecast for the next day was pretty bad, but at least we’d had this good weather. We found a beautiful camping spot, on a flat piece of grass next to a small stream. It was still a bit early, but we decided to pitch the tent anyway, considering the bad weather prediction for the next day. If we ended up staying there, at least we would have water. And we did end up staying after a stormy and rainy night, because the weather didn’t improve at all.

The next day, the weather was fine. We were well rested and were on our way early. And that was fortunate, because it turned out to be the hardest day of the whole trip. We had to wade through many freezing rivers, sometimes we had to go up and down a few times to take the panniers and the bike separately. The water would be too deep to push the bikes with gear on through. It cost a lot of time and we had to take our shoes off, dry our feet and put the shoes back on. Fortunately, the weather was good, so that made it less cold.

The hills in between the rivers were very steep, so we had to walk a lot. At some point we came upon a river that was too big and deep for us. Fortunately there was a big truck going in our direction and we could hitch a ride over the river with them. Then we continued on the steep hills and more rivers to cross.

After 18 kms/ 12 miles in 6 hours, we finally arrived at the end of this hard part. There, there was a ranger hut, so we asked about the conditions on the rest of the route we wanted to ride. The first part would be flat and not many rivers to cross, so we continued. And it was flat, a beautiful world of black lava sand and an enormous glacier on our right hand side. There was hardly any wind and the sun decided to come out. It was great!

But the fun didn’t last very long. After a view small streams, we arrived at another big, deep river which we couldn’t cross. There were actually 3 rivers after each other. Someone in a truck was willing to take us to the other side, but he said that there was another river to come which was even bigger and deeper. And there was almost no traffic on this stretch of road. We didn’t want to get stuck between 2 big rivers, so we decided to go back. We pitched the tent and wanted to ride a different route back to Hella the next day. We had dinner just in time before the storm hit.

After a very rough and rainy night, it didn’t get any better the next day. We waited till after noon when we decided to ride back to the ranger hut we passed the day before. We could camp there and we hoped to find some shelter there to. Fortunately we had a tailwind most of the way, but the streams were much colder now. We pitched the tent behind the hut and went to sit on the very warm attic (with heater) of the barn. We had company of a number of hikers who hiked the famous Landmannalaugar trail. It turned out to be a very warm and nice evening.

The only option we had now, was to go back to Hella and then ride to Landmannalaugar through a different route. So we went on our way back to Hella. Another beautiful route, but hard again because of the very steep hills. So we had to push a lot again. The last part was flat, but the rocks on the road were so big that we could only ride very slowly. We met an Italian couple who travelled in a very big truck rv. They gave Ronnie real Italian coffee and we talked for a while. After that very long bad flat section of road, we finally hit pavement again. That felt great! Because of the slow day, we arrived in Hella pretty late. But we were able to sit in the sun for a bit.

The next day we started on our second attempt to reach Landmannalaugar. This time through the easy route. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day so a very good day for a nice ride. Most was unpaved and in good condition. After a paved section on a highway, we turned into the road to Landmannalaugar. It’s an unpaved road, but because the tourist busses also take this road it’s in pretty good shape. The scenery was beautiful, black lava(rocks) and colored mountains. The hills we had to go over weren’t as steep as they were before. At the end of the afternoon, we found a good camping spot next to a river and with a waterfall on both sides of us.

After a warm night we left for the last part to Landmannalaugar. It was another good day and we had a tailwind again. The hills became a bit steeper and pretty sandy at some points, but the scenery made up for a lot. Before you reach the campground, you have to go through a pretty deep river. Normal cars can’t ride through and have to park on the parking lot before the river. Only 4 wheel drives can go through. Fortunately, there’s a footbridge for hikers and cyclists, so we didn’t have to push through the river.

Landmannalaugar is a famous tourist hub because of the volcanos and the thermal activity. There also is a very popular multi-day hike to and from. It’s always busy over there. There were many tents on the campground, which is situated on a large flat, already. Because it had been so wet, we had to look hard for a dry spot to pitch the tent. There’s also a free hot pool, so we had to get in there to. It actually is a little hot water stream that flows into a bigger, cold river. You get into the cold river and wade to the place where the hot water flows in. You can choose how hot you want your water to be, the hotter you want it, the closer you have to get to the little hot stream.

We wanted to go to Landmannalaugar because from there, we wanted to ride to the north. A long and hard route, but one straight through the interior of the country with spectacular scenery. But because the weather had been so bad already and the forecast was just as bad, we decided not to do that. After all the rain we had had already, we didn’t feel like riding in the rain on unpaved roads without seeing anything of the scenery and then having to free camp and cook in the rain. After all, it was our vacation. So, we decided to go to the west coast. The weather over there seemed a bit better than in the interior. So we didn’t go North, but West.

Because Landmannalaugar is at altitude, the next day we mostly went down. After the first 30 kms/ 20 miles gravel and pretty flat, we got back on the tarmac and then it really started going down. And we also had a tailwind almost all of the way. We put in a long day because the weather was good and the forecast for the next day was very bad. And it was. We stayed on the campground in the small town of Fludir to do our laundry and stock up on groceries. It poured and stormed all day.

The next day, the weather didn’t get much better, even though it wasn’t raining as hard anymore. We continued and passed the famous Geysir geyser. There was a huge tourist center with restaurants and a big shop, so we went in to get a bit dry and warm again and have some lunch. Because of the cold weather we didn’t go look at the geyser, but everything was very close to the road so we were able to see a little bit. We made it a short day and when we arrived at the campground the sun even came out.

The weather didn’t really improve the next days. The route was nice, though. We rode through Pingvellir, where the history of Icelandic civilization started and where the scenery exists of gorges which were formed out of the moving of tectonic plates. Then we entered a mountainous part again and were riding on a very nice gravel road to Husafell. We stayed there for a day because of the bad weather and then continued on to the Snaefell Peninsula, the coast.

The peninsula was very different then the interior, even though there were mountains here to. The coastline was barren and there were a few cute fishing towns. The weather wasn’t great over here either, quite some rain and wind to, but at some point it got better and we were able to ride a few days in really nice weather. Through a detour we ended up on a campground in a suburb of Reykjavik.

We wanted to ride to the fishing town of Grindavik, a bit closer to the airport, the next day. But we ended up staying because of the weather again. Then we rode the last kms to the hostel at the airport where the bike boxes were waiting for us. We put the bikes in the boxes and repacked for the flight home. There was a shuttle bus to the airport now, so the next day we were taken to the airport the easy way.

4 thoughts on “Iceland; land of glaciers and lava (2018)

  1. Hallo, mooie verhalen. Mag ik vragen wat voor fietstassen jullie gebruiken en hoe die bevallen?
    Groet, Stef.

    • Hoi Stef,

      Wij hebben Vaude Aqua Back plus (rolsluiting en extra zijvakje) en Vaude tassen met klepsluiting (niet meer te koop) als achtertassen en Vaude Aqua Front voortassen. Die hebben we al heel lang en ze bevallen prima, ookal komen er nu na vele jaren wel een paar gaatjes in.
      We hadden eerst allebei de Aqua Back plus tassen, maar bij mij scheurde na een korte tijd de achterplaat uit bij de ophangpunten. Ik heb toen nieuwe gekregen en die zijn nog steeds goed.


      Linda en Ronnie

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