from the 17th of July to the 6th of August 2013 – Photos
I frequently heard that Iceland is a quite popular worthwhile destination for cyclists due to a remarkable and unique landscape, tough and adventurous roads, and sparsely populated regions. Thus the summer 2013 I wanted to see it myself.
But with whom? My brother already spent his holidays on a tandem-trip with his girl-friend in the Baltics and my girl-friend was put off by the infamous and unpredictable weather conditions on the island – the highest ever measured temperature in Reykjavik was 25°C, in the highlands about 15°C. Hence, I had to do it alone – what is actually not a problem at all in Iceland as its well visited during the summer, in particular by cyclists (I met in average about 5-10 a day).
However, Iceland welcomed me with a rainy, chilly weather in the south-west (where the airport Keflavik and the capital, 50 km away, is located), but fortunately this were just the remainders of the bad weather period of the past three weeks (I was told that even the Icelanders begun complaining about the weather). I had the great luck of having only one day of raining during my whole vacation right at the beginning of the trip. After I sat the rainy day out in the middle of nowhere in the highlands on the Kölur (one of the mainly three highland roads crossing the island from north to south) eating tons of chocolate and reading, the weather remained stable for the rest of the trip and I actually went home sunburnt.
As mentioned, after the arrival, a short detour to the centre of Reykjavik and a couple of hours on the busy ring road number 1, I turned north and it took me about 2,5 days via the Kölur to get to Northern Iceland through the highlands. I passed waterfalls, geysiers and glaciers in the distance. After the rainy day, as mentioned, I enjoyed the warm natural pool next to the campground in the middle of the Kölur. The road conditions were changing but mostly better than expected allowing for reasonable speed, sometimes comparable to a paved road.
Back on the ring road in Northern Iceland the scenery was dominated by green, snow covered, actually not very high, mountains, but still with steep slopes, once formed by a gigantic ice crust. Passing the second-larges city (Akureyri) I reached the largest fresh water lake Myvatn in the North-East after about a week on the road and took a day off – more or less. Because on that day I decided to take a one-day bus tour through a dessertlike area towards the Vulcano-system of Askja, as I didn’t feel like doing this all by bike by myself (the roads are quite tough there and it would have taken me another 3 or 4 days). The trip was really worth it with its empty lunar landscape (where the astronauts have been trained for the Apollo missions), wide lava fields, snow-covered mountains, glacier-rivers deeply cut into the the lava and finally the vulcanic craters of Askja, some filled with sulphurous hot water.
Back on the bicycle the conditions allowed me to make quite some kilometers a day, sometimes starting cycling already at midnight (remember, in the summer it’s actually not getting dark) to circumvent annoying head-wind in the afternoon, and a just few days later I already got to the South-East, one of the most visited touristic site waiting for me: the Skaftfell national parc at the bottom of the gigantic glacier Vatnajöküll, next to the highest mountain of Iceland (Hvannadalshnúkur, 2110 m). As the glacier was already snow-free at many places, a ascent was not offered anymore by mountain guides and I just did a nice hike allowing for a nice view on the Vatnajöküll and its glacier snouts.
Passing various impressive other glacier snouts and glacier lakes I left the foothills of the Vatnajöküll behind me and decided to turn off into the highlands again towards the well-known trekking-center Landmannalaugar. Already the access road was very impressive and dominated by shiny neon-green moss covered hills. It helped a lot to get over the harsh and hard road conditions with steep climbs and a lot of cold fords to be crossed. A passage of 30 km took me about 4 hours to get through. In Landmannalaugar itself I did another half-day hiking-tip to enjoy the outstanding artificial appearing scenery as though a painter has generously spread spots of colors over the hills.
Escaping from the numerous tourists there I just stayed one night and got back to the coast very soon thanks to improving road conditions and a very strong tail wind. I was lucky to have still some days left and I used the remaining time to do another detour passing by another important touristic site, Thingvellir, the first icelandic national parc and a place of historic importance (the first parlament world-wide was meeting here, or something like this), heading towards the Kandiladur, another relatively short highland road. Despite of its shortness it was quite strenuous for me because of constant headwind and a rough track surface. Fortunately I was able to escape the wind soon by spending the early afternoon and night in the emergency hut approximately in the middle of the road. I waited the wind to calm down and continued cycling at midnight, a frosty pass awaiting me.
After 1,5 days on the Kandilatur the road back to Reykjavik was supposed to be comparable convenient and easy to cycle (paved and flat) but I heavily underestimated the wind and it happened to me that I got stuck for 1,5 days in a Fjord, about 50 km in the North of Reykjavik, waiting for the wind to calm down, because even just pulling the bike was impossible. But the wind remained as it was for days (I heard that this is one of the windiest areas in Iceland). Hence, I ask somebody for a pick up and took the bus and therewith the tunnel through the Fjord to get back to Reykjavik. There, on the campground very close to the city center, I had one day to relax a bit till I cycled back to the airport using a nice route along the south of the Reykjavik/Kevlavik-Peninsula.
Some facts: 20 days, approx. 1800 km, …