Advice on Bicycling and Camping in Iceland
July 2, 2008 6:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm spending two weeks in Iceland in September. I'm hoping to hire a bicycle for at least a week and do some camping. Where should I look in to going, and is there anything I should be aware of?

I'm in good shape and bike daily, so I'm confident I can make it a fairly decent distance, probably up to 80-100km a day. As I mentioned, I'd like to camp most nights, but I wouldn't be opposed to staying in a village or somewhere else on some nights. I'm not looking to create a complete itinerary, I'm just looking for any warnings or experiences that anyone might be able to share.
posted by chriswarren to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (4 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the Ring Road is 1339 kilometers so you can go a fair distance on that in a week and then hop a plane or bus back to Reykjavík at the end of your week. As to which direction, just flip a coin, there's plenty of things to see each way (though the southern way has more famous landmarks, Geysir, Þingvellir and Jökulsárlón). Here's a New York Times Travel Section article about driving around the Ring Road.

Another possibility is to head out to Snæfellsnes, at the tip of which lies Snæfellsjökull, the volcano that Professor Lidenbrock and Axel climb down in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. If you do choose to go there I highly recommend you read my favorite book by Icelandic Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness Under the Glacier which mostly takes place in that area (there are also scenes from the glacier in 101 Reykjavík which is mostly about life in downtown Reykjavík, but I quite like the film).

Either way, you should be in for a fun ride. As for the cycling itself, be prepared for any type of weather, especially in September. It can be sunny the whole time, it could rain the whole time, it could vacillate between the two with dizzying frequency with added sprinklings of snowstorms and heatwaves. Point is, there's no way to predict what the weather's going to be like.

Other than that, enjoy!
posted by Kattullus at 9:04 PM on July 2, 2008

- Food, especially in restaurants, is expensive as fuck. Easily three times what it would cost in an American city. I ended up getting myself cereal and milk to take care of most of my meals.

- If you do get tired of camping, guest houses in Iceland (well, at least Akureyri) are pretty nice and a great deal.

- I remember that some parts of the Ring Road are steep and narrow. You may have to stop biking during some parts of your trip.

- I pretty much stuck to the tourist attractions while I was there, and they were pretty much all awesome. I liked the stuff in the north around Akureyri the best, though. Dimmuborgir and Hverir (which is astonishingly Mars-like) were my favorites.

- Whale watching was a letdown for me. You spend hours on a boat, which can be cold in September, for glimpses of splashing whale tails that last a few seconds.

Have fun!
posted by ignignokt at 11:33 PM on July 2, 2008

From taking field trips to icleand, be aware that a lot of the roads outside the towns are pretty crap. Maybe one of the Icelandic Mefites above can correct this but it seemed to me that outside the towns what looked like major roads on the map weren't. The simple rule seemed to be that only roads with 2 digit numbers were tarmacced, those with three digits were pretty rough, and not really suitable for anything much less than a 4x4.

I also tried whale watching in Septmber, also got very cold waiting for distant glimpse of minke.
posted by biffa at 2:06 AM on July 3, 2008

Kattullus' suggestion is a good one. Taking the ring road south will help you reach landmarks that are relatively close to Reykjavik. Þórsmörk is fairly close too and is popular among campers for its wealth of different landscapes.

This previous question might provide more inspiration.
posted by kepano at 7:19 AM on July 4, 2008

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