Iceland Bike Trip – part 1
We arrived in Reykjavik on a beautiful sunny day, paid a small fortune for a bus into the city (about $25 each, plus the same again for the bikes!), and got our little tent set up at the campground. The campground is probably the best place to go before starting any trip in Iceland, there are some amazing free stuff shelves. We stocked up on fuel for our stove, lots of free food, as well as toilet paper, plastic bags, and much more.
Reykjavik itself is a pretty city, lots of interesting sculptures and architecture. We spent a day here on either end of our trip wandering around the harbour and down busy streets.
Fully loaded up we headed out of the city on our bikes. We had decided to head east of the city and see the Golden Circle first, a popular tourist loop. Wanting to avoid the main roads we followed the GPS out of the city and found ourselves on some very small paths, but through some beautiful area. The first day a cycling was pretty hard for me, lots of hills and rough tracks (I had 2 naps by the side of the road that day!). However we finished the day with an amazing ride down through lupin covered hills.
The next day we made good time with the wind behind us to our first destination, Þingvellir National Park, a rift valley that marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is also the site where early settlers of Iceland began to hold parliament, from 930 to 1798. When Iceland became independent from Denmark in 1944 the people celebrated at Þingvellir.
We left the park and carried on our journey east along a bumpy secondary road in the rain. We arrived in the little town of Laugarvatn in time for lunch and decided to try out the local swimming pool. There is a fancy thermal pool for tourists, but across the road is where all the locals go, for a 10th of the price with the same water. Feeling warm and clean we headed back out into the rain. We got a few more miles down the road and found an abandoned barn to shelter in for the night. It had a lot of dry manure on the floor, but it kept us out of the rain, so I didn’t complain too much.
On our 4th day of riding we got to Geysir, the geothermal area that all other geysers are named for. There are a few different ones that erupt here, one regularly every 6 or so minutes. We hung around in the warm sulphur air for a while before heading to Gullfoss.
Iceland is full of amazing waterfalls, but as Gullfoss was the first we came to it was that much more impressive.
Day 5 started off with more rain, another swimming pool, a few hot dogs (Iceland’s favourite food), a very annoying headwind, and more rain. Finally completely demoralized we stopped under a bridge and crawled into our damp tent. At this point I was very seriously considering the error of deciding to do this trip on bikes, however, the sun was out the next morning.
We made it to Ring Road and stopped at another nice waterfall for an early lunch and to let things dry out a little. We were starting to see a pattern of nice mornings and windy afternoons, and this day decided to really step it up. We somehow managed to do about 40km against such a strong headwind that we had to pedal downhill. The wind in this country is not to be underestimated!
At one week into our journey we arrived at 2 of the most beautiful waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.
We could see Seljalandsfoss for about an hour before we got to it, pouring off the cliff face. There is a path the leads behind the falls and makes for some good pictures.
Skogafoss is one of the most photographed falls in Iceland, for good reason I suppose, it is stunning. We set up our tent with a view of the waterfall and spent the evening people watching until the last of the tourist busses had left. The campground was still very busy, but by midnight not many people were too interested in the falls anymore and Luke got some nice shots.
We decided to spend another day at Skogafoss, for 2 reasons, I needed a break, and there was a really good walk up the river behind the falls.
Setting off again we felt refreshed as we headed towards Vik, the southernmost town in Iceland. We’d read about an old US military plane that had crashed years ago, and thanks to a few tourist vans parked by a gate we found the road down to it.
We detoured down to the Dyrhólaey peninsula, where the storm cloud we had been trying to outrun all morning finally caught up with us. Hoping for some sort of shelter at this frequented tourist stop we arrived at the car park overlooking the cliffs and black sand beaches at the same time the rain did. No shelter in site we used the spare tent fly and plastic bike bags to try and create a space to eat our lunch. It was a pretty low moment.
But after about half an hour the rain eased up and we ventured out, and once I saw a few puffins I felt better and could actually appreciate the beautiful spot.
We carried on to Vik, and stayed at a very nice campground there. The town is right on the beach with a pretty little church up on the hillside. We decided to spend the next morning hiking up the peninsula overlooking Vik the next morning and were rewarded with stunning views and a beautiful sunny day.
The weather was definitely a challenge in this first part of our trip, and being my bike trip I didn’t really know what to expect. I wanted to try and give you a real look at what this trip was like for us, not just the good parts, because a lot of it was hard work. But at the same time so rewarding, and as you can see, Iceland is pretty stunning. So stay tuned, the rest is still to come!