Iceland on MTB '97

Czech version - verze v ceskem jazyce.

Saturday July 26th - by car from Prague to Esbjerg, Ribe, ship

Sunday July 27th - Smyril Line ship Norröna

Monday July 28th - ferry, Faroe Islands - island Streymoy, Tórshavn, Saksun

Tuesday July 29th - Faroe Islands - island Eysturoy, Runavík, Gjógv, Eiði

Wednesday July 30th - Faroe Islands, Tórshavn, ferry

Thursday July 31st - ferry, Iceland - Seyðisfjörður, Egilsstaðir, Brú

Friday August 1st - desert, direction Kverkfjöll, Krepputunga

Saturday August 2nd - desert, Kverkfjöll volcano, Vatnajökull glacier

Sunday August 3rd - desert, Askja volcano, lake Vítí

Monday August 4th - desert to west, direction Nýidalur

Tuesday August 5th - desert to west, direction Nýidalur, fords, storm

Wednesday August 6th - on Nýidalur

Thursday August 7th - on Nýidalur, bus to Árnes, Gullfoss

Friday August 8th - Gullfoss, Geysir, Þingvellir, Reykjavík

Saturday August 9th - Reykjavík, Volcano Show, Krisuvík, Blue Lagoon, Keflavík

Sunday August 10th - Keflavík airport, "sightseeing flight", Reykjavík

Monday August 11th - Keflavík airport, flight to Munich, by a car to Prague

When my favorite travel agency Adventura offered for 1997 an MTB trip to Iceland, it was clear - I will visit this country of my dreams, country of volcanoes, glaciers, deserts, wild rivers, waterfalls, geysers, geothermal areas... We prepared our trip as somewhat custom expedition from July 26th to August 10th, 1997 in the group of 10 people, 9 men and 1 girl. All members had some experience from bike expeditions in Morocco, Ukraine, Albania, Turkey etc. The plan was simple - from Prague to Esbjerg in Denmark by the car, then by Smyril Line ship Norröna to Faroe Islands, two day break until Norröna comes to Bergen, Norway, and back, then the way from Faroe Islands to Seyðisfjörður, Iceland. From there will start our bike expedition across Iceland - shortly Egilsstaðir, Ring road No.1 to west, along the river Jökulsa a Brú to Brú, then to Vatnajökull and Kverkfjöll, Askja, Nýidalur, Landmannalaugar, along Hekla, Gullfoss, Geysir, Þingvellir, Reykjavík, Keflavík airport and back home by plane to Munich and by car to Prague, near 1.000 bike km during 10 days in hard Icelandic nature. We had a very little time for it, but some of us were not able to take longer holidays, so we planed it this way.

I used many useful links on the web before our trip, the most popular for me are here.

Click here if you want to know something more about our bikes, equipment, replacement parts & tools we took with and used.

Click on picture, if you want to see a bigger one (usually between 15 and 50 kB, optimized for resolution 800x600). Click here for more pictures from Faroe Islands or Iceland.

Faroe Islands map

Iceland map

Faroe Islands route (bigger 75 kB,
the biggest map 232 kB)

Iceland route (bigger 79 kB,
the biggest map 280 kB)

Full of expectancy we leave on midnight from Friday to Saturday Prague to be in Esbjerg in the evening. Because of light traffic we have a good time, so we stop in Denmark in Ribe, very nice old town. In the evening we embark in Esbjerg for Norröna ship and start the way to Faroe Islands. We pass by Shetland Islands and many petroleum exploiting towers in Atlantic ocean. On the ship we are with perhaps 15 more bikers, mostly German. They want to travel in Mývatn area and on Ring road No. 1 on Iceland. After 37 hour long way we land on Monday morning in Tórshavn, capital of 18 Faroe Islands, city with approximately 15.000 inhabitants. The most beautiful capital I have ever seen! In Faroe we plan 2 trips on Streymoy and Eysturoy islands.

Tórshavn Kollafjørður bay

On Monday we ride through mountains to Hvalvík, where we build our tents and continue to Saksun on west coast of island and back to Hvalvík. In Saksun there are old farm house and an old small church with grass roof built in 1858. In addition Saksun has very nice black sand beach. I want to try how suitable the sea is for swimming and I must say it is too cold for longer bathing, perhaps 12°C. We have the first serious defect, ripped off side wall of the rim on one bike, relatively new double wall Rigida without deeper tracks from braking. We have on account first 71 km. Top

Road to Saksun Church in Saksun

On Tuesday we ride over bridge to island Eysturoy. On the road to south we pass 2.5 km long dark tunnel - very adventurous when you see only a light point 2 km in front of you, but don't try it without lights, as we did (why lights on bike, on Iceland is light all day long and lights are heavy, we said in Prague during taking it away...). We visit on south villages Runavík and Toftir and bird lake Toftavatn. Weather is very foggy and windy. In small lake near the village Nes there sticks some rock or maybe a piece of wood out of the water in fog, it looks like a head. Now I believe to Lochness, he moved and lives on Faroe in loch near Nes now (sorry, no photo as an evidence, it was too foggy...). On north of Eysturoy we visit fishing village Gjógv, quite pretty with only one disadvantage - it's under 300 m high gap. Good chance to break traffic rules and exceed the maximum allowed speed of 80 km/h when biking down and a valuable training on the back course. The best in Gjógv are natural harbour in picturesque narrow creek and vertical rocks falling into the sea. The last interesting village visited on this trip is Eiði. There are 2 nice rock pillars in the sea near high cliff, the Giant and the Witch. We made 109 km this day.Top

Harbour in Gjógv The Giant and the Witch

On Wednesday when we are returning to Tórshavn we can see nice old church with grass roof in Kollafjørður. Behind the bay we pass another 2.8 km long tunnel, this one isn't straight, but is well lighted. We try to buy a new rim in Tórshavn, but we are unsuccessful. Afternoon after 38 km on bike we embark for Norröna again and ship to Island, where we are on Thursday morning. Top

On Thursday we ride on road 93 some 25 km from Seyðisfjörður to Egilsstaðir over the hills with rests of snow, from the sea to height of 600 m over the sea and down again. In the mountain gap on half way to Egilsstaðir we pass the automatic meteorological station, which data are available on the web together with road conditions. We try to buy the replacement rim for the broken one, but it is impossible, they have no one. The only possibility is to buy an unbelievably expensive complete back wheel from the cheapest Wheeler in the bike shop. We leave Egilsstaðir, the last place, where we will be able to do any shopping before 1 week in interior Highlands. With heavy loaded bikes we ride on Ring road No.1 to north-west. Asphalt surface is only on a few km, then only gravel, earth and dust. But the road is in relatively good condition, it's possible to find a flat path between holes. And when it is very dusty, then a watering-cart will change it soon. We meet one Slovenian biker, he gives us useful information about road condition, laps with deep sand and places, where to get drinking water. From ring road we declined to road 923 along the river Jökulsa a Brú (or Jökulsa a Dal? - in several maps are various names for it) in direction Brú, 3 km ahead of it we sleep after 105 km of biking. Top

Jökulsa a Brú Between Ring road No.1 and Brú

On Friday we leave the green coast area and enter interior deserts. We are now on road F910, which we will not leave till Nýidalur. Roads there are relatively good, gravel and sand, but sand is not deep, all is ridable. We cross first fords. It rains sometimes. Somewhere it's a little steep, so with a good loaded bike with all things for 10 days is mostly used some of slower gearings, for me it is usually 34-26, somebody tries something as 22-20 etc.

Crossing in desert One of today's fords

Across desert we come to stone area near the river Kreppa with perfect views to rocks in sand. Some hundreds meters farther is very wild river, fortunately bridged. Here is the last clear drinking water in rock hollows for a long time! Next water will be in Kverkfjöll or under Askja! Behind the bridge are rocks growing from the sand again, small fords, and sand everywhere. Sand on some places is very deep and heavy, wet. It rains again and is cold. We have to push our bikes sometimes, it is not possible to ride in the sand. On the crossing to Kverkfjöll we wait for Jakub, who stayed back. After an hour transports him ranger with 4WD car with broken rim on the back wheel, the same problem as on Faroe Islands, now with an almost new Mavic 231 rim. The ripped off area is some 30 or 40 cm long, the wall has original thickness without scrapes from breaking. Maybe it's caused by higher inflation of tires on heavy loaded bike. Ranger takes Jakub to the hut under Askja, we build our tents behind the new bridge over very wild Jökulsa a Fjöllum river. This bridge is not on all maps, so the route seems to be unpassable then! Area between bridges over rivers Kreppa and Jökulsa a Fjöllum is protected reservation Krepputunga, where is not allowed to build tents, sleep in car etc.! We rode 75 km today.Top

1 km to river Kreppa Boulders and white pumice-stone
on road behind Kreppa

On Saturday we go without load on F902 to Kverkfjöll, volcano on the edge of Vatnajökull glacier. It's impressive, rocks of many different colors, glacier, rivers running out of it, ice caves, fissure in ice, sometimes a piece of ice or earth rips off and falls into river. We observe Vatnajökull glacier all the day, it covers whole horizon. Our trip to Kverkfjöll is not very long, one way about 45 km, but it takes more than 5 hours - wind, deep sand and stones in tracks, small sand storm, many hills and an impressive nature too, of course, slower us significantly. On the way back it's better, we go a little down and wind blows mostly in back, and very stormy. The sand is in the air up to height maybe 50 m, when we look to desert from some quiet place, we see brown-yellow layer over the desert up to this height and a rainbow without rain - does exist a sandbow? We try another way back, we want to see bird lake in Hvannalindir, but wind was too strong there. We returned to the same way as we used in the morning. We must close eye on wind side and connive the second one to protect them from sand. Today we have on cyclocomputer next 96 km, the average speed was 11 km/h. Top

Black sand in desert Vatnajökull glacier River source near Kverkfjöll

On Sunday we go 22 km to Askja, large volcano with last eruption in 1961, with new black lava covering the old gray one. For transport to the top of Askja we use a bus with a group of tourists, they take us for free. It's 8 km uphill so we save an energy for next riding in desert. Askja has a large cold lake Öskjuvatn in the crater and a small white lake Vítí in another crater near it. Water in Viti has temperature about 25°C, it is suitable for bathing, when you have moral power to undress in windy 7°C. We do it, of course.

Öskjuvatn and Vítí Fume by Vítí New black and old lava

On the way back there is no bus ready to go down, so we walk and are sorry, that we didn't take our bikes. Later one bus goes and takes us last 5 km, they give us last information about weather and water in rivers. It is bad, glaciers melt and rivers are very strong. The same says the warden from the hut, he takes our names and we promise him a phone during 3 days from Nýidalur hut as confirmation, that we are OK. In another case he will start in the fourth day a rescue action. We take water to all bottles, here is last drinkable water for next slow 100 km in desert! First 8 km from Askja are on good road, then begins sand, road is only marked by wooden sticks. We don't know exactly, how long it will be so, car drivers are not able to give us a usable answer - they feel it another way with their extremely wide tires and four wheels. We push bikes 2 km - some of us want to return. 5 km - it is not possible to continue, we think. 10 km - it must have an end. On crossing we meet a car, so we ask for road condition, and then runs to us large herd of horses. Interesting in such a wilderness. We choose the northern way from two possible, it was recommended us, it's new, longer, but better. On many maps isn't drawn yet, there is usually only the southern one close to Vatnajökull! The northern one goes along northern slope of mount Trolladyngja (1460 m). After 15 km pushing begins some lava stone between sand, sand is more compact and for somebody it's possible to ride some laps. Another bikers continue pushing next 5 km, there are big differences in ability to ride in sand between us. It's late, 10.30 PM, we have problem with freewheel on the back wheel bought in Egilsstaðir - it is quite released, some balls are out of bearing, we find several in sand. In the beginning storm we successfully repair it and try to catch the rest of our group, which is in front. We attain them soon, they aren't able to continue. Storm is very strong, sand is in eyes, mouth, neck and yet deeper. The sand and small stones beat us to face and legs. We try to return 1.5 km back to more silent place to stay overnight, but we can not find any silent place now. Somebody with a better tent builds tent, somebody is afraid and uses a tent only as a bag and loads it with stones and sand. Tents are bound to bikes or maybe vice versa, bikes are bound to tents loaded with us and our baggage. We rode and walked with bike 51 km today. Top

Pushing of bikes in desert...

On Monday morning is the weather better, we continue fast, 90% riding, 10% pushing in sand until I have malfunction of the freewheel on my Deore LX - now it's free on both directions. I have new one as a replacement part with me, but the key for removing a cassette has Jakub, who drove away to Akureyri with broken rim yesterday. We try to solve it without this key, but it's impossible. During our attempts the freewheel enabled itself partly, so I can continue. The way is in mostly ridable sand or lava, surrounded by sculptures of lava. Road across lava field is well built, there is relatively flat track of earth, sand and small stones between rocks. Later we ford some rivers, there is a drinkable water again. 20 hours we didn't met any car! We added next 69 km today. Top

Biking on lava road

On Tuesday we have nice weather, a little windy. We continue on better gravel and earth roads in direction Nýidalur, where our road connects to frequently used good road F26 from Mývatn across Sprengisandur. Road surrounding is soft, but the sand and gravel is raked away from the road, remains only solid plain earth. We replace one tire with a rupture on side. From the warden under Askja we know, that we have a deep ford in front. Near one of small fords stops us a mighty 4WD car and its driver warns us against next river. Last two days have rivers abnormal high flow, he says. Now we expect it in doubt. 10 minutes later we are near strong fast river Jökulfall, around 20 m wide. Thanks it's glacier source the river is gray, full of fine sand and mud, so we don't see the bed. We can't find a ford, we must wait for a help of some car. We have luck, 1 hour later come two big 4WD cars with people, who want to cross Vatnajökull glacier and to explore Grímsvotn lake and to find traces of last year volcano eruption. 2 people are transported by a car, then Icelanders stretch a rope between theirs cars and we ford the river along it. Due the river's force it's very danger, 4 of 7 people, who do it, fall into the water, one of them with a bike. The bike floats 300 m until is caught again, fortunately without serious damage. We spent on this ford four hours. Wind starts to blow more and more, our speed goes down. We must push bikes, but in blasts of the wind we haven't enough force. The help for us is a small terrain bus going to rescue action for another one, caught and drown in the next ford. We are about 2 km from crossing with the road across Sprengisandur. Bikes are left in desert, on each one is given the largest stone from surroundings to prevent it from flying away, we will return for them tomorrow... Bus takes us 10 km to Nýidalur hut, the warden is perfect, he helps us twice more then everybody can imagine. We made in the whole day only 27 km. Top

Due to weather conditions we remain on Nýidalur 2 days. From the window and sometimes during short walking we watch Tungnafellsjökull glacier, it's 3 km to it. On it's edge is old volcano Fagrafell with interesting sloping crater. Temperature on morning is 0°C, afternoon it achieves 6°C, wind blows, on surrounding hills is a new snow.

Tungnafellsjökull glacier Rescue of bikes

We have serious time loss, we solve it by taking a bus for next 160 km to Árnes near Hekla volcano on Thursday. In bus we meet 3 bikers from Slovenia, they are on Iceland 17 days now and want to remain next 14 days. They escape from Mývatn area, the wind is there very strong and they weren't able to ride... They want to try their luck in Landmannalaugar. We drop out on road 32 in Árnes 8 km before crossing with road 30 to Gullfoss on 7.30 PM. Roads are very good here, partly asphalt, partly gravel. On 11.00 PM we admire the Gullfoss waterfall and find a place for tents. We rode 55 km today evening, the only problem was one broken spoke.Top

Gullfoss, 11.00 PM Right Icelandic car (in the middle)

On Friday morning we see two-level waterfall Gullfoss in rain, we watch and hear plenty of water falling into a large fissure creating a canyon. Next attractions 10 km from Gullfoss are Geysir, Strokkur and another geothermal phenomena on this place. We give us two hours for sightseeing. Geysir sleeps, but Strokkur shows us many times its series of spirts. Everything bubbles and steams there.

Geysir Strokkur Strokkur 0.1 sec before Hot water near Geysir

On partly gravel road 365 we go to Þingvellir, for views are spent about 2 hours there. It is not only place of old parliament Althing, but large fissure in lava between European and American continent desks creating nice valley, attractive waterfall, a small forest and much more, too. In next kilometers is already fast asphalt road 36 to Reykjavík under our wheels. In camp we have next 112 km on computers, we are tired, one back tire begins to crack on side, but still keeps. Our first choice after building tents is the swimming pool (3 minutes walking from camping site) with 2 pools, switchback and especially hot pots of different temperatures up to unendurable, all supplied by the geothermal energy. The day was a little in hurry, full of experience, but we had time to arrange our thoughts in connection passages on bike.Top

Old lava ahead Þingvellir Þingvellir Þingvellir

On Saturday is our program No. 1 visit to Volcano Show, it is really a show with many movies of volcano eruptions - Mt. Hekla, Askja, volcanic ash fall, new island Sturtsey birth, last year eruption under Vatnajökull glacier. Midday we spend in the city and afternoon some of us go directly to the Keflavík airport. Only 4 member group prefers a longer way over Krisuvík on south cost (roads 42, 427, 43, 41). We observe powerful steam sources, bubbling mud and water, small streams and yellow sulfur on the ground there. We pass by Grindavík, Blue Lagoon and then we finish to the airport. Together it is 102 km with morning sightseeing in Reykjavík, large portion on gravel and lava again. On the airport we are on 11.00 PM, our airplane will fly on Sunday, 02.15 AM. Top


Lake Kleifarvatn near Krisuvík Steam source in Krisuvík Bubbling mud

We put bikes fast to bags, we carry them to departure hall, and then we see information about delay there. It is two times updated, last version says estimated departure in 05.00 AM. OK, we fly finally on 06.05 AM, last view to Blue Lagoon, Grindavík and Krisuvík and we are above the sea. Iceland, I want to visit you again! In short time smoke goes from the plane and airplane turns back and on 06.35 AM we are again on the Keflavík Airport due to problem with the airplane. I didn't believe in so soon next visit of Iceland one hour ago! We obtain a room in hotel in Reykjavík, next information about our flight will come on 04.00 PM. We have time to go downtown, visit the harbour and much more now.

Sunset near Keflavík Viking ship replica No comment

On 04.00 PM we are said, that our flight will fly on Monday, 02.30 AM. We watch Icelandic news in hotel TV, our plane is shown with a 10 cm hole in its fuselage. On Monday we fly without problems, so on Monday evening we are at home. Two weeks, nice 12 days and 910 km spent on bikes (together with Faroe Islands trips), a lot of new nice people, plenty of experience, much photos, 2 hours of video and a wish to visit Iceland soon and to see next piece of its wild nature again.

Strokkur Bubbling mud

This page was created on August 18th, 1997 by Zdenek Horcik.

For more trip reports click here.

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Last modified on October 11th, 1997