Touring Notes: Iceland

II. Touring Zones

The South-West : The South : The Eastfjords (Austfirðir) : The North-East : The North : The Westfjords (Vestfirðir) : Snæfellsnes and Dalir : Landmannaleið : Kjölur (or Kvalvegur) : Sprengisandur : Askja : Gæsavatnleið (western section)

index : I. Practical Information : II. Touring Zones

The South-West

This is the area closest to Reykjavík. Unfortunately the roads are generally rather busy around Reykjavík, and there are plenty of tourists visiting the popular locations of Geysir, Gullfoss, Þingvellir and Hveragerði. You probably want to too. All routes to leave Reykjavík by bicycle are bad, and I advise taking a bus if you can. The least bad route to leave town by bicycle is to cycle to Þingvellir, which is about 40km. As well as the usual route from near Mossfellsbær (about 10km of major road to tolerate), there is a little used, more southerly route to Þingvallavatn (built fairly recently), which turns off the main Hveragerði road (may be unsignposted) and you will have somewhat less major road that way.

The main roads out of Reykjavík town centre can all be accessed by taking Miklabraut eastwards. For Keflavík Airport and Hafnafjörður, turn right onto Kringlumyrabraut after about 2km. For Hveragerði, Selfoss and the south turn to the right after about 3 km further. The road to Þingvellir turns off after 10km, just beyond Mossfellsbær. For the main road north to Borgarnes etc, just carry on. All of these turns are clearly signposted. If you have a detailed city map, you can reduce your exposure to the main roads in the central area, but not for very far.

Þingvellir is attractive in itself, but also acts as a gateway to move on to other places such as Geysir and Gullfoss, Hvalfjörður or Selfoss. There is no food shop as such at Þingvellir, Geysir or Gullfoss, though you can camp at Þingvellir and Geysir, and there are cafés at Geysir and Gullfoss. The direct route from Þingvellir to Geysir takes you over an unpaved steep pass to Laugarvatn, where there is a small food shop, youth hostel, campsite and warm springs. The only other villages in the area which I know definitely have food shops are Flúðir and Árnes, though the latter (on route 32, following the north bank of the Þjórsá towards Sprengisandur) is rather limited. Allegedly there is a food shop at Reykholt, but I couldn’t find one when I was there in 1994. Beyond these, you will have to go down south to the main towns on the Ring Road.

From Þingvellir you can also go north to Húsafell along the unpaved Kaldidalur route F550, which is how many cyclists gain a “taste” of the interior without the need to pile up several days’ food in their luggage. The condition of this route seems rather variable between “bad” and “easy”, but perhaps that depends upon the expectations of the individual cyclists. Húsafell is the site of very large boisterous “parties” on some weekends. This route connects you into some back-roads to Borgarnes. There are also tracks carrying on north from Húsafell to Laugarbakki and Blönduós. You might see these as a way of avoiding the busy and boring main road to Blönduós, but these are challenging roads, and reports suggest the scenery is not particularly special. F337 and F338 are also terrible.

If you can stand the main road north out of Reykjavík a bit longer, you can take the old main road around Hvalfjörður, which is quiet now that the main traffic goes through the tunnel. There are pleasant back-roads to explore in the area, and Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur (accessible only on foot).

The area from Selfoss to Hvolsvöllur is mostly flat farmland of relatively little scenic interest along a busy road. If heading this way, I suggest you take the bus along the main road to the point where you want to turn off. Beyond Hvolsvöllur, the Ring Road becomes quieter and more scenic.

Þórsmörk (F249) is a popular detour for cyclists, but it is also very popular with Icelanders at weekends. The road is challenging and has many fords, some of which can be very deep, depending upon the weather. It is a dead-end for the cyclist, though not for the walker. (Mountain-bikers have crossed on the footpath from Skógar to Þórsmörk, but this is a highly technical route, definitely not for doing with luggage, and the legal status is dubious.)

Fljótsdalur is another popular detour, with fine scenery and a small traditional turf-roofed hostel (book ahead). You can carry on along from Fljótsdalur along the F261, which joins the Fjallabak Syðri route at Hvanngil, from where you can make your way to Landmannalaugar.  F261 is a rough road with a difficult ford of the Gilsá (wise to enquire at the hostel if they know how easily crossable it is, as they use this route regularly to service Dick Phillips walking tours). This is an especially attractive route into the southern highlands. The Westmann Islands (Vestmanneyjar) are accessible by ferry from Þorlákshöfn.

The South

Between Hvolsvöllur and Kirkjubæarklaustur you have a choice of the coast road and the southern highland routes (discussed below). After that, there is basically only one road to Höfn (and beyond), and it is largely flat. The coast road passes through the wettest part of Iceland and it is often very windy. Although the views are often slow to change, especially between Vík i Mýrdal and Skaftafell, the scenery is quite unique and is diverse on a larger scale – enormous lavafields and glacial outwash sands, views of the largest glaciers and the highest mountains. The area is sparsely populated. There are shops only at Vík, Kirkjubæarklaustur, Skaftafell (small and expensive), Fagurhólmsmýri (small but more reasonable – with some doubt that this is still open, but there may be a replacement about 5km towards Skaftafell) and Höfn (full range of services – one supermarket was open to 11pm seven days a week in 2005). Sandstorms on Myrdalssandur and Skeiðarásandur are infrequent now that stabilising grasses have been planted. But if there is a sandstorm, you should not attempt to cycle in it, you could die.

Laki (F206) is a tempting detour, accessible a short distance west of Kirkjubæarklaustur. This is a bad road with some fords, which can be deep at times, but it can be ridden. It is time-consuming to get to the end of the road and wander around see the sights on the way, so I would suggest camping some 20-25km up the road, and allowing a full day to cycle up to the end and back without your luggage.

About 50km west of Höfn, there is a rough road (F985) which climbs high up to the edge of Vatnajökull, where icecap tours start. It has spectacular views for masochistic cyclists on a nice day.

The Eastfjords (Austfirðir)

Whilst the fjords are not as spectacular nor as extensive as the Westfjords, it benefits from better weather, and the mountains are higher and craggier, presenting its own unique scenery which would be considered very special indeed if it had been located in Scotland. The southern Eastfjords are an easy ride, retaining a few sections of gravel road at time of writing, and easy wild camping. The unpaved steep (25%) hill 10km east of Höfn is now avoided with a 1.3km tunnel, and though the old road is officially closed you can get through the gates if you want to ride it. Stafafell (good campsite and hostel, but no food available), and more generally the Lón area, is a special place if you explore inland, rivalling the southern highlands for scenery, but with far fewer tourists. However there aren’t many roads, so this is of more interest to the walker. The shortcut to Egilsstaðir via Öxi from the head of Berúfjörður is hard work on a rough mountain road, with many fords, and typically opens around the end of June. The shop at Stöðvarfjörður has closed, and the one at Breiðdalsvík doesn’t look too healthy. A 6km tunnel between Reyðarfjörður and Fáskruðsfjörður will open in late 2005, reducing the distance between these villages to 15km, but it is nice to cycle the 50km around the headland if you have the time/weather. The more northerly fjords are accessed over high passes, typically 600m, often up dead ends. You will experience one if you arrive at Seyðisfjörður on the ferry. Some of these dead-end fjords are little visited, and though I haven’t been there myself, reports suggest that destinations such as Mjóifjörður, Borgarfjörður Eystri (alias Bakkagerði) and Loðmundarfjörður (via F964) can be well worth the effort in good weather.

The North-East

The Ring Road from Egilsstaðir to Mývatn is lonely and bleak with no supplies on the way. Being (almost) entirely paved, it can be considered the most easily cycled interior route. The official Ring Road has now been rerouted so that it bypasses Möðrudalur some distance to the NE, and only about 3km remained unpaved this way in 2005, but you can still use the old ring road (unpaved) through Möðrudalur, where there is a campsite.

Mývatn is deservedly one of the most popular destinations in Iceland, and a bike makes it easy to visit the local attractions. Since the general scenery is pleasant rather than spectacular, it is necessary to allow some time (at least a day) to visit the curiosities, if there is to be much point in going there. The is a small shop at Reykjahlíð, (open till late seven days a week in peak season, but many things cost twice the price of shops in larger settlements, and it has a tendency to run out of bread) and a smaller one at Skútustaðir.

Jökulsárgljúfur is another popular touring area (see distance chart below), but you may find the road rather rough. Of course, they may occasionally smooth out the corrugations, so it will not necessarily be as bad as when I rode it. The cyclist will generally prefer to take the F862 on the west bank of the river, which gives access to all the attractions; the easterly road is longer, just as rough, is used by more buses, and only gives access to Dettifoss. But there are no views at all from the F862 itself; you have to take the rough, hilly detours to Dettifoss, Hólmatungur and Vesturdalur to see the sights; and together these add almost 20 hard km to the ride, plus several hours walking time to the sights. Don’t forget to take the detour to Hafragilsfoss accessible via the Dettifoss turn-off. If it is to be worthwhile, it is necessary to devote more than a day to the route. Cyclists and walkers (but not motorists) can camp at Dettifoss, at a location hidden from view about 400m up a footpath from the car park; potable water is delivered to this location; the water at the car park is not potable. The river water is not potable. There are also (normal) campsites at Vesturdalur and Ásbyrgi, the latter with hot showers and a shop at the nearby petrol station. The Jökulsárgljúfur national park (ie reserve) runs from near Dettifoss to Ásbyrgi, so camping is restricted to organised sites in this area. The little-known campsite at Dettifoss is a considerable convenience, as it can take several hours to cycle from there to Vesturdalur.

The far north east of the country is little visited, and the roads are mostly unpaved. This is an area where you may have the opportunity to see Iceland as it used to be, probably including some unpredictable bad roads, and perhaps even some local people whose hearts haven’t been hardened by mass tourism. I haven’t been there.

Mývatn – Jökulsárgljufur – Ásbyrgi





Reykjahlíð (Mývatn) Jct 1/87



Village, all services. Next reliable water at Vesturdalur.

Jct 1/863 (Krafla 8km gravel)



Paved. Steep little pass. Allow half a day to visit Krafla.

Jct 1/F862




Jct (Dettifoss car park 3km, Hafragilsfoss 4km)



Badly corrugated earth road mostly consolidated. 20 mins walk from car park to Dettifoss. Free campsite (only for hikers/bikers) 5 mins from parking with drinking water in tank (?reliable).

Jct (Hólmatungur 1km)



No camping. Nearest water in stream 20 mins walk from car park.

Jct (Vesturdalur 3km)



Campsite and water at Vesturdalur down steep hill. 10 mins walk from car park to Hljóðaklettur.

Jct F862/85 (Húsavík 64km)







Paved. Two campsites. Food-store and café at petrol station on route 85, 500m east of Ásbyrgi access road.

Note: Place name in brackets implies “turn for”.

The North

There are extended areas in the north of the country which are pleasant enough for the cyclist, but few will stand out as highlights of your tour. If you appreciate tranquillity, it is worth trying to avoid camping in Akureyri, particularly at the weekend, when you might be disturbed by drunken revellers with a penchant for broken glass.

However the Trollskagi peninsula north of Akureyri is a particularly rewarding area to cycle, and also for the walker. Apparently the weather-gods are often kinder around here than in many other areas of Iceland, so you have a fair chance of seeing the jagged snow-capped mountains. Dalvík has a free campsite with hot showers and stunning views. There are some dead-end roads from here heading inland to give access to the mountains. The cyclist can take the old road to avoid the Ólafsfjörður tunnel. The unpaved pass south-west of Ólafsfjörður is very attractive on a nice day, its western approach being very steep. The root of the peninsula is accessible from the Ring Road west of Akureyri; this is also attractive, but the traffic is heavy enough to be annoying.

Pavement is now complete on the coast road from Húsavík to Ásbyrgi. The unpaved interior road (87) from Mývatn to Húsavík is rough and hilly, with some warm springs to visit. I know nothing about the remote peninsula between Húsavík and Akureyri, it is traversed by a couple of little-used mountain roads.  A tunnel between Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður is planned to start construction in 2006.

The Westfjords (Vestfirðir)

This is a beautiful area to cycle, if you get the weather to appreciate it. It is hillier than most other parts of Iceland, with plenty of road-passes where you cross between fjords, and these are generally at about 500m to 600m, and some are steep and unpaved. In poor weather, the passes are not much fun at all.

The area is frequently accessed by taking the ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur, (twice a day in summer, the ferry leaves Stykkishólmur at 9am, and again about 3.30 or 4.00, the crossing takes 3 hours), with the possibility of stopping over at Flatey (island) on the way, either overnight or for the afternoon. Make sure you buy enough food in Stykkishólmur to get you to the next town, which might be a few days away if you are visiting Látrabjarg, or using the short-cut north from Flókalundur to Dynjandifoss. On arrival, you can camp at Brjánslækur, but the site it isn’t very nice. You can also camp 6km to the north at Flókalundur, which is a bit nicer, though the warm swimming pool closes too early for evening ferry arrivals; there is attractive scenery (no camping) a couple of km away in Vatnsdalur. There is now a paved road all the way from Flókalundur to Bíldudalur via Patreksfjörður and Tálknafjörður, but the shortcut heading north from Flókalundur is unpaved. In theory there is a small shop at Birkimelur, (20km from the ferry), but it is hardly ever open.

Látrabjarg is a beautiful destination, with extraordinary bird colonies, even if it is a dead-end. A consultation is underway over constructing a visitor centre, which I think would be a shame. The road is unpaved and hilly, but reasonably maintained these days. There is a free campsite with a loo and a water supply about 3km before Látrabjarg. There is a guesthouse where you can camp at Breiðavík. There are a couple of other dead-end roads on the peninsula if you want to get really off the beaten track. There are similar intriguing dead-ends up other peninsulas throughout the Westfjords, for those with plenty of time to explore.

Surprisingly there is no campsite at Patreksfjörður village, and wild-camping in the area is less than ideal, but there is a well-appointed site at Tálknafjörður sports centre – the pass between the two is about 450m. The pass from Tálknafjörður to Bíldudalur is 600m. Between Bíldudalur and Þingeyri the road is unpaved, but reasonably maintained these days, and one fears that they might be about to pave it. Unfortunately there are many more tourists in this area than when I first visited in 1994, no doubt assisted by the improved roads. The free warm swimming-pool and camp-spot (no toilet) at Reykjafjörður is now pretty disgusting due to over-use, perhaps it’s OK if you get there early in the season. The area around Trostansfjörður is now a reserve where you should not camp; however there is a nice free camp-site with a toilet at Dynjandifoss. To compensate for these disappointments, it is a magically beautiful area, if the rain-gods let you see it. From Trostansfjörður to Dynjandifoss is a long double pass, the highest point being about 600m. From Hrafnseyri to Þingeyri the pass is about 550m. After Bíldudalur, the next foodshop is at Þingeyri.

The museum at Hrafnseyri is recommended because it has a coffee-shop with a fixed price all-you-can-eat deal on the delicious home-made cakes. The route from there to Þingeyri around the head of the peninsula is passable, if you are so inclined, whether by 4wd or bicycle. There is a section along the beach on the southern side of the peninsula which is only passable at low tide. About 5km in this general vicinity is unrideable and may prove very hard work if you have a lot of luggage. Whether you consider that an adventure or an outrage will depend upon you. In good weather, this is a spectacular route, but in poor weather it is not worth the bother. There are lovely wild campsites between Hrafnseyri and the beach section. If you camped at some location, you could probably do a circular tour of the peninsula without luggage in a long day. There is an old mule-track going over the peninsula in a generally westerly direction from Þingeyri, which is a technical route of possible interest to mountain-bikers (without luggage).

The road is paved from Þingeyri to Ísafjörður. There is an 11km long tunnel (single track with passing places and a T-junction in the middle) on this section; you can use the old road over the top if you prefer, though it is liable to be blocked by snow until late summer, and it comes out in the next valley further east on the Ísafjörður side. Unfortunately there is no longer a ferry from Ísafjörður to Ögur or Bæir to shorten the route to the head of Ísafjarðardjúp, only excursion boats for walkers going to Hornstrandir. About two thirds of the road is paved from Ísafjörður to Hólmavík, and about half from Hólmavík to Brú. No doubt they intend to pave it the whole way eventually. In contrast to what I have read elsewhere about this being a boring and repetitive road, I found most of it rather attractive, apart from the the last 30km into Brú. It is very lonely, with a food shop only at Hólmavík, (but may be one at Borðeyri) until the small shop at Brú, somewhat to the north of the junction on the Ring Road. There is a café with accommodation about half way between Ísafjörður and Hólmavík, just before you climb over a pass.

Strandir is the name given to the East coast of the Westfjords peninsula around Hólmavík. The scenery north of Hólmavík is spectacular, and worth the detour if you have two or three days to spare, always depending upon the gods letting you see it.

The south coast of the peninsula, to the east of Flókalundur, is little visited and very depopulated, and rather repetitive going up and down many little fjords. There is a shortcut to near the head of Ísafjarðardjúp (for Ísafjörður and Hólmavík) over Kollafjarðarheiði (F66), a rough but mostly rideable pass which may not be open until mid or late July. There should be food-shops at Reykhólar (down a deadend peninsula) and Króksfjarðarnes, but they may be too close to both survive.

Snæfellsnes and Dalir

The most attractive parts of Snæfellsnes are the western tip, the north coast to the west of Stykkisholmur, and the passes. The south coast and the connecting road to Borgarnes (through Myrar district) are pleasant but less interesting. The only supplies in the area are in the towns on the north coast of the peninsula. Allow plenty of time to visit the western tip, as the interesting sites are all 2 to 3km off the main road, and usually down a hill. The road around the tip is now mostly paved apart from about 20km. The pass to Stykkisholmur (route 56) is now paved; it follows a more westerly route than the old road. The main pass to Ólafsvík (route 54) is not currently paved, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes in the next few years. These are both modest passes, about 400m to 500m. There is a more westerly pass (F570), close to the Snæfellsjökull icecap, which is rough and very steep, rising to over 800m, and potentially spectacular if the clouds lift. It is usable by bike, better without luggage.

Ólafsvík offers whale-watching tours with a better chance of seeing blue and humpback whales than elsewhere in Iceland. I’ve seen them. The big whales feed reasonably close off Snæfellsness in July, approximately. Trips can last up to 10 hours, are considerably more expensive than trips from other locations, and are likely to make you sea-sick. Even in July, tours to see the big whales only run when they have sold enough tickets and sea conditions are smooth enough. At other times they run shorter tours to see lesser whales, such as you might find at cheaper prices in other parts of Iceland, so be careful what you are buying.

The north coast of the peninsula, to the west of Stykkishólmur, is very interesting, and is now all paved apart from about 20km to the east of Grundarfjörður, though of course that may be paved soon. Further east, the north coast of the peninsula is rather bleak and depopulated. It provides access to the easternmost pass (route 55), a rough unpaved route through desolate volcanic landscape. This route also provides access to Dalir (where I haven’t been), a remote and hilly area forming the east coast of Breiðafjörður. I have not been there. At last report, there were food-shops at Búðardalur and Króksfjarðarnes; the former is administrative centre of the area, and therefore more likely still to have a shop when you arrive.

Landmannaleið, and other interior routes in the Southern Highlands

For many cyclists, the interior routes around Landmannalaugar are the most rewarding area to tour in Iceland. The desire to travel these routes is strong argument for timing your visit perhaps a little later in the season than you might otherwise choose, so that the snow is gone from the higher routes and the fords are shallower. In contrast to the wide open landscapes of much of Iceland, it provides more intimate valley and mountain scenery with rapidly changing views. Landmannalaugar (600m) is the hub of the routes, and, with its coloured hills and hot springs, is a considerable attraction in its own right. It is worth planning to spend a day or two here for day-walks. There are limited supplies available here (in high season only), albeit at a very high price. In high season, there are daily bus services to Akureyri and Mývatn, as well as Reykjavík, if you need rescuing. The camping area is stony. If the hot springs aren’t enough for you, there are also hot showers. The mountain huts are usually booked up many months in advance by organised tours. Of the five days of my life I have been at Landmannalaugar, there was prolonged rain and low cloud on four of them, but the fifth was one of the most extraordinary days I have ever spent in Iceland.

There are many possible routes to Landmannalaugar, presenting a number of options to the cyclist. F225 Landmannaleið itself is the approach to Landmannalaugar from the west (shown without any route number on older maps). F208 Fjallabak Norðri (shown as F22 on older maps) provides the northern approach to Landmannalaugar from Hrauneyjar, and also the eastern approach to Landmannalaugar, which meets the Ring Road between Vík and Kirkjubæarklaustur. Other routes make use of the F210, Fjallabak Syðri, and then making use of unnumbered tracks heading northward to join F225 or F208.  An attractive, but tougher, possibility is to use F261 from Fljótsdalur, connecting onto F210.

The most popular route for cyclists is Landmannaleið (F225) and the eastern continuation along Fjallabak Norðri (F208), the scenery being stunning and the road mostly straightforward. The eastern section is sometimes not open until July, though cyclists can often get through a little earlier than its official opening date. Assuming no unreasonable winds, a strong cyclist could ride from Hella or Flúðir to Kirkjubæarklaustur or Vík by this route in three days, though that would be a rush for most of us. On the western approach, there is an extended section without any drinking water through the lavafields around Hekla, until you get to within about 30km of Landmannalaugar; (you don’t want to take water from the turbid Þjórsá river if you can avoid it – if you are coming up route 32 the last accessible good water is in the Fossá). The eastern approach has plenty of water, and includes the highest point of this route, which is about 750m.

You can access Landmannaleið (F225) either from the Hella area by coming north up route 26, or else from the Flúðir area by following tarmac route 32 on the north bank of the Þjórsá river (now tarmac all the way to the Veiðivötn turn about 10km beyond Hrauneyjar), and then turning south down route 26 shortly after the Þjórsá bridge. It looks tempting to try to cross the Þjórsá river directly opposite the turnoff to Landmannaleið, taking advantage of the works for the hydro scheme, but there are high gates and fences to prevent attempting such a dangerous thing. Route 26 south of this junction is currently a well maintained gravel road. Once you turn off route 26, you are on a dirt road. Much of Landmannaleið is pleasantly hard-packed and smooth, but it has enough rough sections to make one feel one has achieved something, including some short sandy sections which in the past I found tough going, indeed unrideable for short sections, even in wet weather. In 2005, I found this area easily rideable, as clearly some maintenance work had been done on it, though how much more difficult it would be in dry weather I couldn’t say. The route splits at one point, with a choice of which way around a hill you go. The slightly longer northern option, which goes past Landmannahellir where there is a mountain hut and a campsite, is less well surfaced than the main option to the south.

The eastern section of Fjallabak Norðri (F208) is in general rather rougher than F225, because the ground is stonier. There are numerous cold fords to freeze your toes off, especially on the eastern section, but none of them was deep when I was there. There are plenty of steep undulations, but no particularly long climbs. You can ride it on a strong touring bike, if that is your inclination, though you will need to be careful on the stonier sections towards the eastern end. To put it in proportion, the only potential impediment to driving an ordinary car along the western (or northern) approaches to Landmannalaugar are the fords, and at times these will be passable. The rougher eastern approach would be a bit risky in an ordinary car, but I have seen it done.

The northern section of Fjallabak Norðri (F208), which starts a few km east of Hrauneyjar, is the shortest route from tarmac to Landmannalaugar.  This is also the route connecting Landmannalaugar and Sprengisandur (F26). It is now kept open significantly earlier and later in the season than other approaches to Landmannalaugar. This is a sandy road through lava fields, and I have heard reports of cyclists having a tough time on it. When we rode it, we found it very easy, and it clearly had benefited from some recent work done on it laying road gravel in the track bed; but we crossed when the sand was wet, and we had a big tailwind, so I can’t speak for what it would be like in less favourable conditions. The scenery on this route is quite different from the other approaches, being in effect desert scenery comparable to the deep interior, and having its own charm. There is no drinkable water on this route (the water in the rivers and reservoirs being turbid). Coming from/(going to) the southwest via route 32, your last/(first) good water is at Hrauneyjar (a few km to the west of where you meet the tarmac road). Coming from/(going to) Sprengisandur (F26), your last/(first) drinkable water is Þórisvatn.

The approach from the south-west, via F210, is more challenging, but even more rewarding. The challenge is not because of F210, the western sections of which are generally good cycling, but because of the connection onto the F225 along the unnumbered tracks from Laufafell (signpost Hrafntinnusker). About 6km north of where you leave the F210 at Laufafell, you have a choice of two tracks, a westerly route via Krákatindur, or an easterly route through Reykjadalir which joins the F225 a few km from Landmannahellir. The latter is more challenging, but also much more interesting, and could be described as the most interesting route section in the whole area, because of the thermal area it passes through. It is an unmaintained dirt road. The surface is mostly rideable, but we ended up pushing a lot because of steep gradients; there are sections which are so steep it was difficult even to push. The final few km at the northern end are sandy, though we found it rideable (in the rain). There are some (rare) muddy sections near the thermal area. There is an access road to Hrafntinnusker this way (about 5km off the through road), where there is a mountain hut and campsite, presenting access for the cyclist to one of the most spectacular areas of the Landmannalaugar-Þórsmörk trekking route (icecaves and thermal areas). Carrying on towards the F225 from the Hrafntinnusker junction (this seemed to have lost its signpost when I rode it), there is a very steep pass at around 1050m (with a very extended steep section on the northern approach), which means this route tends to be open later than the others. There is no service bus using these routes, though there are some organised tours going this way. There are a couple of easy/moderate fords which offer potential wild camps.

The “gourmet” route to Landmannalaugar sets out on the F261, which is accessed from Hvolsvöllur by taking the Fljótsdalur road. I call it the “gourmet” route, because it offers good access for the cyclist to many of the best sights on the Landmannalaugar-Þórsmörk trekking route, apart from Þórsmörk itself, with some extra sights they don’t have! It also takes rather longer than the other approaches. At Fljótsdalur, there is a charming turf-roofed youth hostel owned by Dick Phillips (advised to book in advance). The F261 is mostly a rather rough dirt road, but the surface is mostly rideable, apart from some sections which we found too steep. About 8km beyond Fljótsdalur, there is a potentially difficult ford of the Gilsá. There is no single established crossing point, rather you choose where you wish to cross from an area where the road runs alongside the river for some distance. The water is fast-flowing and sometimes turbid, which makes it difficult to identify a good route. After prolonged rain, or early in the season, this ford can be too dangerous for the cyclist to attempt; coming from the west, I would advise stopping at the hostel to enquire about this ford, since Dick Phillips tours use this route regularly and may be able to advise on its condition. A few km beyond, you will find good water in Trollagjá, but beyond there you will not easily find good water until you get close to the F210 junction near Hvanngil (where there are two fords, one of which has a footbridge). The Markarfljót and Innri Emstruá are both bridged, but their water is turbid. There is a mountain hut near the Markarfljót bridge, so presumably they have a good water source, though I couldn’t see it – maybe they filter the Markarfljót water. You get a good view of the Markarfljót gorge with a short walk from here. There is a short-cut to the F210 from the Markarfljót bridge, but this is a very tough road and not as scenic as using the F210 from Hvanngil to Laufafell. Indeed this section of the F210 past Álftavatn is probably the most scenic part of the F210, and is mostly hard-packed earth making for good cycling. There are plenty of good wild-camp spots, as well as two mountain huts with campgrounds on this route section. The route onwards from Laufafell was described above.

The Fjallabak Syðri, if followed in its entirety, bypasses Landmannalaugar to the south. It opens around the same time as the east part of F208. The western end, as far as the junction with the F261 is mostly well surfaced for cycling and very scenic. There are many fords, but they should not generally cause too much problem, although the Markarfljót ford to the east of Laufafell is at times quite deep (not to be confused with the Markarfljót bridge on the F261). In a couple of places, there are long fords where the road follows the bed of a stream for a few hundred metres. To the east of the F261 junction, the road has an extended crossing of Maefellisandur, which I haven’t ridden. Past reports have suggested that this is very sandy and not easy cycling, but the road service has been busy laying road gravel on routes such as this, and so maybe it is straightforward cycling today. There is anotherroad connection to the F208 (to the south of Eldgjá) along here.

You cannot wild camp in the reserve around Landmannalaugar, which stretches about 25km to the west and about 10km to the east. The boundaries are clearly marked with signposts, and there are pleasant potential camp spots along the roads outside the reserve, despite informal and formal discouragement. Wild camping is forbidden is in the vicinity of Eldgjá, where an official sign makes this clear. The owner of a mountain hut and campsite some distance to the south of Eldgjá has erected a large number of home-made “no camping” signs all the way from Eldgjá to some distance beyond his facility, though there are lots of lovely spots along the river. It is not clear to me that one would be committing any offence if a cyclist or walker were to camp in this area, since it does not appear to be a reserve, though it would be illegal to take a motor vehicle off the road. But as it is hard to find a concealed spot, it seems hard to act in obvious contradiction to the signs. More privacy could be obtained by heading southwards down the Eldgjá canyon, away from the waterfall. It is not clear how far one must go from the sign discouraging one from doing this in order to salve ones conscience; not very far I suspect, since I think the sign and barrier are mainly addressed to motorists.

Although not strictly necessary for navigation, you will benefit from having a copy of the 1:100,000 LÍ map of Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk, which shows most of these routes in considerably more detail than the 1:250,000 map. It is also essential for any detours on foot. The information centre at Landmannalaugar has descriptions of possible circular day-walk routes from Landmannalaugar, which are spectacular if you get the weather. But once you leave the main long distance path to Þórsmörk, these paths are frequently not signposted nor visible on the ground, so you need to be able to navigate.

In summary, there are plenty of scenic and challenging options to keep the adventurous cyclist occupied for a week or more in this area.

Kjölur (or Kjalvegur)

The name Kjölur refers to the “pass” between the Hofsjökull and Langjökull icecaps, and one should call F35 itself Kjalvegur. It is usually the first interior crossing to open in the season, sometimes as early as May, and the last to close, although the access to Landmannalaugar from Hrauneyjar is usually open for longer. The northern approach to Hveravellir has a longer opening period than the route coming from the south. There is some talk of paving the road, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.

The road leaves tarmac at Gullfoss and rejoins tarmac on the Ring Road between Blönduós and Varmahlíð. It is also possible to delay rejoining the tarmac until Blönduós, by following the gravel road past Svínavatn; this includes an extra hill. This is a straightforward and attractive route to avoid the boring western part of the Ring Road, more so than the difficult tracks running north from Húsafell. It provides open vistas with distant views of glaciers and lakes, rather than enclosed valleys like Landmannaleið. Some people find it more varied and attractive than Sprengisandur. But if you came here hoping for barren plantless wastes on the same scale as Sprengisandur, you might be a bit disappointed, as there is only a relatively short “desert” section. The northern approach to Hveravellir runs mostly through grassy and heather-covered moorland with plenty of sheep, in fact you can sometimes see sheep at Hveravellir.

A strong cyclist could ride from Gullfoss to Blönduós or Varmahlíð in two days, if the wind did nothing naughty. Normal cyclists will usually cover it comfortably in three days, though might choose to take longer. All but about 60km or 70km is a built-up gravel road. The dirt road section currently runs from the Hvítá bridge to a point just south of Blöndulón, and sections of the track have been “improved” by having road-metal laid in the track-bed. I found the roughest section in the immediate vicinity of Hveravellir, where it was pretty slow going over corrugations covered in loose material, though such things soon change. All but a couple of fords are now culverted. The highest point of the road is about 650m, and much of the road is only gently undulating.

A few km north of the Hvítá bridge, there is now a mountain hut on the main road, roughly at the same level as the Hvítárnes hut. Hvítárnes is still in use, but is only accessible over a rough track with a moderately deep ford of the Svartá to cross. You can take water from the Svartá only by walking some distance from the main road; otherwise there is only one small stream crossing the road from there until you are practically at Hveravellir, marked on the map as the Eystri-Svartáarbotnar, so make sure you have enough water with you.

Most will wish to stop at Hveravellir (600m above sea level), at least to bathe in the hot pools and see the curiosities. The campsite is pleasant, and most of the crowds don’t stop the night. If you want to stay in the mountain hut in high season, you will probably need to book well in advance.

The northern half of the route is easier and less interesting. It is advertised as passable by ordinary cars, though with care one can drive an ordinary car over the southern half also. There is a mountain hut (without a camping area), which also has a coffee shop, near the SW corner of Blöndulón. There is no conveniently accessible drinking water from the area of this hut until you have dropped down into the Blandá valley, (north of the power station, where there is a short section of paved road on a steep hill), even though the road meanders between several large dammed lakes, so don’t get caught out.

There are no food shops on the way, and whichever way you are travelling you will still have quite some way further to go on tarmac before you come to the first shop. In the north, food is available at Varmahlíð and Blönduós, in the south at Flúðir and Laugarvatn; these are all modest villages so don’t rely on late night or Sunday opening. A service bus runs once a day in each direction in high season if you need rescuing. Maybe you could arrange with the bus company to drop some luggage (eg, a food parcel) for collection at Hveravellir.

Kerlingarfjöll is a possible detour about 12km off the road (via F347). It is a colourful thermal area somewhat similar to Landmannalaugar. There is a tourist centre with campsite. But it does seem to attract the bad weather. You can travel quite some way east beyond Kerlingarfjöll on very rough roads, connecting into the rough roads in the upper Þjórsá valley. But there is not a crossing of the Þjórsá river to allow you to connect with tracks into Sprengisandur this way.


There is a rather special feeling about cycling across the extended desert sections right in the middle of the country provided by the Sprengisandur (F26) route, even though much of the desert scenery not what you would call spectacular. It used to be the route by which hairy-chested cyclists proved their worth, however the road administration has been busy improving the route and it isn’t really very difficult any more. Nevertheless, you do need a reliable strong bike with good luggage carriers to ride such an extended rough road with heavy luggage, and I have regularly seen cyclists who have suffered damage to their bikes coming off this route. Some of the damage appears self-inflicted by those who ride very fast.

On the main F26, the unpaved section runs from about 10km north of Hrauneyjar to Goðafoss, and this route is usually opened in late June, to ensure that it is available to tour companies. There are two other main routes from the north, to Akureyri (F821 Skagafjarðarleið) and Varmahlíð (F752 Eyjafjarðarleið), which open later. There are some other, extremely rough, connecting routes. There are some extended sections without access to water, for example heading south from Nýidalur there is no water for 30km. The highest point depends upon the route, but is typically about 900m.

The “hub” of the route is the Nýidalur mountain hut, sitting at 800m beneath the Tungnafell glacier, which seems to attract bad weather. There is another mountain hut at Laugafell about 50km to the north of Nýidalur, with the attraction of hot springs; however this lies on the F821 and F752 approaches, not the F26 approach, though there is a connecting route to the F26 running east from Laugafell.

There are service buses and tour buses running regularly in high season on both the F26 and F821 if you need rescuing, and in theory you can arrange for them to drop a parcel for you to collect at Nýidalur or Laugafell.

In good weather, it takes about a day and a half from Hrauneyjar to Nýidalur (115km), and two (long) days from Landmannalaugar to Nýidalur (145km), though cyclists have done it faster. From Nýidalur to tarmac in the north is typically about two more days, depending on the route you choose.  An alternative exit from near Nýidalur is the considerably more challenging F910 Gæsavatnaleið (see below). The only deep ford remaining on the main routes lies about 5km north of Nýidalur, by the F910 junction. Coming from the south, from the end of tarmac to the junction just west of Versalir (a guesthouse/café about 55km from Nýidalur, by the bridge over the Illugakvísl) is a built-up gravel road. The F26 turns right here, but you can go straight on, staying west of Kvíslavatn, by-passing Nýidalur and rejoining the F26 close to the junction with the F752; this is the old road and is considerably more challenging than the main F26, probably representing how the road used to be.

Sprengisandur has a connection to Landmannalaugar via the F208, which joins the tarmac 26 a few km east of Hrauneyjar.  For those coming to/from the north, there is also a shortcut onto the F208 from the point where the tarmac ends on the old F26, but this is a much rougher road and you may prefer to go the long way round. Veiðivötn is a possible detour on F228 from the same junction 10km east Hrauneyjar, the point where the tarmac ends.  The F229 runs a considerable distance north from Veiðivötn towards the east face of Vatnajökull, but is usually shown as petering out as a dead end. On one map, I have seen a track marked which extends this road through Vonaskarð to join the F910 about 30km from Nýidalur. If it exists, this would be an extremely adventurous route, with some major fords.


For the venturesome cyclist willing to ride bad roads, carry food for at least four days, and carry water, Askja is a splendid focus for a wilderness excursion across the deserts of the Icelandic interior.

Over the centuries, magma chambers have collapsed under the volcano Dyngjufjöll to create several nested calderas – crater-like structures – known as Askja. Most recently this happened in 1875, following a large eruption, and the resultant caldera is now filled with water to create a circular lake, Öskjuvatn. The lake covers an area of around 12 sq km at an altitude of around 1,100m. It is humbling to realise that such a large geological structure is of such recent origin. Most of the year Öskjuvatn is frozen over, revealing its blue colour only in late summer. The older, larger calderas, in which it lies, form a high, enclosed table-land surround by cliffs, rising to around 1,600m.

Near Öskjuvatn lies the explosion crater Víti, which means Hell. It is similar to the crater of the same name at Krafla near Mývatn. About 60m deep, with multicoloured walls, a small turquoise lake is maintained by geothermal heat at a comfortable temperature for swimming. It is a steep, muddy climb down. Altogether, it is one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Iceland.

Nearby, the Dreki mountain hut and camp-site lies at an altitude of 780m. There are now two public mountain huts and a shower-block at Dreki. The area is very prone to strong winds, and the obvious camping area to the south of the huts suffers wind coming from multiple directions because of the topography of the canyon entrance – I suggest camping to the north of the huts which is more sheltered. The ground is hard and tent pegs need a lot of hammering. Dreki means dragon, and certainly it seems a good place for one. From here a track (F894), now well-surfaced, climbs 8km up into Askja. You have to abandon the bicycle 2.5km before Víti, and walk the rest of the way. Allow a minimum of half a day for a visit to Víti from Dreki.

There are essentially three routes to Dreki. The easiest is from the north (F88), starting from 33km to the east of Mývatn, and passing by the attractive Herðubreiðarlindir nature reserve, with its hut and campsite (hot shower costs extra). Many cyclists use this as an out-and-back return route. It is certainly the easiest route and the strategy which minimises the amount of food you must carry – four days may suffice. It might appear that you could make this journey without a tent, but it is not wise to rely on the huts. In high season, they are booked up by tour groups. Moreover the cyclist needs to be able to shelter from storm-force winds which laugh in the face of plans and timetables. In high season, regular buses offers a way of retreat. A northward extension is possible, cutting out Mývatn to travel via the Jökulsárgljufur National Park to Ásbyrgi (see above). Although still a rough earth road, it has now been considerably improved since I first travelled it in 2001, especially the section from Dreki to Herðubreiðarlindir. Today the roughest section is through the lavafield in the Herðubreiðarlindir reserve. The northern section is still a rough road, but its consolidation has been greatly improved making it easily if slowly rideable. Mývatn to Herðubreiðarlindir is often done in a day, but can easily be too far for a day if the wind is unhelpful.

More interesting than the northern route, though much harder and longer, are easterly routes from Brú i Jökuldal (F910, the central section of Gæsavatnaleið), described in detail below (from Egilsstaðir via Jökuldal). It joins the northern route for the final 13km to Dreki. In 2001, I experienced about 18km of unrideable sand between the F88/F910 junction and the Kreppa bridge, and much of this was hard dragging rather than easy wheeling, despite recent rain. However passing the F88/F910 junction 13km from Dreki in 2001, it was clear that work had been done on the road, and it was looking easily rideable as far as I could see from the junction (which admittedly wasn’t very far). I suspect that the route to Kverkfjöll has been improved, as many more tours now go there. So probably this section of the F910 is now more easily rideable at least as far as the F902 turn.

There are numerous possible extensions and diversions from this route. Kverkfjöll is a tempting detour, for its thermal waters and ice caves. F902 is the better road, and though other cyclists have described it as terribly sandy (“the hardest day’s cycling I ever had in Iceland” said one who subsequently continued on the F910 to Nýidalur), but it may have been recently improved. As a result of the construction works for the new Kárahnjúkar hydro power station, the eastern end of F910 has now been entirely paved from a point about 15km south of Brú i Jökuldal (somewhat to the south of Aðalbol in Hrafnkelsdalur) all the way to Egilsstaðir, via the south bank of the Lagarfljót.  Moreover it is kept open all year. Although heavy lorries use this route, apparently it isn’t very busy. This now provides the closest approach of tarmac to Brú i Jökuldal, and is probably a more scenic, though longer route than through Skjöldólfsstaðir on the Ring Road. This now provides much easier access to the Snæfell hut (12km up the F909), though probably the final approach remains prone to be closed until July. It is possible to travel on other roads further to the south to destinations such as Kringilsárrani and Brúardalir, not all of which are dead ends. Today, these are probably the true examples of the hardest roads in Iceland, and I have not read of any accounts of them being cycled, though no doubt it has been done.

The third route to Askja is the western section of F910 Gæsavatnaleið from Nýidalur, which is discussed below. In fact there is a fourth route to Dreki, from the NW, connecting with the tracks to the south of Mývatn, joining Gæsavatnaleið about 35km west of Askja. I suspect this is the hardest route of all I have seen only one account of this route being cycled, but it was in Icelandic and I didn’t gain very much from it, save the impression that it looked hard and unspectacular.

The main routes (F88 and Brú to Askja section of F910) typically open in early to late June. In high season there are service buses and other tour buses running daily on F88 from Mývatn to Askja, but not on F910.

It is worth knowing where you can camp, as there are some misleading signs around. Askja is a reserve, so you must camp by the Dreki hut, unfortunately on stony ground. The Herðubreiðarlindir reserve starts 3km south of the hut and runs until about 25km north, but the official campsite is at least nice and grassy. The reserve boundary signpost is placed a couple of km outside the reserve (it has a helpful map on the sign), and there is actually a fair wild campspot practically next to it, cheeky but apparently legal, but far better than anywhere further north. The area around Mývatn is a reserve and wild camping is strictly policed. The F902 passes through the Hvannalindir reserve on the way to the Kverkfjöll hut; elsewhere you can wild camp. The area of Krepputunga through which the F910 passes is not within the Krepputunga reserve, so it is permitted (though not encouraged) to camp here.

Egilsstaðir – Askja – Mývatn (via Jökuldal)








Town, all services. Last food till Mývatn or Ásbyrgi.

Jct 1/917 (Vopnafjörður)







Paved. Small village, no food.

Jct 1/923



Paved apart from the last km to the junction.

Brú i Jókuldal Jct 923/F910



Good gravel. Last habitation till Mývatn. Note the alternative approach to Brú via the (now) mostly paved eastern end of the F910.

Jct F910/F907 (Anavatn)



Rough earth road, mostly consolidated, steep.

Jct (Kringilsárrani)




Pass Þríhyrningur (700m)



Steep sections. Two moderate fords.

Jct F910/F905 (Möðrudalsheiði)



Steep sections. Two moderate fords.

Ford Þríhyrningsá



Deep ford, the deepest I have crossed, though another day it could be different.

Ford Alftadalsá



Moderate ford. Last reliable drinking water until Dreki or Herðubreiðarlindir.

Jct (Kringilsárrani)




Bridge Kreppa



River water silt-laden, not drinkable, not treatable. Sometimes rainwater pools.

Jct F910/F903 (Kverkfjöll 44km)



First 10km mixed rock and sand then mostly soft sand. (F903 is worse than F902.)

Jct F910/F902 (Kverkfjöll 44km)



Soft sand. (F902 is terrible by repute, but may have been recently improved.)

Bridge Jokulsá á Fjöllum



Soft sand (but may have been improved recently). River water silt-laden, not drinkable, not treatable.

Jct F910/F88 (Herðubreiðarlindir 21km)



First 4km consolidated. Then soft sand (but appears to have been improved recently).

Dreki (780m) Jct F910/F894 (Askja 8km)



Improved earth road, currently very good (2005). Water. Mountain hut, official campsite.

Return Jct F910/F88



As previous.

Herðubreiðarlindir mountain hut



Improved earth road, currently very good (2005), apart from last 3km. Water. Official campsite.

Ford Lindaá



Rough earth road with some improvement. The ford adjacent to the mountain hut can be avoided by use of a footbridge from the group camping area. The Lindaá is a fairly deep ford. Water. No camping.

Ford Grafarlandaá



Mostly rather rough earth road. Moderate ford. Water. No camping.

Reserve boundary signpost



Actually a couple of km north of the true reserve boundary. Rough earth road with some improvement. Water nearby.

Small lake



About 4km of sand before lake, but now mostly rideable. Last guaranteed water till Mývatn or Grímsstaðir, but not the best.

Jct F88/1 (Grímsstaðir 7km paved)



A few short sections of sand, but now mostly rideable. Campsite but reportedly no food at Grímsstaðir. There is a small stream close to the junction, but it is prone to dry up.

Jct 1/F862 (Dettifoss 23km dirt)




Jct 1/863 (Krafla 8km gravel)



Paved. Allow half a day to visit Krafla.

Reykjahlíð Jct 1/87



Paved. Steep little pass. Small village with all main services.

Note: Place name in brackets implies “turn for”.

Gæsavatnleið (western section)

The western section of Gæsavatnaleið (F910) connects Askja (Dreki) to Nýidalur in the middle of Sprengisandur. In fact it is more than one route, as there are a couple of options. It is just about the most remote route in Iceland, and of course that is its attraction. It attracts very little traffic and is scenically very interesting, factors which are all tempting to the cyclist.  It is usually the last road to open in the summer, and sometimes doesn’t open at all, though it may be open “enough” to cycle. It has a reputation as the hardest route to cycle in Iceland, though I expect there is much worse. But it can certainly be sorely trying if the sands are too dry or the glacial outwashes are too wet. Ideal weather is cool with recent rain. In other conditions (eg sandstorm) cyclists have given up and turned back. We were lucky when we did it (in 2005), and my experience was that, under the conditions in which I did them, the central section of F910 (from Brú i Jökuldal to Askja, which I rode in 2001) was harder. It seems a better idea to start from Nýidalur, for three reasons. First, you are more likely to have tailwinds coming that way; second giving up seems more likely if you set off from Dreki, as you hit the unrideable sand after just 7km when giving up seems a more reasonable option; and third it is easier to carry two days’ water from Gæsavötn while you are still cycling, than from Askja when you will soon be pushing your bike over soft sand.

From the western end, F910 starts from a junction with the F26 5km north of Nýidalur, right next to the deepest ford on the F26. The first 30km of F910 road are mostly well surfaced for cycling, in fact generally better than most of the F26. There are several fords in the first 30km, one of which, after about 15-20km, is the hardest (though not the deepest) ford I have crossed with a bike. The problem is that the current is very strong, and the water is turbid, so you can’t easily spot the shallowest route. After 30km there is a bridge over the Skjálfandarfljót, after which the F910 splits into the new official northern route, and the old southern route. Most cyclists take the old southern route. The southern route is more scenic, slightly shorter, and the worst problems are on the sections common to both routes, so why not? Although the old route is shown as “unmaintained” on road information boards, in practice this isn’t quite true. The route is clearly marked out with regular yellow stakes its entire length, and you will have reason to be very grateful for this.

The first short stretch after the junction looks like there isn’t a road at all, but you are soon back on a pretty good road, and it is about 10km to Gæsavötn. These two lakes seem rather a small and insignificant landmark to lend their name to such a significant road, but I suspect that this beautiful oasis, at an altitude of 900m, seemed like an extraordinary respite deep in desert. Gæsavötn provides the last good reliable drinking water until Askja, so you should carry your needs from here. There is large and luxurious private mountain hut at Gæsavötn, mainly used for winter sports, which will normally be locked and unavailable to you.

The road now becomes a bit rougher, though still easily rideable, as it gradually climbs up through lavafields to about 1200m, which probably makes it the highest road in Iceland. About 12km from Gæsavötn it comes to a small glacial outwash zone just 500m from the face of Vatnajökull.  You can easily cycle up to the face of the glacier. We found the outwash waters around here weren’t too turbid, so this may provide another last (or first) chance to get water. Outwash zones are areas where meltwater comes out of the glacier. They typically have a flat silt surface (ie mud) cut by many small water channels. It is often very firm to cycle on, though occasionally some damper sections are a bit soft. Most of the small channels are are easy to cycle across, though occasionally there are some deeper ones which you may have to ford more carefully. The water is usually very muddy, so is not useful for drinking except in extremis. In warm weather with the sun beating on the glacier, there can be a lot more water on the outwashes making them more difficult to cross. We were luckly to be crossing in cool weather with relatively little water on them. The road gets much rougher and less distinct from here, and in places you have to scout around for the next yellow marker – the tracks of vehicle drivers clearly also searching are a distraction from the correct route. You cross another outwash zone, then descend for a while into some lava, and then cross a couple of rather wider outwash zones. After this is a flat gravel plain which is excellent cycling for a few km, until you come into a rough lavafield, now just a short distance from the Kistufell hut.

The Kistufell hut (roughly 25km or half a day from Gæsavötn, at an altitude of about 1100m) is both an emergency hut and an unstaffed unlocked mountain hut, where you can stay the night for a fee in an honesty box. But there is no water in the area. There are some tools in the hut, such as a vice, which might be useful if you have mechanical problems. After the Kistufell hut is the roughest section of the road, as it first descends steeply and then climbs again to go over the dome of Urðarháls shield volcano. This has a large crater nearly 200m deep (hence the surprising spot height on the map) just a short distance off the track, which is worth wandering over to look at. This part of the road is a boulder field where the road is all but invisible but for the yellow stakes. It is possible to ride much of it, but only very carefully, so it is almost as quick to walk.

The road descends steeply off Urðarháls onto a major glacial outwash. You can also detour to the face of the glacier, which is about 2km away here. The track heads out onto the outwash, and afterabout 1km there is junction marker (no signpost), and you have a choice of routes – you can see the two lines of yellow sticks going into the distance. The older route (“the sands”) is just to carry straight on north-east across the glacial outwash. After a few km, you come off the outwash and onto some sands. The outwash is easy riding provided that there isn’t too much meltwater coming of the glacier. Once onto the sands, we found them wet from recent rain and mostly easily rideable, (even on my 40mm tyres), provided we rode in the vehicle tracks. Indeed we proceeded at speed until we reached the junction with the northern F910 by a signpost reading “Askja 22km” (the distance is actually to Dreki rather than Askja). This point is probably about 25-30km from Kistufell. This option is not shown on many maps. The newer route (“the lava”), which is shown on most maps, forks left and heads north through a lava-field, joining the northern F910 about 31km from Dreki. It is probably necessary to follow the newer route if there is too much water on the outwash, or if the sands are too dry to cross easily, though of course it is hard to know which will be best at the point when you have to make the decision. I would suspect the lava fields are difficult sandy riding. About 1km east of the 22km sign, the road went into the lava, and the sand soon became too soft to ride, even though it was damp. Short sections were rideable, but rarely for long enough to make it worthwhile given frequent dismounting. We were however lucky that the sand was sufficiently damp that we could wheel the bikes without them sinking into the sand. We were able to wheel the bikes about 14km in 3 hours. On this section we found the sand in the wheelmarks softer, so we took a short-cut by cutting off a corner off the road, using the mountains as sighting points. Crossing this section when the sand is dry can be sorely trying, as the bike sinks in and you have to drag it, which is both slow and very hard work. People have taken all day over it. A strong wind, which the area is prone to, doesn’t help either. The last 7km to Dreki are rideable but mostly rather rough.


Especial thanks to Dick Phillips, who looked after me on my first trip to Iceland, and who has subsequently helped me with arrangements, information and cheap tickets, despite my difficult demands. Thanks also to Mike Erens and everyone else who has provided information.

Ivan Viehoff, Revised September 2005.

index : I. Practical Information : II. Touring Zones