Iceland isn’t much for paved roads. Past about 100km south of Reykjavík, there is a whole one paved road for the next ~500km. Then that too turns into gravel. If you were leave that one paved road and head straight north cross-country across the icecap(s), you would not hit another paved road until you had crossed the entire island and were sitting on the north coast.
Because of this, most people cycle Iceland on mountain bikes, or at least road bikes with urban or mountain tires on there. However, if you’re a Roadie and you kinda just threw your bike in a box the night before your flight, you might have racing tires on there. This means you’re sticking to the paved road. And thus, you’ll see most the same raw, stark, strong, breathtaking sights pictured here.
From Reykjavík I headed to the northeast to the Althing, following this guide (search for ‘In and out of Reykjavik’) to get out of town. The Althing’s big claim to fame is that was the world’s first democratic parliament – 930AD, a bunch of Icelandic Vikings. As historical sites in Iceland go, this is the big one. The Icelandic people pull most of their proud self-identity from their Viking ancestry, even if it has been shown that genetically that they’re also Scottish and Irish. Even if not completely in body, at least in mind, culture, language and spirit, they are the Viking people.
Modern Icelanders have marked their best-guess of where the Althing was held with an Icelandic flag.
Against these cliffs, the speaker’s voice would resonate and project out to the envoys that came from across the island.
From above the cliffs of the Althing:
The Althing was held at the head of lake Thingvallavatn.
From the Althing, I cut down to Selfoss. The road was completely empty for the first hour or so… beyond the half dozen vehicles or so that roared by, I saw no sign nor heard no sound of mankind beyond the growling of my tires spinning swiftly on the worn pavement below. Zen factor: extremely high.
Cycling from Selfoss down towards Vík (at the southern tip), your trip is dominated by the approaching Icelandic bluffs.
As they approach, you’ll notice thin white lines cutting down from the top to the flats below. Those are waterfalls.
Heading around Vík up toward Skaftafell National Park and the huge Vatnajökull Icecap, the grasslands move away. You begin cutting across huge wastelands, created by the icecap dumping rocky sediment down over and over for a few millennia.
The glaciers coming down off the icecaps are intense. I’ve seen glaciers before in California and Canada, but this was something else.
The largest dump of the Vatnajökull actually makes it all the way out to the sea, throwing small icebergs out into the Atlantic where they quickly melt. You get to ride across a steel bridge with icebergs underneath. What is this, Narnia?
Having a waffle next to a glacier and a few icebergs. That was one damn good waffle.
As you approach Höfn, the wasteland changes back over to farmland, still backed by glaciers coming down from the icecap.
Unfortunately, I (actually, more like Stanford to pass the buck) timed my trip to miss summer by about a week. I got rained on everyday and faced strong headwinds about half the time. As the storm got worse, I bunkered down in Höfn for a few days to wait it out. This is the best (and coincidentally, the only) coffee shop in Höfn. Free wifi included! Highly recommended.
After three days of waiting, the weather prediction was ‘bad’ for the next five… so I bailed. Back to Reykjavík. As a student, my flight on Eagle Air was just under 10k Krona (~100 USD), which is like 10% more expensive than the bus and about 8 times faster. They are bike-friendly… no extra charge if you’re under 20 kilos.
Hello, small plane flying in bad weather.
I spent several more days (and nights – great nightlife, no need to sleep) in Reykjavík bouncing around. They have a nice network of separated bike trails that rings the city several times over.
Finally, I rode out to the international airport in Keflavík for a flight to Berlin via Iceland Express – also relatively bike-friendly. No bike box or bag required. Once you get out of Reykjavík, the ride to the airport is on the freeway shoulder. The entrances/exits are a little intimidating but they’re pretty empty of traffic cause everyone’s going to the airport. It’s really a pretty fast and efficient ride. When I first arrived in Iceland, I didn’t ride from Keflavík to Reykjavík… but if I do it again, I will. It’s a fat 10 foot shoulder the whole way. Pray for tailwinds!