Iceland - A paradise for cyclists

Iceland. The word is music to the ears of a cyclist. And what music! It sounds like open landscape and pure freedom. At least that was the plan, as Rainer and I set off on our bikes towards Iceland.

Arrived in Iceland, it started just perfect. Blue sky and the temperature needle stood at over 20 degrees Celsius. Plus of course. On the way from the airport to Reykjavik, we passed another touring cyclist in a T-Shirt and short pants. He was tanned like he just got here from Africa. Yes, hoping it continue on this way.

America and Europe on one photo
And it did. Even though the clouds had gathered, we arrived at Thingvellir in good weather. A thoroughly interesting place. In addition to the Icelandic history, the European and American continental plates meet here. More specifically, they drift apart, resulting in large, deep crevices, through which you can even walk.

The curtain rises for the Strokkur
Where else can you stand with one foot in America and the other in Europe?

And with fantastic weather we cycled to Geysir. Okay, the geyser has long been jammed and does not do justice to its name. But its immediate neighbour, the Strokkur which is active, opens its curtain every 5 minutes and performs a spectacle in front of the amazed spectators.
Haifoss Waterfall
Charging the hose line at Haifoss
A little further down the road is already the Gullfoss waterfall. Although it is regarded as the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland, I cannot agree.
In our opinion the 122m high Haifoss is far more impressive. But maybe it was because Haifoss is away from the main tourist routes and we were there virtually alone.

Freezing cold river crossing
Freezing cold river crossing
Then the weather turned around. The blue sky only lasted in our memories for the first two days. The comfortable temperatures as well. The thermometer hovered at 10-12 degrees and did not recover from this to the end of the tour.

But when the sun peeped through the clouds briefly, crossing the streams was still a treat. Just a pity that the sun did it only rarely.

Hell storm from the front

The music in our ears changed its pitch level. From melodic, pleasant tones it turned to a screeching noise. The wind had worked its way up the and finally exceeded level 10 on the Beaufort scale. Following Murphy's Law of course, we had a direct head wind. With this storm, biking was real torture. Even downhill we didn’t get up to much more than 6 km/h on the speedometer. Pushing the bike wouldn’t have been much slower...

First drain pipe
5 Star Hotel
Good night
Our 5 Star Hotel
Not only that, the cycling got harder and harder, pitching the tents became virtually impossible. To avoid the risk that they got ripped apart, we could not pitch them. They would had been simply blown away by the storm. Instead, we made ourselves "comfortable" in the big rain pipes that cross under the road.

From tours in many countries, I knew that strong wind decreases significantly at night (no sun) and the next morning it sometimes is even windless. We did not have this illusion, but we were hopeful that it would at least slow down until the next morning and would just pick up a little, later during the day. Therefore, we asked the alarm clock to wake us up really early. When we were kicked half-sleeping out of “bed” the next morning, it still was stormy and even in the rain tube, it was so windy that we immediately turned the alarm clock off again, and tried frantically to go back to sleep.

Second rain pipe
Second 5 Star Hotel
Disillusioned, we kept fighting all day long. We had been looking forward to turning north about 90 degrees towards Sprengisandur. But the wind shifted direction slightly and stayed as a head wind. Its force was absolutely energy consuming and even more demotivating.

The mood did not improve in the evening, as the storm was just as strong as the day before. So we had to stay in another rain tube the second night in a row.

Nice but windy cycling on the Sprengisandur
Nice but windy cycling on the Sprengisandur
The next morning everything was unchanged. We had really been looking immensely forward to cycling the Sprengisandur. It leads from the south of Iceland across the highlands to the northern side of the island. But with such a storm, it was no fun. You could see it only as a sporting challenge, turning off your brain and simply turn the pedal.

That night, our first in the highlands, we were more fortunate, because there was kind of a very small hollow, in which, it was not quite as stormy. So we set up the tents quickly and shortly after, we had fallen into a deep sleep.

Winter in summer

Midsummer in Iceland
The next morning, Iceland presented itself with a slightly nicer side. The wind was bearable and sometimes later that day, we even had blue sky. But that could not hide the fact that it had become pretty cold.
Frozen Nyidalur
No washing anymore
But yet again, Iceland proved that its weather could change almost instantly, when we got winter with some snowfall in the middle of summer. Luckily we were already near the Nyidalur hut. There we checked in more than grateful for the night. Our first night in a "real" building. It would be the last one...
The onset of winter had its good sides (or should I say beautiful sides?). The mountains with the white frosting on the hilltops looked even more charming than without snow.

Rainers favourite hobby
Rainers favourite hobby
After Rainer intensively indulged in his favourite hobby again, we arrived in Husavik, which is off the north coast. A great place in the middle of a fjord, with fantastic mountain scenery.

And we were extremely lucky: That night a great festival was in full swing. A true experience, especially since it was not getting dark at night and we had completely lost our sense of time.
Water wall
We continued along the north coast, through the National Park Jökulsárgljúfur and directly to the Dettifoss waterfall. It was really amazing. Even the waterfall experienced Icelanders were in awe of the falling mass of water.

As nice as it was on the coast, the call of the highlands was getting louder. Finally, we followed it and headed down the Kjalvegur route. Although it is not far from the Sprengisandur route, the landscape is quite different. And it even had a treat in store.

Kjölur Pool
Deep relaxation on the Kjölur pool
Pretty much in the middle of the Kjalvegur route is the thermally active Kjolur. An absolute delight to jump into the natural pool after a long day cycling. From one side cold water flows into the pool, from the other side boiling hot water was added. Depending on where you are in the pool, it is correspondingly colder or hotter. It was just paradise.

Smoking Minivulcan
But not only is the pool like paradise.
Even the thermal active environment had something to offer. Throughout Kjolur it bubbled, hissed and splashed everywhere.

Godsend Kerlingarfjöll

Surreal landscape
On the way to the Kjalvegur route, we met another touring cyclist. One of those lucky coincidences. He told us of Kerlingarfjöll, something that probably is off the “main” road. After he raved about the surreal landscape with its whimsical colours, for a few minutes, the decision was easy: We simply had to go there!

The right decision. Kerlingarfjöll should become a highlight of our tour. The colours were indeed amazing. Although the weather still did not want to play along, the sun came out for a few seconds. Then the colours began to shine properly. We would have liked to have stayed much longer.
But unfortunately the clock was ticking and the return date got closer and we had to hurry up to get back to Reykjavik. There we had a brief taste of the nightlife and then the next morning, we rode back to the airport. As we still had enough time we decided to take a pit stop at the Blue Lagoon. It cannot keep up with the other natural pools on the island, but if you ignore the masses of tourists, a short stop makes the Blue Lagoon more than bearable.

Without rain, we finally arrived at the campsite next to the airport. The bikes were quickly disassembled into their individual parts and packed up in some cardboard boxes. Early in the morning we sat on the plane and looked down at Iceland. The further we got away from it, the quieter the music in our ears became. But one thing seemed certain, one day we’ll follow the music again and return to Iceland.

I am very much looking forward to your questions and comments in the guestbook.

Who wants to see more images with surreal colours and bubbles and splashes click here.

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