Iceland is the perfect place to explore, with wide-open, uninhabited spaces to really put you in touch with nature. Once you leave the Capital Region, it’s very easy to find places of peace and untouched natural beauty. Your rental car will get you to the area you want to go to, but what about once you’re there?
Well, you could hike on foot, navigating the incredible walking trails throughout the country. Or, you could embark on an epic Iceland bike tour. You’ll be able to cover more ground and get some great exercise in while experiencing Iceland’s bike trails.
These are the aspects we will go over in this article:
What are the Best Bike Tours in Iceland?
Easy Cycling Trails
Long Trails to Cycle
Mountain Biking Trails
Useful Tips for Cycling
What are the Best Bike Tours in Iceland?
Firstly, it depends on what type of cycling you plan to do. Maybe you want to cycle flat, easy trails, suitable for all skill levels. Or perhaps you’re an experienced mountain biker and want to tackle Iceland’s tough downhill trails. Whatever your style is, there are so many Iceland bike tours to choose from, you’ll find something perfect for you.
On a general note, it is recommended to complete a bike tour in Iceland during the summer months. The weather conditions from October to April make cycling not only less enjoyable, but riskier.
However, if you own or hire a fat bike, then you’ll be much better prepared for snow and ice. Iceland has plenty of fat bike tour routes too, in particular around the Capital Region.
Easy Cycling Trails in Iceland
Reykjavík Coastal Path
Let’s start with something easy. Maybe the weather is great in the capital but you’ve had your fill of road trip adventures. In that case, cycling the coastal path along the south side of the peninsula where Reykjavík is could be ideal.
The route passes Reykjavík Airport, Nauthólsvík beach and Reykjavík University, but that’s only the human side. For the whole duration, you’ll have a view of the bay, and on a clear day, the scenery is phenomenal. You have Reykjanes Peninsula on one side and Snæfellsnes Peninsula on the other, possibly even seeing the Snæfellsjökull glacier.
If you head to the National Museum of Iceland, then cycle south towards the coast, you’ll reach the cycle path. From here you can either go left or right. The left will take you towards Nauthólsvík yellow sand beach, which has a naturally heated pool. The right will take you closer to the tip of the peninsula and into residential areas.
Also close to Nauthólsvík beach is a wonderful café, Nauthóll Bistró, with bike racks close by. This makes for a great stop along your cycling route before you continue heading east. Overall, the route can be anything from 6 km upwards, depending on how long you want to be cycling for.
The South Coast Lighthouse Trail
This route links up three lighthouses along the south coast, and there is a walking/cycling route following the shoreline. It’s about 45 km (ca. 28 mi) in total, so expect to be gone for the whole day. The route begins at Selvogsviti lighthouse, passes Hafnarnesviti lighthouse and ends at Knarrarósvi lighthouse.
It isn’t just the lighthouses you’ll be able to view as you cycle. Each of them is close to a small, pleasant village which gives you a great taste of rural Iceland. Along the cliffs and in the water, you’ll see many types of seabirds, fishing boats and ships. Once you’ve reached Knarrarósvi lighthouse, consider spending the night at the closest village, Stokkseyri.
The great thing about this route is that the three villages, Þorlákshöfn, Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri, act as natural rest stops. You can grab some food and take a break before carrying on to the final lighthouse. Of the three lighthouses, Knarrarósvi is the only one open to the public, and only in the summer months.
Begin your tour by driving from Reykjavík to Selvogsviti lighthouse, a journey of around an hour. From there, park up and start your cycling adventure day, heading east.
Long Trails to Cycle in Iceland
The Ring Road (Route 1)
If you want to spend several days or a week-plus on the bicycle, consider cycling along the Ring Road. This route is one two-lane highway that circles the entire country, leaving out only the bigger fjords in the corners. How much of the route you cycle is up to you; it’s 1,322 kilometers (ca. 821 mi) in total.
While the Ring Road is a paved route all the way around, it is by no means flat. Expect some steep uphills and downhills, and know that lining the road most of the way are lava fields. This sharp, uneven surface can be near impossible to cycle on, so stick to the road. Stay at the edge and wear bright clothing and reflectors to alert passing cars.
There are small towns and villages along the south coast with accommodation, making it conducive to a long cycle trip. Along the other coastlines, lodging and supply stations can be spaced further apart. Be sure to plan your route thoroughly in advance, so you know where you’ll be staying and eating every night.
Mountain Biking Trails in Iceland
There are trails for mountain bikers scattered throughout the country, including in Reykjavík. You can see a list of trails, including their location, length and difficulty, through this link.
Like many countries with ski resorts, some of Iceland’s Snowsports hills turn into bike parks during the summer. This is especially true of Hlíðarfjall, the ski resort close to Akureyri in north Iceland. From mid-July, once the snow is gone, this hill is open to bikers, with dozens of trails to choose from.
In case you are an enthusiast of both sports but want to explore the area without snow, find a full list of these reconverted paths here.
Note that you will be sharing some bike trails in Iceland with hikers, and in some cases, they have priority. Stay alert when cycling and wear appropriate protective gear.
Useful Tips for Cycling in Iceland
· You can find a cycling map, as well as other useful maps, on this website. We recommend downloading the Safe Travel app, in which you can check road conditions and submit a travel plan. The app will alert you when weather conditions make a certain area unsafe to travel through.
· It’s also a good idea to download the “112” app. This app allows you to complete “check-ins”, whereby you send your current GPS location to emergency services. In this way, you leave a trail in case something happens, making you easier to find. Additionally, you can contact the services directly from the app.
· 112 is also the phone number to use in case of emergency, should you choose not to use the app. Also, no matter the season, always be ready with warm, waterproof clothing. Sunglasses can be a great help, especially in summer, when the sun barely sets for many months.
· Free camping is illegal in Iceland, so familiarize yourself with the location of campsites you plan to stay at. Wildfires are also not allowed, and these measures are in place to protect Iceland’s delicate nature. Be respectful of the landscape, and please stay off the green moss covering most lava fields; it is easily damaged.
· Iceland contains three massive national parks with an abundance of hiking/biking trails. Spending your cycling holiday exploring just one of these would be well worth your time. The visitor’s centers of said parks contain all the facilities you need.
Prepare your Self-Guided bike tour
Make sure you know what you’re getting into on an Iceland bike tour. The weather is famously unpredictable, and even in summer, you may encounter strong wind, cold temperatures and heavy rain. But what you will absolutely experience are stunning views and exciting, challenging terrain.
Book a car big enough to hold your bikes along with yourselves; Cars Iceland has plenty of options. That way, you can drive all the way to the base of the trails you want to tackle. Before you sort your bike, sort your car. You can rent your car in Iceland and much more of the country will be open to you, and of course, you can make better use of your cycling time!
Samuel Hogarth, Cars Iceland.