Iceland: An Adventure-riding Paradise

Text: Mike Botan • Photography: Mike Botan

“Ride a motorcycle through Iceland? You’ve got to be kidding me. Isn’t that a frozen, windblown island nation in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean?” Well, I’ve been awakened to the fact that this place of “fire and ice” is one of the most beautiful, diverse, and friendly places I have ever visited. The country is blessed with verdant landscapes, gorgeous seascapes, mountains, waterfalls, geysers, rocky barren plains, and volcanoes. Many of these wondrous sights can be reached in a single day.

It’s an easy flight for my wife (Kim) and me to Iceland’s major international airport at Reykjavik. We arrive on a mid-June evening, so the following morning we grab a taxi and pick up our rented bikes, a Honda Trans Alp and a Yamaha XT660R.

Our planned route is to be a circumnavigation with side trips on some of the nation’s spectacular “F” roads, which are open only to 4-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, and ATVs. There is little traffic outside the cities and even less on the “F.” What a treat!

Thirty minutes beyond Reykjavik on Route 1, the landscape has already changed immensely. Rocky peaks covered in green grass and moss surround us. At times the ocean encroaches, and we tour around fjords for miles to take in the natural splendor. Wild sheep graze and lounge on the mountainside, roadside, and even sometimes in our path.

We continue north toward our first stop, the fishing town of Ólafsvík and meander along routes 1, 574, and 54 through little towns like Borgarnes and Breidasker. We pass farms with hay packaged in white plastic covers. They leave a scene in the gathering fog that resembles fields dotted with cotton balls. As we move farther north on pavement, gravel, and over a small apex, the mist turns into a light drizzle. An hour later, we arrive at our hotel for a relaxing dinner.

Northwestern Highlands 

The following morning dawns very hazy. We continue toward Látrabjarg in Iceland’s Northwestern Highlands taking Routes 54, 60, 62, and 612 and pass vast lava fields formed thousands of years ago. Much of it is covered with a silvery moss that mutes the molten rock’s sharp edges.

As the mountains of the Northwestern Highlands come into our view, the roads change to gravel and become steep and undulating. Here, a bit of riding skill is required as there are inclines of 16 degrees or more with pebble-like gravel covering the surface. There are no guardrails for protection from the steep drop-offs.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2014 back issue.