In August of 2018, I returned from two week motorcycle riding and camping trip around Iceland with a group of intrepid adventurers, the same group that ran the Trans-Lab a couple of years ago. Our intent was to take parts of Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, around the island and also explore less-visited areas around periphery, especially the Westfjords and parts along the north coast. Ideally we’d try the interior Central Highlands if roads, weather, and time permitted. Camping makes it easy to have a flexible schedule. We shipped our own bikes via Eimskip from Portland, Maine to Reykjavík. Not only was it far less expensive than renting, it enabled shipping of all needed gear with the bikes. And we can legitimately sport an Iceland sticker now. 🙂
Four of us rode the trip – Warren, Steve, David and me. Warren, Steve, and I shipping our three big BMW GSs kitted-out for camping and David and Danny on David’s Honda Goldwing trike. Being in his 70s and not much of a camper, David opted to stay at hotels along the way. This was just as well; some of the roads we took, while great on the big GSs, would’ve shaken the poor trike apart. Even then he had road repairs along the way, from broken and bent items to reattaching his license plate. And a broken rib from a fall but that’s a later story.
But that strategy resulted in the trike and GSs not being together for much of the trip. We read reservations during the high season are required well in advance. David’s attempts to book in March for August backed that up with some places difficult to find reservations. Our experience with ad hoc accommodations via booking.com (an EU-based company) and AirBnB did not have any issues however. YMMV.
The GSs had everything we’d need packed on the bikes: clothes, camping and cooking gear, dehydrated food, etc., enough for two weeks. We knew we’d be able to pick up items along the way and planned lunches on the road. Drop me a line if you have questions about what we brought and why and I’ll provide details.
We prepared for some wet weather and temps in mid-50s for a daily high. We were underprepared. Instead we encountered mostly rain and temps in the mid-40s, even lower at higher elevations. This became the coldest and wettest summer in recorded Iceland weather history. From 01 March through 27 July, Iceland had just four days of sun. We experienced a few days of sun the during our two week trip so we must have gotten lucky. None of us wanted for anything, but truly the warmest place was on the bike with heated gear. The hot pots, steam rooms, saunas, and public pools (sundlaug – look for the signs when entering a town) were indispensable for a shower, warm-up, and relaxing after a day’s ride. I’ve never been so clean or relaxed on a motorcycle trip!
Note what you’ve heard is right; Iceland is expensive. A beer is $12, sometimes less during happy hours. Fill-up on your alcohol at the Duty Free when leaving the airport. A cheeseburger (ostborgari) is $20 with fries. Camping is more reasonable, between $15-20 per tent/person. Just know that, budget for it, and don’t fret. You get used to it. On the bikes we packed power bars and energy gels for breakfast and dehydrated camp foods for dinner, figuring to pick up Iceland’s famous lamb hot dogs (pylsa) for lunches at fuel stops along the way and augment with snacks from local markets. This strategy worked out great as we supplemented quite a lot of local foods from the markets – fresh farm eggs, local cheeses, smoked fish and lamb spreads, and a divine dark rye bread (rúgbrauð), baked by steaming in the ground near hot springs, slathered with Icelandic butter.
If you have questions about logistics (shipping, insurance, etc.), reach out and I’ll provide details. This is a ride report of the journey with some (hopefully) illustrative pics along the way. I’ll conclude with some thoughts and observations about this incredible place, wonderful, warm people, and culture.