Gravel Adventure – with the BACKROAD through Iceland

In mid-August, we left the Central European heat wave behind and fled to the far north. Iceland greeted us much as we had expected, with a light drizzle and cool temperatures, plus wind. But the far north soon showed its sunny side.

Text: Lena Koller / Photo: Mathäus Gartner

A small detour to the capital Reykjavik before heading south

So we are on the road with the BACKROAD. This gravel bike is exactly the right choice for our cycling trip. An agile and at the same time comfortable bike, with which we can cover many kilometres, no matter what surfaces we encounter in Iceland. And on top of that, we have the option of attaching various bikepacking bags, which makes the bike perfect for our planned bikepacking trip.

Reykjavik felt more like a village, which appealed to us country folk right away. We treated ourselves to breakfast in a small café, where the selection of sticky-sweet cinnamon buns made our jaws drop. As soon as we left the city behind us on our gravel bikes, we followed often seemingly endless roads, with the sea on one side and a hilly, steppe-like landscape on the other. The human settlements thinned out more and more, but the herds of sheep and horses increased in number. 

After the rain we had a little refreshment and then finally got up on our bikes

At first, the grey tones and a sometimes heavier, sometimes weaker drizzle predominated. But we didn't let that stop us. Fortunately, we packed for all weather conditions. August can be very changeable in this region. The cool sea breeze does not evoke much of a vacation vibe, but it had a calming and at the same time adventurous effect on us. We had nice warm and functional outfits with us to stay protected against cold and wind.

The first nature highlight of our trip

A gigantic glacier tongue reaching almost into the sea – and, actual rays of sunshine?! In the soft evening light, the colours and landscape looked even more impressive. Dark black sand and blue glacial ice, amidst green hills and rugged rock formations. Sea, glacier, sand?! It was difficult for us to comprehend these extremely different landscapes. We decided to cycle a few more kilometres with the last light, but the coastal wind really picked up then. We weren’t moving forward a single metre and I was carried from one edge to the other on the two-lane road. With our nerves shredded, we barely make it home in the storm. 

Almost too good to be true

We loved the idea of getting into a bathtub-hot stream in the middle of nature – with an outside temperature of max 10 degrees. Unfortunately, the dream was too good to be true and this 'natural pool' was only lukewarm. After the bath, I was still shivering and looking forward to a hot soup and the sleeping bag. We soon got used to the steady rain pattering on the tent roof and quickly fell fast asleep.

After a few days on the coast, we left the circle road and headed inwards

The unpaved paths with a wide variety of surfaces and stream crossings made it an adventurous ride. And to be honest: it was so much fun! After a few hours through steppe and desert-like landscapes, we arrived at our destination. The small village of tents is like an oasis, accommodating hikers and campers out in the sticks. We also pitched our tent there and made coffee right away. 

After 80 kilometres across the pampas, civilisation at last

The following day we packed our bike bags with lots of gummy bears and chocolate – ready to cycle back to the coast. We cycled over seemingly infinite tarred roads, the end of which seems to blur somewhere in the horizon. These expanses were fascinating and unusual, and there was usually a mountain somewhere on the horizon. My energy was definitely depleted when we arrived at the campsite on the coast that the evening.

This was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience

The small fishing village was bustling. The receptionist at the campsite was overwhelmed. Many people are drawn here right now, to this place. Why? Because of Fagradalsfjall. A volcano that gained world-wide fame overnight when it decided to spew lava. We went to the foot of the crater to experience the natural spectacle up close. At first there was only a noise and excited people's voices. And then it appeared before our eyes, barely 400 metres away. A black volcanic crater that won't stop spewing glowing yellow-red lava. The fireballs jumped metres into the air. The flowing lava, thousands of degrees hot, criss-crossed the surface like veins that would dissolve any life would within seconds. People sat just a few metres away, holding smartphones and cameras at the ready, to capture these moments. There was a euphoric and also almost dramatic mood in the air. 

We fell in love with Iceland and are definitely coming back

Our bikepacking trip was full of impressions that we will remember for a long time to come. A trip to Iceland is something unique - with all the contrasts and the unpredictable moments, you constantly feel that you will probably only experience this moment once in your lifetime. 

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