Bikepacking Iceland: Landmannalaugar to Skógar

Contributed By

Christophe Noel - Overlander

Christophe Noel

Overlander
For the adventure cyclist, few places hold more allure than Iceland. It is an otherworldly landscape dotted with glaciers and volcanoes, the rugged interior webbed with tiny roads, narrow trails and an endless network of rivers. At the center of this small island is a route connecting the trekking center of Landmannalaugar to the towering waterfall at Skógar.
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The two tracks that connect these points are the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails. Covering only 67 miles, they traverse some of the most exotic and unrelenting terrain any rider will ever tackle.

For most travelers this journey begins with a bus ride to the starting point at Landmannalaugar, but those who do so miss the opportunity to ride one of the most amazing gravel routes on the island. Starting at the coastal hamlet of Vik, the scenic route follows the coast eastward for 25 miles before turning north on the black volcanic gravel F-roads that Iceland is known for. These are well maintained roads, with severe grades and countless deep river crossings to keep the effort honest. With this approach, the total loop is 144 miles.

Once in Landmanalauger, the singletrack route south on the Laugavegur trail begins with a daunting climb to the top of a volcanic plateau. Flanked by steam vents and hot pots, the route passes a number of trekking huts before reaching Þórsmörk, a popular rest stop with a small restaurant, and other amenities.

From Þórsmörk the route southward follows the Fimmvörðuháls trail beginning with a brutal climb to the high point just a few miles into the route. That first ten miles can easily consume half of the day with endless hike-a-bike and plenty of carry-your-bike. With many sections of downhill too steep and loose to be ridden, there are ample hike-downs to navigate the final such section of trail drops nearly 500 feet in less than a mile. The payoff at the end is the spectacular Skógafoss waterfall. This is a superlative route with scenery unrivaled anywhere in the world. You will earn your spurs with this route, one clearly designed for feet and not wheels.

  • Distance

    144 Mi.

    (232 KM)
  • Days

    5

  • % Unpaved

    75%

  • % Singletrack

    40%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    8.5

  • % Rideable (time)

    85%

  • Total Ascent

    12,972'

    (3,954 M)
  • High Point

    3,386'

    (1,032 M)
  • Highlights
  • Must Know
  • Camping
  • Food/H2O
  • Lake Alftavatn is hard to miss and makes for an ideal spot to camp. Brace yourself for Iceland’s infamous winds which regularly exceed 45 mph.
  • The tiny buffet at Þórsmörk is not cheap at $30 for all you can eat, but so delicious.
  • Landmannalaugar is worth a full day’s visit with many adjacent trails to hike and ride.
  • There are at least a dozen small off-shoot routes to explore adjacent to this route. It is advisable to fold in those routes for a good 10-12 day ride.
  • Iceland’s weather is extreme. Plan for hurricane level winds, buckets of rain and thick fog.
  • The interior routes involve countless river crossings, some of which are extreme. If your progress will be halted, it will be from a river in your path.
  • These routes were designed for trekking, so many miles of the route are genuinely not rideable.
  • The ideal riding season between July and mid-September provide as many as 22 hours of daylight and near constant 50-55ºF temperatures.
  • Iceland is outrageously expensive. Pack lots of money.
  • The rugged volcanic landscape can make finding camping spots difficult.
  • It is important to note that the entire outer ring of the island is predominantly private farmland, so wild camping is not often feasible. Many smaller villages have developed campgrounds which may be your only option.
  • Ideal camp locations include Lake Alftavatn and Þórsmörk, although neither are isolated or remote.
  • Camping along these trekking routes outside of designated areas will earn you a stiff fine.
  • One of the glorious aspects of Icelandic travel is the abundance of clean water that requires no filtering. You will need to quickly identify which rivers will likely have too much glacial sediment to be palatable.
  • There are NO resupply points anywhere in the interior of the island. The exceptions are a small shack with basic sundries at Landmanalauger and a few items at Þórsmörk. Vik has a small market and gas station with fuel, food and other basics.

For more information about general logistics for bikepacking Iceland, check out on Expedition Portal’s ‘BIKEPACKING ICELAND: THE A TO Z HOW TO PRE-PLANNER’.

  • http://www.uninspiredramblings.com/ Chris

    This looks awesome – love the photos!

  • http://xavierbriand.net/ Xavier

    Hey Christophe. Thanks for sharing. Pictures show you riding a bucksaw. Was a fatbike full suspension necessary for this trip?

  • Christophe Noel

    Sorry for the belated response. No, a full susser fatty was not necessary, but I did like the extra tire volume on the sand stretches. It can get soft in Iceland. You can find routes for any sized tire, but I do think I liked having my big shoes.

  • Christophe Noel

    Thank you, Chris. I humped pro camera gear, complete with tripod, intervelometer and selection of lenses. It was a struggle to cross deep, fast, and scary rivers with $5000 worth of camera gear, but it was worth it in the end.

  • http://cawlin.com/ Colin

    What would be your estimated minimum tire size for this route?

  • Jordantp

    Could you provide a list of other equipment you took on this trip. I’m interested in the sleeping bag etc…….Thinking of replicating this trip this summer!