Iceland Planning Notes

Comic from XKCD about Iceland's geography.
Courtesy of

If you like rugged snowy mountains, fresh cold air, tempestuous rivers, geothermal springs, and the challenge of regular camping, then go to Iceland. Iceland is a great place to start a bike tour through Europe, and also a great place to tour in itself.

  • The crime rate is spectacularly low.
  • Pollution is nonexistent.
  • There are good modern services at regular intervals, and plenty of nature in between.
  • Most of the people are conversant in English.
  • People are friendly to cycle tourists without being intrusively curious.
  • The country is isolated and relatively small, making a tour through it feel self-contained.
  • The main international airport is very supportive for flying in bicycles.

All this, and my favorite weird thing: During the summer, it is light out even at midnight. If you are able to sleep during the day, you can avoid the majority of car traffic by riding on an upside-down schedule.


You’re most likely to be flying in via Icelandair. Icelandair has a good policy for bicyles.

  • A bicycle counts as sporting equipment, so a single bicycle in a single box costs as much as a standard checked bag.
  • The weight limit for a standard checked bag is 50lbs, or 22kg.
  • Maximum weight of an oversize sporting equipment box: 70lbs, or 32kg. If a box is heavier than this, you need to contact Icelandair Cargo to arrange transport for it.
  • The maximum size of an oversize sporting equipment box: 87in x 22in x 40in, or 221cm x 56cm x 102cm.
  • Only 25 bicycles are allowed per flight, so it’s recommend that you contact Icelandair in advance to pre-book the box, and ensure space for your bicycle. After booking your ticket you can call the airline directly at 877-435-9423.
  • Bicycles can be paid for during check-in at the airport, but it costs 20% more than pre-booking.

Once you arrive at the airport, a shuttle will take you from the tarmac to the terminal. Inside the terminal, after a great deal of walking, you’ll go down an escalator and through a few doors to a baggage claim area.

Your bike boxes are undoubtedly larger than a standard suitcase, so they will come sliding into this room from a short ramp set in the wall between the luggage carousels. Grab a hand cart and collect them.

Your next move depends on your style. If you’re dead tired and just want to check in to your hotel, you can usually catch a free shuttle near the information desk in the lobby. If you’re feeling awake enough to work, you can wheel your bicycle boxes over to the “bike pit”, a special building a short distance from the terminal that is set aside just for assembling your bike.

If you can get your bike assembled here, you can fold up your bike boxes and put them back on the handcart and haul them directly over to the DHL storefront in the airport, and get the boxes shipped back out of the country, or shipped ahead to your last touring destination.

If you decided to go straight to a hotel and assemble your bike later, note that your hotel shuttle usually runs both ways and you can arrange to take the shuttle back to the airport with your folded-up boxes, mail them out, and then take the shuttle a third time to return to your room. It’s a bit of an abuse of the shuttle system, but very handy.

A few random notes:

  • Getting In And Out Of Iceland With A Bicycle
  • Set up accommodations for the day you arrive, then use AirBnB to book something longer.  Just open the app, enter Iceland in the search, edit the rent range to 100 or less, and press the location marker when the list appears to get a map.
  • Remember to check WarmShowers as well, just in case.
  • Get a camping card


Before heading to Reykjavik, how about checking out VIKING WORLD?  They have a campsite too.

Iceland’s winter is the most severe of anywhere in Northern Europe, including Norway and Sweden.  Live through Iceland, and you’ll be able to manage the others.

  • Temperatures drop drastically between July and October.
  • In November the nights will drop well below freezing.
  • In December the sun will not come up at all.
  • In January it will be well below freezing, all the time.

On the other hand, you’ll probably be able to arrange to sit in plenty of hot springs along the way.

Use Iceland’s “Iceland’s 112 survival app”, and the official road conditions site.

Snaefellsness peninsula is well paved and worth going around. It’s the long skinny arm poking out from the west side of iceland, northwest of Reykjavik, with a National Park at the end.

Route overview

A very useful overview, though 14 years old, is MasterlyActivity’s Iceland page.

SimplyCycling overview and impressions, what to know about Iceland.

The most ambitious version of my route crosses through the center of the country and takes 31 days at 30 miles a day (with no days off.)

With the six-day middle crossing included, and the ferry cross up from Vatnasafn, plus time to prep gear and sightsee, touring Iceland will take at minimum 6 weeks (42 days), and most likely approach 8 weeks (56 days).

Central crossing

The central crossing will take six days during which you’ll need to carry at least four days of food, and there is a whole lot of elevation climb.

Camping outside designated areas is basically illegal in all of Iceland now without written permission from landowners, which is not likely to be granted as you’re passing through. So plan to go from one official camp to another in the interior.

Refer to the cycling map for nearby accommodation markers, and for crossing the interior get permission from hut managers.


You can exit the country on the east side, by taking the ferry from Seydisfjordur, Iceland to Hirtshals, Denmark. It runs on Tuesday or Wednesday every week.

  • 250 Euros for one person with bike + 530 Euros for a single-person cabin or 95 Euros for a bed in a shared room
    • Example itinerary:
    • Depart Seyðisfjörður at 8:00pm day 1
      • Booked a 1-person cabin with a window
    • Pass by Faroe Islands day 2
      • Breakfast 8:00am – 10:0am
      • Dinner 6:00pm – 8:00pm
    • At sea day 3
      • Breakfast 8:00am – 10:0am
      • Dinner 6:00pm – 8:00pm
    • Arrive at Hirtshals at 10:00am day 4
    • 3 nights total on the ship, total 397 EUR, or ~$470
  • There are a number of hotels in the town, as well as a camping site:

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