Emily Batty’s favourite Icelandic bike destinations
© Adam Morka
Let Emily Batty explain to you why Iceland is the most sought upon bike packing hub in the world, and take an insider look into her regions and routes to ride.
Iceland is a bike packer's dream. From rolling glaciers, to black deserts, rugged fjords, and apocalyptic-like lava fields, Iceland is one of the wildest frontiers on earth. The scenery is out of this world, the population is sparse, and a web of endless gravel roads flow through the country — making it a pristine destination for your next bike packing trip.
For those less familiar with the world of bike-packing, gravel biking is a trending form of cycling that combines elements of road and mountain biking, most commonly done over long distances, and on unpaved roads. Sounds like an activity built specifically to explore the Icelandic Highlands, right?
This past August, professional mountain biker Emily Batty completed an epic expedition through Iceland’s most remote landscapes. Riding nothing but gravel, the group pedalled a total of 975-kilometres and climbed over 40,000 feet while traversing the country from west to east. Following a system of pristine gravel roads, they faced ever-changing surfaces and sceneries, allowing them to experience the very best riding that Iceland has to offer.
Though each day was crammed with mind-blowing memories and breathtaking views, we put together a list of Batty’s favourite biking destinations across Iceland to help you better plan your next Icelandic journey.
Despite not being on Batty’s latest route across Iceland, she emphasized that Landmannalaugar was her favourite gravel biking destination in the country.
Located just 180-kilometres east of the Icelandic capital, Landmannalaugar is an adventure oasis in the island’s remote Southern Highlands. The region is best known for it’s array of natural hot springs, and world-class hiking through it’s colourful rhyolite mountains — a type of rock that displays various shades of red, pink, green, gold, and blue.
Luckily for us, Landmannalaugar’s well-established hiking trails are suitable for bikers and offer up a wide array of rolling, playful terrain, with jaw-dropping scenery. This destination is also located on the northern section of the famed Laugavegur trail, an epic 232-kilometre ride that connects Landmannalaugar to the towering waterfall at Skogar.
The Landmannalaugar area is situated around a broad valley that hosts a 78-person cabin, a general store, and a natural hot spring, making it the perfect place for a quick pitstop or your next gravel bike getaway.
2. East Fjords
Batty began her journey in the small village of Dalatangi on the northern coast of the East Fjords. Cycling west to from the Dalatangi lighthouse — a spectacular landmark overlooking the Northern Atlantic Ocean — she followed a trail of rough, steep, and narrow roads along coastlines and fjords to reach Hallormstadukskogur, Iceland’s largest forest.
The East Fjords of Iceland is a 120-kilometre stretch of coastline connected by stunning gravel roads, with small fishing villages along the way. The region is often bypassed by tourists due to it’s remoteness, and is home to only 3.2% of the entire population, so expect a wild and calming experience.
East Fjords offers a perfect biking getaway, but be prepared to climb.
3. West Fjords
In the final stretch of Batty’s journey, she arrived in the West Fjords, where endless chains of mountain passes, steep cliffs, and jagged coastlines characterize the land. From Hvammsjfordur, to Djupifjordur, and onto Bjartangar, she rode array of gravel roads run alongside the vast fjords — U-shaped narrow bodies of water that stretch far inland, surrounded by steep cliffs. Long and steep sections of gravel roads flow into mellow downhill sections that stretch into the horizon.
The West Fjords are located in the northwest of Iceland and is one of the most remote regions on the island. Due to it’s location and relative lack of tourism, there is a general lack of awareness into what the West Fjords hold. Not only is the area home to some of the most beautiful gravel roads in the world, it hosts a number of natural wonders like Dynjandi, a mind-blowing cascading waterfall, Rauðasandur, a beach lined with red and golden sand.
Traversing from the West into the Northwestern region of Iceland, Batty came across the rural municipality of Húnavatnshreppur, where landscapes begin to transition from rugged fjords and mountains, to lakes, glaciers, and vast tundra highlands. With a population of 409 people residing in an area totalling 3,817 square kilometres, it’s a perfect place to escape the crowds and find peace in the outdoors.
Even though Húnavatnshreppur is remote (like most of Iceland), the town itself has endless lodging options, and a long-list of historic and cultural sites to soak in — like museums showcasing national costumes, and the site of Iceland’s last execution. Additionally, there is an incredible network of hiking travels and accessible gravel roads in all directions.
Learn more about Emily Batty's most recent bike expedition: