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Bikepacking Across the Icelandic Divide

There are few places in the world that can instill such a sense of adventure.

Bikepacking Across the Icelandic Divide


Horace Dall lived a life packed with adventure; while making the first crossing of the High Atlas by bike, he was arrested by the French Foreign Legion and accused of being a spy. Though he was clearly no stranger to excitement, Dall must have felt a degree of trepidation when he went on to attempt to cross the Sprengisandur (the highland plateau of Iceland’s interior) in 1933.

Armed only with a Raleigh 3-speed roadster, a compass, a vague 1:1,000,000 map, a sleeping bag, and a stove - the pre-eminent optician brought a camera to record his epic trip, writing notes on the back of images, and documenting his experiences along the way. In these photos, the bikepacker captured near impassable rivers and gorges, and soft sandy terrain that meant he was pushing his bike for 90 percent of the time. Despite these challenges, he became the first person to cross Iceland’s interior on any form of wheeled transport. 

(Photo: Courtesy of Joffrey Maluski, Grand Bikepacking Journeys)

Much has changed in the decades since Dall’s groundbreaking journey. Gravel roads now link the north and south coasts of Iceland, and the route is well traversed each summer, yet there are few places in the world that instill such a sense of adventure. Time does strange things this far north. The near 24 hours of daylight means that there is often no need to hurry as there’s no darkness to beat. Yet the long gravel roads can feel unending, especially if the wind blows from an unfavorable distance. 

Minutes feel like hours of churning through soft volcanic dust. But color makes its return in a spectacular manner, in the form of eye-popping green moss that somehow makes its home on the flanks of volcanoes. There are many elements of Dall’s crossing you won’t want to emulate, but make sure there is one that you do: remember to take photographs as you go, and record the unbelievable scenery you witness along the way. Once the volcanic dust has been washed off your legs and memories fade over time, you will be able to look back on a ride like no other. 

(Photo: Courtesy of Joffrey Maluski, Grand Bikepacking Journeys)

Read more about this epic journey in our latest title, Grand Bikepacking Journeys. In this follow-up to the hugely successful Bikepacking, cyclist-extraordinaire Stefan Amato proposes global must-ride itineraries. Describing the history and geography of each route along with hidden gems, Stefan gives handy tips on planning, equipment, and tackling the unique challenges discovered along the way.