Iceland is green and Greenland is full of ice. They say the Iceland natives gave their country that name to disorient invaders and sent them to Greenland instead. A land of contrasts, and the perfect match for a XPDTN3 trip.

Words by Marcel Batlle

Video and photography by Marc Gasch


Fast gravel, waffles and 4 seasons in one day


Landing in Keflavik at 4:00 AM and having to use your sunglasses sounds like a bizarre thing, but if you are new to Iceland, that' s a cool thing that welcomes you to this amazing country. Its June, and the sun is shining but as the Icelanders say, "if you don’t like the weather, wait for five minutes" so a rain jacket is always by our side...

Photographer Marc Gasch and myself, Marcel Batlle, traveled from Barcelona, and met Magnus Backstedt, who flew on an earlier flight and was already sleeping at the KEF guesthouse near the airport. He was sleeping like a baby and we didn’t want to wake him up, but when he did, we discovered his bike didn’t show up the night before at the airport. Not good news, and so we spent all morning queuing at the lost baggage counter, filling papers and claiming the bike. Not a good start.


We were there just for a 3 day ride and on a tight schedule, so missing that bike was a disaster. Magnus took good use of his social media profiles which helped to get the ball rolling and some calls were made to make sure the bike made it to Iceland as soon as possible. Anyway, waiting at the airport made no sense, so we decided to start our transfer by car to the beginning of our route in Flokalundur, gate to the Westfjords adventure for XPDTN3.

Sunshine didn't last for long on day one

We woke up at the Flokalundur hotel the next morning and the bike (obviously) did not show up... but at least there was a promise from the company to ship the bike the next day to our base camp in Thyngeyri. The worst case scenario happened, and Magnus was going to miss one of the 3 days of our route. So it was just Marc and myself starting the first day wearing bib shorts and a short sleeve jersey, contrary to some of the advice some of our Iceland friends gave us to not even bring shorts to Iceland. Take that! Well, but Marc 's been here before so he suggested we fill up our Apidura packs with all our cold and rain gear, which in the end, was the best decision ever.


Morning greeted us with a gravel mountain pass in Vestfjardarvegur to Hornataer just starting at the door of the hotel (ouch) but the shining sun, blue skies and an amazing breakfast made us pedal up pretty easy and fast. Soon we realized our 700x40C tyres were the perfect tire for this terrain, and we were happy with our choice, that took us 2 days of debate and phone calls at home.

Things were getting muddy after a few hours

But blue skies didn’t last for long, and before we knew it, the top of the pass met us with a gentle drizzle and colder temperatures that saw us reaching for our Gabbas. 10 minutes later we were opening our bikepacking packs searching for all the clothing we had, while some snowflakes started to appear in the sky. Real four seasons in one day.

Water everywhere

The infinite gravel road continued all the way to Thyngeyri (no asphalt here) and the soil was perfect for high speed gravel riding. Marc and I were flying on our Exploros, taking advantage of the fresh legs from the first day, and the light load we were carrying (all our winter gear was on us anyway...) Before we knew it, the majestic Dynjandi waterfall appeared in front of our eyes like a perfect postcard, and we decided to get close to hear the huge noise from the 3rd highest waterfall in Iceland.

Dynjandi waterfall, the 3rd largest in Iceland

Unfortunately, the mosquitos also liked the place, and after getting a few of them out of our ears and even our eyes, we decided to put the small cog and sprint to the end of the fjord.

The sun came out again for the second mountain pass of the first day


And that’s the problem with the fjords: they look super cool on the map, but, unless there is a bridge in the middle, going to the fjord usually means pedaling all the way to the end of the fjord to then pedal all the way out on the other side. And repeat. Anyway, the amazing views at the Borgarfjordur , the sun shining and the turns we took to fight against the wind at 40 km/h make us reach the start of the last climb in no time

The views from the top were amazing, We stopped here for 15 minutes admiring the fjord below

We stopped at the base of that pass in Hrafnseyri to take off some of our clothing and eat some peanuts, while some birds were graciously flying over our heads. Later we discovered those birds are famous for attacking cars and tourists trying to protect their nests... The last climb to Grandahorn was long and steep in some parts, but the views of the clouds coming into the fjord made the effort totally worth. Now sitting at the top of the ridge and discovering Thyngeyri, our base camp for the next two days , at the bottom of the next fjord.

Those flowers were in blossom all around the area. Happy photographer!


After a fast descent, we reached Thyngeyri, and the Simbahollin Guesthouse, where Magnus was waiting for us, still without his bike. Damn. Anyway, the company promised to deliver the bike the next morning just in time for our big adventure around the Vesturgatan loop, an F-road 4x4 rugged and technical trail that went around the Dyrafjordur and Afnafjordur fjords.

Marcel happy to be in Thingeyri


Our basecamp for the next 2 days

So, on the second day of our adventure, and after an amazing homemade-organic breakfast at Simbahollin, Magnus’s bike arrived! Quick setup and we took off on another rather unusual sunny and warm day on the Westfjords. Then again, and against all the odds, we were starting our day in short bibs and no sleeves. Happy campers.

The Simbahollin is a cool small guesthouse run by a Belgium couple


The Vesturgatan is one of the most beautiful routes (for 4x4 and bikes) in Iceland, that covers a small tip of a Fjord for 60 km, all time rolling along the sea, cliffs and rock beaches that abound in the area. On that sunny day, the sea was perfect turquoise, with clear waters that perfectly blended with the blue skies. A perfect day for cycling.

The start of the Vesturgatam loop already looked promising


Blue skies and blue fjord. Can't complain.

We started arguing about the convenience of the Nano 700x40c tires here though, and after the first 30 km it became clear that a 27,5x 2,1 tire would have been better for this loop, even if we had no real problems with the 40 Nanos. But GravelPlus 650B tires would have added a bit of comfort in this technical and rocky track.

Remains of another era.


The pace was fast with Magnus and Marcel in front

After stopping in a lighthouse for a bite, we sailed again, as one of the parts of the route was only passable on low tide, and we definitely didn’t wanted to get caught in high tide only to have to go back. So we keep going on the continuous up and downs that took us all time close to Dyrafjordur, an unspoiled landscape almost free of tourists and definitely with a remote felling to it. We were loving it!

One of the best bike loops we have ever done for sure,


This rocky beach was on the limit for opur 700x40 Nanos


After crossing the Stapaladur area, and going over 50 cold water streams, the Fossdalur valley waited for us with the longest climb of the day. A steep and long climb, still with some snow on the highest sections, that took us to one of the tallest peaks of the area, with amazing views to the Arnafjordur in the back, and the Dyrafjordur on the descent on our front.

The start of the biggest climb of the trip

The climb was very tough, especially for those with 44T chainrings and 11-36 cassettes (Marc had the best combo with 38T chainring and 10-42T cassette) but the downhill back to Thyngeyri, technical but super fun, made it all worthwhile, even more so when we were all thinking about the Belgian gigantic waffles with rhubarb homemade jam that were waiting for us at Simbahollin.

So high that we got to the snow line...


Top of the world, all donwhill from here


Our third day in the area was left to discover and explore. We didn’t have any route planned, but instead decided to get a map, loaded some waypoints on our GPS and set up to find the best parts of the fjord and the valley, with some help from Wouter, the owner at Simbahollin.

Rocky mtb terrain on the climb to Ausudalur

Our first target was the gravel road that winded back to the end of the fjord, a pretty gentle flat asphalt and gravel road that took us along the sea, with some menacing clouds in the sky that previously made us take all our winter and rain gear, on a cold and grey Icelandic day. After pedaling the fjord loop, under a continuous rain, we turn left (and up) along the Ausudalur valley, in the search of a glacial lake of the same name that some of the locals talked us about.

It was starting to rain here, and the temperature was dropping fast.

A technical and super steep climb that took us a while to cover, with fist and baby head sized rocks that stopped our progression, even if once at the top, we had some of the best views of Thyngeyri and a beautiful lake at our feet. If had been a warm day, we might have tried to put our feet in those clear waters...but not today.

Water. Water. Water.


So we descended on the same track down in Ausudalur, and by then we already spotted our next target: the Sandafell mountain, a tall peak in the back of the town, that serves as an antenna and communication center, due to his privileged location in the tip of a tall mountain surrounded by cliffs.

Last climb to Sandafell before going back home. We'll be back...

Well, that was steep. We were all grunting and suffering on the way up, at the limit of traction in some places, under a cold rain that made our feet and hands numb. Marc, our photographer, had to fight with gloves and towels for the cameras to get our pics and videos done. But then again, once we were at the tip of the cliff, organic homemade Pesto sandwiches appeared from the bottom of our packs while a time-lapse video was setup, and we just sat down under the rain and watched the landscape in awe as we can see a northern storm with fierce and really dark black clouds coming fast towards us, possible all the way from the coast of Greenland. Time to go home....


Words by Marcel Batlle

Photography and video by Marc Gasch



Comments & Questions

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Hello , seems to be really a great trip !!! @ what season of the year do you make it ? I really want to try it next year in begin of june ? Do you mean this time of the year is a good time to make the same trip ? Is it possible to follow with a 4X4 on this gravel roads ? And last question is : you seems to be good trained cyclist... what was the saddle hours you make per day ? Whats about a mid trained cyclist like me ? 70 kms gravel like this are like a 120 kms road stage ? Thx a lot for your answers and for sharing your experience... really cool ...
Olivier from France #
Post #1 of 12. Posted by olivier on 27-Dec-2017 12:08:09 GMT in reply to blog [0<--54]
Bonjour Olivier, we went in July but June can also work if there is not snow in some of the passes (Iceland's unpredictable weather) We had some snow at the top of the second day but it was just a few patches. 4x4 can follow you on days 1 and 3 , but not on 2 (only partially and you need a very good 4x4). Regarding training, Magnus and Marcel are ex-pro cyclists, but me (Marc the photographer), I'm just an amateur that ride 2-3 4 max days a week. If you can do 120km on the road, you can EASILY do this. Its not a hardcore route, even if it had some steep short climbs and rugged terrain! GravelPlus tires recommended if you are not too used to mtb or technival terrain. Let us know, have fun! Merci!
Post #2 of 12. Posted by MARC GASCH on 27-Dec-2017 12:27:35 GMT in reply to blog [0<--55]
hey thanks a lot marc .. seems perfect... in fact i'm a tour operator since i'm 18, after been cyclist since i'm 6, mountain biker since 87' and citizen of bike spirit in all his kind. So travel and biking are for me 1 same passion... just a few other questions ... what is the maximal time you ride on a stage (to have a idea of saddle hours per day) . Another question about Iceland ? You make only this little part or you use this trip to discover another part to without bike ? The ID is that your 3 days trip is really perfect in time to make an Iceland trip in 7 days - 3 days Bike + add a little more classic.
For material , i'm a bike tech freak and love that about this ;-) I get a Titanium gravel and love to ride with Compass tires...
I will make a little prospection to see if i can found a couple of gravel freaks or e-gravel freaks to make a little group (8 or 9 pax) to ride Iceland.
I build for my wife a Ktm E gravel and i mean it would be a perfect wedding to associate some riders who not have a perfect training to guys who are riders... let us see this ...
Where are you coming from marc ?
Post #3 of 12. Posted by Olivier on 29-Dec-2017 21:25:34 GMT in reply to post #2 [55<--56]

My wife and I are interested arriving July 24th Rejkevik.

Can you help with support for storing bike cases, lodging for 4 nights, food, transfers including luggage day to day and departing July 28th and return to Rejkevik 7/28 for departure?
Post #4 of 12. Posted by Alex K Meininger on 13-Jun-2018 05:29:40 GMT in reply to blog [0<--1062]

My wife and I are interested arriving July 24th Rejkevik.

Can you help with support for storing bike cases, lodging for 4 nights, food, transfers including luggage day to day and departing July 24th and return to Rejkevik 7/28 for departure?
Post #5 of 12. Posted by Alex K Meininger on 13-Jun-2018 05:30:06 GMT in reply to blog [0<--1063]
Hi Alex, sorry , we are a team, not a travel agency, and we don't organize trips for customers, (only for ourselves) If you want to plan your own trip to Iceland, we added all the info for lodging and transfers above, and GPX files so you can plan your own trip, good luck and have fun there!
Post #6 of 12. Posted by Marc Gasch on 13-Jun-2018 08:31:42 GMT in reply to post #5 [1063<--1064]
Hey Marc, thanks for the great pictures! It seems to be an awesome ride! I'd love to ride your stages, or part of it, as I am not a pro. Unfortunately it seems, that the Ride With GPS part is not working for stage 3 :-( Can you post a link to the RideWithGPS page for stage 3? That would be very helpful! Thanks, Christoph
Post #7 of 12. Posted by Christoph on 24-Jun-2018 09:52:12 GMT in reply to post #6 [1064<--1065]
HI Alex, ok sorry about that, let me check and I will let you know asap
Post #9 of 12. Posted by Marc on 24-Jun-2018 10:15:14 GMT in reply to post #7 [1065<--1067]
Hi Christoph, yes you are right, that GPX track is not working on RidewithGPS. Anyway, we started using KOMOOT as our new platform to plan routes and import our XPDTN3 activities, so I uploaded the old GPX file for day 3 there. Please check it out in this link and let us know if you have any problem, thanks!
Post #10 of 12. Posted by Marc on 24-Jun-2018 10:19:26 GMT in reply to post #7 [1065<--1068]
Hi Marc, thanks for the quick reply and fix! It worked well! We are so looking forward to this trip! All the best! Christoph
Post #11 of 12. Posted by Christoph on 24-Jun-2018 10:31:04 GMT in reply to post #10 [1068<--1069]
Good! We are not a travel agency but we are happy to help :-) so let me know if you have any other questions!! Thats a very cool trip, you are going to have so much fun. We need to go back there ourselves at some point!
Post #12 of 12. Posted by Marc on 24-Jun-2018 10:33:49 GMT in reply to post #11 [1069<--1070]
Hi Alex, sorry , we are a team, not a travel agency, and we don't organize trips for customers, (only for ourselves) If you want to plan your own trip to Iceland, we added all the info for lodging and transfers above, and GPX files so you can plan your own trip, good luck and have fun there!
Post #8 of 12. Posted by Christoph on 24-Jun-2018 10:13:44 GMT in reply to blog [0<--1066]
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