Whether you are looking for a gravel adventure or would prefer to keep both wheels firmly on the tarmac, motorcycle touring in Iceland is an amazing experience that will at times take you out of this world. This guide looks to cover the following topics:
- Routes & destinations
- When to ride in Iceland
- Renting vs. taking your own bike
- Iceland motorcycle rentals
- Getting yourself to/from Iceland
- Accommodation options
- Fuel price and availability
- Road conditions and other considerations
- Motorcycle tours in Iceland
Top motorcycle routes and destinations in Iceland
For intrepid motorcycle travellers, Iceland’s treasures can be accessed by riding Route 1, aka the Ring Road. Volcanoes, glaciers, icebergs and waterfalls are just some of the sights on offer. Riding the circumference of pretty much the entire country, you’re likely to want to stop off every five minutes to get a better look at the stunning scenery. Find out more >>
The mountain roads, so called F-Roads, are a fantastic highlight of Iceland. They consist of everything; old tarmac roads, gravel roads, sand roads, fine rocks, big boulders, mud, dried up riverbeds, lava, fine lava sand, roads which are also rivers and everything in between. Sometimes you would be driving a road that starts as ‘normal’ gravel road, which has sections of fine lava sand and big boulders, crossing rivers, very rocky surface all on the same road. Plus there are a lot of river crossings in some parts of the country, small and enormous rivers. Be aware though that most motorcycle rentals in Iceland do not allow you to ride on these roads unless you are accompanied by a guide. Also, these roads are only open for a few months of the year over summer.
Maps and Driving Guide
Below is a map of some of the routes for motorcycle touring in Iceland and here is a link to the latest guide (2017) on roads and driving in Iceland, including identification of the paved road network and the F-Roads.
Best time of year for Motorcycle Touring in Iceland
The best time to visit is between May and September with snow being less likely. May is great for less crowds and spring landscapes, while July is the warmest month and not quite as busy as August. September is after the peak and can be great, but the weather tends to get a bit more unpredictable. It needs to be noted that if you come outside this time you will need to bring your own bike.
Also, the weather is capable of changing rapidly and frequently and a sunny day can soon turn to mist and rain, or even snow! Strong winds can also hinder your ride and care should be taken. Be sure to pack wet weather gear and be prepared for downpours. Note: the weather in Iceland can be extreme at any time of year and all care should be taken to stay on the right side of it.
Northern Lights in Iceland for Motorcyclists
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Here, at 65° N on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle, you can see auroras almost every night (and in warmer temperatures than other viewing locations in Scandinavia). Unfortunately though for motorcyclists, most of the best season is in the colder winter months. September through March is the peak season for northern lights viewing because the nights are longest. September then would be the pick of the months for trying to see them if you are renting a motorcycle in Iceland. However, the northern lights are ongoing and are visible briefly even in the months of May and August (though because it never gets properly dark in Iceland in the summer, that would be the wrong time to go looking). Just make sure you’re on the lookout between dusk and dawn because they can occur at any time.
Renting vs. taking your own bike
The big question with motorcycle touring in Iceland is whether to take your own bike, rent a bike or do a tour. In all honesty, whichever way you go it’s going to be expensive.
Iceland is in the middle of nowhere and often hard/expensive enough to get yourself there, let alone a bike. Unless you would like to go for an extended period of time it is recommended that you rent a motorcycle in Iceland, or take a guided/self-guided tour, rather than take your own.
Iceland motorcycle rentals
In most instances renting a motorcycle in Iceland will be the cheapest and easiest option. Rates vary, but rental of a 600cc BMW can cost anywhere between €207/£190/USD$230 per day for a Suzuki V-Strom DL650 or Kawasaki Versys 650LT, and €315/£280/USD$357 per day for a BMW1200GS (all based on seven-day hire). Get in touch with us and we can help you with motorcycle rentals in Iceland.
Shipping your bike to/from Iceland
Taking your own bike can be costly and time consuming, but it can be done. Currently there is only one vehicle ferry operating. Smyril lines sail weekly from Denmark and the Faroe islands to Seyðisfjörður in the east of Iceland (about 8 hrs ride from Reykjavik). The cost at the time of writing is around €1000 for two people and one motorcycle sleeping in the cheapest accommodation.
Another option is to have the bike shipped and fly out a week later to arrive at the same time. This is cheaper and often a lot less hassle.
Here is some more info on the three main ways to get your bike to/from Iceland:
- Ferry from Denmark
There is a passenger/vehicle ferry run by Smyril Line that leaves from Hirtshals in Denmark, stops in the Faroe Islands and continues on to Seyðisfjørður in Iceland, arriving three days later. It runs weekly over low/mid-season and twice weekly in the high season (1 June – 18 August). On board there are a number of accommodation options which will vary the price considerably. More on dates an prices for ferry to Iceland.
- Cargo ship from the UK
There is a company called sea-freight the bike using a company called EIMSKIP, who operate out of Immingham on the North East Lincolnshire coast.
- Fly with Iceland Air from UK or Belgium
Iceland Air offers a cargo flight service from EMA airport in the East Midlands, UK and LGG airport in Lieges, Belgium, to Reykjavik. There are a number of scheduled flights each week and their site helps you with all of the process around importing and exporting the vehicle. More info on their website.
- Cargo ship from USA and Canada
Eimskip offer a cargo ship services from Portland, Halifax and Argentina, to Reykjavik. Details on the site are vague and the rate request form for personal effects quote only appears to be in Icelandic, so worth getting in touch with regional offices for a quote (details in the map on their homepage). We will be looking more into this and will update this section shortly, but would love to hear from you if you have any experience with these guys.
Paperwork for taking your own bike to Iceland
Vehicles with foreign registration plates can be temporarily imported to Iceland pretty easily and the requirements are covered on this site. You need to fill in an E9 form and have motorcycle insurance that will cover you while riding in Iceland. Check with your current insurer for more details.
Getting yourself to/from Iceland
Iceland’s major international airport is Keflavik International Airport (KEF), located in the municipality Sandgerði, roughly forty minutes drive outside of Reykjavík.
Flight times & costs
Below, you will find the approximate flight times from international major cities to Keflavík International Airport. Please be aware that these are reflective of the average flight times, though the connection/direct category is liable to change. Note: If you are flying overnight from North America, please be aware that your flight arrival will be on the next day of your local departure time.
|City of departure||Flight Time||Rough Price|
Getting to/from airport
There are a number of bus transfers available from the airport, which can take 1-2 hours, depending on the service (and how much you pay). Tickets can either be bought at the kiosks in the arrivals’ lounge or online beforehand. Otherwise you can get a taxi very easily on arrival. Uber and Lyft do not currently operate in Iceland. Here is a quick summary on getting into Reykjavik city centre:
- Flybus (BSÍ bus terminal ): 45 min / every 30 mins / 5,500 ISK, $46, £36, €41 (adult return)
- Flybus+ (hotel transfer): 1-1.5hrs / every 30 mins / 3,999 ISK, $59, £45, €52 (adult return)
- Taxi: 45 min / every 30 mins / 15,500 ISK, $139, £106, €123 (1-4 people return – rates vary by company)
Where to stay in Iceland
Motorcycle touring in Iceland is a magical experience and it’s an excellent place to get in touch with nature. Camping is highly recommended, but while wild camping is legal (as long you dan’t stay on someones property or within 150 meters of it), we recommend camping in designated campsites.
The reason for this is that the exponential growth in Iceland as a tourist destination has meant that if lots of people end up camping in the same places, which don’t have rubbish or sewerage facilities, there is a chance of ruining the precise thing you have come to enjoy (not just for you, but for the locals too!).
There are a great many campsites located along the route, complete with all the facilities needed for a comfortable stay. Prices are only around 2000 ISK, $17, £13, €15 a night. Electricity is about an extra 50% more and some sites charge for showers (included for most) and other facilities.
If you do decide to wild camp in Iceland, please check out this article and make sure that you respect the locals and do not leave any trace of your stay (visible or otherwise).
Camping Gear – If you want to go camping on your motorcycle trip in Iceland, but don’t want to lug even more gear across the world, you have the option of renting your gear at very reasonable prices once you are there. Check out this site for more details.
We now offer a motorcycle tour of Iceland with camping. Contact us for more info.
Hostels & Guesthouses
If the weather isn’t so kind or you’re looking for a sturdier shelter, there is no shortage of hotels, guest houses or hostels. Hostels offer an affordable alternative to the more expensive hotels and can be found at convenient (and scenic) locations across the country. Dorms are priced at around $25-45 USD, €22-40 EUR, 20-35 GBP. Private rooms with linen and shower will cost you around $90-130 USD, 80-115 €EUR, £70-100 GBP.
If you’re keen to go this way we recommend getting an HI card and checking out the HI Iceland site. HI membership (18 USD, 16 EUR, 14 GBP) will pretty much pay for itself if you stay in dorm beds for a week and will pay for itself in a couple of nights if you are staying in private rooms.
There’s no way around it, hotels in Iceland are expensive. There are some great ones though and are certainly welcome after a big day on the road. Below is a map widget from Booking.com that shows you some of the options.
While there are lots of options if you book early, it must be said that Iceland is an extremely popular place to travel these days, with a short summer (peak season), so accommodation fills up quickly.
Whether you are planning to go on your own or do an organised motorcycle tour, it is well worth booking as far ahead as possible (ideally six months before) to ensure you are able to secure rooms and/or a bike.
Want some help booking your motorcycle trip to Iceland. Get in touch with us at Yellow Yeti Travel. We offer both guided and self-guided trip in Iceland and can help put together any trip you are looking to do.
There are several delicacies to look out for along the way, with Iceland offering some unusual and delicious food. Petrol stations offer simple food, but be on the look out for the hotdogs available at most fuel stops. These are quick and delicious snacks to keep you going on the road. Try them, you’ll be surprised, but be sure to ask for fried onions.
Seafood and lamb are popular dishes and are found on most menus. Dried fish is readily available and makes a tasty treat to snack on like a local. Finally, you may have heard of the tradition of eating fermented shark in Iceland. Hákarl is something new and different, though you may want to hold your nose the first time you have it. Washed down with a shot of brennivin, a local spirit, it’s not so bad!
Bónus stores offer the best value, there are a few in the city and, also, in various country towns. 10 to 11 is great if you run out of something essential but it is quite expensive. Krónan and Hagkaup offer a good choice of high-quality produce but they are more expensive than Bónus. You will also find village shops are a little more expensive than city stores, Kjörbúðin and Samkaup are the shops you will find out in the countryside.
Price of food
- Meal in a cheap restaurant (excluding alcohol): 2,200 ISK, $18, £15, €16
- Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant (excluding alcohol): 5,500 ISK, $46, £35, €41
Price of alcohol
You’re best to make the most of your duty free when coming into Iceland. You can get it on the way in. There are strict rules about buying alcohol in Iceland and the sale of alcohol is heavily taxed so prices are high. Supermarkets are not allowed to sell alcohol of any kind but most restaurants are allowed to sell alcohol.
- Beer (half-litre in bar): 1,100 ISK, $9, £7, €8
- Beer 6x50cl (store): 1,900 ISK $16, £12, €14
- Standard glass of house wine (restaurant): 1,100 ISK, $9, £7, €8
- Bottle of house wine (restaurant): 4,500 ISK, $38, £30, €34
- Bottle of average wine (store): 2,000 ISK, $17, £13, €15
- Absolut vodka 1 litre (store): 6,500 ISK, $55, £42, €49
Fuel price and availability in Iceland
Not long ago fuel was rather hard to come by in Iceland. However, recently more fuel stations have appeared along the ring road. Petrol can be found in all large towns as well as along the route. The map earlier in this guide has the location of a lot of the stations. There are some longer stretches without fuel in the east. It’s worth filling up more frequently than normal, just in case – especially if you plan to go off the beaten track. Many fuel stations in Iceland are self-service and pretty much all will require a credit card with a pin number to use them. Check out this website for locations and live pricing.
As at April 2019, fuel in Iceland (per litre) costs around 222 ISK, 1.67 EUR, 1.43 GBP, 1.86 USD.
Average fuel consumption for workings:
- BMW 800GS 18 km/l, 5.5 l/100km, 44 mpg
- BMW 1200GS 17 km/l, 5.8 l/100km, 41 mpg
Things to see and do
Motorcycle touring in Iceland is all about riding through spectacular natural environments. Some of the best have been highlighted in the map earlier on this page. A few notes about things to see and do in Iceland:
- Visiting natural landmarks is free – there is no National Park fees or similar. Some places do charge for parking, but mostly this can be avoided on a motorcycle.
- There are lots of natural hot tubs in Iceland that are free to use for everyone, though most do require a bit of walking to get to them.
- There are no toll roads in Iceland.
Budgeting and costs for motorcycle touring in Iceland
There’s no getting around it, Iceland is one of the most expensive places in the world to travel, particularly on a motorcycle. It is amazing and you will have a great time, but it will definitely cost you more than you are used to. Here are some details to help you with your budget, based on an eight day trip (with seven days on the bike), renting and not including your flights to Iceland:
- Getting to/from airport: Flybus+ = $59, £45, €52
- Bike rental:
- BMW 800GS = $2,100, £1,610, €1,855
- BMW 1200GS = $2,415, £1,855, €2,135
- Ferry: Around €1,000 return
- Camping (own gear, no electricity) = $136, £104, €120
- Camping (rented tent, sleeping bag, mat and stove, no electricity) = $360, £275, €320
- Hostels (dorm) = $256, £224, €240
- Hostels (private room) = $880, £680, €800
- Hotels = $2,100, £1,610, €1,855
- 800GS (110 litres) = $205, £160, €185
- 1200GS (116 litres) = $216, £166, €194
- Food (moderate spend and no booze): $240, £184, €214
Access to cash in Iceland
You can use credit and debit cards for pretty much everything in Iceland, so there isn’t much need for cash (Icelandic Krona). That said it doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of cash on you (less than $100), which you should withdraw at the Keflavik Airport, as ATMs are less common once you are on the road. The only things you might need cash for are some hot springs and public bathrooms. That said you should always carry a debit/bank card to be able to withdraw cash if required. We recommend something like a Revolut card (or equivalent travel money card) for most purchases in Iceland as you can pay by card (without international transaction fees) and withdraw money (sometimes there are fees, but no more than you bank. On top of that you will need a credit card (with a pin) at a lot of petrol stations and to put a damage deposit on your rental motorcycle (if you are hiring one).
Road conditions and other considerations
Iceland is a rough and rugged place (that’s why we like it) and road and weather conditions can make a big difference to your enjoyment and safety.
If you are just looking to do the Ring Road, then it is all pretty straight forward and you do not necessarily need offroad/gravel skills (although some experience riding on gravel is always helpful if you want to detour). If you are heading into the interior or to more remote areas then offroad/gravel skills are a must. Note: Rental motorcycles in Iceland are often not allowed to be ridden on ‘F’ (mountain) roads, without a guide for insurance reasons. it is also important to note that riding offroad, on anything that isn’t a marked road (gravel or not) is completely illegal in Iceland due to the environmental damage that can be caused. For more information on road and weather conditions, check out this site.
Traffic and obstacles: Apart from road conditions, be sure to watch out for sheep and other animals when you are riding. Sheep roam free in many areas of Iceland. Tourists in rental cars are almost as dangerous (especially in the peak months of July and August), so please be sure to stay to the right and to pull right of the road if you are stopped.
Phone reception: Mobile phones will tend to have reception around villages, but can be lost when you are travelling in the highlands or between large mountains.
Speed limits: 90 kmh/ 55 mph on paved roads/highways, 80 kmh/ 50 mph on gravel or dirt roads; and 50 kmh/ 30 mph in any cities or small towns.
Speed cameras: When driving in Iceland, you will rarely see a police officer. You will however come across various speed cameras during your trip. The speed cameras are easy to spot as there is generally a warning sign telling you the camera is approaching.
Driving licence: You are fine to drive on your current overseas driver’s licence and do not need an International Driving Permit (IDP/IDL), unless your domestic driver’s license is printed with non-Roman Alphabet (Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic etc). In this case you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP/IDL) or an official translation in English is required when you drive in Iceland.
Drone Usage In Iceland
Drone shot of Iceland can be spectacular, but there are a number of regulations around them that you should check out before you travel there. Most of these are universal and much is common sense. Here is a link to the Icelandic regulator’s website, and here is a more practical guide on an Icelandic travel site.
Motorcycle Tours in Iceland
Whether you are looking for a guided tour, self-guided tour or motorcycle rentals in Iceland, Yellow Yeti Travel can help organise your trip for you. We can also put together tailor made trips to suit your budget and travel preferences. Find out about our motorcycle tours in Iceland at Yellow Yeti Travel.
Advice & Inspiration for Motorcycle Touring in Iceland
Check out our blog for articles on our experiences in adventure riding in Iceland, read our general Adventure Motorcycle Touring Guide.