The name Iceland doesn’t evoke thoughts of ease and comfort and, well, warmth, which is what many people look for in a vacation destination. But since Carrie and I are young and stupid, we thought we might as well give Iceland a shot before we graduate to more senior activities, like playing shuffleboard on a Caribbean cruise or pinocle in wheelchairs with people we’re not sure we recognize. That sounds a lot scarier than Iceland. Who cares if it can snow in summer. Who cares if hurricane-force winds sweep the land as regularly as the sun shines in California.
Despite Iceland’s challenging climate there’s a lot that makes this country a real gem. The land is young and choking with incredible energy, what with all of the volcanoes, geysers, bubbling mud pits and thermal pools, especially the thermal pools, which call to Carrie like a siren in a storm. Nearly all of Iceland’s electricity is produced from geothermal energy and hydropower. Waste water from a geothermal plant near Reykjavík is even fed into a giant swimming pool that is almost as famous as Björk.
After 37 days spent cycling around the country, we can safely say that Iceland is a unique place. The wind lived up to its reputation, giving us a pleasant push toward our destination on some days and on other days daring us to go any further without being swept off the road. We met a couple of bicycle touring veterans who had given up halfway through their trip, opting to finish by bus.
Even with the two-faced whims of Iceland’s wind, cycling is relatively easy along the main roads. We only experienced one major climb on our way from the east coast inland to Egilsstadir. Yes, it was unpaved road, and the grade often sloped greater than 10 percent, but there was almost no traffic and the sun was shining. The rest of our route mainly skirted around any serious mountain passes, and the passes we did climb were never steep or long enough to make us weep at the end of the day, which never really ended, thanks to the country’s northern latitude.
If you have any desire to get away from it all, if you want to see an earth that is both fragile and powerful, exposed and isolated, there are few places better to visit than Iceland.