Motorcycle Travel Guide: Iceland

Welcome to Iceland – the Land of Ice and Fire. Riding an adventure bike in Iceland is like nowhere else on earth. This packed guide explains everything you need to know about travelling there on a motorcycle. 

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Contents

By Jimmy and Naz

By Jimmy and Naz

Jimmy and Naz run Freedom Moto Adventures and are experts motorcycle travel in Iceland.

Motorcycle Travel Iceland

Iceland, the magical land of fire and ice, is a dream destination for many. Every year, millions of people flock to see its wonders, but not many dare to explore beyond the immediate vicinity of Reykjavik. For a biker, it’s a dream come true. It’s a journey that transcends the ordinary, where every mile unveils a spectacle of nature’s grandeur, inviting riders into the heart of Iceland’s untamed beauty. This is a land where the horizon stretches infinitely, beckoning adventurers to explore its fire and ice on two wheels. Iceland is not just a destination – it’s a call to freedom, an invitation to those who seek to merge their spirit with the wild, whether you’re gliding on tarmac or conquering rugged terrain.

For the road warriors on touring motorcycles, Iceland’s Ring Road, approximately 1330km, offers an unparalleled journey around the island, with smooth tarmac that curves around misty fjords, cascades beside thundering waterfalls, and offers unobstructed views of glaciers that glisten under the midnight sun. It’s a ride through a living postcard, where every stop and every turn presents a chance to witness the serene beauty of Iceland’s diverse landscapes.

Venture beyond the comfort of the Ring Road, and the adventure intensifies. The F-roads of Iceland await those daring enough to challenge their limits on paths less trodden. These mountain tracks, accessible only to motorcycles and 4x4s, lead into the heart of Iceland’s raw wilderness. Riding the F-roads is a journey back to the primal, where the land speaks in the language of lava fields, hot springs, and the rugged silence of the Highlands. It’s here, amid the solitude and the vastness, that adventure riders find their bliss, navigating through terrain that tests their skill and rewards them with sights few have witnessed.

Whether you’re drawn to the smooth allure of paved paths or the wild call of the F-roads, Iceland offers a dual paradise that caters to every motorcycle rider’s dream. The experience is more than just a ride; it’s an exploration of freedom, an encounter with the elements, and a journey to the world’s edge. Gear up for an adventure that promises not just thrills and challenges but also a profound connection with the natural world. Iceland awaits, with open roads and untamed paths, to turn your motorcycle journey into an epic tale of adventure.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about riding a motorcycle in Iceland so you can have the biking adventure of a lifetime there.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Paperwork for motorcycle travel in Iceland

Visas – Iceland is in the Schengen area so you can stay for up to 90 days in any 180 days without a visa.

Passports – needed, but EU citizens can use ID cards too.

Driver’s licence – required and recognised in Iceland/EU.

International Driver’s Licence – not needed.

Vehicle insurance – required, but most insurers cover foreign riding in the EU for 30 days or more. Check with your provider before travelling. If you are not from the EU then you will need a Green Card.

Language – most people speak English.

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How to ship your motorcycle to Iceland

Shipping a motorcycle as cargo qualifies as a temporary import. The shipping company will take care of all paperwork. They will send you documents to fill out and sign and will take care of all customs declarations too.

If you are shipping your bike with Eimskip, it will arrive in Reykjavik. They have two ports on the European side, Immingham in the UK and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. You will need to deliver your bike to the port before the specified cutoff date. It is usually a week before the trip but all depends on the sailing schedule. Additional benefit, you can leave all luggage on the bike and fly only with your helmet and light bag. There are also other companies shipping bikes to Iceland, and they operate in a similar way.

For help with shipping and shipping companies, see the below guides.

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Taking your motorcycle on a ferry to Iceland

The second option is the ferry from Denmark. In this case, your port of landing will be Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland. The ferry departs from Hirtshals in Denmark, taking a little longer than three days. Keep in mind the limited schedule and allow extra days of waiting around for the ferry.

When arriving via ferry from Denmark, no paperwork is needed since you are coming with the vehicle. Iceland is part of the EU, so the usual EU rules apply.

You can generally bring a vehicle to Iceland for less than a year before you need to complete customs clearance.

Flying to Iceland to rent or join a tour

There are frequent flights to Reykjavik-Keflavik Airport(KEF), which is the main international airport in Iceland. From there, it is about 1 one-hour drive to Reykjavik. There are buses you can take from the airport. Taxi is fairly expensive and will cost around €150. Some rental companies offer an airport pickup for an extra fee.

We recommend trying Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights. When you click on departure and arrival dates, select Flexible and click entire month as it will then show you the cheapest days that month.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Renting vs organised tours vs taking your own motorcycle to Iceland

To ride a motorcycle in Iceland you can either fly in and rent, join a tour or take your own bike and go it alone. Each option has its own pros and cons and cost is usually one of the main considerations for a lot of people. I have only used my own bike for trips I organised myself and with a tour guide. They’re all very different experiences so it really does depend on the rider and their preference. The most important consideration is, whichever option you decide to go with, make sure you do your research and don’t take safety advice lightly, especially if you want to explore the F-Roads. Icelandic weather is unlike any other and it can change very quickly. It may be the only time you get to explore this beautiful country so choose wisely, put safety first and enjoy.  

We’ve put together this table below to help quickly and easily summarise the differences between your options and have gone into more detail below the table.

Aspect

Renting a motorcycle

Taking your own motorcycle

Joining a motorcycle tour

Cost

Approx. 3000EUR for two weeks bike rental only plus flights, accommodation, spending etc.

Varies depending on whether you want to ship your bike or ride via Denmark. Extra time and travel cost to consider, plus accommodation, spending etc.  

Varies depending on whether includes rental bike or shipping own bike but easier to cost although may seem more expensive on first glance

Ease

Hassle-free pick up, no shipping logistics to manage but own planning route, booking accommodation etc.

Requires shipping logistics, potential storage fees, planning route, booking accommodation etc.

Hassle-free, tour company handles logistics. You just book flight and arrive at meeting point

Roads

Not allowed on F-roads without a guide at extra cost

Can be ridden anywhere including F-roads but not recommended alone for safety reasons

Depends on tour company and whether opting for road only or off-road

F-Roads

Not suitable unless with a guided tour

Suitable, provided the rider is experienced and equipped but not recommended if riding alone

Can book F-road exploration with support vehicles

Support

Basic support from rental company

Self-supported

Full support from tour company, including support vehicles

Guide

N/A

N/A

Guided by experienced tour guides with knowledge of the area

Riders

Riders who prefer convenience and sticking to paved roads

Experienced riders who want to explore alone

Riders who want a hassle-free experience with full support

Papers

Passport, driving license, additional excess insurance

Passport, driving license, valid bike insurance, import document arranged by shipping company

Passport, driving license, valid bike insurance, import document arranged by tour operator

Aspect

Renting a motorcycle

Cost

Approx. 3000EUR for two weeks bike rental only plus flights, accommodation, spending etc.

Ease

Hassle-free pick up, no shipping logistics to manage but own planning route, booking accommodation etc.

Roads

Not allowed on F-roads without a guide at extra cost

F-Roads

Not suitable unless with a guided tour

Support

Basic support from rental company

Guide

N/A

Riders

Riders who prefer convenience and sticking to paved roads

Papers

Passport, driving license, additional excess insurance

Aspect

Taking your own motorcycle

Cost

Varies depending on whether you want to ship your bike or ride via Denmark. Extra time and travel cost to consider, plus accommodation, spending etc.  

Ease

Requires shipping logistics, potential storage fees, planning route, booking accommodation etc.

Roads

Can be ridden anywhere including F-roads but not recommended alone for safety reasons

F-Roads

Suitable, provided the rider is experienced and equipped but not recommended if riding alone

Support

Self-supported

Guide

N/A

Riders

Experienced riders who want to explore alone

Papers

Passport, driving license, valid bike insurance, import document arranged by shipping company

Aspect

Joining a motorcycle tour

Cost

Varies depending on whether includes rental bike or shipping own bike but easier to cost although may seem more expensive on first glance

Ease

Hassle-free, tour company handles logistics. You just book flight and arrive at meeting point

Roads

Depends on tour company and whether opting for road only or off-road

F-Roads

Can book F-road exploration with support vehicles

Support

Full support from tour company, including support vehicles

Guide

Guided by experienced tour guides with knowledge of the area

Riders

Riders who want a hassle-free experience with full support

Papers

Passport, driving license, valid bike insurance, import document arranged by tour operator

Benefits of renting a motorcycle in Iceland

Renting a motorcycle in Iceland offers the convenience of simply picking up a bike upon arrival and is advantageous for riders seeking flexibility in their itinerary and prefer to explore at their own pace. While renting provides freedom, it may come with restrictions, such as limitations on riding certain types of roads, like F-roads, without a guide.

Notes on renting

There are only a couple of companies renting bikes. The process is similar to renting a car. As already stated, there are usually restrictions on the roads you can ride and a limited choice of bikes. You may want to consider taking a separate excess insurance.

Benefits of joining an organised motorcycle tour in Iceland

On the other hand, joining a motorcycle tour in Iceland offers a structured and guided experience tailored to riders’ preferences and skill levels. Tours typically include support vehicles, experienced guides, and pre-planned routes, ensuring a hassle-free and safe journey.

This option is ideal for those who desire a fully organized adventure with the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable guides and share experiences with fellow riders. While tours may come at a higher cost compared to renting, they provide a comprehensive and immersive experience, especially for riders who prioritize convenience and peace of mind.

How to join a motorcycle tour in Iceland

When joining a tour, it’s a good idea to enquire about the level of riding, daily distances and group sizes. Some companies like to cover a lot of ground, while others will travel shorter distances to give you more time to stop and explore.

Most tour companies will have a support car to carry all luggage, equipment and other essentials which can significantly enhance comfort during the journey, especially if traversing challenging terrain. Understanding what is included in the tour package can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience throughout the journey. 

Many tour companies will ship your bike as it’s generally a cheaper alternative. They will tell you when and where to drop off the bike, what documents to sign and when to fly.

We run Freedom-Adventures.com, which is an Iceland motorcycle tour company and would be happy to answer any questions. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. And you can find more info on our tours at the end of this article. 

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Help deciding

Ultimately, the decision boils down to your individual preferences, comfort level with planning and navigating, and the type of experience you seek. Whether you opt for independence or the guidance of a tour, Iceland offers unforgettable motorcycle adventures for riders of all levels.

We have done both but, for us, a big part of any experience, is the research and planning.  I love planning the routes using all the satellite images and maps I can get my hands on, and Naz loves booking hotels! We have many friends who want to just turn up and ride which is equally fine.

If you want to explore and prefer to stick to roads, then your bike or rental is a good option, assuming you can get accommodation – Iceland is not the kind of place to book last minute due to limited options and cost.

If you want to travel on F-roads, I suggest joining a tour. Those roads can be rough and are very remote. It’s easy to have a small breakdown or a tumble, and when on your own, it may become a serious issue. In some areas, you may not see a car for several hours or even most of the day.

It really does depend on personal preferences. The vast majority of Iceland is well documented so if you like the process of planning or you are a free spirit, then go on your own. If you prefer to leave the planning to experts and want to explore more off the beaten tracks, joining a tour is the way to go.

When to motorcycle travel in Iceland

Iceland is amazing all year round. For the majority, July-September is the best period for exploring on a motorbike. Depending on the winter, F-roads may open as early as June or as late as July. You need to be aware of that if you are planning a trip there. If you want to stick to main roads, the season is much longer, from late April to October/November.

There is a saying in Iceland that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. Weather changes rapidly, and this is further increased when travelling. You need to expect extremes, from sun and hot weather (I mean about 16C) to near zero, very heavy rain and very strong wind.

Weather warnings for motorcycling in Iceland

You do need to be very careful about the weather. While rain or sunshine are not an issue, Icelandic wind can be very dangerous. Iceland has an extensive system of weather stations and reports that inform you about conditions on the road. Bookmark their sites and check the weather ahead at every stop. Wind can reach well over 120km/h and is strong enough to blow cars and even campervans off the road. You need to be prepared to stop and wait for a couple of hours for the weather to improve. There are frequent service stations you can shelter in on the Ring Road but make sure you check the distance between them if the weather looks particularly bad on a given day as it’s not safe to stop on the road sides as they don’t really have the kind of hard shoulders we have in the UK. 

Use the below websites for weather info:

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Costs for motorcycle travellers in Iceland

Hotels in Iceland

Hotels and guest houses outside of Reykjavik get fully booked very early. The further you go, the worse it is due to limited options in the more remote areas. Regions such as Westfjords have very few hotels, so finding a place on short notice will be very challenging and/or even more expensive. For the best deals and most options book hotels 9-10 months in advance.

Motorcycle camping in Iceland

There are plenty of camping sites, and if this is your thing, you have nothing to worry about. Most of them have showers and facilities, and many also have kitchens and common areas. If you are fine with cold nights, camping is a perfect and cheap option but make sure you book early in the day as they can get full very quickly in the busy summer months. Wild camping is not permitted and restricted to camping spaces and privately owned with the owner’s permission.

Visit this website for more info: ust.is/camping

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Petrol

Fuel is expensive, around €2.20/l (early 2024). Petrol stations outside of the capital area are not very frequent, so best to top up when you can. Almost all petrol stations in Iceland are self-service. You will need a credit card. You pay in advance for a specific amount and then fill up to that limit. This system may feel strange, but don’t worry, if you fill for less, you will get a refund.

Food

Food is relatively expensive as well. Contrary to many European countries, the food at services is excellent. A burger with a drink will cost you around €20. Restaurants are more expensive and depend on where you can pay as much as €100 for a bucket of langoustine tails.

Safety for motorcycle travel in Iceland

Safety

Iceland is very safe, and theft is a rarity. It’s one of the safest countries you can travel through. That said, it’s always good to follow common sense.

You don’t have to be careful about avoiding certain areas so long as you stick to recognised and marked roads. Keep in mind that many areas in Iceland are privately owned, and it’s not a good idea to enter someone’s property without their permission. You also must be very careful of animals as sheep roam the land freely.  If you’re unfortunate enough to hit a sheep you must stop and report it to the nearest farmer or police.

We would recommend some bright waterproofs or high vis as visibility can drastically reduce in bad weather. We’ve never had any interactions with the police over our numerous visits in the last few years. As with any country, respect their laws and rules and you will be fine. 

READ MORE: How to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle Trip

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Remote regions

The biggest risk is the isolation and unpredictable weather. Some areas are very remote, and you may not see a car for hours. If you have an accident, you may not be able to get any help for a long time.  Talk to nearby motorists if you’re unsure about a particular road before venturing in. Calm and passable river crossings can quickly become impassable cutting you off in remote areas without shelter for miles.  

You may want to consider carrying an emergency satellite device. Have a read of the below guide for more info.

READ MORE: Emergency Satellite Devices Explained

Road options in Iceland for motorcyclists

Roads in Iceland are split into two categories, tarmac roads and so-called F-roads (those have an F prefix before the number).

Normal roads are available to everyone under the right conditions. In very bad weather, especially in winter, some roads will be closed. Respect that, and don’t try to ride there.

F-roads are rough, isolated, and often tricky to cross without experience, especially water crossings. The majority of F-roads open for a short time between June and September. Some of them are patrolled by Icelandic Search & Rescue, but most of them are not. The only help you can get is from passing travellers.

Any other roads and trails you will see are likely private and you should not enter unless permitted.

Riding off-road is strictly forbidden in Iceland.  The majority of areas are very sensitive and delicate, especially moss-covered lava fields. Entering those areas will guarantee very unpleasant reactions from locals and mindful tourists and may end up with the involvement of the police. Iceland’s natural environment is incredibly fragile.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Motorcycle riding conditions in Iceland

Riding on tarmac is amazing. The quality of the surface is much better than in many European countries but some of the main roads have gravel sections. Check vegagerdin.is. Those sections will be very hard packed gravel but may have holes or be slippery, especially after rain. Still, you can ride there on any bike, including cruisers or sports bikes.

F-roads are much more demanding. The surface changes from gravel to loose rocks, big rocky steps and deep loose sand. Water crossings can be long and deep and require scouting before entering. Many of them will be very deep in the middle where cars cross.

Road rules and other drivers

The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads in rural areas and 90 km/hour on paved roads.  You drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left – perfectly legal so long as you do it safely as expected.  

Drivers are generally very polite and considerate but remember that most drivers you encounter will be tourists. The best thing is that once you leave the capital area, there won’t be too many cars. Most of the parking in popular places is free or free for motorcycles. There is only one toll road, a tunnel in the northern part of Iceland.

Finding fuel

Outside of the capital area, petrol stations are dispersed. You will find them in most large towns, but it’s better to plan your fuelling stops. If in doubt, top up when you can.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Riding off-road in Iceland

Riding off-road is strictly and absolutely not allowed. Iceland’s ecosystem is very fragile, the majority of the land is privately owned, and locals are very unhappy if you go off the beaten track. You are not allowed to leave roads in the vehicle. Many locals will get very unpleasant even if you use the term “off-road” to describe F-roads.

If you see car tracks on fields or sands away from the road, don’t assume you can also go there. Those are left by owners, rangers or other people who have a valid reason to be there. Again, no off-road riding under any circumstances.

All the major roads around Iceland are tarmac, with a few exceptions of gravel sections. All other roads are either small gravel roads or rough F-roads. No off-roading under any circumstances.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Asphalt vs F-Roads in Iceland

Some places, such as Hekla, Askja or Landmannalaugar, can be reached only by F-Roads. If you stick to F-roads only, you will miss places like West Fjords or many coastal roads. On the other hand, if you stick to tarmac only you will miss some of the places inland.

Still, if you stick only to tarmac roads, you will see most of what Iceland has to offer. The majority of “must-see” places are located around the main roads and are easily accessible.

If you travel on F-roads, you can see some normally unreachable places. Riding there is not technically difficult, but the isolation, tiredness, weather, and constant attention add up after a few days, and it’s easy to make a mistake. Many places require careful riding because of blind bends or hills. It’s very easy to speed up and then run off the road. Water crossings are the biggest difficulty and risk. There is no rule on how deep they can be as it changes day by day. It’s always a good idea to walk it through first.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

The best motorcycle routes and roads in Iceland

We have selected our five absolute greatest motorcycles routes and roads in Iceland for you. There’s a lot of info for each route, so we’ve put it into it’s own dedicated guide. In that guide, you’ll also find a quick list of 15 places you must visit on your biking travels through Iceland too. Check it out here:

READ MORE: The Best Motorcycle Routes in Iceland

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Motorcycle riding gear for Iceland

The weather in Iceland is unpredictable. You may start the day with a warm and sunny morning, get soaked around lunch and be thrown around by the wind in the afternoon. Having additional thermal layers for cold days and good waterproof clothing is a great idea. Consider an additional over clothing if your normal riding gear is not waterproof enough.  If you dress for cold weather and be prepared for rain, you will be fine. 

If you are planning to ride F-roads, you must be ready to walk river crossings. Good boots are a must, but we also recommend Sealskinz or similar waterproof socks to keep your feet dry.

Check out the adventure riding gear guides for more info.

READ MORE:

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

Top tips for motorcycling in Iceland

Carry at least two credit or debit cards. Petrol stations can only be paid for by card, but sometimes one of the cards may be declined so always good to have a back up and ensure you contact your card provider in advance, if necessary. 

Depending on your bike range, you may need to carry a small fuel can. Adventure and other big bikes will be fine, but if you are riding a bike like KTM 690, you may run out of fuel.

Contrary to many countries, food at service stations is usually amazing.

If you are planning to ride F-roads, be sure to service your bike before the trip. Lava sand is not kind to brakes and tyres.

Carry spare spark plugs and air filter if you plan to cross the rivers.  Also, carry any part special to your bike as parts are not easy to come by.

There are lots of thermal springs so be sure to stop off at one every few days to truly experience the Icelandic way of life.  It is a big part of their culture and not hard to see why.  

Our Iceland motorcycle tours

We run motorcycle tours in Iceland as Freedom Moto Adventures. If you’d like to join us, then here are the two Iceland tours we offer: 

Icelandic Explorer is a 14-day road tour that circles Iceland. The route is 3200km long and will take you through the most amazing places, from the must-see tourist attractions to more unknown places. You will enjoy empty roads and breathtaking views. The trip is suitable for all bikes and you will enjoy the comfort of hotels and guest houses.

Iceland Unleashed is a 15-day long adventure that will take you on a 2300km route through Icelandic highlands. We will take you to the most remote parts of Iceland, travel rough F-roads and give you a proper adventure. We will stay in rangers’ huts and mountain shelters.

All our trips include accommodation, support 4×4 to carry luggage and shipping your own bike from the UK and Europe: freedom-adventures.com

Motorcycle Travel Guide Iceland

About the authors

Jimmy Skowronski and Naz Keceli

You can usually find Jimmy on local lanes in Kent and Surrey in the UK where he leads group rides with Adventure Bros. If not there, he is training in Wales, preparing for a trial or planning his next adventure. Naz jumped on her first bike straight after Covid and is now riding a KTM 890 Adventure R and exploring Iceland. 

The duo run a motorcycle tour company and take adventure riders to Iceland for incredible rides. Check out their awesome tours here:

Read more on motorcycle travel in Iceland and Europe

Thanks for checking out the Motorcycle Travel Guide: Iceland. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle travel in Iceland and Europe that we recommend you read next. 

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Are you planning a motorcycle tour in Iceland? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

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