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HOW HARD IS IT TO GET YOUR ADV BIKE TO ICELAND?
by Noel Thom
There's a reason that Iceland is on so many ADV riders bucket list. It's so damn hard to get there! From wherever you are in the world. You can't just jump on the bike and ride, you've got to plan the hell out of it. Last year Noel Thom made the effort and discovered that the journey really is all part of the adventure.
Once upon a time there was a ferry. A ferry that could transport you and your motorcycle from the UK to an incredible and magical far away land. A land known as Iceland.
Actually it was two ferries. The first took you from Aberdeen to the Shetland islands and from there another, having departed from Denmark, picked you up and transported you to Iceland.
Sadly all that stopped in 2008 when, for economic reasons no doubt, that particular ferry company decided to no longer stop off to collect passengers at Shetland.
Charlie and what's his face's Long Way Round had gone to air in 2004 and it seems that not enough of us had yet realised that a similar two wheeled adventure, albeit one that could be undertaken in a couple of weeks, lay right under our noses on an island connected to the UK by boat. Having now all ditched our sports bikes I can't help wondering if the massive Adventure bike owning population of today could have kept that service alive.
How badly do you want to go?
My dream of riding in Iceland began long before all these shananagans took place but it wasn't until September of 2016 that I finally summoned the confidence to set off.
I'd had all the essentials for quite some time, a bike, a tent, a sleeping bag, some cooking equipment and a map. Looking back, it was perhaps just confidence that was missing although by the time that had been found the convenient ferry service had disappeared.
There is however still a way.
Smyril Line's service still sails from the northern tip of Denmark to Iceland once a week and the only ferry service still operating from the UK to the Netherlands sails from Newcastle to Amsterdam every other day.
This means an overnight sailing to Holland followed by a 600 mile ride across the Netherlands and the corner of Germany, up the length of Denmark to the Saturday ferry from Hirtshals.
BMW 1200GS riders are likely to be tempted to tackle this journey in one day but I found it to be a far less stressful trip spread over two days with a stopover just over the German border. The ferry to Iceland leaves mid afternoon and so even if you've completed half your mission you'll still have 300 miles to ride on your second day, which for most is plenty. Once you reach the ferry terminal and see the array of vehicles sharing your destination you could be forgiven for thinking you've perhaps bitten off more than you can chew.
Our European ex partners are experts in overland travel and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the ferry queue for Europes overland Mecca. You might even begin to question your mode of transportation once you've seen some of these ingenious 4x4's, from Unimogs to Ladas, all carrying their own accommodation.
"I've been waiting a long time for this trip!"
Standard ferry cabins across the North Sea to Amsterdam are included in the price but your cabin choice for the Icelandic ferry will affect your ticket price considerably.
Two choices are available, the first being a private cabin where you'll no doubt enjoy a peaceful nights sleep and have your own set of hangers to dry out your riding gear. For half the price however you might like to opt for a delightfully sounding couchette.
This was my option and I can now tell you that couchette is actually French for-unbearably hot tiny dormitory room of six bunk beds located in the bowels of a ship where six adult males snore continuously whilst cabin crew slam doors through out the night on route to the engine room. You'll also share the toilets and showers with your bunk bed companions.
After a second intolerable night of this I actually took to sleeping on my air bed under the stairwell leading to the car deck one level below. Despite feeling like a homeless person this was a far cooler, quieter and comfortable experience by far.
Strangely, obligatory meals are included in the couchette ticket price and as long as you're not vegetarian the food is quite excellent.
It's a three day sail with a short stop at the Faroe Islands for you to wander around for five hours whilst the ship restocks. You can also ride your bike off the ferry for this time but having arranged this in advance you will have to disembark with your bike no matter what, even if the mist is down and it's pouring with rain.
It's perhaps worth mentioning that I found sailing between the Faroe Islands as you depart worth the ticket price alone as the scenery here was absolutely stunning.
A day later and you'll find yourself sailing down a steep sided fjord into the port of Seydisfjordur in Iceland.
Sailing into port you'll already feel as if you've had a fantastic adventure and as you look up at the terrifying mountains around you it will suddenly dawn on you that an infinitely bigger and more epic one is just about to begin.
Noel took the DFDS ferry from Newcastle, UK to Amsterdam, Holland (£353 return)
Then rode to Denmark
Then the Smyril Line ferry from Hirtshals, Denmark to Seydisfjordur, Iceland (£585 return)