RE: Iceland in an MX-5: My Dream Drive

RE: Iceland in an MX-5: My Dream Drive

Tuesday 8th November 2016

Iceland in an MX-5: My Dream Drive

A big trip in a small car; PH man Al reflects on a true dream drive in an MX-5



Name: Al Suttie
Where: Iceland
Car used: Mazda MX-5 Icon

The route:
"Just follow Route 1. It's as simple as that if you want to drive the Ring of Iceland. While that might sound too simplistic, it's the truth, even if you do have to make the occasional left or right turn at a junction. During my time on this journey, I plugged in the destination on the other side of the country simply to see what the estimated mileage and time of arrival would be. This also had the enjoyable side effect of showing instructions such as 'take a turn in 397km'.

Views like this wherever you look!
Views like this wherever you look!
"So, from the centre of Reykjavik, I used Route 49 to escape the town in what passes for rush hour. Compared to most UK cities, it's like a Sunday morning stroll and this road leads directly on to Route 1, so from the middle of the capital to the main event is less than 15 minutes. After that it's not long before the road starts to climb and swoop its way around the coast to Grundarhverfi, having opted to take the route in a clockwise direction. From here, this ring road just gets more and more impressive before turning right after the bay crossing at Borgarbyggo.

"Through the mountain scape of the Northwest Region, I headed ever more eastwards, stopping for lunch at Akureyri, which is one of the few decent sized towns along the route. A quick top-up of fuel and it was on to Reykjahlio before the long and sweeping road down into Egilsstadir for the night's stopover.

"Next morning, it was back on the 1, but with a small deviation over the unmade 939 that was more like a rally stage. It saved a bit of time when I was back on the 1 as I had some sightseeing planned around Jokulsarlon and the glacier that looms to the right-hand side of the road in this area. After that, it was back on the 1 for the run back to Reykjavik through Hella and Selfoss. A quick turn left back on to the 49 and it was into the city centre for a well-earned beer and dinner."

This picture doesn't really need a car in it
This picture doesn't really need a car in it
Why it's a dream drive:
"It might be one road all the way around Iceland, but my goodness does the scenery change. There is never a moment when you think 'I've seen enough of this mountain, coast, glacier, forest, rock-strewn plateau' or any other type of countryside you can imagine. Just when you think it's about to carry on, you go round a bend and it changes. This has the happy coincidence of meaning the road's topography switches from open stretches to more technical twisty routes. There's everything you could ever wish for from a driver's perspective and the traffic is so sparse I counted 27 minutes before seeing another vehicle at one point, and it was parked. What cars, buses and trucks there are on the road tend to be polite locals who let you pass and happily chat when you're stopped for some sightseeing.

"The road is not always perfectly smooth, but it's generally well maintained and this suited the MX-5 to a tee. I was also fortunate with the weather, which was cool but dry, so the Mazda's furnace-like heater and warmed seats kept things toasty in the cabin with the roof down all the way."

Highlights and lowlights:
"Any section of Route 1 could be held up as a prime candidate for best of the trip, but two stick out clearly in my memory. The first was on day one as I headed up and down the coast road from Grundarhverfi to Arkanes. No other cars, clear lines of sight, sweeping corners and some tighter turns thrown in for good measure. The MX-5 Icon with its 131hp 1.5-litre engine may not be especially quick, but it was ideal for these roads as the engine loves to rev. There's also the precision of the six-speed gearbox to keep the motor working hard, plus rear-drive handing and accurate steering to make the most of it all.

"The other highlight was the road towards Jokulsarlon that is very open and fast and showed off the MX-5's excellent control at high speeds. This leads on to the abiding lowlight of the trip, which is the ever-present spectre of the local police and a blanket 90km/h speed limit."

MX-5 really well suited to Iceland actually
MX-5 really well suited to Iceland actually
Sights, stop-offs and diversions:
"Reykjavik is a great base to start and finish from, and it helps that it has the main airport close by to get in and out of Iceland. There's plenty to see and do from a tourist point of view, but the driving fun is outside of the city. When you get away from the capital, almost anywhere is good for a pull over and gawp at the scenery, so build in a bit of time for this. I visited a couple of geysers, that are clearly signposted, to see the super-heated water spurting out of the ground. It's worth seeing to get an idea of the power of nature, and there's also the Blue Lagoon where you can take a dip. However, this is hugely busy, so book well in advance if you want to enjoy its sulphurous temptations.

"Another must-see is the glacier at Jokulsarlon where you can watch chunks of ice the size of an office block slowly float past after they've broken away from the main pack of ice. There are boat trips to get you closer to the icy action, or further along the road there are lay-bys where you can park up and walk onto the glacier. No health and safety nonsense here, just a sign that essentially says 'don't be stupid'. You have to love Iceland for that alone."

View the route here
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

suffolk009

Original Poster:

3,772 posts

96 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
That looks simply amazing.


SirSquidalot

2,900 posts

96 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Really want to visit Iceland, this isnt helping!

chrispj

255 posts

74 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
How did you get your car there (I presume it's yours as it's UK registration), the ferry from Denmark?

Looks like a great trip!

David87

4,865 posts

143 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Indeed, how about the journey to Iceland? That must have been an adventure in itself! biggrin

fivetenben

490 posts

101 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Great article; very psyche-inducing...

After coming back from a fairly hefty road trip across Africa a while back, cash was tight so my Africa Co-driver and I elected to do this on mountain bikes to get our road based adventure fix.

Certainly one of the toughest, yet most satisfying things I've ever done, in one of the most surreal, other-worldly places I've ever experienced. Here's a few photos from our trip, just to add to the 'you've gotta visit' vibe which the article gives off...











...and there's a trip report here, if you're feeling suitably inspired to head to the land of fire and ice: http://bencoombs.net/iceland_trip_report1.html
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RizzoTheRat

16,777 posts

123 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Route 1's great, but there's also some fantastic scenery on the interior roads, many of which aren't tarmac but are no problem in a road car. First time we went we hired a polo and didn't have any problems, but the next couple of trips involved a Grand Vitara and then a Jimny, but we probably only had about 3 occasions where a lower car might have struggled due to depth of sandy stuff or snow.

Snow can get a bit deep in places too


Macboy

278 posts

136 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
We had everything planned for a trip to Iceland in our Roof Tent equipped Defender at precisely the time that the ferry from Shetland was cancelled. It still sails from Bergen to the Faeroes and on to Iceland it now just doesn't stop in Scotland. With no ferry to Norway any more from the UK to meet the Iceland ferry and a huge drive to Scandinavia before embarking on the Iceland drive we never got to go.

TurboHatchback

3,253 posts

84 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
RizzoTheRat said:
Route 1's great, but there's also some fantastic scenery on the interior roads, many of which aren't tarmac but are no problem in a road car. First time we went we hired a polo and didn't have any problems, but the next couple of trips involved a Grand Vitara and then a Jimny, but we probably only had about 3 occasions where a lower car might have struggled due to depth of sandy stuff or snow.

Snow can get a bit deep in places too

The interior is amazing though I would point out you're not actually allowed to drive non-4x4 vehicles on F-roads (unpaved routes) even though many of them would be passable.

I spent August 2015 touring round Iceland in a 1992 Landcruiser I bought for the trip, it was amazing. To be honest driving on roads has never felt the same since, zooming across vast plains of black sand, wading though fast flowing rocky rivers and bouncing across rocky deserts was more fun than I've had before or since behind the wheel of a vehicle. The lack of traffic is joyous, I regularly didn't see another vehicle for literally hours at a time on some routes.

Jakg

1,830 posts

99 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Any excuse to share some pictures... went earlier in the year. Didn't do "a lap", but made a short journey (on the map, at least!) from Reykjavik to Ólafsvík - around three hours. At one point didn't see another car for thirty minutes.

I'd read online the "car hire trick" is to book a small automatic - as they never have it, so you always end up with something nice and premium. That didn't work! On the plus side at least I averaged 72MPG (!).

It's a shame the speed limits are so low - on the paved bits of the journey a hot hatch would've been a riot.




TurboHatchback

3,253 posts

84 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Macboy said:
We had everything planned for a trip to Iceland in our Roof Tent equipped Defender at precisely the time that the ferry from Shetland was cancelled. It still sails from Bergen to the Faeroes and on to Iceland it now just doesn't stop in Scotland. With no ferry to Norway any more from the UK to meet the Iceland ferry and a huge drive to Scandinavia before embarking on the Iceland drive we never got to go.
The ferry goes from Hirtshals at the top of Denmark. I drove all the way round to there via the Holland ferry, it was a very long noisy trip. Totally worth it though if you can get enough time off in one go!

RizzoTheRat

16,777 posts

123 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
TurboHatchback said:
The interior is amazing though I would point out you're not actually allowed to drive non-4x4 vehicles on F-roads (unpaved routes) even though many of them would be passable.

I spent August 2015 touring round Iceland in a 1992 Landcruiser I bought for the trip, it was amazing. To be honest driving on roads has never felt the same since, zooming across vast plains of black sand, wading though fast flowing rocky rivers and bouncing across rocky deserts was more fun than I've had before or since behind the wheel of a vehicle. The lack of traffic is joyous, I regularly didn't see another vehicle for literally hours at a time on some routes.
Yeah, it's worth paying to do a proper 4x4 tour out on to the F roads and beyond. We did one from Reykjavik up on to Langjökull in a land cruiser on 38" tyres, those were his summer ones, he changes to 44" for the winter biggrin There's a huge amount of unpaved roads that are open to all, and the road.is website is a great as it gives the road conditions on most of them.

I considered buying a Grand Cherokee and driving up via the Denmark ferry last time we went but it adds a lot of time to the holiday and wouldn't have worked out any cheaper than renting a car there. the Jimny was ideal, it's not a great road car but when pretty much everywhere is a 50 limit that's not a problem, and it gave a lot of confidence on dodgy roads. They are very specific when getting a hire care that you're not insured for crossing rivers, they usually have big posters on the wall on polos and similar floating down rivers biggrin


Edited by RizzoTheRat on Tuesday 8th November 13:12

Macboy

278 posts

136 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
TurboHatchback said:
The ferry goes from Hirtshals at the top of Denmark. I drove all the way round to there via the Holland ferry, it was a very long noisy trip. Totally worth it though if you can get enough time off in one go!
That was our issue - it worked with the Scotland Ferry but not adding the extra days (and cost) of crossing the channel and driving to Denmark.

gforceg

2,863 posts

110 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
chrispj said:
How did you get your car there (I presume it's yours as it's UK registration), the ferry from Denmark?

Looks like a great trip!
I doubt he had to worry about getting the car there. I smell an advertorial.

But it does look like a great trip.

battered

4,088 posts

78 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Iceland is fantastic, but it destroys cars. The roads are covered in loose stones, a car-bra is eesntial if you care about your paint, as are Perspex or mesh light covers unless you like replacing headlamps.

David-H

49 posts

33 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
We did Iceland back in 2008 in our Discovery 3, when the ferry still ran from Scrabster via The Faroes. Probably the most exciting road trip we've ever done.

Not only did we drive most of Route 1, we crossed part of the interior. As this photo shows we took the F910 out of Askja to the campsite at Nyidalur. 96km doesn't sound too far, but it took us hours to get to this point across some pretty challenging terrain and river crossings. The D3 never missed a beat or put a wheel wrong. When we finally got to the campsite and were all set up I needed a very large whisky.



I'd love to go back and do it again.

David.

Ved

3,797 posts

106 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
gforceg said:
chrispj said:
How did you get your car there (I presume it's yours as it's UK registration), the ferry from Denmark?

Looks like a great trip!
I doubt he had to worry about getting the car there. I smell an advertorial.

But it does look like a great trip.
Ya think? http://www.topgear.com/car-news/big-reads/why-icel...

You can't really expect individual treatment can you? Every single car manufacturer invites dozens of journalists on such trips. It's about the writer, photographer and the story and I enjoyed reading both.

Dan Trent

1,815 posts

99 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
chrispj said:
How did you get your car there (I presume it's yours as it's UK registration), the ferry from Denmark?

Looks like a great trip!
Hello! The story was done off the back of a Mazda press event so the cars where shipped there as part of that.

Thanks,

Dan

thegreenhell

4,107 posts

150 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Jakg said:
I'd read online the "car hire trick" is to book a small automatic - as they never have it, so you always end up with something nice and premium.
We had that when we visited this summer. Booked the cheapest car online then arrived at the hire desk to be told that we've been upgraded to a 4x4...

The resultant Jimny was a tight squeeze for three adults with suitcases. Good fun though.


giveitfish

3,030 posts

145 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Driving there can be fun in winter too - hire cars come with studded tyres smile

Iceland, January 2014 by giveitfish, on Flickr

Iceland, January 2014 by giveitfish, on Flickr

Frances The Mute

1,742 posts

172 months

Tuesday 8th November 2016
quotequote all
Absolutely adored Iceland. I considered taking in the whole island but time was a factor so spent it exploring and enjoying the Western third of the island.

The driving vibe there is very relaxed ts great for anyone who may be nervous of driving on the right/for the first time somewhere other than the UK. The locals are very friendly, too.

I can't wait to go back.