Traversing Iceland's South Coast With Photographer Chris Burkard

Traversing Iceland's South Coast With Photographer Chris Burkard

Newly minted Nomadix Ambassador & Photographer Chris Burkard got back a few weeks ago from a trip with a team down to the southern coast of Iceland, traversing 274 miles in one week on bike [ and raft ] across iconic grey sandy beaches, massive & fast moving river mouth crossings, and merciless headwinds notorious enough that it is advised to cycle counter clockwise while traveling in Iceland.

Chris Burkard & Team On Day 5 Of Their Trek In Icealand

Day 5 Of The Team's Trek In Iceland,  Alviðruhamrar Lighthouse to Vik. Photo by @_ryanhill_

But the lows were well worth the highs as they encountered arctic foxes and whales, rafted past icebergs, and documented the region's untouched beauty all along the way.

On the expedition's final push, they were greeted with near perfect weather as they said a goodbye to the route and rolled into their final destination, Thorlakshofn. An epic ending to a journey that will never be forgotten.

Day Three Of Chris Burkard & Team Traversing Through Massive Waterways.

Day 3 Of The Team's Trek In Iceland, Jokulsarlon - Alvioruhamrar Lighthouse . Photo by @_ryanhill_

The team was gracious enough to share their experiences with Nomadix & provide absolutely gorgeous shots by Ryan Hill, @_ryanhill_.

Congrats @chrisburkard and team for completing "The Forgotten Coast" expedition, you crushed it! What an absolute honor to support. 

Make sure to check out Chris' Favorite Picks From Nomadix, including what he took with him on his trek.


Day 1 | Djupivogur to Skalafell | ~ 80 km, 6 river crossings

We started our bike/packrafting  journey in the Eastfjords at the small harbor town of Djupivogur. We crossed two inlets to a series of small barrier islands followed by endless miles of sandbars that varied from soft and unrideable to near perfect hard packed soil.

Chris Burkard & Team Start Their Icelandic Trek On Bikes.Photo by @_ryanhill_

We encountered arctic foxes, whales, and millions of seabirds. Including the ultra aggressive Skua - that would dive bomb at our heads for miles. The beach is ever engaging with massive tides swings and sneaker waves rushing up the shoreline. Our heads are always on a swivel while riding.

This day ended with near perfect light as we passed the town of Höfn, crossing the harbor at sunset. We rode for 16 hours making camp around 11:30pm in some sand dunes after a final river crossing.

Chris Burkard & Team cross a waterway on day one of their trip in Iceland.Photo by @_ryanhill_


Day 2 | Skalafell to Jokulsarlon | ~ 76 km, 7 river crossings

We woke up to rain at our camp along the beaches south of Höfn. The small dunes and grass made for a decent wind break. The temperature at night hovers around high 30’s - low 40’s (Farenheit). We got on the sand  around 10AM in dense hazy fog and encountered our first glacial river where the water was milky from sediments in the glacial silt.

Chris Burkard & Team cycle past beached glaciers on day two of their trip in Iceland.

Photo by @_ryanhill_

The terrain was slow moving today as the high tides pushed us into soft sand. Riding a fatbike (especially loaded) feels more like lifting weights with your legs than riding a bike. It’s always engaging, constantly mashing the pedals, and there’s never a single moment to “coast”.

Chris Burkard & Team take a break to resupply during their trip at a local farm.

Photo by @_ryanhill_

We resupplied at Hali Farm and crossed the lagoon while getting attacked by Kria.

Chris Burkard & Team cycle past beached glaciers on day two of their trip in Iceland.Photo by @_ryanhill_

At 8pm, we made it to the famous Jokulsaron glacier lagoon and conditions were perfect, so we inflated our small raft and drifted past massive icebergs to the other side of the lake to camp.


Day 3/4 | Jokulsarlon - Alvioruhamrar Lighthouse | ~ 120 km, 18 river crossings

I could fill a library with the experiences these two days held. We embarked upon the most remote, unknown, and dangerous section of our route encompassing all of Iceland's largest glacial rivers. We encountered this section with less than ideal weather as it poured rain & wind for 2 full days. At times we lashed ourselves to our boats so we wouldn’t lose them if they fell out or blew away.

Chris Burkard & Team attempt crossings on bike through flooded parts of Iceland's southern coast.Photo by @_ryanhill_

We encountered more whale bones than I can count & the most unusual landscape I have ever witnessed. The Atlantic ocean sat to our left and massive interconnected rivers spread for as far as the eye could see… at times the sky, the sea, and the sand all fused together and it almost gave you vertigo as we struggled to find a perfect line to ride.

Strong headwinds in Iceland's Southern Coast kick up sand that gets into everything.Photo by @_ryanhill_

I learned a lot about myself in these two days as well as my partners, my bike, and this landscape. This was the section that kept me up at night, endless shipwrecks & tales of sailors being stranded. We made it through but were humbled in the process.

Chris Burkard & Team cross in heavy fog on day three of their trek.Photo by @_ryanhill_

Day 5 | Alviðruhamrar Lighthouse - Vik | ~50 km, 9 river crossings

It’s not often that you worry about the “surf” on a bike ride, but often on day 5 we found ourselves riding on the wet sand just beyond the surf, which was the only rideable surface. This stretch of coastline around Iceland's southern most point is known for its sleeper waves, big surf, rip tides and overall extremely dangerous shoreline.

Chris Burkard & Team continue their trek alongside the coast.

Photo by @_ryanhill_

We kept our heads on a swivel all day. We awoke to strong offshore winds and a fresh groundswell, our goal was to make it to Vik but the moving was slow as huge surf rushed up the beach forcing into soft sand. The glacial river crossings were cold, some of the coldest we had encountered. We made it Vik chilled to the bone, beaten, and luckily a local let us into her home, fed us, and let us dry some clothes. We pushed onward as the winds subsided and paddled around Dyrholaey and rode the iconic “endless black beach” before making camp.

Chris Burkard & Team make camp at the end of day five on their trek in Southern Iceland,

Photo by @_ryanhill_

Chris Burkard & Team make camp at the end of day five on their trek in Southern Iceland,

Photo by @_ryanhill_

Day 6-7 | Solheimafjara - Thorlakshofn | ~120km, 14 river crossings

The final push always seems to come with its highs and lows. On day 6, we had planned some of the lowest mileage of the trip but a ferocious headwind made it one of our hardest days. Dry soft sand made it feel like an absolute slog where we found ourselves pushing our bikes and at times cursing at the weight.

Chris Burkard & Team continue to cycle through rocky coastline on the last two days of their trek in Southern Iceland.

Photo by @_ryanhill_

We crossed the mighty Markarfljót river that flows straight from the highlands near sunset, a large cold crossing with high tide wave trains rolling in. We took shelter in a small bunker on the coast warming up and drying out gear. The last day was the one I feared the most… All the preparation told me it was going to be easy, but still, crossing the Thorsja and the Olfusa river was something to be respected.

Two of the largest and highest volume rivers in the country with wide exposed crossings laid in our path on this monster 44 mile final day. We crossed safely enjoying the colorful glacial patterns.

Chris Burkard & Team utilized bush planes during some of their trek as well.

Photo by @_ryanhill_

We managed to get near perfect weather as a final goodbye to our route and rolled in the last few miles toward Thorlakshofn.


Chris Burkard & team finish out their seven day, 274 mile trek across Southern Iceland by the coast.

Photo by @_ryanhill_


Make sure to check out Chris' Favorite Picks From Nomadix, including what he took with him on his trek.