Topographical Maps & Software

The availability and quality of Icelandic maps that are suitable for moderately technical backcountry travel (i.e. anything more complex than following vehicle tracks) was disappointing. I guess that with a population of just over 300,000 and a population density just 7 people per square mile, the demand for such maps is not high enough to create a competitive market. The challenge of finding good and necessary maps was exacerbated by being an ocean away. This page will hopefully make it easier for you to prepare for your own trip.

Essential Maps

1:250,000 Section Maps, from Ferdakort. These were invaluable in planning my route. They contain a lot of useful and up-to-date information — roads, rivers, ford locations, huts, topography, services, distances between points, glaciers, etc. I purchased all three maps. The scale and contour lines are not designed to support technical travel, but there were several places where these maps were my only reference — a few times I had to change my route mid-trip, after receiving new information, and got pushed off my small-scale maps — and in those cases they were marginally adequate.

Atlas Map Sheets – Map CD 2, from Ferdakort. This CD was unavailable in Spring/Summer 2008, but if I could have acquired it I would have in a heartbeat. The software contains 1:100,000 maps for the entire country. This scale is optimal because Iceland’s topography is usually not especially pronounced and small-scale maps like 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 are usually too small — they just do not provide a full enough picture of the landscape. While you can easily view the maps with the provided software, printing the maps is a major hassle: the software only allows you to copy or print 12cm x 12cm (4.7in x 4.7in) squares at a time, so you’ll need to copy and paste these squares into Photoshop so that you can produce a reasonably sized map.

Optional, Supplemental, and Complimentary Maps

Topographical maps – Map CD 4, from Ferdakort. This CD was available in Summer 2008 and I purchased it because I could not get the 1:100,000 CD. It has the same printing/copying limitations, but the problem is actually worse because you print/copy a smaller on-the-ground area. Once I had copied all the relevant map sections into a huge file in Photoshop I reduced the scale of the maps, probably to something like 1:70,000, in order to make them more useful. This 50,000 CD does not contain maps for the entire country — 1:50,000 maps (paper or digital) are only available for the central one-third of the country, plus Reykjavik. You will need to find maps of important places like the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Northwest Fjords, or the entire eastern third of the country (including Lonsoraefi) elsewhere.

Snaefellsnes), which supplemented or complimented my digital 50,000 maps and the 100,000 atlas paper map sheets.

Laugavegur or buy them in-person at the store at Laugavegi 18, which is in downtown Reykjavik’s main shopping area.