Gabrielle Motola

Author, publisher, photographer and colourist from the UK. Living in Iceland. 

5 minute read03 Dec 2016

6 Essential Tips for Driving in Iceland

Have you ever driven on a road which turns from tarmac to ice to gravel and then suddenly a snowdrift appears in zero visibility over the span of a few minutes? Until I came to Iceland and drove here last winter I never had before either. 

Iceland is unique which is a great reason to visit it but know that driving here requires more caution and skill than in places where the roads are straight, groomed, and the weather is less, well, arctic.

Driving through Icelandic landscapes is one of the most rewarding, uplifting experiences you can have. This is all thanks to the breathtaking views and the spectacular winding roads which carve gracefully through the martian meets wild west landscape. The ring road is more straightforward than the fjords but the landscapes are no less stunning. All of this can be yours and not cost you your savings or your life if you take a bit more time to be smart about where you drive when and know where to access information. Especially in the wintertime. 

Rental car driving in Icelandic snow

Here in Iceland natives know not to question the power of weather, to respect it and make themselves aware of road conditions before they jump into a car to drive to Ísafjörður. There is a reason this sign was erected on the Hellsheiði mountain overpass. The picture, taken in March 2016, indicates road fatalities. That count for this year (2016) is currently up to 15.

Here are some easy steps to take to make sure the drive of your life is not your last. 

  1. Drive on studded tires when driving in winter. 
    Most rental cars should have them on automatically. If you´re not sure double check and request them.
     
  2. Always check road.is for the road conditions on your route. 
    There are maps and web cameras indicating the condition of roads and importantly which ones are closed. Not all closed roads are gated.
     
  3. Check en.vedur.is for weather conditions in the area you are and are going to. 
    Things can change quickly in Iceland. Most tourists get into trouble when the are not aware.
     
  4. Use caution when using a GPS. It may not give you the best route. 
    It may also distract you. Keep your eyes on the road especially if it is raining or snowing. One tourist drove into a river reading it wrong instead of watching the road. 
     
  5. There are single lane bridges in Iceland. 
    Only some of them have flashing yellow lights, so get to know the traffic sign for them. It looks like a car inside of hourglass brackets. In the event you see either the sign or the yellow light, or the road narrowing, it is always best to slow down and use caution, yielding to any oncoming traffic. There was a fatal head on collision on one of these bridges last year. 
     
  6. Think thrice about the type of vehicle insurance you take out. 
    Fully comprehensive and/or windscreen insurance can come in handy if you are driving on gravel F roads or on the South Coast. Dinged windscreens are common. This is as true in summer as wintertime depending on where you plan to drive to. 

Generally Icelanders are used to fending for themselves in a harsh environment and enjoy the freedom it affords. No one will tell you not to go near the edge of a cliff because it is dangerous. It is assumed to be dangerous. 

Icelandic winter road with icy conditions

However the more tourists who come here and do not exercise good judgement the more manmade safety enforcement devices (aka freedom restrictions) are implemented. We all pay for that psychically. However some pay for it with their lives. Do your part to keep yourself safe and Iceland free.

Learn the secrets

Get Local Advice

 

The Icelandic Swimming Pool Rules

You might have noticed when you travel around Iceland that almost every town, no matter how big or small has a swimming pool. They might not have a bank or a hospital but they’ll have a swimming pool! Our geothermal energy makes this possible of course and provides hot water for our little paradise getaways. We really love our swimming pools band we have strict rules you need to know about!

 

The South Coast of Iceland - the ultimate guide

The southern coast of Iceland is by far one of the most popular destinations that Iceland has to offer. It’s easy to access and many breathtaking sights to see. It’s actually such a big deal over here that we tend to refer to it exclusively as “The South Coast”. Sometimes forgetting that many countries do in fact also have their own south coasts.

 

Iceland Airwaves 2018 - What to see

Don’t miss out on the biggest music festival of the year: Iceland Airwaves 2018

 

13 tips on driving in Iceland

Driving in Iceland is amazing but it can be tricky so take precautions and be safe! Road conditions can be unpredictable due to weather and there are a few things you need to know.

Your adventure in Iceland starts here

Here are some great tours we recommend

 

Classic Golden Circle Tour

A classic tour of the Golden Circle. See the world famous erupting geyser & hot springs, experience the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall and follow in the footsteps of the Vikings, as you walk down the lava canyon in Þingvellir

kr 6,990 7,5 Hours

Book Now
 

Golden Circle and Friðheimar

See Icelands most famous sights Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir National Park. Visit Friðheimar cultivation centre where vegetables are grown with geothermal heat.

kr 7,599 8 Hours

Book Now
 

Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon from Reykjavik

Travel Golden Circle route and then relax in the warm waters of the Secret Lagoon

kr 10,500 8 Hours

Book Now
 

Golden Circle and Snowmobile Ride from Reykjavik

Combine the popular Golden Circle with a thrilling ride on a snowmobile

kr 29,990 11,5 Hours

Book Now

Looking for something to do in Iceland?