DRIVING IN ICELAND
On this page you will find all the information about Iceland's roads, one of the topics that most worries travelers who want to rent a car in Iceland. First of all, you should know that this concern is right, since booking a car in Iceland is not like in other places in Europe and it is advisable to be well informed of everything that awaits you upon arrival, before planning your trip. First of all, you have to keep in mind that not everything is as easy or difficult as it seems: for example, Highway number 1 (known as "Ring Road" and that goes around the island) is not like other roads (or highways) in the rest of Europe, and, on the other end, not all roads should be feared by novice drivers.
What should I know about the highways in Iceland?
In Iceland you can find the following types of highways:
a) National Highways
b) Primary Highways
c) Secondary Highways
d) F-Roads (highways in the mountains that head to the interior of the island which can only be accessed with vehicles with 4x4)
e) Local Highways (highways with local access only)
The most well maintained road and which is in the best state is of course, the well-known "Ring road", the Number 1 Road, which goes around the whole circumference of the island. As the numbers of the highway increases, the conditions of the roads get increasingly worse (for example: highway 22 is better than highway 225). F roads are the most difficult to cross and are only allowed for 4x4 off-road vehicles. Local access roads are usually private, do not have numbers (names only) and serve as access to private properties, fields, farms and some hotels.
What is Highway 1, the "Ring Road "like in Iceland?
Highway 1 (Hringvegur) is the main road in Iceland. It generally hugs the coastline as it goes a full 360 around the island. The only places in which it goes inland and away from the coast is by the western fjords and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. This road is completely paved (1,340 kilometers).
Highway number 1 is in very good condition and remains open throughout the year (unless there are some unforeseen conditions, volcanoes or glaciers). This road is usually a single lane in each direction, although it has areas with more lanes (Reykjavík - Hveragerdi area or Borgarnes area). In general, Highway number 1 is quite narrow, so you have to drive carefully. In addition, it has bridges which only allow one direction to pass at a time, where you have to be very careful. The maximum speed limit is 90 km / h.
How many highways in Iceland are paved with asphalt?
In addition to Highway number 1, the primary roads are also paved. These roads may be even more narrow but, on the other hand, they are less frequented and have much less traffic (except for the X road, which is the busiest road in all of Iceland). Some of the primary roads do not have the lanes marked, so you have to be more careful when passing because large vehicles may come in another direction. Of the total roads in Iceland, only 35% are paved roads.
These are the roads that we like the most and, fortunately, they are the majority. There are basically two types: primary and secondary roads. They are wide roads, with a fairly wide lane for each direction of traffic, but they are made of compacted gravel (so much so that it may seem like asphalt). These roads are very well defined with yellow landmarks or with stones at the edges. When belonging to the national road network, the speed limit is 80 km / h unless otherwise indicated on the road. In any case, caution and common sense must be used because there may be sections where it is not possible to drive at the maximum permitted speed, 80km / h, and the speed must be reduced.
Primary compact-gravel roads are intended to be kept open for as long as possible during the year, as they are a commercial transport route, but at some times during the winter they can remain closed. They are suitable for all types of vehicles, including passenger cars.
The secondary roads of compact-gravel are very narrow roads are not lacking in fun in the form of potholes, holes, puddles and fragments where ATTENTION!, the gravel may be loose or suddenly disappear. Sometimes these roads become dirt roads that can end up joining the F roads. However, normally, these roads are well defined to prevent you from going "off-road" (something that is totally prohibited even if you are driving a 4 × 4). In winter they are usually inaccessible. The maximum speed limit is 50 km / h and the use of a 4 × 4 vehicle is recommended to drive through them.
These are the roads that you often read about in regards to driving in Iceland and which may sometimes put an element of fear into potential drivers. They are the mountain roads, all those that go into the interior of Iceland. That they are named "F" highways has a very simple explanation: they are not named as such because the road is more or less narrow (it can be gravel or dirt), or because of the condition of the road in regards to potholes, stones, mud, ash, or dunes, but rather because they have an unstable base. Roads F carry that categorization of F because it indicates that they cross a river at some point along the way and that very likely you will need to drive your vehicle through a river in order to be able to follow the road. Therefore, it is mandatory to drive with a 4 × 4 vehicle and access to any other type of vehicle is completely prohibited.
Consult the state of the roads and highways
It is important that once in Iceland you periodically check the state of the roads that you have scheduled on your trip in case you have to modify or divert the route due to the closure of the road or because it is inaccessible. To do this you can go to the government website of the Icelandic Highway Network, which updates its map daily with photographs and webcams of the main roads of the island, or to the Safe Travel Island website, which are responsible for to ensure the safety and rescue of tourists on the island.
Here are the links:
Map of the Highways in Iceland with wind conditions and surfaces:
What highway should I choose when driving to Landmannalaugar?
Three different routes lead to Landmannalaugar, only one of them does not have an F in front of the road number, which is highway 208 from the north. There is no obstacle on that route, but it does not mean that it does not require a slower driving (in the south of Landmannalaugar it becomes the F208 road). This means that if you are driving a small car you will have to take the same round trip route.
The problem is not really whether or not it is allowed to drive through these roads with a regular car. The letter F in front of the road number indicates that the road is too difficult for normal cars, they are often rough tracks, even with open rivers. In these conditions it is completely impossible to drive with a standard vehicle, and we definitely do not recommend it.
If you are not sure, call the helpline in Iceland 1777 * which you can only call from within Iceland and they will assist you in English.
If you want to call from abroad or your mobile does not let you dial 1777, call (+354) 522-1100.
When are the highways to the interior of Iceland open?
Most mountain roads remain closed until the end of June or later if the weather conditions are adverse. This is due to the thaw, the humidity and the inconsistency of the terrain, which make them impracticable. When they open to traffic, most are only suitable for off-road vehicles.
Recommendation: If you do not want to lose your temper or your time looking for the route inside and want to travel accompanied, choose one of our tours. The vehicles of these excursions will easily take you without difficulty through the most complicated roads of Iceland to reach the most interesting places in the interior. Here are the excursions we recommend to you to take with the appropriate vehicles and with expert guides: