Driving in Iceland

Road conditions in Iceland vary substantially. Highway 1 is mostly paved, but other country roads are often very narrow, steep and washboarded gravel tracks with potholes and sharp corners. Those unfamiliar with such conditions often find it difficult to drive on Icelandic roads, especially gravel roads. Drivers are advised to choose a vehicle which they are used to drive and can easily handle. Many travellers, who are not used to driving jeeps, find them difficult to handle on Icelandic gravel roads.

Useful video on How to drive in Iceland

We advise all those who plan to drive in Iceland to watch this video.

Tips on driving in Iceland


  • Slow down when you meet other vehicles, especially when driving on gravel road
  • Where the road changes from a paved road to a gravel road, you need to slow down considerably. Many serious accidents occur every year at such places, especially among drivers who are unfamiliar with such road conditions, lose control of their vehicle and drive off the road.
  • Blind summits are common in Iceland. Slow down and keep to the right-hand edge of the road.
  • There are many one-lane bridges in Iceland. Slow down and use caution when driving across them
  • Many Icelandic roads are raised on embankments against winter snows. Therefore, roll-over accidents often occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles and drive off the road. Such accidents can be very serious, especially when seat belts are not used.
  • In the summertime, there is sunlight 24 hours a day. Drivers need to be aware of this and not drive for too long, as they might otherwise fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • The speed limit in urban areas is normally 50 km per hour. Outside towns, it is 90 km, on paved roads and 80 km on gravel roads. Always adjust your speed to the driving conditions.
  • Domestic animals are often close to, or even on, country roads. Drivers who hit animals may be required to pay for the damage.
  • The use of hands-free kits is compulsory for mobile phone use whilst driving.
  • Driving while intoxicated from drug or alcohol use is prohibited.
  • Headlamps are required to be lit 24 hours a day while the vehicle is in operation.
  • The use of front and back seat belts is compulsory - they save lives.
  • For more information about road conditions, please see this website: www.road.is

Tips on highland driving in Iceland

Highland roads in Iceland are usually narrow gravel roads, and most rivers are unbridged. On maps, they are indicated with an F before the road number, with most of these roads intended for jeeps only.

  • Driving outside marked trails is prohibited and is subject to nature conservation law.
  • Crossing rivers should be attempted only in fourwhhel-drive vehicles, such as jeeps. Ensure that the four-wheel drive has been engaged before driving into the water. Drive very slowly but steadily in first gear and use the low range if available.
  • Keep in mind that fords over glacial rivers keep changing. On warm summer days, the flow increases as the day progresses. Heave rain often causes rivers to swell, sometimes making them uncrossable even for large and well equipped vehicles. Glacial rivers usually have less water in the mornings.
  • Deaths have been caused by underestimating the water volume in rivers. Before crossing a glacial river, it is necessary to examine its velocity, depth and bottom by wading into it. If you find that you would be unwilling to wade across the river on foot, you should not attempt to drive across it. Seek advice from experienced drivers and watch how and where they cross.
  • There is only one petrol station in the highlands (at Hveravellir) that sells petrol and diesel. Keep this in mind when driving in the highlands.
  • It is important to know the vehicle's insurance coverage before going on a trip in the higlands. For example, rented vehicles are not insured for damage that occurs while crossing rivers or lakes, and the chassis is not insured. Also, you need extra insurance for travelling in the highlands.
  • Accommodation is limited in the highlands, and you need to make reservations with sufficient notice if you don't want to sleep in the vehicle or in a tent.
  • Rangers operate at most major tourist centres in the highlands. Their job is to receive travellers and provide information. Travellers should obey rangers' instructions.
  • Highland roads are open only during the summertime, weather and other cicumstances permitting. Information about opening dates can be obtained by phoning 1777 or at www.road.is

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