Driving in Iceland
Everything you need for your Great Icelandic Adventure
We believe that seeing Iceland's beautiful nature doesn't have to be expensive. That's why we want to give travelers the opportunity to experience Iceland in a more affordable way.
The Icelandic road system is extensive and easy to navigate. Highway no. 1, commonly known as the Ring Road, is the most travelled route around Iceland. It is open throughout the year, but weather conditions can cause temporary closures during winter. Most major highways are paved, but it may surprise travellers to learn that a large portion of the Icelandic road system is made up of gravel roads, particularly in the highlands.
Gravel roads can be in various conditions, with potholes or washboard surfaces, but most of the time they should give a good ride if care is taken. You should always navigate these roads with care, as loose gravel can be difficult to drive in. Be careful when you pass another vehicle. Sand and small rocks can easily cause damage to cars, such as cracked windshields or a ruined paintjob.
Special warning signs indicate danger ahead, such as sharp bends, but there is generally no separate sign to reduce speed. Please choose a safe speed according to conditions. Motorists are obliged by law to use headlights at all times, day and night. Passengers in the front and backseats of an automobile are required by law to use safety-belts. Icelandic law forbids any driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while talking on a mobile phone is also banned.
The general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on gravel roads in rural areas, and 90 km/h on asphalt roads. Maps can be incredibly helpful. Ask for road maps and maps of Iceland at local tourist offices, bookstores or filling stations. Always take along a detailed map. All off-road driving and driving outside of marked tracks is prohibited by law. Icelandic nature is delicate and tire tracks from off-road driving can cause substantial damage to the vegetation and leave marks that will last for decades. Respect the nature and tread carefully.
Most mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a gravel surface. The surface on the gravel roads is often loose, especially along the sides of the roads, so one should drive carefully and slow down whenever an oncoming car approaches. The mountain roads are also often very narrow, and are not made for speeding. The same goes for many bridges, which are only wide enough for one car at a time. In addition to not having an asphalt surface, the mountain roads are often very windy. Journeys may therefore take longer than expected.
Consider the Weather
Driving in Iceland demands certain attention to conditions. Especially if you plan on travelling into the highlands. Be sure that you have the right car for the job. A 4x4 vehicle is essential in the highlands, where you might encounter rough terrain and unbridged waters. The highland roads are closed in winter times and weather sometimes causes other roads to be closed as well.
If driving in winter, you can expect to face snow, icy roads and darkness. If you are travelling outside of populated areas, always make sure that you check weather conditions and the state of your vehicle. As much fun as Icelandic nature is, you will still want to find your way back eventually.
Most mountain roads are closed until the end of June, or even longer, because of snow and muddy conditions, which make them impassable. When these roads are opened for traffic many of them can only be negotiated by four-wheel-drive vehicles. For some mountain tracks it is strongly advised that two or more cars travel together. Check road conditions with a tourist information office or the IRCA website.