Iceland offers travellers an adventure of a lifetime in a beautiful and rugged landscape. However, experience shows that the forces of Icelandic nature can be harsh and unpredictable, and travellers are well-advised to exercise caution and respect for the country’s natural environment.
When driving in Iceland there are a few things travellers should keep in mind.
The maximum speed limit on Iceland's route 1 or the ring road as it's called is 90 km/h. On gravel roads the maximum speed limit is 80 km/h. And in residential areas in towns and villages the limit is from 15-50 km/h.
Conditions such as snow, ice, wind, rain, loose gravel and visibility can affect driving conditions for the worse. The best advice to avoid accidents is to drive slowly. It's all about the journey anyway!
It is mandatory to drive with the headlights on at all times, night or day, summer or winter. Drivers can expect to be fined by the police for not having the lights on.
Everyone in the car has to wear seatbelts. Drivers can expect to be fined by the police for drivers and passengers not having the seatbelts on. Seatbelts are cool and they save lives!
Driving after consuming alcohol is strictly forbidden and can carry heavy fines and loss of driver's permit. Driving under the influence is not cool and it can destroy lives!
All off-road driving and driving outside of marked tracks is prohibited by law and is considered a very serious crime. Driving a vehicle off road, that is not on a track, so that it damages the natural environment or leaves a mark carries heavy fines up to 500.000 ISK and/or up to 2 years in jail. The exception would be if driving on surfaces where the vehicle does not leave a scar in the land. Like when fording rivers or driving on snow covered surfaces. 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.
Keep in mind that the Icelandic nature is very fragile, especially in the highlands, and we would like to enjoy it for generations to come. Please respect nature and stay on the trail.
A 4×4 vehicle is essential in the highlands, where you might encounter rough terrain and unbridged waters. Most mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a gravel surface. The surface on the gravel roads is often very 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. Journeys may therefore take longer than expected.
The Icelandic highland roads are closed in the spring when the snow is melting. Although it can vary considerably from year to year, usually the majority will open around the 3rd week of June. In the winter most highland roads are deemed "impassable", but they often stay open until late autumn.
For up to date information on road conditions and openings, please visit the website of the Icelandic Road Administration.
Icelandic weather can be very harsh at times and change extremely quickly. When 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 report your planned route to someone.
Information on weather and weather forecasts can be found at The Icelandic Meteorological Office's website.
112 is the number for the Icelandic national emergency service. If you have an accident, injury or illness and need emergency service call 112.
Keep posted on www.safetravel.is for information about weather, natural disasters and other safety issues while travelling
The official website for Covid related information in Iceland is www.covid.is