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Green motion iceland blog driving in iceland 4x4 w640

The Ultimate Guide to Iceland

Iceland’s main attraction is its countryside, so whereas it’s perfectly fine to walk or cycle within the capital city, the best way to get out of the city and explore the nature is to go by car.

Iceland has a paved ring road around the island, accessible by car. There is only one lane going each way and there are very few cars on the road. Traffic jams are unheard of in Iceland.

If you’re adventurous and plan on taking a self drive tour to access some of Iceland’s highlands, then you’ll need to be driving a 4x4. Take notice that off-road driving is illegal in Iceland, as it damages the delicate nature, and is punishable with very high fines, which will likely be more than the cost of your entire trip.

A lot of the Icelandic highlands are only accessible in 4×4 jeeps and you can get huge fines if you drive a normal rental car into these areas. The highland roads are usually marked as F roads but Kjölur, which is not an F road, is also included. So if you plan to visit any of those areas or drive on F-marked roads you definitely need a four wheel drive.

Things to be aware of when driving in Iceland

These are some of the most common causes of road accidents in Iceland. By familiarising yourself with them you will reduce the chance of you being involved in an accident. Above all else, please drive carefully and sensibly.

  • Damage to wheels and tyres by flat or under inflated tyres.
  • Exiting the marked road as a result of icy conditions or visual distractions.
  • Domestic animals on or crossing the road.
  • Damage to doors when opened in extremely windy conditions. In a storm, you can expect average winds at 50m/s (112 mph).
  • Losing traction on gravel roads. This is particularly common where the asphalt road suddenly turns to a gravel road and the driver has not reduced speed to compensate for this.
  • Driving into sand and/or snowstorms or fording rivers.

Weather in Iceland

The weather can be unpredictable and harsh in Iceland, so we recommend that you check the forecast whenever possible. The weather can change every 5 minutes, from sunshine to a snow blizzard, even in summertime! (Snow blizzards are not likely on the Ring road in the summertime, but much more so the further into the highlands you go!)

In summertime (June to August) the nights are bright and the temperature is around 10-20°C (up to 25°C). Rain and wind can always be expected though.

It is rainier and windier during spring and autumn (April, May and September, October).

In wintertime, November until March, there may be icy, snowy, foggy, windy conditions. Storms have been known to break windows in cars and leave people stranded in the countryside.

To drive Iceland safely, many cars have ‘year-round’ tyres. In the wintertime it’s mandatory for cars to either have year-round tyres or winter tyres.

Where to go in Iceland

The country is mountainous and weather conditions change rapidly. The nature is breathtakingly beautiful and many people choose to explore new things like going on a glacier hiking tour or an ice cave tour.

1. Whale Watching

The gentle marine giants can be seen from the different locations in the country including Reykjavík. Several companies organize the 2-3 hour whale watching tours.

2. Geysers

Due to the volcanic activities underneath the surface, a lot of geysers, underground springs and thermal pools are scattered all around the country. To see a powerful hot stream shooting from the ground is definitely exciting.

3. Landmannalaugar

The multicolored rhyolite mountains, lava fields and the Hekla volcano make it a popular tourist destination. The striking landscapes look like a different planet. Hiking and horse riding are among the most popular activities here.

4. Maelifell Volcano, Myrdalsjökull Glacier Park

The perfect cone makes Maelifell a classic looking volcano. During the warm season, snow uncovers a lavish green surface, covered with moss. There is plenty to do and see in the park, full of volcanoes, hot springs and other beautiful sites.

5. Kirkjufell Mountain

Near a small town of Grundarfjörður in the western Iceland, the mountain beautifully sticks out in a plain landscape. In the surroundings of this striking mountain one can find small waterfalls and admire the Northern Lights at night.

6. Skaftafell Ice Cave, Vatnajökull National Park

The land of ice – the country is literally covered in ice and snow. The overwhelmingly beautiful ice caves attract adventurers. The travel agencies organize trips to the glaciers, from where the caves can be visited.

7. Blue Lagoon, Grindavík

A geothermal spa offers the most relaxing natural bathing experience you’ve never had and is a most tempting attraction, located only 40 minutes away from Reykjavík. The water from the underground hot springs reaches 37–39 °C and is beneficial for health and skin.

8. Aurora Borealis

The northern phenomenon is also among the most popular attractions. The dazzling lights are especially bright this year, due to the increase of solar activity. The lights are best admired in remote places, away from the urban lights.

9. Hallgrímskirkja

The unique church is situated in the middle of Reykjavík. It is the tallest and most recognizable building in the country. The architecture was inspired by the Black Falls – another Icelandic natural wonder.

10. Gullfoss Waterfall

The gorgeous waterfall is one of the most popular attractions in the country. Located in the canyon, which forms three step terraces, river Hvítá plunges creating a powerful stream and Gullfoss. There are no rails – just a natural surroundings.