Iceland Self Drive

Iceland is the perfect place for an adventurous driving holiday. With its

vast landscapes and intriguing natural sights, it’s the ideal place to

hire a car and set off in exploration. The country’s unique landscapes,

however, do pose a challenge for even the most experienced of drivers.

The roads are susceptible to conditions you may not have come across in

other countries, and so it’s worth following our guide to ensure you’re

always safe on the road.


In Iceland, we drive on the right-hand side of the road. The main ring

road is known as Highway No. 1, it stretches across 1,339 km and it is

the most travelled route in the country. It is open year round, but it is

liable to closures in certain places due to severe weather conditions.

Gravel Roads

Most major roads are paved, but a substantial portion of them are covered

with gravel, particularly in the highland areas. In addition to this,

almost all mountain and interior roads have a surface of loose gravel on

them too. This is a road surface to be wary of, as it can cause skidding,

so drive carefully along these and slow down when you’re approaching an

oncoming car. Also watch out for narrow roads, and be aware that driving

off road is strictly forbidden because it can do irreparable damage to

the precious landscape of Iceland.

Speed Limits

Iceland’s roads mostly adhere to one of three speed limits. These are set

at 50km/h in populated areas, 80km/h on gravel roads and 90km/h on

asphalt roads. There aren’t always signs to indicate the speed on every

road, so be sure to learn these before you travel. Speed cameras are used

throughout the country, and fines can be hefty, so beware of speeding.

Dangers and pitfalls

One of the most frequent causes of accidents when it comes to foreigners

driving in Iceland is when approaching a change in the road surface.

Roads will often change from asphalt to gravel, and if you don’t slow

down to accommodate this it can cause the car to skid. If this happens,

try to avoid slamming on the breaks, as the wheels might lock. Instead,

take your foot off the accelerator and turn into the direction of the

skid until you have regained control of the car.

The weather can also change very quickly in Iceland. One minute you can

be driving in the blissful sunshine while the next you could be caught

amidst a storm. Check the forecasts so you’re aware of any potential

changes that might affect the driving conditions.

Although speed limits are set for each road type, sometimes the limits

can be too fast for a particular road. Look out for any blue and white

signs that indicate a safer recommended speed, and also approach hazards

such as sharp bends, narrow roads and blind hills with caution.

Single lane bridges are commonly seen on Highway No. 1. The general

driving rule for these is that the closer vehicle has the right of way,

but approach with caution until you can gauge what the oncoming driver is

going to do.

Livestock, particularly sheep, are a frequent sight on Iceland’s roads during the summer.

If you spot an animal on the side of the road, slow the car accordingly,

as they will often cross from one side to another without warning.

Although it might seem safer to drive in Iceland in the summer, the

constant sunshine can be misleading. Make sure you get enough sleep to

avoid being tired at the wheel, even if the continual daylight makes you

feel awake.

Driving tours of Iceland are one of the most popular ways of seeing this

beautiful country. Make sure you are fully prepared and you can ensure

you’re safe whilst enjoying the sights.


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