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.
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.
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
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.