Updated: Nov 10, 2022
Ready for your next driving challenge? Then you may want to consider the spectacular F208 Iceland road. Leading across the wilds of the Central Highlands, this is one of Iceland’s most challenging roads to traverse but the rewards are more than worth the effort.
Characterized by steep drop-offs, loose gravel, and river crossings, this adventurous road is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But for experienced drivers who welcome a little action behind the wheel, it’s a great choice. Not only will you have the satisfaction of conquering the road, but you’ll be rewarded with some truly incredible views right outside your window.
But just how dangerous is the F208 Iceland? Here we’ll explore the road conditions as well as the places you’ll discover along the way. We’ll also offer an introduction to driving in Iceland, especially on the infamous F-Roads. To make sure your trip runs smoothly, by the end of this article we will have covered all the following frequently asked questions:
What exactly are F-Roads?
Who should drive them and in what vehicle?
What are the Iceland F208 road conditions like?
How to prepare for driving the F208?
What are the top F208 sights and experiences?
F Roads and the Iceland road network
Iceland is a sparsely populated country with huge swathes of uninhabited land. Since the vast majority of its towns and villages are located in coastal regions, it follows that the road network in these areas is well-developed and in good condition for driving.
However, when you reach the interior of the country, all of this changes. Much of the mountainous interior of Iceland is road-free, with zero vehicle access. These huge wilderness areas are part of what makes Iceland such an exciting place to explore. It is one of the world’s last great wildernesses, and we get the opportunity to wander through it.
The Icelandic F-roads allow drivers a handful of routes across these wild volcanic landscapes which means we can stop and marvel at their beauty for a while and then move on. But driving in this terrain will be a real challenge for most and it’s important to know all the facts before committing. First of all, the roads here are unpaved with potholes, boulders, and loose gravel to negotiate.
The notorious Iceland weather also plays its part, closing F-Roads for months on end. The majority of these roads are inaccessible throughout the winter and only open between May/June and August/September. If the snow blows in too harshly or other adverse conditions present themselves, they can even close in summer.
Driving Iceland’s F Roads
Inexperienced drivers or nervous drivers considering taking on the F208 should think again. The same applies to all F-Roads, really. These are not for the dubious travelers, so if you’re having cold feet, trade this adventure for something that doesn’t require you to operate a vehicle.
It is only possible to tackle these roads in a large 4x4. We’re talking about a 4x4 camper van rental or a large SUV with plenty of clearance.
You’ll need to be comfortable with heights and negotiating sharp bends around steep, barrier-free drop-offs. It goes without saying that you can only drive these roads in full daylight hours. There is no street lighting out here, in case you were wondering!
Bridge-free river crossings are another obstacle you’ll encounter on the F208. River flow can of course vary depending on the weather and time of year, so you should seek local advice and be cautious about wading straight in. The flow is monitored and the road is generally closed if it’s too fierce. But despite that, remember you’re responsible for yourself and the rest of the passengers if you choose to drive on through.
How to prepare for driving the F208
If you do plan on driving the F208, you will need to keep a close eye on the weather. Download your Iceland weather apps and refer to them regularly. If there seems to be a chance of storms, then you should reschedule your trip.
Even in summer, F-roads are often closed due to adverse weather, so keep this in mind and be prepared. In the best-case scenario, you might be lucky and get to reschedule your crossing to another day, or you might just have to come back to Iceland another time. The bottom line: it’s always best to be flexible when traveling in the Land of Fire and Ice
There are other precautions to take if you are driving the F208 or any Icelandic F-Road. It is always a good idea to inform someone of your driving plan, so they can send help right away should you need it. Also, make sure that you travel with a functioning mobile phone with plenty of charge.
Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll need to leave with a full tank of gas, as well as warm clothes and provisions. Water, hot drinks, and snacks are all important things to pack since you certainly won’t find any service stations in the middle of nowhere Iceland!
The Iceland F208: Road conditions and sights
The Iceland F208 runs right through the mountainous Central Highlands. One option is to join it at its southern end not too far from the town of Vik. Alternatively, you could reach its northern end by leaving the Ring Road after Sellfoss on route 26. Regardless of which end you approach from, you’ll need to join a short section of another F-Road first.
We recommend taking the north to south route, beginning at Sigalda hydroelectric power station. Here you will find a huge reservoir set against a backdrop of dark volcanic mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, complemented by many waterfalls tumbling through.
This is a popular destination for visitors and Icelandic people alike. The road is easy to navigate to this point and won’t pose too much of a challenge. While some people might prefer to visit Landmannalaugar for the day and then head back out, there is certainly plenty to do here for those that have the whole day.
Landmannalaugar roughly translates to ‘Pools of the People’ and is an eye-catching area of outstanding beauty and unspoiled nature, much like the rest of Iceland. There are a wealth of natural hot springs and pools to bathe in, as people often spend the entire day here calmly walking, bathing, and picnicking at their leisure.
However, above all, what most people come for is hiking. The landscape here is almost otherworldly, with multi-colored mountain ranges to walk through and gaze upon from the valley. Mineral content in the rocks has created a layered effect of pinks, ocher, oranges, and yellows.
Photographers love Landmannalaugar too, but it’s clear that no image can do justice to the experience of seeing this beauty in person. If you’re not spending the day here you should at least stop for a stroll.
Fire Canyon and beyond
After Landmannalaugar, you continue on the F208 towards Fire Canyon or Eldgjá. This is where things get a little trickier (and thrilling). You’ll need to negotiate your first river crossing here, so brace yourselves! Approach with care and a good knowledge of recent weather conditions to make sure that it’s not too deep.
Once crossed, you’ll be met by a series of immense sights. These include vast lava fields and waterfalls. Then there’s Fire Canyon, a dramatic fissure extending some forty kilometers between Gjátindur Mountain and Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. This section of the road is spectacular and a lot of fun to drive if you’re so inclined.
Don’t get too distracted by the surrounding beauty, though. Instead, pull in for a photo break and soak up the immensity of your surroundings. Likewise, if you get tired just stop for a quick leg stretch and a snack before setting off again. With the Midnight Sun in the summer sky, there aren’t too many time constraints on you after all.
The end of the road
From here you’ll carry on south through more spectacular scenery plus more challenging/ exciting road conditions. Eventually, you’ll emerge not too far from the southeastern portion of the Ring Road. You can then rejoin the Ring Road a bit north of the popular town, Vik.
From there you could either head north along the beautiful eastern portion of the Ring Road, or south to explore the sights around Vik and Iceland’s Southern Coast.
Tackling the F208 in Iceland
These mountain roads are unique both due to their conditions and the surrounding landscape. Select the camper rental that gives you more control to feel confident out on the F-roads, and hit the road!
Road F-208 can be a bit tricky to navigate, especially for first-timers, but with the right vehicle and preparation, you’ll be able to tackle it.