Updated: Jan 26
You’re planning your Iceland road trip and trying to figure out the best vehicle for your trip. There are several things to keep in mind, from your itinerary to the size of your party to what your travel preferences are. One of the big questions you’ll need to answer is whether or not you’ll be driving on Iceland F-roads. This will directly impact the type of vehicle you rent and consequently, your travel budget. If you’ve never traveled in Iceland before, then F-roads may be a new concept for you. There are certain things to know about them such as how and when you can access them as well as whether or not your rental is allowed to use them. Let’s dive in to discover some basics about them.
What are Iceland F-roads?
These special paths are called F-roads because they have an F in front of the number of the road. So for example, F208 is F-road 208. The F stands for “fjalla”, which means “mountain” in Icelandic. They are essentially mountain roads that you will find in untamed parts of the country's interior and the Highlands of Iceland. There is a detailed map in the form of a road condition and safety PDF on the travel info section of the road.is website. The surface of these gravel roads is unpaved, which means you’ll have lots of rocks and small pebbles being kicked up by your tires. It takes a special type of control to navigate this wild terrain and sometimes there can be damage to the underside of your vehicle. It’s also very likely that you’ll be crossing rivers, as there aren’t many bridges in Iceland’s Highlands. Be sure to pick a shallow point for crossing as you don’t want your engine to stall while fording a river.
You should also take care for another very important reason. While many types of rental insurance will cover various types of damage (gravel protection or sand and ash protection, for example), no insurance will cover water damage caused by river crossings.
Requirements to Drive on F-roads
Because of the unusual driving conditions, you need a specially-equipped automobile to drive on F-roads. Driving a 4x4 is absolutely necessary for traversing the backroads of the Highlands. Not only that, but it’s required by law. You can rent a 4x4 vehicle in Iceland such as a Land Cruiser, Subaru Forester or another type of SUV. There are also 4x4 camper rental models available like the VW Transporter. These options are all easy to drive while traveling in Iceland, both around the Ring Road and on F-roads.
You don’t need a special driver’s license to go on F-roads, but it’s usually better to have a more experienced driver behind the wheel. Due to the uneven surface and rocky terrain of these roads, it’s much easier to lose control of your vehicle or skid out than when traveling on a paved road. Don’t go too fast and always stay focused on the task at hand. You should also not go off-roading while in Iceland. Not only is it illegal, but it destroys the precious flora in the area. Always stay on marked paths to avoid driving over fragile plant life.
Opening Dates in the Summer
An important point to note is that F-roads are not open all year long. Due to unsafe road conditions in the fall, winter, and spring, you can only access these Highland roads in the summertime, which is also the tourist high season. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration monitors these roads throughout the year and is responsible for maintaining them. The opening times vary depending on when the authorities deem them safe. In other words, not all F-roads open at the same time. Many of them open within the first two weeks of June. Others take a bit longer and are accessible from late June to early July.
Essential Info For Driving Iceland’s Mountain Roads
When you drive in Iceland for the first time, there are many new experiences you will encounter. Weather conditions are extremely changeable, and you’ll need to constantly be checking the weather forecast for updates and advisories. And if you are driving in Iceland outside of the warm, summer months, you also need to be ready for icy, snowy roads. You also need to be familiar with some features of Icelandic roads that may be different than what you’re used to. When you opt for campervan or motorhome rental in Iceland, you need to be aware of hazards such as blind hills, blind curves, sheep darting out into the road, and parts of the highway where the surface suddenly turns from a paved surface to gravel. Many accidents can be avoided if motorists only slow down and approach these dangers with caution.
Finally, it’s important to know what to expect if you plan on traveling to Highlands or driving on F-roads. Part of Iceland’s universal appeal is the amount of unspoiled natural beauty the country possesses. When driving on F-roads, you will no doubt feel the wonder and majesty of the solitude of your natural surroundings. Just be prepared for the unexpected and get ready to explore Iceland’s wild side.