Suppose your bucket list includes seeing the Northern Lights. And what about extraordinary geographical sights? If any of these rings true for you, Iceland should be close to the top of your travel agenda. The unique landscape of the Land of Fire and Ice means that you’ll spend a good deal of time on the road and thus go through a few of the tunnels in Iceland.
In this article, we’ll be digging deep into the tunnels in Iceland, where they are, how payments work, the general rules of the road going through tunnels, and other valuable information needed when exploring this remarkable country.
The Famous Tunnels in Iceland
Iceland currently has 11 open road tunnels. From an underwater tunnel in Iceland, and tolls, to the longest tunnel in Iceland – below are the essentials you need to know about the most well-known tunnels on the island, so you can be prepared for what's on your route:
The Hvalfjordur tunnel in Iceland is located on our popular Ring Road route on the island, hence why the tunnel is so well-known. Iceland has many fjords running through the country, and the Hvalfjörður tunnel has essentially reduced the time to navigate one of them from over an hour to just seven minutes.
This feat of engineering means that you can drive nearly 6 kilometers through this 165-meter underwater tunnel in Iceland, which shortens the distance between the capital city of Reykjavik and the northern or western parts of the island by at least 45 kilometers!
Vestfjardagöng can be found in the Westfjords in the northwestern part of the island. It is officially the longest tunnel in Iceland, clocking in at almost 9.5 kilometers. The tunnel has 3 entrances to the different “arms”, sending one to various destinations here on the island. These are:
Breidadalur – This arm is just over 4 kilometers long and sends visitors to Flateyri and the southwestern area of the Westfjords. It is also a one-lane tunnel in Iceland.
Botnsdalur – This arm is almost 3 kilometers long and sends visitors to the village of Sudureyri. It is also a one-lane tunnel in Iceland.
Tungudalur – This arm is just over 2 kilometers long and is considered to be the Isafjordur tunnel that also sends visitors to the northern part of the Westfjords. It is the only one of the arms that has two lanes.
This one-lane tunnel in Iceland can be found in the northwestern region of the island along Route 76. Although it’s not very long (just 800 meters), the tunnel’s claim to fame is the fact that it’s the second tunnel that was built here on the island, officially opening in 1967.
This tunnel can be found in the northern part of Iceland on Route 76, close to Akureyri, which is considered to be the capital city of the north. It is just under 4 kilometers long and connects Olafsfjördur with Siglufjördur. This two-lane tunnel opened in 2010.
Vadlaheidi tunnel in Iceland is yet another tunnel that can be found in the north of the island and another tunnel close to Akureyri. The tunnel is roughly 7.5 kilometers long, and you will be passing through it if you go on a Ring Road road trip around the island.
By using the tunnel, you manage to bypass the Vikurskard Mountain Pass, which becomes exceptionally treacherous on those bad weather days. But you pay a literal price for this peace of mind. This is the only tunnel in Iceland that has a toll, charged at ISK1,500 (roughly $11.50) per vehicle (the price increases slightly for larger vehicles, though).
We highly recommend that visitors register and pay the toll online on Veggjald.is at least 24 hours before passing through the tunnel. Please note that not paying beforehand will mean an increased fee, and if you’re driving a rental car, your rental agency will charge you an additional handling fee if they have to take care of any unpaid tolls.
This is an exceptionally convenient tunnel in Iceland. It lies just north of Isafjördur and sends visitors in the direction of Bolungarvik. The tunnel is almost 5.5 kilometers long, has two lanes, is well-lit, and is very easy to drive.
Mulagöng opened in 1990 and is yet another tunnel located close to Akureyri in the north of Iceland. It is almost 3.5 kilometers long, consists of just one lane, and connects Dalvik with Olafsfjördur.
Almannashardsgöng is a pretty important tunnel in Iceland, connecting the southern part of the island to the eastern part of the island. This tunnel brought much relief to those who had to drive a pretty dangerous road between the two regions in the past. The tunnel officially opened in 2005 and is just over a kilometer long, with lanes going in both directions.
Arnaldalshamar is our number one – as in the first tunnel ever built here on the island. It is not very long at all (a mere 30 meters), which makes it seem more like a picturesque break in the rocks along the coast. This tunnel can be found on the route from Isafjördur to Sudavikur, which offers amazing views.
A Little Something Different: Raufarhólshellir
Iceland’s Raufarholshellir is a bit of a different type of tunnel here on the island. It’s our longest lava tunnel, and although you can’t drive through it, going on a walking tour through it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Road Safety in the Tunnels
If this is your first time on the island, you’ll need to know the following when it comes to tunnels, the rules of the road, and general traffic laws in Iceland:
Keep an eye out for the speed limit signs in Iceland. This is because most tunnels will have a decrease in driving speed before entering. Not only is ignoring these signs incredibly dangerous, but it can also get you into heaps of trouble.
It is illegal to park next to the road in Iceland, or anywhere else that’s not a designated parking spot – this includes the tunnels. Before or after entering, or inside at the passing spots are not where you take a breather or a quick snapshot.
One-lane tunnels have traffic coming from both sides, so you will find little gaps next to the road where one should pass each other. If any oncoming traffic is coming your way, it is law for you to allow them to pass, so this is not the time to be the A-hole because you’re late. Some tunnels also give a certain direction of traffic the right of way, so once again, you’ll need to keep an eye out for any road safety signs.
How many tunnels are there in Iceland?
There are currently 14 open road tunnels in Iceland in the Icelandic road system.
What are the longest tunnels in Iceland?
Vaðlaheiðargöng tunne and Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel. These tunnels are 5.7 kilometers long
and 5.5 kilometers long respectively.
When were the tunnels in Iceland built?
The first tunnel in Iceland was built in 1967. The most recent tunnel was built in 2018.
Digging Deep Whilst Passing Through
Okay, so when it comes to the tunnels in Iceland (except for Raufarholshellir), you’ll rather be “flying high” hundreds of meters above sea level than digging deep. But we guess, when driving through Hvalfjordur, it’s technically diving.
But whether you’re diving, dipping, weaving, passing, you name it – you’ll need to deal with a few tunnels whilst road-tripping around the island. So, rent your campervan in Reykjavik, keep this article close, and remember to pay your tolls in time!