Preperation and setting expectations:
Always keep the following in mind before starting your winter journey:
To self-drive in Iceland during the winter time you must be prepared to drive on snowy and icy roads! If you feel uncomfortable with that idea, perhaps an organized tour with a driver and guide would be more appropriate.
Remember that road conditions can change rapidly and you could experience different conditions every 10 km due to difference in elevation. Gather information about the area you’re travelling to as good preparation is key for a successful trip. Information on road conditions can be found here or under Conditions on our website.
Always leave a Travel Plan with someone that can react if needed, such as SafeTravel.
Make sure you have winter tires as they are essential during winter time due to snow and ice on the roads. Having a snow shovel in the car can come in handy if you get yourselves accidentally stuck in snow.
Some newer car models require you to manually turn on your headlights in order to save energy. According to Icelandic law the headlights must be turned on while driving, all year round, so make sure you remember to turn them on each time. Lights are extremely important to stay safe and visible.
Snow-covered roads are plowed which often leads to rest stops/pullouts filling up with snow. This means that you must choose another safe place to stop. It’s extremely dangerous to stop your car in the middle of the road to take photos. A photograph of a horse is not worth risking your or anybody else’s life over.
Conditions during the winter time are entirely weather dependent. Along with the Road Conditions make sure to check the Weather Forecast here. Look out for winds that exceed 15 m/s as mountainous areas could produce very strong wind gusts! The forecast must be checked every day as even though the forecast reaches up to 5 days in advance, rapid changes are very common!
Not all parts of Iceland are accessible during the winter time. Most of the highlands are only accessible in a modified vehicle and spring/summer opening times will depend on the conditions each year. Make sure to check if the area you want to visit is accessible at the time.
Remember that according to Icelandic law everyone must wear a seat belt regardless of where they are seated in the car! Yes, those back seat drivers as well.
Slow and steady
Even though the speed limit says 90 km/h – it doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate during winter conditions. Make sure you reduce your speed accordingly.