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Traveling Iceland's F-Roads: Tips

Updated: May 27

Exploring Iceland's F-roads is a thrilling way to experience the country's rugged and pristine landscapes. These highland routes, reserved for 4x4 vehicles, take you through some of the most breathtaking and remote areas of Iceland. However, navigating these roads requires careful preparation and awareness. Here are the most important tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

Understand the Changing Water Levels

One of the critical challenges of driving F-roads is crossing rivers. Water levels in these rivers can change throughout the day depending on precipitation and temperature (especially from snowmelt). Unfortunately, it's impossible to keep signs or even an internet page or app updated all the time.
Some rivers have a stick in the middle that is marked in green, yellow, and red. If you can see the green, you're usually good (unless you're driving a Toyota Yaris). However, this is just a guideline, and it's your responsibility to thoroughly check the river before crossing it. Remember, water depth isn't the only factor that might damage your car—current speed and riverbed conditions are also critical.

Essential Tips for Newcomers to Iceland

Roof-Top Tent Users: Always have a Plan B. It might be too windy to set up a rooftop tent. Ensure you have enough space in your car to sleep or bring a good tent you can anchor well and pitch next to your car to block the wind.

Overnight Stays: You must stay overnight at official campgrounds when traveling with a car. This rule applies to the highlands as well. Rangers will know if you don’t, and fines can be hefty.

River Crossings: Even if you drive a big car like a Land Cruiser, rivers might still be too deep to cross. If in doubt, either wait for another car to cross first or wade through the river yourself. Always have shoes for wading, as barefoot crossing can be brutal on sharp-edged lava rocks.

Bring a Paper Map: Google Maps and other navigation apps may not have accurate information about the highlands, and cell phone signals can be very patchy. A paper map is essential.

Insurance and Road Numbers: Unless it’s your own car, avoid tracks without a road number. If your car breaks down on these tracks, you lose all insurance coverage. The same goes for river crossings—if you wreck your car in a river, you’ll pay for it yourself.

Consult Rangers: Always talk to the rangers and other staff at campgrounds about weather and road conditions. They get all the latest information from travelers passing through. When you have cell signal, keep an eye on to stay updated on sudden road closures.

Easier Highland Roads to Start With

If you’re new to driving F-roads, start with the easier routes:
Kjölur (Road 35) and F347 to Kerlingafjöll
F550 and F551 Kaldidalur
F338 passing by Skjaldbreiður
F208 to Landmannalaugar from the north
F570 on Snæfellsnes

Easier to drive doesn’t mean these roads aren’t spectacular—they absolutely are! These routes will help you get comfortable with highland driving before tackling trickier roads with deeper rivers and steeper terrain. Leave roads like F910 (the southern part past Askja, leading back to F26) or F249 leading into Þórsmörk for when you’re not traveling alone.
Here are additional tips to help you navigate Iceland’s F-roads safely and enjoyably.

Vehicle Preparation

Rent a Suitable 4x4: Ensure your vehicle is a high-clearance 4x4. Regular cars and SUVs without 4x4 capabilities are not suitable for F-roads.

Check Your Tires: Make sure your tires are in excellent condition and properly inflated. Consider carrying a spare tire and tire repair kit.

Fuel Up: Fill up your tank before heading into the highlands. Gas stations can be sparse in remote areas, and running out of fuel could be dangerous.

Essential Gear

Emergency Kit: Pack an emergency kit that includes a first aid kit, blankets, extra food and water, a flashlight, and a multi-tool.

Recovery Gear: Carry recovery gear such as a tow rope, shovel, and traction mats in case you get stuck.

Communication Tools: A satellite phone or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) can be lifesavers in areas with no cell coverage.

Navigation and Planning

Plan Your Route: Plan your route ahead of time and let someone know your itinerary and expected return time. You can use this website to inform the Icelandic Association for search and rescue anot your trip plan: Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue

Maps: Bring a detailed map of Iceland's highlands. Even if you have a GPS, a paper map is a reliable backup.

Safety and Environmental Respect

Stay on Marked Roads: Do not drive off-road as it can damage the fragile environment and you could get stuck in difficult terrain.

Camp Responsibly: Use designated campsites and follow the Leave No Trace principles. Respect nature and keep the environment clean.

Wildlife: Be mindful of wildlife, especially sheep and birds that might cross the roads. Slow down and give them space.

Weather Considerations

Check Weather Forecasts: Constantly check weather forecasts. Sudden changes can bring snow, heavy rain, or strong winds, making roads treacherous.
Avoid River Crossings During Heavy Rain: Rain can swell rivers quickly. If it’s been raining heavily, consider postponing river crossings until water levels recede.

Health and Comfort

Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water. The highlands can be remote, and finding potable water might not be easy.

Dress in Layers: Weather can vary greatly in the highlands. Dress in layers to adapt to changing conditions.

Food Supply: Pack enough food for your trip plus extra in case of emergencies. High-energy snacks are a good choice for quick nourishment.

Interacting with Locals and Other Travelers

Ask for Advice: Don’t hesitate to ask locals or fellow travelers for advice on road conditions and river crossings.

Help Others: If you see someone in trouble, offer assistance if it's safe to do so. Community spirit is vital in remote areas.

Traveling Iceland’s F-roads can be an exhilarating experience, offering some of the most stunning views and adventures Iceland has to offer. However, it requires preparation, caution, and respect for the environment. By following these tips and guidelines, you can ensure a safe and memorable journey through Iceland's wild and beautiful highlands.

Safe travels and happy adventuring!


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