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I’m going to preface this article by saying that Iceland is the land known of unpredictability. The weather is constantly changing, which makes it difficult to determine the road conditions. I ventured to Iceland this November and actually did not use a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. That seems to be a shocker to everyone I’ve told.
In an unfortunate chain of events, I ended up not receiving a four-wheel-drive vehicle from my rental car company. But being the daring Minnesotan I am, I decided that I would stick with the company and use the all-wheel-drive vehicle they gave me.
To determine whether you need four-wheel-drive on your trip to Iceland here a few criteria that I would use to base your decision.
Do you have previous experience driving in winter?
In November, in Iceland, the weather is unpredictable, which is like any other month in Iceland. But this month is particularly tricky to prepare for because there’s no information in advance about road conditions or what to expect. For me, the weather was a mesh between fall and winter. Some days I had snow and ice to deal with. Other days, it was blue skies and clear roads. Due to this reason, it’s hard to determine what kind of vehicle you’ll need to battle the elements.
During Minnesota winters, I drive a two-wheel-drive vehicle, so I’m familiar with how to navigate a small vehicle through the snow and ice. With that being said, that ultimately saved me during this trip. If I hadn’t had the background of winter driving in Minnesota, I would’ve been in the ditch more times than I can count in Iceland.
Where are you driving to?
If you’re driving the Ring Road, also known as Highway 1, nearly the entire road is paved. There’s one 100 km section that is a dirt road, which you can drive on in an AWD vehicle, you simply have to go slower. Many of the roads are curved and some sections run through the mountains, making them more prone to drifts and high winds.
In the highlands and interior part of Iceland, you’ll definitely need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. You’ll also need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to access all F-roads in Iceland. In the winter all F-roads are closed in Iceland. This includes the highlands, so plan accordingly.
Tips for Iceland road conditions
When driving in Iceland rental car companies and locals are going to tell you to check road conditions and the weather forecast daily, if not hourly. (I wish I was exaggerating the last part!)
To check Iceland’s road conditions and road closures locals use Vegagerdin. The website has an interactive map that shows the road conditions throughout the entire country. In addition, there are webcams so visitors and locals can see the conditions of the roads.
Drive.is has created an easy-to-follow video that quickly breaks down the dangers of driving on Icelandic roads. Elfis the Elf teaches tourists what signs mean and offers some tips on how to stay safe while navigating the roads.
The learn more about Icelandic parking and license regulations visit the Guide to Iceland’s website.
Rent what puts you at ease
Overall, it’s ultimately up to you whether you rent a four-wheel-drive or AWD vehicle. The most important factor is that you feel comfortable behind the vehicle and feel like you can take on any situation that happens when you are behind the wheel.
Learn more dos and don’ts for traveling to Iceland at The Adventures of Panda Bear.