Icelandic Summer Adventure: Your Driving Guide

How to Drive in Iceland - Summer

Driving in Iceland is an adventure like no other. With its breathtaking landscapes, rugged gravel roads, and unique traffic rules, Iceland offers a truly unforgettable driving experience. However, with this adventure comes challenges and responsibilities. As a visitor, it is essential to understand the rules of the road and to respect Iceland's fragile ecosystems and wildlife.

In this article, we'll guide you through everything you need to know to drive safely and confidently in Iceland during the summer months. From navigating Iceland's roundabouts and single-lane bridges to conquering its gravel roads, we'll help you embrace the adventure of driving in Iceland's wild and beautiful landscapes while staying safe and responsible.

Conquer Iceland's Gravel Roads

Driving on Iceland's gravel roads can be an exhilarating experience, but it can also be challenging and unpredictable. Many travelers have shared their tales of driving on these rugged roads, from feeling like they're driving on the moon to encountering sudden blizzards and windstorms. It's important to take these stories to heart and prepare accordingly before embarking on your own journey.

One common theme in these stories is the importance of having a reliable vehicle that can handle Iceland's rough terrain. Renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended, as it can provide better traction and stability on gravel roads. Additionally, it's essential to check your vehicle's tires, brakes, and windshield wipers before hitting the road. You never know when you might encounter harsh weather or rough terrain, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

Practical Advice for Safe and Smooth Travel on Iceland's Gravel Roads

Driving on Iceland's gravel roads requires a different approach than driving on paved roads. Gravel roads can be bumpy and unpredictable, so it's important to be prepared and take some precautions to stay safe. Here are some tips for navigating Iceland's gravel roads:

Slow down: Gravel roads can be rough and bumpy, so it's essential to slow down and drive at a safe speed. This will give you more time to react to sudden changes in the road, such as potholes or dips.
Keep a safe distance: Other drivers and dust can impair your visibility, so it's important to keep a safe distance from other vehicles. This will also give you enough space to react if another driver makes a sudden move.

Watch for signs: Icelandic roads are well-marked, and signs can provide useful information about the road conditions ahead. Pay attention to warning signs, such as "Frost Bumps", "Loose Gravel",  "Uneven Road Surface," and adjust your speed accordingly.

Use headlights: Even during the day, it's a good idea to use your headlights on Iceland's gravel roads. They can help you see the road better and make you more visible to other drivers.

Stay on the road: Off-road driving is strictly prohibited in Iceland. Not only is it illegal, but it can also damage Iceland's fragile ecosystems.

Share the Road with Iceland's Wildlife

Iceland's wildlife is one of its most treasured natural resources. From Arctic foxes to reindeer to puffins, Iceland is home to a variety of unique and fascinating animals. However, when driving on Iceland's roads, it's important to be aware of the potential hazards of sharing the road with wildlife. Many of Iceland's animals are not used to human interaction, and they may not behave predictably when encountering vehicles. Here are some things to keep in mind when sharing the road with Iceland's wildlife:

  • Slow down: When driving in areas where wildlife is known to be present, slow down and be prepared to stop suddenly if necessary. Wildlife can appear suddenly, and slowing down can give you more time to react.

  • Be alert: Keep an eye out for wildlife crossing the road, particularly in areas where there are no fences or barriers. Wildlife can be unpredictable, and sudden movements can startle both you and the animal.
  • Use your horn: If you encounter an animal on the road and it doesn't move, try using your horn to scare it away. However, avoid honking for prolonged periods, as this can stress the animal.
  • Give wildlife space: If you encounter an animal on the road, give it plenty of space to move away. Do not approach or attempt to feed the animal, as this can be dangerous for both you and the animal.
  • Stay on designated roads: Off-road driving is strictly prohibited in Iceland. Driving off-road can damage fragile ecosystems and disturb wildlife.

Respect Iceland's Natural Environment: Say No to Off-Road Driving

Iceland is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique ecosystems. However, these ecosystems are fragile and vulnerable to damage from human activity. One of the most significant threats to Iceland's ecosystems is off-road driving. Off-road driving is a serious offense in Iceland, and those caught can face severe penalties, including fines and even imprisonment. Here are some consequences of off-road driving in Iceland:

Legal penalties: Off-road driving is strictly prohibited in Iceland, and those caught can face steep fines and even imprisonment. In some cases, the cost of fines can be thousands of dollars.

Environmental damage: Off-road driving can cause irreparable damage to Iceland's fragile ecosystems. In addition to fines, those caught can also be held responsible for the cost of environmental restoration.

Public safety: Off-road driving can also pose a threat to public safety. If you get stuck or stranded, you could be putting yourself and others in danger.

Navigate Iceland's Roundabouts and Single Lane Bridges

Navigating Iceland's roundabouts and single lane bridges can be a challenge for visitors, but with some understanding and preparation, it's possible to navigate them safely and confidently. 

In Iceland, roundabouts are used to control traffic flow at intersections. Unlike traditional intersections, traffic flows in a circular direction around a central island. Drivers in the roundabout have the right of way, and those entering the roundabout must yield to traffic already in the circle.

Single-lane bridges:

Single-lane bridges are common in rural areas of Iceland, and they require drivers to yield to oncoming traffic. When approaching a single-lane bridge, look for signs indicating which direction has the right of way. If another vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, stop and wait for them to cross the bridge before proceeding.

Tips for Navigating Roundabouts and Single Lane Bridges Safely and Confidently

Navigating roundabouts and single-lane bridges in Iceland can be intimidating, but with some preparation and caution, you can navigate them safely and confidently. Here are some tips for driving in roundabouts and single-lane bridges:

  • Approach with caution: When approaching a roundabout or single-lane bridge, slow down and approach with caution. Look for signs and signals indicating the right of way and yield to other drivers when necessary.
  • Signal your intentions: When entering and exiting a roundabout, use your turn signals to indicate your intentions to other drivers. This can help prevent confusion and reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Stay in your lane: When driving in a roundabout, stay in your lane and follow the flow of traffic. Do not change lanes or attempt to pass other vehicles in the roundabout.
  • Yield to pedestrians: Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, even in roundabouts. Always yield to pedestrians and be prepared to stop suddenly if necessary.
  • Be patient: In some cases, you may need to wait for other drivers to clear the roundabout or single-lane bridge before proceeding. Be patient and wait for a safe opportunity to enter or cross.

Master Iceland's Traffic Laws and Rules

Understanding Iceland's traffic laws and rules is essential for a safe and enjoyable driving experience in Iceland. Traffic laws and regulations are in place to protect drivers, pedestrians, and the environment, and failing to follow them can result in fines or even imprisonment. Here are some reasons why it's important to understand Iceland's traffic laws and rules:

  1. Safety: Traffic laws are in place to ensure the safety of all road users. Understanding and following these laws can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
  1. Environmental protection: Traffic laws also aim to protect Iceland's unique environment and fragile ecosystems. For example, off-road driving is strictly prohibited to prevent damage to delicate ecosystems.
  1. Legal consequences: Failing to follow Iceland's traffic laws and rules can result in steep fines, legal penalties, and even imprisonment.

Rules and Laws to Watch Out for While Driving in Iceland

When driving in Iceland, it's essential to familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here is a list of some important rules to keep in mind:

  1. Drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left.
  2. Seatbelts are mandatory for all passengers, both in the front and rear seats.
  3. Children under 150 cm (4'11") must be seated in an appropriate child restraint.
  4. The use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited, except when using a hands-free device.
  5. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.02%. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly forbidden.
  6. Headlights must be turned on at all times, both day and night.
  7. Speed limits vary depending on the type of road:
  • Urban areas: 50 km/h (31 mph)
  • Gravel roads in rural areas: 80 km/h (50 mph)
  • Paved roads in rural areas: 90 km/h (56 mph)


As we come to the end of our journey through Iceland's roads, it's important to remember the unique challenges and rules that come with driving in this beautiful country. From navigating roundabouts and single-lane bridges to sharing the road with Iceland's unique wildlife, driving in Iceland requires patience, caution, and a deep respect for the environment.

To ensure a safe and sustainable driving experience, it's important to understand Iceland's traffic laws and regulations and to prioritize responsible and sustainable driving practices. By avoiding off-road driving and practicing safe and courteous driving, we can protect Iceland's fragile ecosystems and share the road with other drivers and wildlife.

So as you embark on your own driving adventure in Iceland, remember to stay focused, stay respectful, and, above all, embrace the adventure of exploring Iceland's stunning landscapes.

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