23 Jan 2020
During the winter months Iceland’s frosty weather can transform it into a beautiful scenic winter wonderland, yet can create less attractive driving conditions. Deciding whether or not you should drive this time of year is largely dependent on what your comfort level is for driving in the ice and snow. Road conditions can vary widely, but with advanced planning, taking precautionary measures, and knowing weather forecasts, driving in Iceland during the winter is overall safe and doable.
The main roads in Iceland are paved and regularly cleared in the winter, so getting around in heavily travelled areas is rather easy. However, the dirt or gravel that are primarily in rural and mountainous areas are not maintained and often closed during the winter months. Such road closures are generally caused by snow, ice, or flooding and occasionally because of avalanche warnings.
The weather is constantly changing, so be sure to properly prepare when traveling in the winter. Temperatures can drop quickly, high winds and snowstorms can occur, and road conditions can vary. When driving, be aware that black ice frequently forms on bridges and shady areas; and, even though snow may not be sticking to the roads, it can drastically reduce visibility.
If your travel agenda involves traveling longer distances, take into account the short winter days. With only 3 to 4 hours of daylight, besides the potential of affecting driving visibility, there’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination and it being too dark to enjoy.
The road and weather conditions will vary, depending on where you’re traveling. Typically, the western and northern areas are colder and get more snow, while weather in the southern portion of Iceland is milder.
It’s a good idea to plan your trip in advance and check conditions before heading out. The Icelandic Road Administration updates their website with current road conditions and map views complete with a color coded map legend that indicates potential dangers and road closings. You can also get a firsthand look of specific roads by checking out their webcams via Vegasjá, or calling 1777 for current road conditions.
Consider all the details and use these helpful tips to ensure your trip is enjoyable and safe:
Knowing the speed limit rules is important, but you should also know that Iceland road laws are strongly enforced. Know the rules to reduce the likelihood of being ticketed or fined.
Check out these driving safety rules and tips:
In addition to checking websites for road conditions and weather forecasts, have conversations with some of the locals. Whether you choose to stop at a visitor’s center or make an inquiry at a local restaurant or store. Icelanders are very friendly and well adapted to the area, so heed their advice about winter road conditions.
Finally, while driving here the winter requires a bit of extra planning and cautionary measures, don’t let that deter you. Again, the main roads are well-maintained and cleared as soon as possible, so maneuvering in those areas should be no problem at all. Plus, having access to your own transportation allows you to explore on your own schedule, making the most of the scenic views, fun activities, free attractions and daylight hours.More Travel Tips