When you drive in Iceland for the first time, there are many new experiences you will encounter and it’s important to know what to expect if you plan on traveling to the highlands or driving on F-roads. It will directly impact the type of vehicle you rent as 4×4 vehicles are mandatory on F-roads. If you’ve never traveled in Iceland before, then our highland mountain roads may be new to you. While driving F-roads you will experience Iceland’s natural surroundings, rugged terrain and stunning nature. Just be prepared for the unexpected and get ready to explore Iceland’s unspoiled wilderness.
Iceland F-roads are special roads in Iceland that are only passable in 4×4 cars. All 2WD vehicles are not allowed to drive these roads and not insured on roads marked with “F” (The same applies to Kjalvegur (Road No. 35) through Kaldidalur (Road No. 550) and Jökulhálsleið (Road No. 570). They are called F-roads because they have an F in front of the number of the road. For example, F208 is F-road 208. The F stands for “fjalla”, which means “mountain” in Icelandic.
The surface of these roads is mostly gravel and unpaved. It may be a challenging task to drive and navigate this wild terrain with loads of rocks and small pebbles that can cause damage, specially the underside of your vehicle. It is also very likely that you will encounter rivers crossing the roads as there are not many bridges in the highlands. If you decide to cross a river, make sure you pick a shallow section for crossing as you don’t want your engine to stall or get flooded. It is also very important to notice that no insurance will cover water damage caused by river crossings.
To drive on Iceland F-roads you need specially equipped vehicles. Because of the unusual driving conditions, driving a 4×4 car is necessary and required by law. You don’t need a special certificate, licence or permission to go on F-roads, but it is better to have a more experienced driver behind the wheel if you decide to explore the highlands. Because most F-roads have uneven surface and rocky terrain, it’s much easier to lose control of your vehicle than when traveling on paved roads. To minimize the risk of damaging the vehicle and for your own safety, slow down and don’t go to fast.
It’s also important to know that off-roading is illegal by law in Iceland and it can destroy Iceland’s precious and unspoiled nature, so always stay on marked paths.
Due to unsafe road conditions in the fall, winter, and spring, you can only access these highland F-roads in the summertime from the beginning of June until the end of September.
A map with information on mountain road conditions and weather is published in the beginning of summer. The mountain roads open in very different times depending on the weather and how rapidly snow disappears and more importantly how quickly the roads dry.
The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration publishes every year a brochure for foreign travellers which contains information on approximate opening dates of mountain roads in Iceland.