A guide to driving in Iceland

Getting started

Despite the name, Iceland isn’t the Arctic landscape you might expect. It is, however, underpinned by some major volcanic activity, which contributes to its spectacular scenery and unusual way of life. We explore this geological wonderland on four wheels.

Hit the road

Iceland and its inhabitants are big fans of the car: with no railway service it’s your best bet to get around. The road system is simple – Route 1 is the ring road that skirts around the edge of the island and links the major towns.

Though you’re more likely to be hiring a car in Iceland, really adventurous road trippers can take their own set of wheels by heading to Denmark and then catching the ferry.

Star drive

A visit to the Gullfoss waterfall in the south-west is an essential part of any trip to Iceland. Its spectacular staircase of waterfalls flows into the Hvítá River. The river can’t be seen from your viewing spot, but this creates the illusion of the falls flowing straight into the earth. Take Route 1 until you reach Route 35 at Selfoss to get there.

Best of the rest

If scenery is your thing, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Iceland, and the geysers in Haukadalur Valley should be top on your list – they’ve been erupting since records began in the 1200s.

The most famous is Geysir, the oldest known example, and namesake to these spouting hot springs the world over. Although it’s been known to stop for years at a time, Geysir usually erupts two or three times a day, spouting boiling water over 50 metres into the air. The smaller neighbouring Strokkur geyser erupts almost every five minutes.

Laws of the land

• The minimum age for drivers is 17
• Dipped headlights are required at all times
• All occupants must wear seatbelts if fitted

Local knowledge

Like the UK, Iceland has fewer regulations concerning what you must carry in your car. It recommends carrying a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and spare bulbs, but to be legal all you need is a warning triangle – and car insurance of course.

The drink drive limit is a low 0.05 per cent. Going over carries heavy penalties so be particularly aware the morning after. The price of beer may put you off anyway – expect to pay about £5 or more for a pint!

Standard speed limits

Residential Areas 50km/h
Built Up Areas 50km/h
Outside Built Up Areas 90km/h (80km/h if unpaved)
Limits are reduced by 10km/h if towing.

Did you know?

Of the 8,000 miles of roads in Iceland, less than 3,000 miles are paved.

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