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The Coolest Roads to Drive on in Iceland


Coolest Roads to Drive in Iceland

From cascading waterfalls and erupting volcanoes, to steaming hot springs and frozen glaciers, ​​Iceland is a place known for its breathtaking scenery and natural landscapes. Many of these amazing natural wonders can only be reached by car, so it’s no wonder that taking a road trip around this magical island is a super popular way to see Iceland.

While navigating the roads in Iceland, you'll experience some pretty incredible views, for sure. Let's take a look at some of the most scenic drives and coolest roads in Iceland to make sure you don't miss a thing on your very own epic road trip!

Types of Roads in Iceland

Before we dive into exploring our favorite scenic drives in Iceland, let’s learn a bit more about each of the different road types in Iceland, so you can understand all you need to know about getting around this unique country.

Primary Roads

Primary roads in Iceland are paved, well-maintained roads that remain open all year round. These easy-to-drive roads connect cities, towns and major transport hubs, including harbors and airports.

Many Icelandic villages are also connected by primary roads, which snake their way around the island. These main roads in Iceland are usually by the coast, as the majority of Iceland’s residents live in coastal areas. You can drive on primary roads in Iceland in any vehicle type, as the surfaces are usually flat and even.

roads in iceland

Secondary Roads

Connecting many of Iceland’s villages and smaller towns, secondary roads are also mainly found by the coast and serve as an inbetween for primary roads and Highland roads in Iceland. These secondary roads are mostly untarmacked and their condition varies, depending on how popular the particular road is and how often it’s maintained.

Secondary roads in Iceland are usually open all year round, but you’ll need a 4x4 vehicle to drive on these roads during winter, as harsh weather conditions can cause road hazards. If you’re traveling to a national park or ferry port in a small village, you’ll most likely take a secondary road.

Secondary roads in Iceland

Highland Roads or F-Roads

This road type in Iceland snakes its way across the wild, untamed interior of the island, connecting the north to the south. Situated in the beautiful and otherworldly Icelandic Highlands, the F-roads of Iceland are gravel roads, often featuring loose stones, river crossings and sometimes even steep cliff drops.

Driving the Highland roads of Iceland requires a 4x4 vehicle by law, due to their rough surfaces and potential hazards you may find along the way. Traveling these roads provides you with access to incredible and undisturbed nature, perfect for intrepid explorers! Highland roads, or F-roads, in Iceland are only open during the summer, as they’re too dangerous or impossible to traverse during winter.

F-roads in Iceland

Local Access Roads

These short roads in Iceland connect places like factories, farms, churches, public buildings and campsites to secondary roads when they’re located outside of populated areas. You’ll usually find local access roads in Iceland along the island’s coastline.

As with secondary roads, the condition of local access roads can vary depending on where they are located and how often they’re used and maintained. You’ll most likely find a mixture of tarmacked and untarmacked local access roads in Iceland, although any vehicle type can traverse this road type.

Local Iceland roads

10 of the Most Scenic Drives in Iceland

Now you know all about the different road types you’ll come across in this magical country, are you ready to get inspired for your very own Iceland road trip? Let’s take a look through some of our favorite and top-rated roads in Iceland to drive on during your vacation, so you can start planning your own exciting road trip itinerary!

  1. Ring Road (Route 1)

The main Ring Road in Iceland, also known as Route 1, loops all the way around the island, taking you through epic landscapes and breathtaking coastal scenery. As the most famous of all the scenic drives from Reykjavík, driving the 1,332-kilometer circular Route 1 is, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful road trips you’ll ever take.

Millions of nature lovers make the pilgrimage to Iceland every year to circumnavigate our famous highway. There are plenty of incredible natural wonders along Route 1, including the awe-inspiring Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the otherworldly black sand beaches near Vik on the South Coast.

In theory, the Iceland Ring Road can be driven in around 17 hours, but that’s without any stops along the way. We’re sure you’ll want to stop and soak in some of the stunning views of volcanoes, glaciers, geothermal lagoons, waterfalls and canyons along the drive, so we recommend planning some overnight stops along the route.

Ring Road in Iceland

  1. Golden Circle in South Iceland 

Another of the most popular scenic drives near Reykjavík, the famous Golden Circle route in Iceland takes you in a loop from the capital city to some amazing natural wonders. Along this 300-kilometer stretch of road, you’ll find the historical Thingvellir National Park, the incredible Kerid crater, the steaming Geysir geothermal area and cascading Gullfoss waterfall.

Make sure to plan enough time to stop at each of these gorgeous locations along this scenic road in Iceland to fully enjoy all the Golden Circle has to offer. As well as the main tourist attractions mentioned above, there are also more hot springs, canyons, waterfalls, historical churches and farms along this route, so you definitely won’t be short of things to see!

Golden Circle, Iceland

  1. Snæfellsvegur (Route 54) in Snæfellsnes Peninsula

By far one of the most beautiful places in Iceland, the incredible Snæfellsnes Peninsula is frequently referred to as ‘Iceland in miniature’ because it possesses all of the typical geological highlights of our fiery, naturally-blessed island. On this scenic route, you will drive past the Gerduberg basalt column cliff face and the Eldborg volcanic crater, as well as the spectacular Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall and Kirkjufell mountain.

When taking the stunningly scenic Snæfellsvegur road (Route 54), you’ll also be close enough to make quick detours to the expansive Snæfellsjokull glacier and the famous Budir black church. If you’d like to experience a taste of traditional Icelandic village life, you can take a trip to the nearby fishing villages of Arnarstapi, Helnar and Stykkisholmur.

Snaefellsness road

  1. Vestfjardavegur (Route 60 and 61) in Westfjords Peninsula

Another favorite scenic drive in Iceland is the winding Vestfjardavegur road throughout the Westfjords Peninsula. This 300-kilometer long route is particularly special because it's only accessible from late May to mid-September.

Along the way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of beautiful fjords as well as mountains, dramatic cliffs and the famous Dynjandi waterfall: a jewel of the Westfjords. One of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls, Dynjandi is, in fact, not just one but a series of Icelandic waterfalls – wow!

westfjords drive, Iceland

  1. Kjolur/Kjalvegur Drive in the Highlands (F35) 

As one of the best F-roads in Iceland, driving the Kjolur mountain pass on the Highland road of Kjalvegur is an amazing way to experience everything the incredible Icelandic Highlands have to offer. You'll get to drive between glaciers, pass by steaming hot springs, enjoy magnificent mountain views and even see some uniquely colorful rhyolite landscapes.

While driving north through the Highlands, you will be in awe as you experience its jaw-dropping beauty. One of the only roads in Iceland that passes from the north to the south through the county’s rugged interior, the F35 road is a mountainous and unpaved gravel road, which you need a 4x4 vehicle to drive on. Kjalvegur is one of the coolest roads to drive on in Iceland, so we recommend doing it at least once if you have the chance!

F-Roads (mountain roads) can be a bit treacherous due to weather conditions and melting ice and snow, so they're only accessible during the summer months. The Icelandic Road Administration opens the F-roads when road conditions are deemed to be safe and passable, usually from June or July through to mid-September or so. 

F35 Iceland

  1. Arctic Coast Way in North Iceland

Opened in June 2019, the 900-kilometer-long Arctic Coast Way is one of the newest scenic drives in Iceland you can enjoy during your road trip. This northernmost of Iceland’s tourist routes offers stunning, panoramic views of six peninsulas along the country’s North Coast.

Get a glimpse of life just below the Arctic Circle by taking this beautiful road in Iceland. We recommend taking around 10-12 days to fully enjoy all the wild, unspoiled nature of the Arctic Coast Way. Skirting along the North Atlantic Ocean, this route is perfect for those travelers who want to explore off the beaten path.

Atlantic road, Iceland

  1. Eastfjords (Route 939 and 95)

While the diversity of landscapes across Iceland is quite amazing, the Eastern fjords are particularly stunning and under-rated. East Iceland is a bit more remote than other parts of the country, but what it lacks in population, it certainly makes up for in natural beauty.

Starting at the charming coastal town of Hofn in South Iceland, you can take Route 1 until you reach the 20-kilometer Oxi Pass (Route 939), which leads onto Route 95. These gravel roads will take you to the picturesque town of Egilsstadir, nestled in a mountain valley on the bank of an idyllic river.

Eastfjords road, Iceland

  1. Diamond Circle in North Iceland

A detour from the main Ring Road in Iceland, the unmissable Diamond Circle route takes you to some of the most beautiful sights in North Iceland. With two incredible waterfalls, Godafoss and Dettifoss, as well as the awe-inspiring volcanic Lake Myvatn, this scenic drive in Iceland takes around four hours to drive non-stop.

If you have a day to spare to drive this 260-kilometer long loop, you’ll definitely be wowed by the incredible natural wonders along the way. Also, part of the Diamond Circle is the lovely fishing village of Husavik, which is one of the best places in Iceland for whale watching.

Myvatn lake road

  1. Silver Circle in West Iceland

The stunning Silver Circle route is a scenic drive in West Iceland winding through the dynamic Deildartunguhver hot spring, the historical Reykholt village and the spectacular Husafell Canyon Baths, plus more incredible waterfalls, caves and glacial rivers.

When in Reykholt, you’ll also find the amazing Fridheimar café located in a greenhouse, where you can sample their famous tomato soup made with the greenhouse-grown tomatoes! The striking landscapes of West Iceland are best enjoyed on the fantastic Silver Circle route, which you can take from Reykjavík.

Silver circle route, Iceland

  1. F26 and F208 to Landmannalaugar

Our scenic drives Iceland list would not be complete without the F26 and F208 Highland roads leading to the incredible natural area of Landmannalaugar in Iceland’s interior zone. Perfect for keen adventurers and explorers, these mountain roads lead to the expansive area of Landmannalaugar, situated in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve on the edge of the otherworldly Laugahraun lava field.

Witnessing the vibrant colors of the rhyolite mountains and the steaming geothermal springs at Landmannalaugar is definitely enough to justify the adventurous drive on roads F26 and F208 in Iceland to get there. Just make sure you’re driving a 4x4 vehicle when attempting to traverse these scenic roads in Iceland.

Landmannalaugar road

Useful Things to Know About the Roads in Iceland

So, now you’re all clued-up about the most scenic drives in Iceland, let’s take a look at some important information you’ll need to know when driving on these beautiful roads in Iceland:

  • Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road in Iceland.

  • Speed limits in Iceland are as follows: 90 km/h (55 mph) on paved rural roads, 80 km/h (49 mph) on dirt and gravel roads and 50 km/h (31 mph) within cities and towns.

  • There are no toll roads in Iceland, although there is a toll tunnel that costs around $12 USD to drive through. This is the Vadlaheidargong tunnel running under a fjord in North Iceland, which connects the city of Akureyri to various villages, including Husavik.

  • All passengers must wear a seatbelt, whether they are sitting in the front or back of the car.

  • Off-roading is illegal in Iceland, due to the need to protect the island’s delicate flora and fauna, plus the danger of driving off marked roads on uneven terrain.

  • The minimum age to rent a car in Iceland is 20, and you need to have held a valid driver’s license for at least a year.

  • You must drive with your headlights on at all times in Iceland, whether it’s day or nighttime.

Driving through Iceland roads

Top Driving Tips For the Roads in Iceland

Take a look through our top driving tips for the roads in Iceland to get fully prepared for your Iceland road trip adventure and make sure you have the best vacation possible!

  • Look up current road conditions and closures before setting out – We recommend checking out the road conditions and closures in Iceland before heading out on your journey to make sure the route you’re planning to take is open and safe to drive on that day.

  • Watch out for wildlife on the roads in Iceland – Sheep roam freely among the Icelandic countryside, so it’s important to keep an eye out for wildlife when driving on the roads in Iceland.

  • Check your route beforehand – Make sure to check which road types you’ll encounter on your route before you set out, so you can be best prepared. Remember, you’ll need a 4x4 drive to tackle Iceland’s mountainous F-roads.

  • Keep your driver’s license with you – It’s unlikely that you’ll need to show your driver’s license when out and about exploring Iceland’s incredible road trip routes, but it’s important to make sure you always have your license with you when you’re out on the road.

  • Be careful where you stop to take photos – If you come across some particularly breathtaking scenery, stop your vehicle in order to take a photo. Pull all the way to the side of the road so you're not blocking anyone, then you can snap away to your heart's content.

Iceland driving tips

Drive on the Coolest Roads in Iceland

Who’s feeling inspired to hit the road and experience the most scenic drives Iceland has to offer? Once you've chosen your ideal Iceland car rental, it's time to start dreaming of exactly where you want to go on your very own Iceland adventure!

If you're looking for a scenic drive in Iceland, pretty much anywhere you go will fit the bill. From quaint little towns and fishing villages to dramatic fjords jutting out into the sea, Iceland is a truly unique road trip location not to be missed.