Driving in Iceland: the winter season

Driving in Iceland: How is the winter season?
Iceland is an adventurous place to visit, even more so in winter than in summer, but if you’re considering taking the popular road trip on the route 1 ring road in Iceland during winter, you might be wondering whether you’ll cope with the driving conditions.

Is the Route 1 Ring Road safe in winter?
The ring road is a route that every tourist should experience. It offers breath-taking vistas and incomparable scenery. No matter what time of the year it is, you should be able to find cheap car rental in Iceland and hit the road. However, driving in Iceland can present challenging conditions, even in summer. In winter, you need to be prepared before you set out. Monitoring weather forecasts is important: remember, Mother Nature is not a nice lady to get into a tussle with and weather can be powerful stuff!

The ring road is open in winter and most of the time it’s perfectly drivable although there are temporary closures when the weather has been particularly bad. Whatever you do, don’t be in a hurry. Warning signs might indicate sharp bends ahead, but there’s no speed recommendation, so it’s best to play it safe because some of those bends are really, really sharp!

Andrés Nieto Porras, December 3, 2013 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

What are the road surfaces like?
The route 1 ring road has a good surface, most of it is paved and the gravel stretches are well-maintained. If you decide to take one of the gravel side-roads, be aware that some of these routes are incredibly rough and should only be attempted in a 4×4 vehicle! The mountain roads are predictably the most likely to be closed to traffic and for the rest of the year, they’re strictly for off-road vehicles. As for the easier roads, even a cheap car hire establishment should know that you’ll need good tyres, but check this before you leave anyway.

Where can you get info and updates?
Most car hire establishments would be able to advise you as to what routes are suitable for your vehicle and what sights you should see along the way. Taking the advice of locals is always a savvy way to plan your route. If you’re one of those people who prefer to do everything themselves, you can find information online on the Icelandic Road Administration’s website. Take what they say seriously. If they say you aren’t going to get through, they know what they’re talking about! The weather can be very fickle, so even if you set off in fine weather, you should do a daily check on weather and road conditions that await you.

Take your time!
Bearing this in mind, don’t try to run on a tight schedule. It may leave you feeling stressed out. Allow for the fact that there may be delays and take things as they come. If you have to stay over an extra night along the way, it should be part of the fun rather than a major inconvenience.

Shopping advice
Winter sees local businesses closing early and once you’re on the road, you might find that there’s literally nothing open on a Sunday, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got all the basic supplies you need during daylight business hours. Pack some snacks because you might not be able to find a restaurant open when you get hungry. You may be embarking on an adventure, but there’s no reason for you to be uncomfortable. Pack some basic medications like painkillers just in case you need them.

Enjoy the trip!
Driving the route 1 in Iceland should not be dangerous in any way, even in winter, as long as you go prepared, take advice from locals and the authorities and treat the roads and the weather with respect.