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  • Writer's pictureCamper Rental Iceland

Driving in Iceland in Winter

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Winter is becoming an increasingly popular season for a trip to Iceland. Tourists can enjoy lower prices, lack of crowds and many wonders that Iceland only offers during that season. As you probably already know, winter is the perfect season for the Northern Lights. Many people are travelling to Iceland only to see this amazing spectacle of Mother Nature.

Travelling to Iceland in winter has its own unique set of sensations and challenges. The mayority of the tourists coming here every year, decide to rent a campervan or a motorhome for their trip around Iceland. The most common way to see as much as possible is to circle the island using Ring Road which remains open during the whole year. Driving in Iceland however can be challenging even for a very experienced driver especially when everything is covered in snow and ice. If you are among the people who are planning their trip to Iceland during winter, you should know what to expect in terms of the roads conditions and weather wise.

Rental campervan on the Icelandic road in winter at the sunrise, winter landscape

Snow storms

The Icelandic weather is unpredictable and it is not exaggeration at all. It can change any time so it is very important you check the weather forecast regularly. Do not ignore the alerts, they do not put them just for fun. Snow storms are very common in winter. You wouldn’t like to be caught by one while driving right? This frequent phenomena if not taken seriously, can ruin your whole trip.

Prepare yourself for bad weather in Iceland, check the warnings regularly and never go driving when a local says it is going to snow or there will be high wind. They know exactly what are they talking about, they live here!

Here you can find a very useful website where you can check the weather. They will inform you about storms alerts and notifications about road closures due to bad weather conditions. Remember that safety always comes first. While planning your itinerary around Iceland it is always good to have a plan B, in case some roads are closed or the weather gets really bad. Do not let the weather ruin your whole trip. It is always better to wait for even few days until the conditions get better and then continue your trip without any stress.

Windy Iceland

Iceland is definitely a Land of Fire and Ice and wind. The first thing you probably think of in terms of weather is that Iceland is windy. And you are right. There are cases when the winds reaches a speed of 30-40 mph (48-64 km/h) and when you need to hold on to objects like fences so you do not get blown away. This is of course the worse scenario but if you do not follow the cautious steps, you will not be able to avoid it.

Check the weather alerts daily or even few times a day to make sure that you can travel safely with no risk. Another tip I would like to give you for your winter driving in Iceland is that you should take a special care of your rented vehicle. Never leave the door open! Even if the wind doesn’t seem to be strong. The sudden gust of wind can bend the door and in worst case blow it off completely. Better hold the door with both hands, just to be sure!

Driving safely in winter in Iceland

Driving in Iceland in winter is even more challenging when you add  strong winds to it. You will need to deal with ice on the roads but also with the wind. When the gusts become stronger it is better to stop your rental vehicle and wait until conditions get better. Struggling with the steering wheel is the worst thing you can do. We’ve already had cases when smaller vehicles or even big motorohmes were blown off the road. You will definitely want to avoid that. As I already mentioned before, give yourself some spare time when planning the trip around Iceland. As we are used to bad weather here, we have many indoor activities as well that can fill your free time.

Typical Icelandic road covered with snow, leading to a tall mountain all covered in ice and snow

Remember that some parts of Iceland are only accessible during the summer. Highlands are out of your reach during winter. All the F-roads and gravel roads are closed during winter. Most of Iceland’s greatest attractions are located close to the Ring Road which remains open during winter.

As per Icelandic law, winter tires are provided in each vehicle from the 1st of November till end of March unless the weather conditions do not require to keep them longer. Most of the campervan and motorohme rental companies offer winter tires as part of the equipment. Remember though to check that with them to avoid any surprise upon the pick up. Many people coming to Iceland for the first time are asking us about the possibility of renting chains so they can go on icy roads. There is no such need in Iceland especially you will only use paved rods at that time of the year. Studded winter tires are more than enough and will ensure you safety while driving.

Day trips - an alternative in winter

Those who already visited Iceland before know that some of the companies offer day trips even in winter. Some of them are even exclusively offered only in winter like the Northern Lights or ice cave tours. It is a good idea for those who want to see as much as possible during their trips in Iceland. You will be provided with an experienced guide who know will be happy to share the curiosities associated with the island and with our climate. The most popular day trip in Iceland is of course Golden Circle where you can see everything that Iceland has to offer in one day.

Campervan or a motorohme for winter driving in Iceland?

The last but the most important point while planning your trip to Iceland. When it comes to your rental vehicle, you will probably wonder which one is better, campervan or a motorhome or maybe a 4x4 campervan? As we mentioned already in our previous posts, most of motorohmes are only rented until end of September. Some of the smaller models for 2 and 3 people are also available until December.  This is for your safety only as the bigger models are not that stable on icy roads and in strong wind.

Campervans are available to rent during the whole year. As already mentioned before, some of the roads in Iceland remain closed until summer and you can only drive on paved roads using Ring Road mainly. You can easily drive a 2wd camper here. 4wd campervans tend to be more stable and more comfortable to drive on icy and snowy roads so we always recommend that to those who want to be 100% sure their trip around Iceland will be safe.

A group of tourists on a ice cave day trip in Iceland, passing through clear, blue glacier

Driving in Iceland in Winter

People tend to forget that winter season has its own magic and often overlook this when planning their trip around Iceland. As you can see winter in Iceland can be indeed challenging and there are a lot of things to remember and consider while driving in Iceland.

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