Image: Golli

Can I drive in Iceland in winter?

 In Ask IR, Magazine, Magazine Intro, Nature & Travel
Q: I’m an experienced driver living in Northeast Ohio familiar with driving on ice and snow, and I would like to do a self-drive in winter. I want to see the northern lights, but is it safe to drive in winter?

A: It’s possible to drive safely in Iceland in winter and your experience with driving on ice and snow will come in handy, but be aware that ice and snow are only part of the risk – wind can also affect driving conditions aversely. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to drive without stress.

Firstly, always check the road conditions and weather forecast before you head out. Depending on these, you might want to adjust your route or the time you start your journey. Icelandic weather is temperamental and can change quickly. If you do get stuck in a snowstorm, slow down and increase your braking distance. Secondly, plan most of your journey so that most of the driving is done in daylight, which can be scarce during wintertime. Another important thing to think about is the kind of car you want to rent. In winter, we recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle, both for safety and comfort. If you’re driving out of the city during winter, don’t get the smallest car available: focus on your safety over the price. You will have a chance to see the northern lights between mid-August and mid-April. We understand that you’re excited to see them, but don’t get distracted while driving. Don’t stop in the middle of the road: find a safe parking spot at a designated area. Finally, get some local advice about your planned route. Some roads in Iceland are known to be difficult to drive in certain conditions or wind directions. If you feel insecure about driving yourself, booking one of the many organised tours with certified tour operators is the safer option. 

This article appears in the latest issue of Iceland Review Magazine. Subscribe here to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Iceland Review is the longest running English-language magazine, presenting Iceland’s community, culture, and nature since 1963.

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