Hellisheiði Closed Temporarily Today Due to Roadwork

Route 1 Iceland

A section of Iceland’s Ring Road over the Hellisheiði mountain pass will be closed today for roadwork. Traffic will be rerouted via Þrengslavegur and Þorlákshafnarvegur during the closure.

Closed between 9 AM and 2 PM

A portion of Iceland´s Ring Road (Route 1) leading over the Hellisheiði mountain pass — connecting the capital area to the South Coast — will be temporarily closed today due to roadwork.

The road will be closed eastbound, towards Hveragerði, between 9 AM and 12 noon. From 10 AM to 2 PM, the road will be closed westbound, towards Reykjavík. Traffic will be redirected via Þrengslavegur and Þorlákshafnarvegur road (see below image of the Þrengslavegur reroute).

Ring Road
Þrengslavegur reroute (Google Maps)

 

 

Record Ring Road Traffic

The latest numbers from the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration show that July 2023 was a record-breaking month. According to IRCA, never before has there been more traffic on Route 1 in a single month.

July 2023 proved to be about seven per cent higher than July 2022. Year-on-year increases can be seen across the board, with 16 key figures being measured by IRCA. On average, nearly 125 thousand vehicles were recorded across Route 1 daily.

vegagerðin route 1
Daily average combined traffic. IRCA.

The largest increase was noted in and around the capital area. IRCA speculates that the increase is likely due to comparatively lower figures in the area compared to the season last year.

However, traffic in North and East Iceland decreased, compared to the same month last year, by 1.9% and 4.5% respectively.

 

ring road iceland
Sum of daily average traffic, in thousands. IRCA.

 

Total traffic has increased on all weekdays, with the most significant increase on Mondays, around 12.1%, and the least on Sundays, around 5.1%.

Friday was shown to be the busiest day, and Sunday the least.

IRCA expects the current increase to hold for the remainder of 2023. If this forecast holds, this would set a new annual traffic record on Route 1.

 

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Hellisheiði Reopened After Bus Caught Fire

Route 1 Iceland

A tour bus caught fire on its way down the Hellisheiði pass around 21:00 last night. Vísir reports.

Reports indicate that the bus was operated by SBA Norðurleið and had some 10 passengers aboard. All made it to safety and there were no injuries. The 10 passengers were transported to Reykjavík.

The western route through Hellisheiði was closed while local fire teams responded. The bus was removed from the road around midnight and the road has since been reopened.

Giant Pothole in Ring Road

A giant pothole, measuring two metres [6.7 ft] deep and 1.5 metres [4.9 ft] wide was found on Route 1 near a bridge over the Norðurá river close to Borganes in West Iceland. Thanks a quick report from travellers and an equally quick response from Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, the hole was repaired before any accidents occurred.

Meltwater can cause significant damage to paved roadways in the spring and summer and roadworkers spend considerable time trying to repair damage as quickly as possible.

Vegagerðin / Ómar Kristófersson

Per a press release issued by the Icelandic Road and Coastal Management Administration, it was unusual circumstances, however, that allowed for the pothole in West Iceland to form so quickly and become so large before being reported and repaired. For one, there has been a considerable amount of meltwater in the last week, the drainage of which was then impeded by clumps of ice that had formed a sort of dam under the bridge. This allowed for a great build-up of underground water pressure. Before long, the water had bored through the reinforcement layer of the roadway and progressively ate away at the earth underneath the pavement. A small hole formed in the pavement, which then grew larger and larger until it was finally discovered and reported.

Icelandic Road and Coastal Management Administration received word of the pothole around 3pm; six hours later, it had been repaired.

Drivers Snowed in on Ring Road Overnight

Nearly a hundred and fifty people had to be rescued by ICE-SAR yesterday after their vehicles got snowed in on the Ring Road around the Eyjafjöll mountains and Jökulsá á Sólheimasandi glacial river in South and Southeast Iceland on Thursday night, RÚV reports.

The trouble started around 5pm on Thursday, when police in South Iceland were notified that a car had gotten stuck in the snow on the bridge over Jökulsá á Sólheimasandi glacial river, blocking all other traffic. By the time police arrived, many other vehicles had queued on either side of the bridge while heavy snow continued to fall. In the end, ICE-SAR had to transport passengers from 45 vehicles to temporary overnight accommodations, either at a hotel in Skógar or a shelter that the Red Cross opened in Heimaland.

Weather conditions and visibility were so bad on the Ring Road around the village of Hella that drivers who had gotten stranded in the area had to wait until close to 10pm for help to arrive. Some ICE-SAR rescue vehicles broke down in the snow on the way, while others had to see to other tasks before they could proceed to the stranded drivers. The weather finally began to clear around 1am and passengers were then transported to shelters.

All told, 38 people were taken to a hotel in Skógar, 100 were taken to the Red Cross shelter in Heimaland, and four people chose to stay in their own cars overnight.

Those who had stayed in the hotel or temporary shelter were driven back to their vehicles the next day. A snowmobile had been used to clear snow away from their cars and the roadway, but the road itself remained closed until Friday afternoon as conditions were still too dangerous for driving.

Heedless Tourists Call for More Rest Stops on Ring Road

Route 1

Roads in Iceland must be made safer, says the Director of the Public Roads Administration in an interview with RÚV. Owing to a lack of lay-bys (or rest stops), there are over 100 places along the Ring Road where tourists habitually pull their vehicles over, which increases the risk of accidents. Increased funding is needed.

Heedless Motorists

Tourists have had a significant impact on the Ring Road (or Route 1, a 1,332km road that loops around the island). Many have reported seeing them walking along the road, parking their vehicles on the shoulder, or simply stopping their cars in the middle of the road. In a meeting held Wednesday, January 29, the Public Roads Administration discussed the prospect of additional lay-bys.

“We’re worried about tourists on the Ring Road. There’s an increased risk of accidents. That’s why we’re interested in determining how many lay-bys to introduce and where. It’s a matter of hospitality, in some sense: offering suitable, safe places from where travellers can take in the landscape and take pictures,” Bergþóra Þorkelsdóttir, Director of the Public Roads Administration stated in an interview with RÚV.

102 Spots

“I drove the Ring Road recently and took note of 102 such places. They are, actually, more numerous, as many of these places occur along long stretches of the road that afford the same view. With a suitable lay-by and adequate signage, we could nudge these motorists toward safe places where they could take photographs,” Sóley Jónasdóttir, a project manager at the Public Roads Administration’s Design Department stated.

According to Sóley, the need for increased safety is most urgent in South Iceland, in Eldhraun, and near Mývatn, among other places. Tourists pulling over to the side of the road increase the risk of accidents, while also damaging the road itself.

“Shoulders flatten out, verges and surface dressings crack, and the road begins disintegrating. There are always going to be novel challenges, as well. Like in Brekkukot, by the roots of the Eyjafjöll mountain range, where it’s become customary to leave bras dangling on the fence. We’re talking a long stretch of road where traffic slows considerably; people slow down, stop, and try to take pictures,” Sóley said.

Winter Conditions

The weather and road conditions during winter, also play a significant role. There have been six traffic accidents on the Ring Road in January.

“Traffic has increased by 50% since 2013, much of it owing to tourists. Clearly, the Public Roads Administration is using all available funds for road-safety measures. Much more needs to be done, of course, given that the road is being used in a completely different way than we initially imagined,” Bergþóra stated.

Asked what’s holding the Administration back, Bergþóra replied: “A lack of funding, first and foremost.”

45 Years Later, All of Route 1 Paved

45 years after the creation of Route 1, the Icelandic Ring Road, the circle has been fully completed as all of the road is now paved. The last stretch of the ring road to be fully completed was in Berufjörður fjord in East Iceland, which had been a gravel stretch of the road up until now.

The road in Berufjörður is 4,9 kilometres long and shortens the total length of Route 1 by 3,9 kilometres. It has been open for traffic with the new conditions since August 1 but was officially opened by the Icelandic Road Administration on August 14. The project of replacing the gravel with paved roads has been in the works since the early 2000s. This stretch of Route 1 was one of the more controversial as the road could ill handle rain along with heavy traffic. Over a thousand cars use the road stretch every day, so conditions became especially bad on the old gravel road during rain.

The project of converting the gravel road into a paved one, along with a new bridge crossing the Berufjörður fjord, began in August 2017. W

Route 1
Route 1 was created in 1974 with the construction of bridges crossing Skeiðarársandur sands. The 1,322 kilometre long road is popular with travellers, as they can circle the whole of the island. For the first years, the majority of the ring road was gravel. Work began on replacing the gravel with gravel in 1978.
Three separate extensive pushes were made by the Iceland Road Association towards making the whole of Route 1 paved. The first part to be completed was between Reykjavík and Akureyri in 1994, while the next project was from Reykjavík to Höfn í Hornafirði in 2001. The final major undertaking was completed between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir in 2009. Since then, smaller parts of Route 1 have slowly been upgraded from gravel roads to paved.

Head to www.road.is or call 1777 for road information during your travels in Iceland.

No Signs Yet of Imminent Múlakvísl Glacial Outburst Flood

So far, there have been no clear signs of the Múlakvísl jökulhlaup, or glacial outburst flood, which is expected to happen in the coming days or weeks. A GPS monitor has been put up in one of the calderas in Mýrdalsjökull glacier which will give more information on the timing of the flood. Salóme Jórunn Bernharðsdóttir, a natural hazard specialist at the Icelandic Meteorological Institute, states the institute is watching proceedings in Múlakvísl closely. So far, there have been no signs that the glacial outburst flood has started.

The newly installed GPS monitor is hoped to give clues about an imminent flood one to two days before the flood reaches the Múlakvísl river crossing at Route 1. Salóme stated that earthquake measurement devices should also display some disturbances around four to six hours before the flood reaches the bridge. Furthermore, electric conductivity should increase in Múlakvísl river before the flood happens. When water levels have risen at Léréftshöfuð, which is six kilometres north of the Múlakvísl river, the flood will reach the Route 1 crossing in half an hour to an hour.

The geothermal heat under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier causes water to collect in the calderas, causing regular glacial outburst floods in the area. Normally, the floods take place a little later in the summer when the mid-summer thaw at Mýrdalsjökull. The amount of water under Mýrdalsjökull glacier has led scientist to believe a glacial outburst flood is imminent. Last year, 2018, there was no flood so a considerable amount of water has collected under the glacier. The flood is expected to be the largest one in eight years, when the 2011 flood ruptured the Route 1 crossing the Múlakvísl river east of Vík í Mýrdal.

Information for travellers
At this point in time, it is believed that it is not necessary to close roads. That situation could change quickly, however, and authorities will step in if they believe a flood is about to occur.

What can happen, and how should travellers react?
Dangers which accompany a glacial outburst flood in Múlakvísl river:
– Floodwater can block the route from Route 1 towards Kötlujökull glacier west of Hafursey.
– Floodwater can flood over and block, or even rupture, Route 1 at the bridge crossing of Múlakvísl river.
– Floodwater can block the route into Þakgil.
– The gas hydrogen sulphide could be found in copious amounts close to Múlakvísl river. The gas can burn mucous membrane in the eyes and in the respiratory tract

Instructions:
– Respect road closures, as well as evacuations if they should occur.
– Keep away from the Múlakvísl river when a glacial outburst flood is occurring.
– Avoid places affected by gas pollution, such as along the river as well as in depressions nearby by it. Do not stop at the bridge crossing Múlakvísl or Skálm.

For those looking to keep a watchful eye on the proceedings when the flood occurs, this webcam of the Láguhvolar area should provide a view of the flood: http://brunnur.vedur.is/myndir/webcam/2019/07/04/webcam_laguhvolar.html

Travellers passing through the area are instructed to head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions, or call 1777.

Glacial Outburst Flood in Múlakvísl Expected

Measurements from Mýrdalsjökull glacier indicate that a glacial outburst flood could occur in Múlakvísl river in the next days or weeks. A relatively large flood is expected, the largest in the last eight years. Authorities do not expect to have to enforce closures on roads at this point in time, but they will follow developments in the area closely. Closure of Route 1 might occur. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management reported this yesterday, and will continue to monitor the situation.

The results from The Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland indicate that enough water has collected below geothermal heat calderas in the eastern part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The water flow during the height of the glacial flood could be significantly more than the flood which took place in 2017, but likely less than the severe flood of 2011. The flood in 2011 destroyed the bridge on Route 1 crossing the Múlakvísl river east of Vík í Mýrdal.

Regular flooding of Múlakvísl
Small glacial floods have occurred in Múlakvísl river almost yearly in the last couple of years, close to or right after mid-summer when the thaw in Mýrdalsjökull glacier is at a high point. Those floods have most often been small enough that the river does not flow out of the riverbed, and have therefore not caused any damages. There was no glacial outburst flood in 2018. The flood in 2017 was considered significant although it did not cause any damages. However, the flood in 2017 caused significant air pollution due to the release of hydrogen sulphide. In the last 100 years, there have been at least two severe glacial outburst floods in Múlakvísl, in 1955 and 2011. In both of those floods, the bridge crossing Múlakvísl river was ruptured. For scale, the flood in 2017 is estimated to have been to the tune of 200 cubic metres per second near the Route 1 crossing, which was 20% of the maximum water flow in the 2011 flood in the same site.

“We’ve performed measurements in the same calderas four times since 2017. We can expect that the flood will be the largest flood which has occurred in Múlakvísl in the last eight years. In all likelihood, it will be significantly smaller than the 2011 flood which ruptured the bridge, but nonetheless, it would be the largest flood since then. The main explanation is the fact that there was no outburst from these calderas last summer,” said Eyjólfur Magnússon, a glacial research expert at The Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland in an interview with RÚV. The warmth in Iceland this summer could be causing an earlier flood than usual, according to Eyjólfur. “It could be causing that this flood will happen sooner than usual. These calderas often have outbursts in July or the beginning of August. That has been the main rule. It seems to be so that the summer thaw is starting this flood. So it seems to be often that these calderas empty when the summer thaw is at high-point up on the glacier, or soon after that.

There is considerable geothermal heat under Mýrdalsjökull glacier which creates about 20 calderas on the surface of the glacier. The heat melts the glacial ice and the meltwater collects under the geothermal calderas. In addition to this, thaw water from the surface of the glacier seeps through the glacier and is added to meltwater collecting below the glacier. When enough water has collected, it breaks out from under the glacier and causes the glacial outburst flood.

Members of the travel industry in the nearby area have been informed of the danger. If a flood should occur, they will be informed of further proceedings right away. Scientists believe that the flood will come with some prior warning, and they are now working on putting up a GPS measurement device in one of the sub-glacial calderas to measure proceedings more accurately.

At this point in time, it is believed that it is not necessary to close roads. That situation could change quickly, however, and authorities will step in if they believe a flood is about to occur.

What can happen, and how should travellers react?
Dangers which accompany a glacial outburst flood in Múlakvísl river:
– Floodwater can block the route from Route 1 towards Kötlujökull glacier west of Hafursey.
– Floodwater can flood over and block, or even rupture, Route 1 at the bridge crossing of Múlakvísl river.
– Floodwater can block the route into Þakgil.
– The gas hydrogen sulphide could be found in copious amounts close to Múlakvísl river. The gas can burn mucous membrane in the eyes and in the respiratory tract

Instructions:
– Respect road closures, as well as evacuations if they should occur.
– Keep away from the Múlakvísl river when a glacial outburst flood is occurring.
– Avoid places affected by gas pollution, such as along the river as well as in depressions nearby by it. Do not stop at the bridge crossing Múlakvísl or Skálm.

Travellers passing through the area are instructed to head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions, or call 1777.

How long does it take to drive around Iceland?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1553855989050{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Q: How long does it take to drive around Iceland?

A: Iceland’s main highway is a circular road going all around the island, known as the Ring Road or Route 1. The Ring Road covers 1,332km (828mi) and goes through all kinds of landscapes. It’s mostly a two-lane, paved road, but there are single-lane bridges along the way, and in East Iceland, short sections are still only gravel.

The speed limit in Iceland is 90km/h (56mi/h) on paved rural roads, 80km/h (50mi/h) on unpaved rural roads, and 50km/h (31mi/h) in urban areas. If you were to drive all around Iceland in one go, it would take you about 20 hours – in perfect conditions. You probably don’t want to drive around Iceland without breaks, though, and in winter, this is definitely not a realistic estimate. What’s more useful to know is how much time you would need to comfortably see most of the natural attractions Iceland is famous for.

In seven days, it’s possible to drive the complete Ring Road and see most of Iceland’s famous sights, such as geothermal areas, waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers, and fjords. You would spend a lot of time in the car, however, so 8-12 days is better if you like making many stops to go sightseeing and hiking. Two weeks is recommended if you would really like to get out into nature and go on adventure tours, like a whale watching tour or river rafting. There’s a lot to see and do in Iceland, and taking more time gives you more freedom for stops along the way.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]