Helpful information while you decide what kind of car to rent for your fall trip to Iceland
When is autumn in Iceland?
Iceland’s autumn months start in August and continue through to October. Early August is still fairly warm in Iceland, however, the temperatures can quickly fall in a matter of days. Icelandic weather is unpredictable which means that you can have snow in August and really nice weather in November. All things normal, you should be able to drive any type of car anywhere in Iceland in September and well into October.
Why visit Iceland during autumn?
With cooler air and a slight frosty chill, Iceland truly flourishes in autumn. The mild climate makes great weather for wrapping up warm and exploring everything this beautiful country has to offer; whether that is exploring the highlands or glimpsing the northern lights. You can even melt away the wintry chills in a natural geothermal hot spa!
Whilst there are so many activities to indulge in, the weather is highly unpredictable. With so many people discovering the benefits of driving in Iceland, it is important to understand how the autumn weather may impact your journey.
What is Iceland's weather like in autumn?
At the beginning of September, the weather is typically fair all over the country. Temperatures should be between 10-20 degrees Celsius and normally there is no snow on the ground. You should, however, be prepared for colder weather, even down to 0 degrees at this time of the year, especially in the North and the highlands, where the weather in Iceland in the fall is colder and can be harsher.The autumn months of September and October can be beautiful months with calm winds and low sun. However, typical fall weather in Iceland includes heavy wind and horizontal rain. However, wind and rain should not affect your ability to drive a small car. What really affects your decision is the ice and snow on the roads.
Passing Heaths or Passages
When driving on the ring road or between parts of Iceland, you have to cross heaths or mountain passages. You see, you are crossing a mountain and although our mountains are not very high, the weather up there can be very different from down below and sometimes much worse. There can be ice and snow on the roads up in the mountains, even if there is none in sight where you are.Therefore it is always vital to check the road conditions when passing heaths in Iceland in fall or winter. If you are not sure if you can cross, we suggest you stop at the gas station before the heath. The locals usually know if the roads are open or not and can offer you advice on the matter.
Western fjords and Eastern fjords
Autumn and winter come sooner to the North, Western fjords and Eastern fjords. If you plan to drive to these parts of the country in the fall month of October, we definitely recommend an AWD or 4x4 vehicle. If you are travelling to the North you will have to cross Holtavörðuheiði heath. If you go on to the Western fjords you will most likely drive either Þröskuldar or Steingrímsfjarðarheiði heaths (or both).
Winter often comes a little later to the South and the West which only means that the roads are clear of ice and snow for a little longer. In order to go to the South, you will have to cross either Hellisheiði heath which is a part of the ring road or other heaths if you are on the Golden circle. Hellisheiði is usually fine to drive in the fall but can be dangerous in the wintertime.
Information You Will Need
It is important to always check the weather forecast and road conditions before starting your journey in Iceland, even in the fall months. Here are some useful websites and resources you should check ahead of your journey in Iceland:
- Icelandic Met office for the weather forecast.
- Icelandic Road Administration for road conditions and webcams all over the country
- SADCars driving in Iceland in winter article for best practices
- SADCars driving Information page for useful information and links
You can also call 1777 (if problems use +354 522 1100). Open 8-16 in summer and 6:30-22 in winter. An English answering machine with similar road information is in phone number 1778.
Road.is provides current road conditions so that you can judge whether driving is safe at the time you plan to travel. The above map shows road conditions in April 2020. Here you can see how well The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) website presents up-to-date information on road conditions. The roads in green are easily passable with no problems. The roads highlighted yellow mean there are some spots of ice on the road, and roads in blue or white are very slippery, heavy with snow, wet, or generally dangerous to drive. The highlands are impassable (red roads). Pretty easy to read right?
Choosing The Right Car
You will always need a 4x4 car if you plan to go to the highlands regardless of the weather and road conditions. It's also worth noting that the highland roads close for the spring months, so if you plan to drive them in the fall months, you'll need to check the dates for road closures for that year to make sure you can still access them.
All cars in Iceland are required to be equipped with winter tires or all-year tires during winter. Those that choose to have nailed tires can start using them on November 1st. Just to clarify, we do believe that you can drive small cars out in the country in winter as well. It all depends on when you are going and how the road conditions and the weather forecast during that time.
Small car or a 4x4?
Our advice is to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Be prepared that you might have to change your plans (or spend more on an upgrade to a safer car). Have warm clothes with you. Think of the unpredictability as an adventure. Always check the road conditions and weather forecast or talk to locals, and be sure to stay safe!
I do hope that this information helps a little in your decision-making and that you find a car that is comfortable for you and your budget. If you have any questions about this, do not hesitate to email us at email@example.com or get in touch on our various social media sites.
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