Headed for the rugged and beautiful F roads in the highlands of Iceland? Our driving tips will help you stay safe and enjoy your Iceland Highlands tour.

Download a printable PDF version of this blog and take it with you on your trip!

The F-Roads are home to some of Iceland's most wild and natural beauty. But for those who are not familiar with driving in the area, driving on the F-Roads can present some risks. An Iceland Highlands Tour can be a great way to experience Iceland’s natural landscapes in all their beauty, however driving the F roads in Iceland’s highlands is not to be taken lightly. Follow our comprehensive tips to make sure you enjoy the scenery without floating down a powerful river or getting stuck in the middle of nowhere! 

(Note: Originally written in March 2012, this blog was updated November 2021 to reflect updated information, including new dates in the mountain road opening date table )

 
F roads Iceland
 

The F-roads in the highlands of Iceland

Let me tell you a little bit about the highlands of Iceland. If you have not been there, you have an amazing experience waiting for you! The rugged beauty and the powerful peace and quiet up there is a brilliant way to recharge your batteries after months of hard work and stress. The rolling landscape consists of many of the following at all times: white glaciers, black sands, green mountain tops, rock formations of different varieties, blue or brown rivers, colorful hot springs, small waterfalls, big waterfalls and black volcanoes to name just a few. Sometimes you go whole days without seeing a single person and other times it is like being in busy downtown Reykjavik on a lovely Saturday. Iceland’s highlands can offer a huge array of experiences.  

Some facts about the highlands from Wikipedia; they are situated in the middle of the country, at 400 – 500 meters (1,300 - 1640 feet) above sea level. They are mostly uninhabitable. The Highlands are home to many of Iceland’s glaciers such as Vatnajokull glacier, which is the biggest glacier in Europe. Most of Iceland’s active volcanoes are also situated in the highlands. Sounds amazing…and kinda scary, right?

The mountain roads in the highlands are called F-roads and are indicated with an F in front of the number of the road on maps. The F roads are usually narrow gravel roads with no bridges over rivers. And there are lots of rivers in the highlands! You will need a 4x4 car to drive on these roads.

The notable exceptions to this are Kjalvegur road 35 (usually called Kjölur among Icelanders). Road 35 is the road to Gullfoss, but then changes to a mountain road right after Gullfoss, when it becomes F35. This means you are able to drive your small car to Gullfoss in summer and winter (depending on road conditions of course), you will only need a 4x4 car right after you pass Gullfoss. 

Sounds even scarier now, right? This is where many people can run into trouble on the F-roads  

 
How to cross a river in the highlands of iceland
Photo by 4x4offroads.com.
 

Driving F roads Iceland

Before you travel, there are a few things you should take care of first. Number 1 on the list - ensure you have a 4x4 vehicle. Other types of vehicles are not properly equipped to tackle the more difficult terrain. Browse our range of 4x4 vehicles for your Iceland highlands tour.

Additionally, letting someone know your travel plans is a good idea in case you encounter any difficulties. This can be a friend, a local ranger, or the good people over at www.travelsafe.is.

Ensure you have a detailed map of the route you will be travelling. Standard maps available from gas stations and tourist information centres might not be as helpful.

Finally, double check the conditions of the roads before you start your journey. Call 1777 or check www.road.is before embarking to ensure they are safe. Checking with local people and rangers as you encounter them is always a good idea.

Now, let's answer the question on how to drive on the F-roads in the highlands of Iceland.

  • It is strongly advised that people travel together in 2 or more cars in case you encounter trouble and need help.
  • Make sure that the F-road you plan to travel on is open for traffic. Road opening times are listed in this blog.
  • Drive slowly and be aware of the possibly very bad gravel road in front of you.
  • Cross rivers with ease after reading our instructions below.
  • Driving off the designated roads in the highlands is strictly forbidden. It's worth noting that driving off-road anywhere in Iceland is always forbidden!
  • It is good to be prepared for all types of weather as the weather in the highlands can change almost in a blink of an eye.
  • Be aware that the telephone signal in the highlands is not very stable and you can go for a long while without a mobile connection.
  • The emergency number in Iceland is 112. You are able to call it in the highlands, even without a mobile connection.
  • There is only one petrol station in the highlands, at Hveravellir, so make sure you fill up!
Fire canyon

F-roads opening times 

The F-roads in Iceland are only open during the summer and some of them open as late as early July. The highland summer lasts only about a month and a half. The opening of each road depends mostly on the amount of snow covering them. Roads can be very wet after the spring and are not opened to traffic until they dry up. When roads pass through conservation areas, they are not opened until the whole area is ready to take on the pressures of visitors even if the road itself is ready to be opened.
 

F roads Iceland 2021

 
  MOUNTAIN ROADS 2011 - 2015 Opening date earliest Opening date latest Opening date median
  Lakagígar, F206 12 June 30 July 19 June
  Fjallabaksleið nyrðri, F208      
   1. Sigalda - Landmannalaugar 24 May 20 June 10 June
   2. Laugar - Eldgjá 14 June 8 July  28 June
   3. Eldgjá - Skaftártunga 5 June 26 June 13 June
  Fjallabaksleið syðri F210      
   1. Keldur - Hvanngil 21 June 10 July  3 July
   2. Hvanngil - Skaftártunga 28 June 13 July  5 July 
  Landmannaleið (Dómad.) F225 28 June 14 July  22 June
  Emstruleið, F261 21 June 8 July  25 June 
  Kjalvegur, 35      
   1. Gullfoss - Hveravellir 8 June 1 July 17 June
   2. Hveravellir - Blönduvirkjun 2 June 25 June 13 June
  Sprengisandur, F26      
   1. Hrauneyjar - Nýidalur 20 June 9 July  29 June
   2. Nýidalur - Bárðardalur 20 June  9 July 30 June
  Skagafjarðarleið, F752 26 June 9 July 27 July
  Eyjafjarðarleið, F821 28 June 24 July 7 July
  Öskjuleið, F88      
   1. To Herðubreiðarlindir 14 June 25 June 19 June
   2. Herðubreiðarlindir - Dreki 14 June 25 June 18 June
  Öskjuvatnsvegur, F894 14 June 24 July 24 June
Hólsfjallavegur, F864 2 June 29 June 10 June
  Kverkfjallaleið, F902 14 June 25 June 18 June
Arnardalsleið F905 11 June 25 June 17 June
Austurleið F910 11 June 17 July 15 June
  Uxahryggjavegur, 52 16 April 16 May 29 May
  Kaldadalsvegur, 550 25 May 19 June  27 May

Opening of mountain roads brochure (updated June 2018).

 

F-roads Iceland map

Iceland’s Highlands have many F Roads that you can travel by, shown in the table above and the map below. Many people know of the F35 Kjölur, F26 Sprengisandur and F208 Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri. In the past, Kjölur and Sprengisandur were the main connections between north and south Iceland, and native people would travel the roads via foot or horseback. People in the past must have been super-humans for travelling without all the modern equipment and clothes we have today!
 
Opening of mountain roads F roads in the highlands of iceland
 

Some things to consider when crossing glacial rivers on F Roads Iceland

  • When you cross glacial rivers, it’s important to engage the vehicle’s 4 wheel drive function before entering the waters. Drive as slow as possible and stick to a low range if it’s possible. Remain in the same gear while you are in the middle of a river to avoid damage to your gear system or becoming stranded.
  • It’s typical that less water flows in glacial rivers in the morning and that warm summer days and heavy rainfall can drastically increase water flow. Some rivers are simply uncrossable, regardless of your vehicle size.
  • Crossing a glacial river in a car should be avoided if you would not choose to wade through it yourself. It’s best to cross with an experienced guide with you.
  • Fords are generally well marked and you should be able to spot them. Large rocks could lie beneath the water’s surface so be aware of these. Where the water appears calm, rivers tend to be deepest, so avoid these areas at all costs. 
  • Where you can, cross down river at a diagonal angle, so that the water will help your vehicle cross.
crossing a glacial river in the highlands of iceland crossing glacial rivers in iceland
Photos by 4x4offroad.com and 4x4offroad.com respectively.
 
The Road Traffic Directorate has made a video about how to drive in Iceland. There is some information about how to drive on F-roads in it, although it is mostly a general video about driving in Iceland.
 


You can, of course, drive the SADcars that are suitable for F-roads driving in the highlands of Iceland. In fact, we want you to enjoy it! We offer several groups that are suitable for F-road driving; 

  • Group M (manual) and Group N (automatic) Toyota RAV4 4x4 or comparable)
  • Group J Suzuki Jimny 4x4 (not suitable to drive on all highland roads under all circumstances, it depends on the amount of water flow in the rivers if they can be crossed)
  • Group R (Toyota LandCruiser 4x4 or comparable). 

It’s important to note that regardless of your vehicle, driving off-road in Iceland is strictly forbidden. It can cause lasting damage on the landscape if you drive on roads without assigned numbers. Punishment can include huge fines or even imprisonment for up to 2 years.

Sources and useful information:
 

Hopefully, this blog gives you some ideas of what to expect when travelling on the F roads in the highlands of Iceland. Always keep in mind that you are driving in a wilderness where the weather can change very fast and you are located high above sea level so the weather can be very different from the weather in the "lowlands". For more information on how to be safe in Iceland, read our advice on navigating the dangers of Iceland’s roads.

Have a happy and safe journey!

Download a printable PDF version of this blog and take it with you on your trip!