Iceland conjures images of a foreboding landscape and perpetual winter. In Iceland, you can watch the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). There are quaint fishing villages, burning ice, glaciers, mountain landscapes, deserts with water running through them, geysers, and more.
Driving Through Iceland
Multiple companies offer guided and private driving tours of Iceland. Whichever option you choose, you need to know Iceland’s rules of the road.
A driver’s license issued in the US is valid in Iceland, and the right lane is the travel lane. Headlights must be used even during the day. Talking on a cell phone and texting while driving is illegal.
When stopping to enjoy or photograph the vistas, the vehicle must be completely off the road or parked in a designated viewing area. Off-roading violates Iceland’s strict environmental laws. Fines for driving off-road can be substantial.
Renting a Car
Are you looking to get a car rental at Iceland Keflavik airport? This might be the best option for you. Check to see if there is a fee if you cancel the rental within a time frame set by the rental agency. Make sure the company is upfront about extra fees and taxes. In the winter, does the agency put studded snow tires on its rentals? Look for unlimited free mileage and around the clock assistance that includes driving tips.
Ask if the agency offers CDW, SCDW, and TP insurance. If gravel damage protection is offered, take it to avoid shelling out for a damaged windshield.
Renting a four-wheel drive will cost you extra. When deciding between two and four-wheel drive, take into account the season and familiarize yourself with the types of roads you will be traversing. For paved roads in good weather, four-wheel drive is an unnecessary expense.
For all that there is to see and do on a drive through Iceland, a visit to the Blue Lagoon hot spring ranks as one of the best. The Blue Lagoon is part of a UNESCO Global Geopark. Hot springs are regarded for their therapeutic value. Where you have a hot spring, you will have resorts.
On one of the lagoon’s private inlets, the Retreat at Blue Lagoon recently opened. The project is a luxury addition to the Blue Lagoon. The new facility boasts a geothermal spa, hotel with 62 suites, and a restaurant.
As you venture into the interior of Iceland, and further away from the capital Reykjavik, gas stations are fewer and farther between, so try to stay at least half-a-tank.
An “F” on a roadmap denotes a highland road. Highland roads can be extremely rough, often featuring unbridged streams. These can be unnavigable, even with the most powerful four-wheel drive vehicle.
Use extra caution when driving in Western Iceland. One-lane bridges are not uncommon in this area. When two vehicles approach a one-lane bridge, the driver closest to the bridge has the right-of-way. A paved surface can suddenly become a gravel surface, and failing to slow down in time can result in a wreck.
In the winter, animals, both domestic and wild, partake of road salt. It is a winter driving hazard to be aware of. If you kill or injure livestock, even if the beast was in the middle of the road, you might be on the hook for the value of the animal plus the damage to the car.
In the summer months, sunglasses are absolutely necessary when driving. In the winter months, know the weather forecast and understand Icelandic weather can be volatile, so pack an emergency kit that includes winter wear, extra socks, and a hot beverage.
The Golden Circle
Gullni hringurinn, or Golden Circle, is Iceland’s principle sightseeing route. The 190-mile circle, from Reykjavík through the Uplands and back, encompasses most of Iceland’s tourist destinations.
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. One thousand years ago, the park was the base of Iceland’s then governing body, the Althing. The dormant geyser, Geysir, and the active Strokkur are along the Golden Circle.
Other sites include the 69 foot Gullfoss waterfall, Skálholt, a town that has played a significant role in Iceland’s religious history, and the aforementioned Blue Lagoon.