Guide to the F-Roads in Iceland
When you’re driving in Iceland, if you want to adventure into the Highlands, you’ll need to take some F-Roads. These F-Roads can be… scary! You’ll often find yourself sliding in sand, bouncing on rocks, and even crossing rivers. So before you go, it’s important to be prepared to navigate the F-Roads in Iceland.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the F-roads in Iceland – what they are, when they open, a map of the best F-roads, tips for crossing rivers, and more!
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What are the F-Roads in Iceland?
First, what are the F-roads? The F actually stands for Fjallvegur, which is Icelandic for “mountain.” So, the F-roads are mountain roads. These roads will take you into the Highlands of Iceland. All of the F-roads have an F followed by a number, for example, F-35.
The Ring Road is the main highway that takes you around the exterior of Iceland, and to go into the interior, you’ll need to travel on the F-roads. F-roads come in all different varieties – some are insanely bumpy and require you to drive through rivers, others are gravel roads that are easy to drive on, and a few are even paved and not much different from a normal road.
Because the F-roads in Iceland are all so different, it’s really important to look up the specific route you plan to take before you head out!
The F-roads will take you to some amazing places – and while it’s totally possible to plan a road trip in Iceland without any mountain roads, these trips into the Highlands were my favorite experiences.
Are the F-roads Worth it?
After hearing about scary river crossings and bumpy rides, you may wonder if the F-roads in Iceland are worth it. I think the answer is absolutely a yes! In the Highlands, you’ll find some really incredible scenery – from middle-of-nowhere campsites to the gorgeous mountains of Landmannalaugar to the unique lava rocks on the way to Askja to the hot spring at Hveravellir.
There will also be way fewer people around once you get away from the Ring Road, so taking the F-roads into the Highlands allows you to explore the beauty of Iceland and enjoy some quiet!
If you don’t want to drive on the F-roads, there are plenty of tours available that will do the driving for you – but doing it yourself is more fun!
Map of F-Roads in Iceland
On Road.is, you can find a map of F-roads in Iceland, along with the current conditions for the roads! On this map, the roads marked with the car icon are F-roads, roads that require a 4×4 vehicle. If you click on a road or area on their website, you can zoom in and see the roads – it will also tell you the conditions, so I recommend checking this out before you go.
If the roads are impassable (red), don’t even try it. And even if they’re green, remember that the F-roads are all very different, so I definitely recommend looking up the roads you plan to take before going. Some roads are doable in a small SUV, while others may require a bigger car!
Opening & Closing Dates for F-Roads in Iceland
Because these roads are in the Highlands, they are actually closed for most of the year, when snow makes them completely impassable. When you plan your trip to Iceland, make sure to choose your dates carefully if you want to drive on the F-roads!
When do F-roads in Iceland open?
The opening dates for the F-roads in Iceland really depend on the year. There’s no set date for them to open, as it depends on the weather. Most of the F-roads are open starting in early to mid June, but some roads open even earlier, while those deep in the Highlands can open later if the snow sticks around later into the year.
But, even if the F-roads are open, that doesn’t mean it’s safe and easy to drive yet – depending on the car you have, if the road is still icy or wet and slippery, you may need to be careful or to rent a more capable 4×4.
When do F-roads in Iceland close?
Like the opening dates, the closing dates for F-roads in Iceland aren’t set in stone, and depend on the weather. They typically start closing in mid September, and by mid October, all of the F-roads in Iceland are likely to be closed.
What Kind of Car Do You Need for F-Roads in Iceland?
For the F-roads in Iceland, you absolutely need a 4×4 car! This is non-negotiable, because if you’re renting a car, it’s illegal to take a two wheel drive car on an F-road. Any damage won’t be covered by insurance! Most of the F-roads will have a sign at the beginning that lets you know that only 4×4 vehicles are allowed.
When you rent a car, make sure to add all the insurance options! Typically, collision insurance is required, and you can add on other coverage as well, including gravel protection and tire insurance. These are definitely musts if you’re planning on taking the F-roads, as flying gravel and sharp rocks can do a lot of damage!
You can find 4×4 cars that can handle F-roads on Discover Cars.
River Crossings on F-Roads in Iceland
If you have experience driving on bumpy roads, the rocky F-roads won’t be too bad for you! I live in a camper van in the US and have plenty of experience driving rough roads to find campsites and to get to cool, remote destinations. But, what’s really unique, and really scary, about F-roads in Iceland is the river crossings.
In the Highlands, there are a lot of rivers that are unbridged, and you have to drive right through the water! But what makes it pretty terrifying is the fact that rental car insurance in Iceland does not cover water damage from river crossings. So, if you rent a car that’s allowed on the F-roads, the river crossings are still something you’ll do at your own risk.
That’s why it’s always important to look up F-roads before driving on them, and to make sure you’re prepared, and that your car can handle them.
Here are some tips for river crossings on F-roads:
- Know where your air intake is – the biggest risk is flooding your engine with water!
- Get out to inspect the river – for every river crossing, I recommend getting out of the car and walking through the water. Yes, it might be cold, but that’s better than paying thousands of dollars to fix the engine! Wade through the river yourself, see where the shallowest part it, and how you’ll drive across. If it’s too fast and dangerous to wade through, you shouldn’t drive through it.
- Remember that rivers change – a river that’s safe one day may not be safe the next. If it rains a lot, rivers can get much deeper!
- Drive slow – it honestly is really hard to stay calm and drive slow, but this is the best way to get through river crossings. If you go too fast, you risk splashing air into the engine. Keep it very slow!
- Stay in first gear – first gear gives you the most traction, which is important for river crossings.
- Go through the shallow part – typically, if the river is shallower than half of your tires, you’re fine (but be sure to look up info about your specific car!), and it should never be deep enough to cover your tires completely. The calmest part of the river is usually the deepest, because rocks cause ripples in the water – so get out to inspect the river and see where it’s shallowest.
I cried going through this river on the way to Askja… so if you need to sob a little to get through it, you’re not alone :).
Tips for Driving on F-Roads in Iceland
When you’re heading out for an adventure on the F-roads, here are some tips to keep in mind!
The first tip is to take it slow. The roads can be long and tedious, but if it’s really bumpy, it’s best to take it slow – popping a tire when you’re in the middle of nowhere in the Highlands of Iceland isn’t something you want (even with insurance), so slow down and be safe!
watch out for sheep
There are lots, and lots, of sheep in Iceland – and for some reason they often like to hang out near the road, and to cross at the most inopportune times. Always keep an eye out for sheep!
Planning on Exploring F-Roads in Iceland?
If you have any questions about F-roads in Iceland, or you have your own tips to share, leave them in a comment below! And check out these other posts to help plan your trip:
- Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Iceland
- Guide to Camping in Iceland
- Iceland Road Trip Itineraries
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