It is a serious business to drive in the highland in Iceland.  Most of the roads in the Highland are challenging dirt roads that are harsh and demanding to drive, both for the driver and the car.  Often you need to cross over rivers and creeks that can easily be too deep and complicated for a small car to cross.  If it starts to rain the volume increases in a short period and a small stream can turn into a river.  Many dirt roads are bumpy and require a slow speed, especially if your vehicle is small and low.  A drive in the Highland needs a good 4X4 car that can take you safely to your des

A wrong rent a car in the Highland often costs a huge amount of money if it breaks down, even though you might want to try to fix the damages on the spot.

As one of Iceland's most remarkable place to visit and a natural wonder, Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience plus hiking trails.  A place where you can find peace and quiet and your own little sanctuary by a small creek or under a hunted cliff.  It is an ideal place to take a bus from Reykjavík the capital equipped with hiking shoes, a tent, and supplies for a few days stay.

Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience


Deep in the Highland of Iceland you will find a very remote and highly interesting place, Kverkfjöll, located at the northeast part of Vatnajokull ice cap, the largest glacier in Europe.  It is a combination of ice and magma lurking under the surface filling it with a warmth that melts the ice from beneath, forming melting ice caves at the edge of the glacier. In few places is it more obvious where fire meets ice. It is the home of Iceland's largest geothermal area, warm geothermal pools, ice caves, challenging hiking paths and harsh landscape between two glacier tongues, Brúaárjökull and Dyngjuökull that regularly deliver signs of possible eruptions.  Kverkfjöll is a place for people who are serious hikers seeking real life adventures and interested in visiting the most exotic places in Iceland. It is not a place to visit for a quick selfie or short visit. It is a place of proper preparation and sufficient gear. It is a place for outdoor enthusiasts who like to hike, ski and climb fascinating mountains.

Kverkfjöll is a place of many options

As part of the Icelandic highland, it is a highly sensitive place in any respect.  Mostly covered with snow a large part of the year Kverkfjöll mountains are only accessible during the months of July through September. The area is always a bit wet and lacks vegetation.  Even in those three months, it is a place where you need to take extreme care when visiting.  Because of its many attractions and natural wonders Kverkfjöll has a good service center, available accommodation, and a camping area. It is an “out of this world” place to visit but harsh and unpredictable. 

Access is not easy and requires a full-size 4X4 vehicle

For the drive to Kverkfjöll, you need a large size 4X4 vehicle, a Toyota Hilux, Toyota Landcruiser, VW Amarok, Land Rover or similar.  It is not a road for a small 4X4 as some of the roads are difficult, and there are rivers to cross.  Rivers that can change rapidly with rain or change in heat. The best route is to drive from Mývatn lake towards the east on Road Nr. 1 and take the mountain road F88 Öskjuleið. After driving approximately 75 kilometers, among other places by Herðubreið the queen of Icelandic mountains, you take a turn on the mountain road F910 Austurleið. After driving approximately 12 kilometers on F910, you take another turn on the mountain road F902 Kverkfjallaleið. After an about 40 kilometer drive, you are at Sigurðarskáli cabin and in Kverkfjöll.  It is about 130 kilometers drive into the most remote area in the Icelandic Highland, and you are now truly in a natural wonderland of landscape and geology. 

Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Kverkfjöll on the map of Iceland

Deep in the Highland of Iceland you will find a very remote and highly interesting place, Kverkfjöll,


The mountain ridge Jarlhettur, “The Earls Cap" is easily visible from many places and many angles in southern Iceland. The ridge is 15 kilometers and consists of 20 mountains where each peak is similar to the next, although the height and diameter differ. It is a spectacular sight seen by most visitors driving the Golden Circle with the ice cap Langjökull glacier in the background. The direction of the ridge is the same as most geological fissures in the area, from southwest to the northeast. The visibility is on the east side, and most of the west side is attached to the glacier. It is almost odd to find the name Earl in the Icelandic landscape since Iceland hardly ever had any real Earls governing the land or the people. On the other hand, Icelandic Viking traveled a lot to Europe and was acquainted with Earls and Kings. Unfortunately not alway not always in a polite manner.

Jarlhettur mountain ridge is in contrast with many natural wonders in Iceland

The mountains are of palagonite nature and almost entirely lack vegetation. The lakes and small rivers at the bottom of the mountains are all glacial waters, so everything is gray and somewhat from another planet.  This contrast with many of the magnificent natural beauties in the Icelandic nature makes Jarlhettur ridge, also interesting. Most of the mountains are around eight hundred to nine hundred meters high but the highest one Tröllhetta or Troll Cap, little less than eleven hundred meters.  Most of the mountains are barely climbable as the surface of the steep palagonite mountains is made of small rocks and hard to climb. But those who prepare and dare will enjoy a spectacular view.

Access by car to enjoy the view to Jarlhettur requires a good 4WD car

There are mainly two roads to see Jarlhettur in proximity.  One is to drive from Þingvellir north on the Road Uxahryggjavegur Nr. 550 and take a turn on the rugged mountain road Skjaldbreiðarvegur F338.  On the second part, a few kilometers before you reach Kjalvegur you will have a good view to Jarlhettur in the north.  The second one that will bring you to a proximity of Tröllhetta is to visit Nýifoss waterfall.  

Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Jarlhettur on the map of Iceland

The mountain ridge Jarlhettur, “The Earls Cap" is easily visible from many places and many angles in southern Iceland.


The waterfall Nýifoss or “New waterfall” is actually quite new.  Sometimes referred to as Leynifoss or  The Confidential Waterfall. According to geologists, the waterfall was formed in 1939 when the lake Hagavatna decreased substantially due to the glacial flood coming from under the glacier Langjokull. In the period between 1929 and 1939, the lake Hagavatn changed dramatically, and a part of its eastern side collapsed, burst in the glacial flood and gave way to the water.  Consequently, the water level lowered in the lake and the waterfall Nýifoss was born.  Although Nýifoss is hardly one of our most beautiful waterfalls, it is an interesting one.  Probably because it is quite different than most waterfalls people like to visit.

Different things about Nýifoss compared to many other waterfalls

In addition to being quite, new Nýifoss is located in a sandy gray landscape. A large area around the waterfall and lake Hagavatn is almost without any vegetation.  On the northern side is the southern edge of the glacier Langjökull.  On all other sides is either sand or raw lava.  Because the water is 100% glacial water it is colored with mud, clay, dirt and all kinds of soil that the melting ice carries from under the glacier.  The whole surrounding is like being in a desert or on the moon, but with a lot of water. 

Access is not easy and requires a 4WD of the larger kind

Nýifoss is not far away from Gullfoss, sometimes referred to as Iceland's most spectacular waterfall.  If you continue north on Kjalvegur Nr. 35 from Gullfoss you drive 10 kilometers and you will come to a left turn (west) to Hagavatnsvegur Nr. F35. This road like many F roads in Iceland, mountain roads, require a well equipped 4X4 vehicle. We recommend that you stop in the parking lot in front of the waterfall and walk the last few hundred meters up the track by the waterfall.  There is no point in driving up the steep and difficult part of the track up to the lake.

Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Nýifoss or Leynifoss on the map of Iceland

The waterfall Nýifoss or “New waterfall” is actually quite new.


Driving a well-equipped 4WD vehicle through the Highland when traveling in Iceland is an exciting and probably a once in a lifetime experience for most people. Although a spectacular drive the scenery is quite different from driving the great scenic drive in the West fjords or the in the Eastern Region. The Icelandic Highland is a place where you drive mile after mile or kilometer after kilometer through black sands with a view of gray mountains with limited vegetation.  But fortunately, there are some fascinating places in the Highland that we could label as an oasis that are in striking contrast to the black sands, glaciers, muddy rivers, dusty gravel 4X4 tracks and sandy mountains. One such place is Laugafell in the northern part of the highland road Sprengisandsleið.  

A geothermal pool in the middle of nowhere

At Laugafell you will find one of the many fantastic geothermal pools that are located in the Highland in Iceland. On an island that is relatively young on the geological timeline and basically sits on a magma, it is no surprise to find a warm geothermal pool here and there. The pool in Laugafell is one of the best and most impressive geothermal pools in Iceland. Not surprisingly it draws a lot of visitors to the Highland. The temperature is perfect, and The Touring Club of Akureyri has built a very nice facility to make your visit as wonderful as possible. 

A quarantine for the rich lady from Möðruvellir her people and stock

Unlike many spots and places in the Icelandic Highland Laugafell has been known to Icelanders for centuries.  One reason might be the fairly short distance from the lower inhabited areas north of Laugafell. Another might be the fact that here you find vegetation and warm water.  An old folklore tells the story of a very wealthy woman that moved all her family, servants and stock to Laugafell in the middle of the 14th century to avoid contamination from the severe black death plague.   Apparently, this decision saved everyone as the stayed in a kind of a quarantine while the plague killed over one hundred million people worldwide.

Access to drive to Laugafell is not simple

As the Icelandic highland is only open from the beginning of July until the middle of September, it defines the time you can visit Laugafell.  If you are driving north on F26 Sprengisandsleið, you need to take a turn west on the mountain road F752 and follow that road. If you are in the northern part of Iceland, you drive from Akureyri south on F821 up to the Highland and the road will take you to Laugafell.

Read this important article written by a local expert before you choose a car.

Below is the location of Laugafell on the map of Iceland

Laugafell and the geothermal pool is located at the northern part of Sprengisandur in Iceland

It's already September, and that means that the Highland roads in Iceland are more or less closing down.  Most of the cabins and service on the Highland is also closing, and any service has been terminated. It is the beginning of winter and soon the whole area will be covered with snow.

A mistake many visitors make when traveling in the Icelandic Highland is to hire a small car and to drive it into a river and put themselves in danger when they get stuck in the middle of the stream.
Rental Car in Iceland

Things you need to know before you rent a car in Iceland 

There are three things you need to consider when choosing a rent a car for your travel in Iceland. The roads to the places you intend to visit, the time of year when visiting and the weather. Renting a car and driving around the country is by far the best way to travel in Iceland.  By hiring a car people taking a trip to Iceland can choose a road trip that fits their budget and schedule. This way they have the flexibility and independence required in a country with many natural wonders to explore and admire. With a car and a driving plan, you can always take your time, and you can easily modify and change your route. BUT - there are many things to consider when renting a car in Iceland. It is entirely different to hiring a car in other countries.  So we encourage you to read this article carefully before you rent a car in Iceland. 

The roads

To find a rent a car or car for hire in Iceland is not as simple as finding a car for hire in most other countries.  The main reason is the fact that some of the roads you travel to visit natural wonders and places of interest are often gravel roads, mountain roads or even dirt roads. Keep in mind; there are three kinds of roads in Iceland: Asphalt roads, gravel roads and Highland roads (F roads).

A small rent a car is fine for most roads, during summer

For most of the main roads, a small 2WD car is a good option. It is the cheapest way to drive around Iceland in a car.  A small car like VW Polo or VW Golf, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio or Suzuki Swift that fits four people conveniently (don't forget the space for the luggage you plan to bring). During summer a small car will take you to most of the interesting places, natural wonders and accommodation of your choice. A small car is also fine on the gravel roads during summer, especially if you have a front wheel drive, which most Icelanders prefer. But keep in mind that gravel roads are more demanding to drive and take caution and drive slower than on asphalt roads.  In winter you can also travel the main roads in a small car on roads like the Reykjanes Peninsula drive, the Ring Road, The Snæfellsnes Peninsula drive, The Westfjord drive, and the Golden Circle. But from October until April it is necessary to follow the weather forecast and road conditions before you start your trip, especially if yo are in a small car. If you want to increase your comfort, a midsize car is a better choice during winter, much better and highly recommended for most places and most drives.

Time of year

Driving in Iceland during winter and driving in summer is totally different. For most people living in warmer countries, it is difficult to comprehend that Icelanders change tires on their cars in autumn and spring. Icelanders have “winter tires” and “summer tires.” The reason is the difference in driving conditions. If you have no experience driving in winter, you should consider a private tour with an experienced guide

A larger vehicle is better outside the main roads and during winter

If you decide to travel to places outside the main roads, you are much better off to hire a midsize car, preferably a SUV or a 4WD car like VW Tiguan, Toyota Raf, Dacia Duster, and Suzuki Vitara.  This applies to people that are interested in taking loops and exploring places outside the main road.  People that want to visit places like Mjóifjörður, Látrabjarg in the West Fjords, Rauðisandur in the West Fjords, the Vatnsnes Peninsula or some of the waterfalls natural wonders that are not near the main road.  The roads outside the main roads are most often gravel roads, go over steep mountain passes and conditions change in rain and snow. For those roads, a vehicle with more space and larger tires is much better for your comfort and security. This is especially important during winter.

The weather

The weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Even though we have a great Met Office in Iceland weather can change rapidly in a short period at your location, often contradicting the Met Office forecast. You can also plan to visit a specific area when planning a trip to Iceland, but when you are on your way or arrive the conditions are not particularly inviting. This applies to all seasons but most definitely in winter.

A 4WD is mandatory for the Highland roads in Iceland

A small car will not get you to the Highland if you choose to travel to the exotic part of the country.  The Highland requires a 4WD vehicle, but keep in mind that the Highland is only open from the beginning of July until the middle of September. Most of the roads in the Icelandic Highland are challenging and rough gravel roads often with many rivers to cross.  No one should enter a Highland Road in a small car or a midsize car or a car  that doesn't have a 4WD.  It is simply dangerous, irresponsible and can severely damage the vehicle and even ruin it if stuck in a river that can lead to a cost far exceeding the total cost of a trip to Iceland for the whole family.  If a water is sucked into the air intake of a car the engine is ruined. Not to mention the panic and consequences of being stuck in a small car in the middle of a strong stream or a river. In Iceland to many tourists have lost their lives in such circumstances, the last incident was in September 2018 when a young woman drowned in a river in Þórsmörk.  Keep that in mind when you select a car for the Highland. No insurance company in Iceland covers a drive crossing a river. It can also be dangerous as a 2WD and a small 4WD, or even a midsize 4WD car can easily become stuck on a difficult road in the Highland. Few Icelanders would ever take such a risk based on their knowledge about the Highland.  Not to mention the danger to the passengers. But for the Highland roads a 4WD only is not always enough. For many rugged roads and tracks in the Highland a large and well-equipped 4WD / 4X4 vehicle is required.  For these roads, a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Hilux, Land Rover, or a similar vehicle is highly recommended for your convenience and security.

Keep this list in mind when traveling in a rent a car in Iceland

  • There are three kinds of roads: Asphalt, gravel and mountain roads (F) 
  • Iceland is a small island and distance between places usually short
  • Almost all of the roads are narrow two-way roads - THERE ARE NO FREEWAYS IN ICELAND
  • Reduce speed considerably when driving over a one lane bridge (there are many such bridges everywhere).
  • Don't stop on a road shoulder or the middle of the road to take photos
  • The speed limit is 90 KM/hr on main asphalt roads
  • The speed limit in Reykjavík and towns is 50KM/hrs
  • The speed limit in residential areas in Reykjavík and all towns and villages is 30KM/hrs
  • The restrictions on alcohol consumption for drivers are at 0.5 promille, like in most other European countries
  • 4X4 cars are both safer and easier to drive during winter
  • There are plenty of gas stations around the country in all towns and villages
  • A larger 4X4 is required on highland roads the F roads
  • Always check road conditions here, especially during winter
  • Cellular phone connections are good on most roads and around the country
  • Never try to cross rivers on a small 4X4 car
  • There are towns and villages almost everywhere around the coastline on the RIng Road
  • Watch for sheeps on the roads (specially in spring and early summer)
  • Pick the rent a car up at the International Airport in Keflavík
  • Fuel prices are more or less the same around the country
  • Emergency help is available almost everywhere in Iceland
  • When conditions are unsecure (snow, snowdrift, slippery, bad visibility) don't hesitate to drive slower at a comfort level where you feel in controlIn a situation like that remember to slow down, give a right indicator light (blinker) when it is secure for the cars behind you to pass.  Avoid holding down the traffic as other drivers might understand the conditions differently. 

The Car Rental site we use and recommend

Iceland is a small island that has only one International Airport.  Keflavík Airport (KEF) in the city of Keflavik is the place where almost all visitors arrive.  It is the best place to pick up your car and most of the rent a car companies deliver their cars at Keflavík airport.  There are many rent a car companies in Iceland and the airport is a good place to find a car that fits for your tour.  If you want to have everything ready when you arrive you should rent a car online.  This site lets you quickly compare prices from a number of rent a car firms, find an excellent price for a rent a car that fits your tour and season you plan to visit Iceland, both international firms and local firms, and save you a lot of time on internet search. In the process you can add things you need in addition like a child seat, navigation and additional driver.

Make sure you choose the right rent a car for the right season when you hire a car in Iceland

 Ht Iceland rental car reference Chart