Thinking of planning a road trip in Iceland and wondering whether the F-Roads are worth a go? Well, this will depend on a variety of different factors. You’ll need to first consider those you are traveling with and each of your unique expectations for the trip. Secondly, you should think about how long you are staying and what kind of vehicle and roads you’d be most comfortable driving.
This is because driving Iceland’s notorious F-Roads can be a very challenging experience, especially in certain weather conditions. While some drivers may thrive in these situations behind the wheel, others will likely find it all a bit too stressful. If you’re of the latter group, then there’s really no need to put added pressure on yourself.
However, if you’re in the former camp, then hold tight. There are many future adventures to be had! In this article, we will take a good look at all the pros and cons of driving the Iceland F-Roads. This should armor you with all the knowledge you need to decide if you’re up for the challenge. We’ll be covering the following:
- What exactly are the Iceland F Roads?
- Driving on F Roads
- What attractions are there on the F Roads of Iceland?
- Seeing Iceland without F Roads
What are the Iceland F Roads?
One look at a map of the Icelandic road network, and you’re sure to see plentiful amounts of empty space. Since Iceland is a wonderfully wild country with huge areas of untouched landscapes, there are vast glaciers and endless volcanic fields, all with zero road access. There’s no doubt that this is what makes traveling to Iceland an exciting, and equally daring expedition.
As you further examine the map, you’ll notice that most of the roads loop around the coast, getting gradually busier in the south with tangles of roads around the larger towns and cities. Let your eye stray to the interior section of the country, and you’ll see a few lonely ribbons of road. These are Iceland’s F-Roads. F-Roads are rough, tarmac-free roads that take adventurous drivers way up into the highlands. They are characterized by loose gravel, steep drop-offs and some potentially wild river crossings. But bear in mind, when we say river crossings, we don’t mean bridges. If you do end up using the F-Roads, there's a high chance that you’ll need to ford a river or two.
F-Roads are mostly found in the Central and Southern Highlands of Iceland, and can only be driven during the peak summer months, from June through August. However, even at this time of year, there is the potential of closing if it gets too stormy or the rivers swell dangerously.
Driving the F Roads of Iceland
Because of the nature of F-Roads, visitors can only tackle them using a 4×4 vehicle. So, if you’d really like to commit to the experience, you’ll need to hire a 4x4 car or SUV. But if just the thought of this sends ripples of sweat down your spine, then perhaps it’s best to think again.
To drive the F-Roads, it’s crucial that you are a confident driver with plenty of experience and are also well-prepared for the journey. Make sure that you have checked the weather forecast vigilantly before setting off, and only do so if you have a clear window of settled weather. After all, one of the biggest pieces of advice for F-road travelers is that they must always be open to rescheduling.
To be extra safe, inform someone of your driving plans so your location is known. When it comes to packing your vehicle, take plenty of snacks, water bottles, blankets, outdoor gear, and a fully-charged phone with a reliable charger. Of course, it goes without saying that you should fill your gas tank up to the brim before taking off. If you happen to prefer the extra space and versatility that a camper can provide, you could easily hire a proper 4 x 4 vehicle on a day or two-day hire. Having said that, there aren’t campsites along the F-Road routes, so most journeys will need to be completed in a day anyway.
What attractions are there on the F Roads of Iceland?
With its superlative landscapes and wide-open spaces, cruising along Iceland’s roads is a real joy. The F-Road routes are no exception, easily making up some of Iceland’s most epic drives. The best part? There is never-ending beauty begging to be discovered. Here are some of our top picks for spectacular sights along the F-roads.
The Central Highlands route
As you drive across the Central Highlands, you’ll be making your way through a vast and barren landscape. You’re likely to find yourself struck by its stark beauty and otherworldly vistas, which are all visible from the window of your car. In addition to this, there are plenty of places that you’ll want to stop at to admire fully. This is the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs while appreciating nature’s indescribable wonders.
Hveradalir is an area of steaming geothermal activity and it is truly stunning. Here, red mountains frame a scene of gurgling mud pots and steaming vents. Be sure to make a pit stop and take a stroll along the hiking paths.
Nearby you will find the snow-capped Kerlingarfjöll Mountains which also offer excellent hiking experiences. About an hour further north you’ll come to another geothermal area known as Hveravellir. Bring your bathing suit with you this time, as there is a hot spring pool to hop in after you’ve finished exploring.
Askja and Viti volcanic craters
Only opt for this road trip if you are ready for a real adventure. It requires a three-hour drive along some pretty tricky roads, and the landscapes are barren and inhospitable. You’ll be fording rivers and making your way across rugged lava fields like it’s your job.
If you do decide to go, you’ll be greeted with not one but two volcanic crater lakes. Their turquoise waters stand out sharply against the grey and black volcanic rock that surrounds them. The bottom line: this is an epic journey to an incredible place, but not one for the fainthearted.
The Southern Highlands
There are sections of the Southern Highlands that are simple to access, but the further you venture in, the trickier the road conditions become.
Landmannalaugar is one of the easiest areas to get to and can easily be visited on a daytrip. A popular place to spend a full day hiking and soaking in natural hot springs, its name translates roughly to ‘Pools of the People’- how appropriate!
The mountains here are painted a surprising array of colors from their layers of mineral content. You’ll see swathes of orange, rust, yellow and even greens and blues. It’s a very photogenic place with many beautiful views to admire, but the balmy hot springs provide the cherry on top.
Iceland without F Roads
So, by now it should be easy to see that driving on Iceland's F-Roads is both exciting and rewarding, but it isn’t for everyone. However, don’t worry if you decide to opt out, as Iceland is not short on gorgeous sights and incredible natural landscapes. Not to mention so many of them are easily accessible from the Ring Road with its blissfully smooth road surface.
If it’s your first time visiting Iceland, then you’ll have plenty to explore without adding F-Roads to the mix. Likewise, if you are short on time then choosing a more compact route on paved roads is likely best. There’s also the seasonality of the F-Roads to consider. If you visit at any time outside of the summer months, then they won’t be available to you anyway.
But for those intrepid souls that have the time and inclination to push a little further, Iceland’s highland F-Roads most certainly won’t disappoint. Just don't forget to check out your 4x4 car rental options before putting the pedal to the metal!