Driving in Iceland during winter: 5 things to watch out for!

Ah, welcome November! It is finally winter!. 

This post is written on Sunday, November 4th. I have just returned from an awesome Iceland road trip and I am already in my warm bed – recovering from the freezing cold Icelandic winter. The snow is here, so its time for some great tips for driving in Iceland during winter.

The winter is such a magical time to be in Iceland. There is nothing quite like it. And I feel like it hit us so suddenly and without a warning this year. One day I woke up and the atmosphere was just freezing – and I could see mount Esja from my kitchen window wearing a snowy white hat.

Driving in Iceland during winter

My favorite part about Iceland during the winter is that everything is somehow more calm and beautiful. And when everything is covered with snow, it’s like nothing else. Also good for you to know, when visiting Iceland during winter, there will be a lot fewer tourists and prices are better!

The best way to explore Iceland – and all it’s beauty – is via your own car. Where you can go further than any tour, experience hidden gems that no tour bus can access and control exactly when you go and how long you stay.

But it can get tricky to drive in Iceland during the cold winter months. Therefore, I wanted to write this short little post with a few essential local recommendations. Tips that I believe you should keep in mind and watch out for during your very own, awesome Icelandic road trip.

Driving in Iceland during winter: Watch out for slippery roads.

Picutre of a snowy road to be carefull on when driving in iceland during winter

BE CAREFUL … but don’t let it stop you!

During winter the roads around Iceland become icy, especially in the highlands. In October and November, the roads are not slippery or snowy all the time but that is the tricky part. Very often the roads are only icy in certain spots – or they don’t look like they are covered in ice at all … and you won’t notice it until it’s too late.

Therefore, you should be very careful at all times when driving in Iceland during winter.

But here are the good news; During winter, all of our cars are equipped with special studs that protect you from sliding on icy roads. This makes a world of difference. Furthermore, you should watch out for the thermometer in your car and if the temperature is above 2°C, you should be just fine. Anything below 2°C and you should be alert since it’s quite possible that the roads are icy.

Note that locals normally drive much slower & more carefully during winter for these reasons. I’d, of course, recommend you to do the same.

Driving in Iceland during winter: Watch out for sudden changes in weather.

Sudden changes in wather when driving in iceland during winter

The Icelandic weather is known for being anything but predictable!

Therefore, most Icelanders check the local weather forecast at least 3-4 times every day. Since it’s highly likely that the afternoon forecast is going to be significantly different than the one in the morning news!

You have nothing to worry about, just keep updated by following safetravel.is, the official source for safe adventure in Iceland.

Another very good website is www.road.is which show live conditions of the roads in Iceland. You should definitely bookmark it if you are going to drive around during winter.

Driving in Iceland during winter: Watch out for shorter days.

shorter days while driving in Iceland during winter

In case you didn’t know – there are dramatic differences in daylight in Iceland if you compare summer and. winter. The 21st. of June, for example, is the longest day of the year in Iceland where the sun doesn’t set at all. With 24 hours of daylight. While on the other hand, the 21st. of December is usually the shortest day of the year with only approx. 4 hours of daylight from 11 am – 4 pm. And it doesn’t even get fully bright during these hours. Yup, you read that correctly.

Therefore, when driving in Iceland during winter, make sure to look up how much daylight you’ve got during your stay to plan your trip accordingly. There is nothing wrong with driving in the dark but you might want to plan your trip so that you are exploring the most magnificent attractions in daylight.

Here is a good website to examine daylight hours for any given dates in Iceland.

Driving in Iceland during winter: Watch out on long hikes.

Watch out on long hikes when driving around iceland during winter


I wanted to bring this up to hopefully avoid some unnecessary accidents. IF you decide to hike in Iceland during winter, do not do it alone and please make sure to check both the local weather forecast and daylight hours.

For 90% of the time, it’s perfectly OK to hike and I myself do it frequently all year round. However, we have unfortunately been seeing an increase in accidents over the last years and usually, it is when travelers head out without preparing properly. Leaving just before it gets dark or after a storm warning has been issued etc.

Driving in Iceland during winter: Don’t get lost.

snowy surroundings when driving in Iceland during winter

If you plan to leave Reykjavik and explore the best of Icelandic nature. Make sure to rent your car with GPS so that you will always make it from A-Z safe & sound.

Specially after dark it can be easy to get lost so I believe it is very important to have a GPS system to guide you. I always use one myself, even though I have been on most of these roads a thousand times before. Just in case and then I have nothing to worry about. I recommend you to do the same!

Alrighty! Are you pumped up for your Iceland road trip already? I hope I didn’t scare you with any of these. After all, Iceland can be a total winter paradise, perfect to explore on your own pace. I just wanted to bring up my concerns so that you are better prepared for an awesome (and safe) Iceland road trip experience.

I wish you happy planning and even happier exploring … maybe I’ll see you on the road!

-Egill & your friends at the Lagoon Car rental team.