When deciding to rent a camper for an Iceland road trip, one of the best things is getting to plan your itinerary. Should you stick to the Ring Road or venture further out to zones like the Westfjords? And what about the country’s Highlands? If you’ve been researching where to drive, you've no doubt read about F-roads in Iceland.
But what is there to know about Iceland’s F-roads? Are they difficult to navigate in a campervan? And how close are they to Route 1 in Iceland? We’ve got all the information you need, including the F-roads opening dates and closing dates, and an Iceland F-roads map.
Simply put, they are mountain roads. You’ll find them mostly in the interior of the island, surrounded by Iceland Highway 1. There are also parts of the Westfjords, the Eastfjords, and the Snaefellsnes peninsula that has one or two of these special gravel roads. You need a specific type of vehicle to access them, so it’s important to know whether or not you are heading towards one.
An Iceland F-road sign looks just like a regular road sign, except that it has the letter F in front of the road number. F stands for “fjalla”, which means “mountain” in Icelandic. When driving in Iceland, you’ll see these yellow signs that indicate whether or not you are driving on Iceland F-roads. So for example, F35 is the famous Kjölur Highland interior route. This one is actually a bit confusing, there is a section before Gulffoss waterfall called Road 35, you can drive with a 2WD vehicle here. But from Gullfoss on, the road becomes an F-Road F-35, you then need a 4x4 from this point forward.
If you’re curious to see exactly where Iceland’s Highland F-roads are located, you’re in luck. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration created special brochures for travelers about driving safety and our famous mountain roads. One of the travel guides includes a map of Iceland F-roads, which we’ve included below. As you can see, the majority of them are concentrated in the middle of the island, which is our wild, unspoiled backcountry. I suggest visiting their website to view their safety resources for travelers and to download the Iceland Highland F-roads map.
The road conditions you will encounter when driving F-roads in Iceland are not what you would normally find. These are unpaved, gravel roads, which means you’ll definitely feel like you are getting away from civilization. This is especially true when you throw stunning volcanic landscapes and sweeping moss-covered hills into the mix.
Because these are not your traditional paved highways, you need to make sure you have a 4x4 campervan rental. It’s not only my advice, but it’s also the law. Luckily there are several camper models suitable for Iceland F-roads. The Mercedes Marco Polo 4x4, VW Calfornia 4x4, and VW Crafter 4x4 all have a four-wheel drive. You can combine the free-spirited fun of a camper road trip and the off-the-beaten-path adventures of exploring the Highlands.
To answer any doubts still lingering in your mind, you can absolutely drive a camper on F-roads. Just make sure it has a 4WD transmission and be very careful when you come to river crossings. And as always, practice caution and good sense when deciding where to drive in Iceland.
If you plan on heading into our untamed backcountry, it’s essential to know when Iceland F-roads open for the summer. They're not open all year long. Unfortunately, due to melting snow and constantly changing road conditions, it’s not safe to drive on Highland roads outside of a designated period. The road safety authorities inspect each road individually to determine when they are safe to use. This means that they don’t all open at the same time.
Motorists start gaining access during the first weeks of June, by the beginning of July they are all pretty much open. They stay this way through August, and then once again they become inaccessible. Iceland F-roads are closed from September through May, so don’t plan your trip during this time if you want to visit the Highlands extensively. But if you're looking for things to do in summer, heading inland is a great option.
A common misconception among travelers is that there are F-road on the Golden Circle. If you’d like to do a self-drive tour of the Golden Circle sightseeing route, you don’t need to worry about F-roads. The three main sights along the circuit, Thingvellir National Park, the Haukadalur geothermal valley geysers, and Gullfoss waterfall, are all on regular roads. You can take this as a day trip from Reykjavik in a normal campervan without any issue. Additional stops like Bruarfoss waterfall, Kerið Crater Lake, and Sólheimar Ecovillage are also close to main roads.
These gravel roads in Iceland give you the chance to experience something that not every traveler gets to. We consider our land to be a national treasure, and the Icelandic Highlands are a particular source of pride. F-roads grant access to this savage territory and let you feel like you’re getting lost in the wilderness.
Just remember to stay on the marked paths. Even though you might not see it, much of Iceland's flora is quite fragile. If it gets destroyed by careless offroading, it can take hundreds of years to grow back. Please respect nature when you’re behind the wheel in the hills of Iceland.