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Winter driving in Iceland: How to stay safe and enjoy the views

Planning a winter driving adventure in Iceland has its benefits. Fewer people, more freedom, and stunning winter wonderland scenery. Not to mention a really strong chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

But alongside the empty roads and ice caves, there are some key winter driving considerations. Driving in Iceland in winter requires more planning; you can’t just wing it.

The weather and road conditions make winter driving in Iceland more hazardous. Some roads and regions may be out of bounds. And you won’t experience the midnight sun.

With this in mind, we’ve put together this quick guide to keep you safe along the way.

What to pack when driving in Iceland in winter

Icelandic winters see some really harsh weather conditions. Expect rain, snow, storms and wind. The trick is to be prepared. If you are hiring a car in Iceland in winter, some items will come with your vehicle. Check what else you need before you set off.

Items you need when driving in Iceland in winter include:

  • Spare tire
  • Paper map
  • Snow/ice scraper and snow shovel
  • Road flares, warning triangle, safety vests
  • Strong rope
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Torch and batteries
  • First aid kit

Tips to stay safe when driving in Iceland in winter

Even if you are used to snowy, icy winters, it’s likely driving in Iceland in winter will be unlike anything you’ve experienced at home. If you are planning an Iceland winter driving trip between October and April, here are some tips to keep you safe.

  1. Hire a 4x4 vehicle rental
    A 4WD is a must in winter. They are heavier, have good clearance, and are equipped to handle harsh conditions. Go for the biggest vehicle you can afford, book in advance, and always rent from a reputable car hire company.
  2. Winter tires
    Winter tires reduce the risks associated with driving in Iceland in winter. All rental vehicles in Iceland are required to have studded tires in winter.
  3. Check conditions
    Icelandic weather can change quickly, so keep an eye on conditions regularly over the course of the day. You can check weather at and road conditions at
  4. Keep your phone charged
    If you get into trouble, you’re going to need to call 112. And taking videos on your phone drains the battery. Set off with a fully-charged phone battery (plus a spare).
  5. Keep your tank full
    Away from towns, gas stations can be spread out, so keep your tank topped up.
  6. Stick to main roads
    To stay safe while driving in Iceland in winter, stick to the main roads. Winter is not the time to get off the beaten track. Stick to the speed limit and familiarize yourself with road signs before you set off.
    At MyCar, we have a range of 4x4s, including the Toyota Corolla Cross, Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Land Cruiser. Find the right 4WD for your next Icelandic winter driving adventure.