Roads in Iceland

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Roads in Iceland
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Roads in Iceland

A large portion of Iceland’s road system is made up of gravel roads, even some the main highways, and more so as you get further away from the Reykjavik and larger towns. The main highway around Iceland, Route 1, circles Iceland in 1428 kilometers of which 272km is dirt road. Most of the population lives in or around Reykjavik so the further you get from the capital the less traffic. On gravel roads you may encounter stretches with potholes or “washboards” and occasionally some sand but mostly the roads are a good ride. Off road driving is prohibited because the soil and vegetation is very sensitive to all traffic. Even hikers can cause permanent damage to the land, which may recover only slowly or not at all. The Public Roads Administration has a website with maps on current road conditions including the interior highlands and weather conditions on certain mountain roads etc.
The Interior Highlands

The mountain roads across the interior highlands are closed until late June. They are rough, with lots of steep hills and unbridged rivers. In the interior there are no shops so you must bring enough food. The Touring Club of Iceland (Ferðafélag Íslands) is the biggest travel-association in Iceland and it runs shelters or huts in 34 places in the Icelandic interior. They are often full, need to be booked long in advance and accommodation is not guaranteed. Some areas are protected areas where your must camp at designated campsites. Elsewhere you can rough camp almost anywhere except on private land, provided you don’t leave any marks or litter. Ask permission if you think the spot is privately owned.

Most rivers are unbridged and at over 40 fords, notices have been put up with instructions on how to ford rivers. Be sure to assess the current, depth and the nature of the riverbed before fording a river. If a river looks dangerous to cross, it probably is and if you are traveling by yourself you should wait for someone who could keep an eye out and help you or get help if you run into trouble. Glacial rivers swell as the day goes on.

Check the weather forecast before heading into the interior highlands and every day while there. The weather can change very suddenly. You should also ask the wardens in the huts, and others, about conditions ahead. Sometimes rivers flood and bridges and roads are closed. In most areas you will find small rivers with fresh spring water every few hours but in certain areas you may have to load up on water for two days.

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