Bareways, the personalized navigation service, has been starting a series about adventurers who love to discover foreign and hidden places with their vehicles beyond urban mobility. They are telling about their experiences on their trips and their lives.
This story is about traveling to Iceland. Bareways, Lisa shares her Iceland experiences – learn which is the best car to rent, not to get stuck! Plus find two awesome routes to drive.
If I hear Iceland, the image that comes into my mind is icy mountains in the background and a mossy open landscape with its beautiful Iceland horses and its impressive geysers. I have never been there, but it’s on my bucket list.
Iceland horses having fun.
My colleague Lisa is an Iceland expert. She has been there twice, and if she goes on a trip, you can be sure that she is informed and prepared.
Lisa is one of the first employees of Bareways. She is our Senior Software Engineer and is responsible for acquiring, collecting, and saving all data regarding traffic, weather, and maps. For this reason, it’s no wonder that Lisa traced her trips. We are lucky because she will share her experiences with us, especially those she would love to have known in advance.
Lisa in front of Hrafnabjargarfoss.
When is the best time to travel to Iceland?
Do you love to be in the countryside with wild nature and without many people? Then Iceland is the perfect destination for you. From Lisa’s view, the best time to visit Iceland is in June or October.
The difference between these months is: In June you have daylight 24 hours. That means you have doubled the time to visit Iceland because you never get tired ;-)! In October, you have the chance to see the beautiful northern lights. To check out where and when you can find northern lights, you can use the app Aurora Forecast.
Aurora over bad roads.
If you go in June or October, there is always a chance for a small rain shower. In June you can wear a T-Shirt. In October, during the day, a sweater is fine. If you want to watch the northern lights at night, you should wrap yourself with a thicker coat.
Severe weather conditions can occur in Iceland in all seasons. For this reason, it always makes sense to check the weather forecast.
How to come to Iceland, and where do I sleep?
You can easily fly to Iceland. The majority of travelers go through Keflavík Airport (KEF), Iceland’s largest international airport. Some other small airports like Ísafjörður, Egilsstaðir, Akureyri, and the Reykjavík Domestic Airport host international flights as well. Here you can find a list of the international flight times and airlines to Iceland.
It makes sense to book the flight for some months in advance to save money.
It’s also possible to take the ferry. One leaves from Denmark, and the transit takes approximately 36-38 hours. Here you can find a ferry route.
Regarding the accommodation, Lisa booked the hotel rooms in advance as well. In this way, you can check out the recommendations. There are a lot of offerings that only include a collective bathroom.
Flight per person
|250 € (booked six months in advance)
Hamburg (Germany) – Reykjavík (direct flight)
|400 € per person (booked two weeks before)
Hamburg (Germany) – Reykjavík (direct flight)
|Hotel (double room)||Approx 125 € per night incl. own bathroom||97 € per night incl. own bathroom|
Some people prefer to rent a van to sleep in instead of booking a hotel room. Please check out the camping rules.
Do you plan to go wild camping in a van or a tent because you heard about the “Right to roam” (Icelandic: Almannaréttur)? Since 2015 there are new rules to protect nature. Better you are aware of them to avoid high fines.
How expensive is Iceland?
Iceland is quite expensive from a German point of view, except you want to shop nice warm Iceland wool ware. If you plan to drink a lot of alcohol on your trip, you may be bankrupt afterward. Furthermore, you should have everything with you. Lisa noticed her broken hiking boots too late and needed to go to one of the bigger cities to find a shop for hiking stuff. There are not many shopping possibilities in smaller villages. Shopping in Iceland is as unfavorable as getting drunk.
Do I need to rent a car and what kind of?
If you want to discover the rough nature of Iceland, independent and flexible, it’s highly recommended to rent a car during your stay. It’s a great adventure!
One excellent tip of Lisa is: “Don’t underestimate the travel time of the routes! Most navigation systems don’t calculate how bad or difficult to pass many of Iceland’s roads are. For a distance of 90 km, I just planned one hour, but we needed to drive often at 20 km/h and needed 3 hours. On most roads in Iceland, you are restricted to drive 90 km/h, but in the end, it depends on the conditions. In the future, I will use our Bareways App that will take weather, all kinds of road surfaces, and altitudes into account. It will give you the perfect route for the vehicle you are going to rent. You can enter what type of vehicle you drive. If you have a lowered vehicle, the App will not send you through bumpy roads. The App will warn you also if there are areas that are restricted to pass.”
A road in Vatsnes is in such a bad condition that the residents ask tourists for help to post about it under the hashtag #road711 (Bareways map | Point of interest 1).
When Lisa rented a 4×4 car, she realized that the Icelandic rules didn’t allow her to drive with it off-road. Any off-road driving in Iceland is illegal because it damages the delicate nature and is punishable by high fines. Driving on highland tracks is not considered to be driving off-road. For that reason, if you don’t want to drive in the highlands or visit Iceland in summer, a “normal” car is adequate. Some people rent a van. Please check out the camping rules.
Better rent 4×4 for the highlands
If you want to go to the highlands, it makes sense to rent a vehicle with an all-wheel-drive (4×4). Only 4×4 vehicles (no 2wd or 4wd) are allowed to drive in the highlands. The insurance will not cover any damages if you try it anyway.
Be aware of the fact that the passage through the mountains is, most of the time, difficult to pass because of heavy snow. There is no winter service available. Check it before going there! To see updated information about which roads are open and their condition at any given time, visit road.is or download the Bareways App (available from Q2 2021).
Lisa rented a 4×4 vehicle and wanted to drive there. The standard navigation systems sent her through the highlands, and then she stood in front of closed barriers. Again a fail, which will not happen with the Bareways App.
|Lisa’s rented cars||June
|Suzuki Jimny 4×4||600 € for 7 days (avg. 86 € / day)|
|Dacia Duster (4×4)||499 € for 8 days (avg. 63 € / day)|
The most common incidents when driving in Iceland, you should be aware of, are:
- Meeting livestock (mainly sheep) on the road
- Losing road grip when going from asphalt to gravel roads
- Veering off the pavement
- Heavy winds 15 m/s
- Crossing unbridged rivers
- Undue damage to tires and wheels by undetected flat
What languages do they speak in Iceland?
The official language of Iceland Is Icelandic. English is taught as a second language, and almost every Icelander speaks the language fluently.
What to see?
Lisa loves to take photographs of open landscapes and untouched nature. See her recommended points of interest below the Bareways maps.
We have drawn their two tours on the Iceland map.
Orange: Lisa’s South-West Route in June
Petrol: Lisa’s North Route in October
Bareways map of Iceland
Points of Interest
A road in Vatnsnes is in such a bad condition that the residents ask tourists for help by posting about it under the hashtag #road711
You can have a walk behind the waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. Take a rain jacket with you; it’s getting wet.
People tell that the waterfall Dynjandi was the first place where the Viking Hrafna-Floki, who named Iceland, came to shore.
The most famous beach of Iceland, Reynisfjara, with its black volcanic sands and unique rock formations, looks magical.
Banana plantation in Reykir
Banana plantation in Reykir operated by the Icelandic Agricultural University: Fun fact! Iceland probably has Europe‘s largest banana plantation.
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon: Magical icebergs in a blue lagoon that are popular in the film industry. It’s the scenery of the James Bond movie “Die Another Day” among others.
Watching puffins: Over half of the world’s population of the Atlantic Puffin breeds in Iceland on Vestmannaeyjar islands. It’s fun to watch the cute birds who look similar to parrots.
Shark meat museum
The shark meat museum: The farmstead at Bjarnarhöfn is the region’s leading producer of hákarl (fermented shark meat), a traditional Icelandic dish.
The Dettifoss waterfall is known from the movie Prometheus. It is the biggest waterfall in the northeast of Iceland. The combination of volume flow and height of fall, just before the Rhine Falls, makes it the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
Photos by Lisa Pawlows