If you want to go to the highlands of Iceland with a normal rental car you have to consider some points. Not with every four-wheel drive car you can drive on every road in the highlands. Also a real off-road vehicle, with which you could also drive really tough F-roads, are unfortunately very expensive in Iceland. But there are also some highland roads that you can drive with a normal SUV 4x4 vehicle, such as a Dacia Duster.We did a lot of research to find the most beautiful and easy to drive roads through the highlands. For some it is clear that they are passable, for some it depends very much on the current weather conditions. And for some of them it is for sure that you will not be able to drive on them.We summarized the most beautiful highland roads in Iceland, which you can drive with a normal four-wheel drive rental car. If you still need a rental car for Iceland, check out what we think is the best rental car company, Northbound*.

Highland roads in Iceland

Highland in Iceland means the area that is located in the middle of the country and can only be reached via so-called F-Roads. F-Roads are almost without exception unpaved roads with potholes, sand, dirt and sharp stones. Most of the time there are also rivers to cross.These are rivers or brooks, which one must drive through (ford). In most cases there are no bridges over these rivers. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads Some highland roads would theoretically be passable with normal rental cars (2wd), although this is of course prohibited. Many F-roads can only be traversed with 4x4 drive off-road vehicles due to very severe road conditions, rivers that have to be forded and unpaved tracks.Some F-roads, however, can only be traversed with real super jeeps, which you can’t even rent yourself. So you see, there is quite a wide range. If you want to drive the most beautiful highland roads in Iceland but you only have a normal SUV, then you can look forward to our list of F-roads, which can also be driven with a simple SUV like the Dacia Duster.

When are the highland roads passable?

Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-RoadsIt is also important to know when the highland roads (F-Roads) are passable. They open in early summer and close again in autumn. But this is different for every road and every year. If you want to be sure that all highland roads are open, then you should travel to Iceland in late July / early August.Please note: Driving on closed highland roads in Iceland is forbidden and highly dangerous! You can find more information on the Icelandic website road.is.

What makes some highland roads so difficult to pass?

The reason why some F-Roads are very difficult to drive on with normal SUVs is actually always the same: Water! Potholes or extremely bumpy roads are not the reason why you can’t drive on many F-roads, but creeks, rivers and watercourses.There are many of these in the highlands of Iceland and in most cases they cannot be crossed with bridges, but you have to drive through the rivers, i.e. ford them.

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The range goes from larger puddles to raging rivers, which can be up to one meter (or more) deep. Even with a real off-road vehicle, the danger of drowning is very high. Therefore, with a normal SUV like the Dacia Duster, you can only drive on highland roads that have a maximum water depth of 40-50cm.Since this can change daily, you should walk through the water or turn back before you take a risk. Because most of the insurances in Iceland do not cover damages in Iceland. Only one rental car company offers a river insurance. You can find out which one in our Iceland car rental guide.

Which rental car for the highlands in Iceland?

It is extremely important to find the right rental car for Iceland’s highlands. There are enormous differences, both in the off-road capability and in the price. With no rental car, no matter how expensive, you can really drive all F-Roads in Iceland. So it is important to find a good compromise here.How to find the right rental car for your Iceland round trip, we tell you our Iceland rental car guide: If you want to rent the cheapest car for the highlands, we have a quick tip for you.

The cheapest 4wd rental cars for Iceland’s highlands

The cheapest SUVs for Iceland are SUVs like the Dacia Duster and the Suzuki Jimny, which you can rent in Iceland at any rental agency. You can see them in Iceland, and also in the highlands, simply at every corner.After driving the Dacia Duster around Iceland for almost a month, we can say that the Duster is a really good car. And even in the highlands it always took us where we wanted to go.No matter if it was a murderous gravel road, a river to cross or a steep uphill. The Dacia is for us the perfect compromise between cheap and good and we can recommend it unconditionally. Read more about it in our rental car guide for Iceland. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads

Where to book a rental car in Iceland?

Car Rental at the Iceland specialist with years of know-how:

Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads Northbound.is

  • compares all Icelandic car rental providers
  • specialized in Iceland roundtrips and the highlands
  • specialized insurances for the rough Iceland available
  • free cancellation up to 48h before start of rental period
  • normal rental cars, campervans, motorhomes, SUV (also with roof tent) & off-road vehicles available

Iceland car hire at northbound.is*

Which F-roads with Dacia Duster and Co?

When planning our Iceland road trip, we made sure to include as many highland roads as possible in our itinerary, in addition to the ring road. Often it is not easy to find out if F-Roads are passable with a normal SUV. We have done a lot of research and tell you here the most beautiful highland roads in Iceland that are passable with a normal all-terrain vehicle.

Pakgil

  • passable with SUV? In any case
  • Difficulty of the route: easy
  • are there fords? no
Þakgil is a road of only 15 kilometers near Vik and leads you from the ring road in the south to the campsite of the same name, which is idyllically located in a gorge.But even if you don’t want to spend the night here, you should drive this road, because the track to Þakgil(sometimes spelled Pakgil) is one of the dream roads of Iceland. You’re not quite in the highlands of Iceland yet, but it certainly feels like it. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads You drive over partly very adventurous tracks. It goes up and down, winding past narrow rock faces and in the distance you can see pointed volcanic rock glistening black in the sun. Often the ground is very uneven and you drive over very sharp rocks. Sometimes you can only drive at walking speed. In the descriptions on the Internet we have read names like “the valley of Mordor” or “the valley of the trolls and elves” to this gorge.This sounds very funny, but it comes very close to reality. It is really incredibly beautiful here. If you want to know more about this route, then read our travel report to Pakgil:

Laki crater (F206, F207)

  • passable with SUV? yes
  • Difficulty of the route: difficult
  • are there fords? yes, very many
The Laki craters in the highlands of Iceland are one of the top sights on a road trip through Iceland. The craters, which were formed during a volcanic eruption in the 18th century, should not be missed on an Iceland road trip. And no matter if you conquer the Laki craters on an organized tour or like us on your own with an off-road rental car, they are definitely worth a trip.The Laki craters are named after Laki Mountain, which is located in the middle of the row of craters. The craters themselves were formed during one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. The eruption started on June 8, 1783 and continued until February 1784, forming a new volcano every few weeks in the row of Laki volcanoes and spewing lava.
Laki Furt
Laki crater ford
The route to the crater is really beautiful and is rewarded at the end with a great hike up Laki mountain. There are more hikes nearby and of course the return trip via the F207 is again a highlight with great fords and adventurous tracks. Read more about the exciting drive to the Laki craters in our blog post:

F208 (south) | Landmannalaugar

  • passable with SUV? very likely
  • Difficulty of the route: medium
  • are there fords? yes, some
Landmannalaugar is located in the highlands of Iceland and will be one of the top highlights on your road trip through Iceland. Landmannalaugar should definitely be on your itinerary, because just getting there is beautiful. In Landmannalaugar you can hike as much as you like, enjoy the beautiful landscape and bathe in a natural hot spring.Landmannalaugar is a wonderland of rainbow colored mountains, black lava fields and hot springs. Landmannalaugar is located in the Fjallabak Nature Park in the middle of the highlands of Iceland. The mountains and lava fields are the result of thousands of years of volcanic activity.The huge Laugahraun lava field, for example, was formed after a volcanic eruption in 1477. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads The route over the southern F208 is incredibly varied and leads over mountains and through valleys and completely inhospitable areas. A risk with this route are the many fords on the way.There are probably 40-50 rivers and streams that you have to cross. But only a few of them are really challenging. These are absolutely doable even with a normal off-road vehicle (e.g. an SUV like the Dacia Duster). On the southern F208 we have really seen the most incredible landscapes on our entire Iceland round trip.If you want to know what other routes there are to Landmannalaugar and what you should consider when getting there, then read our travel report:

F235

  • passable with SUV? yes
  • Difficulty of the route: medium
  • are there fords? yes, some smaller
This road is a spur road and leads from the southern F208 leading to Landmannalaugar (see above) to the lake Langisjór. This wonderful blue lake is 20 km long and up to 75 meters deep and is more or less the destination of the whole road. But in reality, of course, the journey itself is the goal here.This is absolutely beautiful. On the route there are also a lot of fords of which most are rather small and many are simply large puddles. We drove past moss-covered mountains, through stone-gray deserts and streaked loamy brown ridges. For us, one of the most beautiful highland routes in Iceland. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads The destination of the trail is hidden behind a small ranger station and a large reddish-brown hill. Lake Langisjór lies majestically in front of you and stretches almost to the horizon. What a view! The lake and the way to it are a great highlight in Iceland that you should not miss.

Askja (F905/F910)

  • passable with SUV? probably
  • Difficulty of the route: medium
  • are there fords? yes, some
Askja is a famous volcano north of the Vatnajökull glacier – the largest glacier in Europe – and is part of the Vatnajökull National Park. Askja volcano is up to 800 meters higher than the surrounding plateaus and reaches a total altitude of 1510 meters above zero. Askja includes several volcanoes, the largest of which has an extension of 50 km³.The most famous of the Askja craters is the Víti volcano, whose name means ‘hell’. The Víti volcano is a volcanic crater where water has collected, reaching a temperature of approximately 30°C. That is why the crater has become a popular bathing place. Yes, you can actually go swimming in this volcanic crater! But be careful, the way down is very slippery, especially in wet weather.It is also possible to get there via the F88, but this road has some very deep fords. You should therefore take the F905 and F910. You will drive through moon-like landscapes over gray rocks and past clay-brown mountains. Also you will probably not meet many other cars, because especially many individual travelers do not dare to come here.When we were in Iceland the highland roads leading to Askja were still closed. Therefore we could not visit the Viti volcano. But if the road had been free of snow, we would have definitely gone there.

F26

  • passable with SUV? yes
  • Difficulty of the route: medium
  • are there fords? yes, some medium
Together with the F35, the F-26 is the only highland road that crosses Iceland once from north to south. The F26 is also called Sprengisandur (or Sprengisandsleið) and leads over 200 km from Godafoss in the north over almost endless moraine landscapes to Haifoss in the south, where the highland road F26 meets the normal road 26.In the central part of the route, between the glaciers Hofsjökull and Vatnajökull, lies at an altitude of about 800 meters the actual Sprengisandur area, a rather vegetationless stone desert. In earlier times, this landscape was a major obstacle for travelers, as there was practically no pasture here for horses, which were used for transport in the past, over a length of 70 km.The F26 is not necessarily one of the greatest scenic highlights of Iceland, but still a great way to experience the highlands and is still an alternative to the ring road, if you want to go from the south to the north (or the other way around).

F35

  • passable with SUV? yes
  • Difficulty of the route: simple
  • are there fords? no
The F35 is the second highland road that takes you 168 km from the south to the very north of Iceland. The F35 (also called Kjölur) is the easiest of all highland roads in Iceland, because there are no more rivers to ford on it and also the road is quite well developed.On the F35 you will find one of the most spectacular highlights of Iceland, the Kerlingarfjöll with the Hveradalir geothermal area. The route is like the F26 not the most scenic highlight of Iceland, but is a very easy entry into Iceland’s highlands. The landscape is mostly gray stony desert and reddish-brown hilly and clay landscapes.Today, the F35 is busy, especially in summer, and locals also like to use it as a shortcut between Reykjavik and Akureyri. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads

And what about all the other highland roads?

The countless other F-Roads in Iceland

There are of course some other F-Roads in Iceland, not all of them in the highlands. There are F-roads in the Westfjords, in Northern Iceland or even on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.But these are in most cases – if they are open – passable by any 4x4 four-wheel drive vehicle. Therefore I have not listed them individually here. You can get a good overview of all F-roads and their condition in Iceland on road.is. Iceland's highlands with cheap SUV I easy F-Roads

Highland roads that are not passable by SUV under any circumstances

There are of course many more beautiful F-roads in Iceland’s highlands that we would have liked to drive on. But for many of them you can’t drive with a normal SUV and probably not even with an expensive off-road vehicle like a Landrover or Toyota Hillux.The reason for this is that there are rivers to be forded on this route, which are simply too deep and almost require a super jeep and extremely good driving skills. With a normal rental car you cannot drive these routes.F249 to Þórsmörk: The route to Thorsmörk is beautiful and the valley itself has incredible landscapes to offer. Unfortunately, due to extremely deep fords, the route is only feasible by super jeep or organized tour*.F210: This route starts in the south of Iceland near Hella and takes you to F208 and from there also to Landmannalaugar or back to the ring road. The route is the only scenic highlight and on the way you will pass the famous volcano Maelifell. Unfortunately, the route is impassable for normal off-road vehicles due to the deep fords.

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