Winter Driving

Winter time in Iceland is beautiful. Usually it is still and quiet. However it can get pretty tough. In one day the weather can change from a sunny day to a blistering storm.

If you are going to drive on mountain roads,be aware that even though the weather is good in town, up in the mountains it is most likely very different. Because the road lies higher,mountain roads are more prone to snow and ice than the main roads in and around town.

If you are planning to travel in the winter time you should check the weather forecast regularly for warnings. You can find the weather forecast at

Usually Icelanders are aware of the weather in the winter time because they know how fast it can change. Don’t go out to drive if you are not sure of the weather, and always be well dressed in case you need to go out to push the car out of the snow if it gets stuck.

You should also take precaution about ice on the roads. Here are few things that are good to know about icy conditions:

Icy conditions

Ice and/or snow on the road can be dangerous. Drivers often react the wrong way in these conditions and accidents may occur. Ice on the road can be really tricky to recognize.

Below, we covered a few signs that could help you notice if there might be ice on the road.

Landscape: The landscape can have its effects on the road. If the sky is clear at night,it is more likely that the roads will be icy, as clear skies are often synonymous with sub-zero temperatures.

Near the sea or water: In a few places in Iceland the road lies near the sea or water, where black ice can form on the road, as the surroundings are more humid than elsewhere.

Shelter: If the road lies where it’s hard for the wind to get to it, e.g. through woods, near cliffs or other landscape formations that can provide shelter, you should drive carefully. When the winter is near or when it is coming to an end, places like these can have icy roads, especially late at night.

Thermometer in the car: Most cars have a thermometer that can give you an idea about the temperature outside. But this is only a rough estimate, and it’s not good to rely entirely on the thermometer because the temperature on the road can be lower than the thermometer reads. If the thermometer shows 4-5° and the skies are clear, it’s a good reason to pay close attention to driving conditions, especially if the road is wet.

The higher the altitude, the lower the temperatures: Mountain roads often have ice, even when other roads at lower altitudes are clear of ice. Places like Öxnadalsheiðin in the north, Hellisheiðin between Reykjavík and Hveragerði or Holtavörðuheiði in the south are known to have bad weather conditions even though the weather in town is good.

Different icy conditions

We recommend, you pay special attention to the fact that even though the thermometer in the car tells you that the outdoor temperature is below 4-5°,the road temperature is most likely lower. This means that ice is more likely to form, especially if the road is wet.

There are six kinds of icy conditions and we will start with the first four types that are easy to recognize:

  1. Héluhálka (White frost): When the temperature on the road goes below zero and the humidity in the air rises, white frost can form on the road.
  2. Snjór (Snow): When there is snow on the road, the road is most likely icy, so drive carefully.
  3. Flughálka (Extremely slippery): When the road temperature is at freezing point and it rains, it gets extremely slippery especially if it’s windy.
  4. Hrímþoka (Freezing Fog): When people talk about Freezing Fog they mean that when cold raindrops from the fog lands on the road and freeze. It’s even possible that the fog will freeze on your front window so make sure that there is an ice scrape in the car.
  5. Glerhálka (Black Ice): It can be hard to distinguish between a wet road and an icy road, as in both cases the road looks shiny.
    When the temperature goes below 4-5°, ice is more likely to form.
  6. Frostrigning (Freezing Rain): This type of ice is hard to recognize. Rain will freeze when it hits the cold road. We usually don’t
    know when the road temperature goes below 0°C so when the temperature is 5°C or below, drive carefully.