When we reach the end days of summer, we get different kind of questions about what type of car to rent. Do we need to rent a 4×4? Will there be snow? Is it safe to drive around Iceland? Will the rental car be equipped with studded tires?
No wonder people ask because Iceland is famous for its very temperamental weather. If you don’t like the Icelandic weather, wait 15 minutes is a standard joke here but it does carry some true to it, especially during fall.
Come September and be ready to expect the unexpected. If it’s sunny, the sun will be very low for the bigger part of the day, making driving conditions difficult at times if you are driving towards the sun. Also, the opposite side of the coin, if you are unlucky, you can get into a some heavy snow. If that happens in September, it doesn’t last long and before you know it, the snow as melted. But it does require careful and safe driving.
If you want to drive around the Ring road in September, we do suggest you rent a 4×4 but only time can tell if it was necessary or not. If you are only planning short day trips from Reykjavik, like driving the Golden circle, a small car might do the trick for you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
One issue you have to keep in mind is that, due to the unpredictable weather, is the wind. If you are unlucky (some people like to feel the strength of mother nature occasionally), you will get winds strong enough to force you to stop the journey momentary, take a load off in the nearest village and wait for it to pass. Remember that Icelanders have been living with these conditions for a thousand years and there is no danger as long as you act accordingly. We found a website with information about all the important travel apps for Iceland. We highly recommend you download the weather, traffic signs and the emergency app.
You might also experience icy roads during late nights and early morning so be aware or the road conditions at all times.
This is also the time, if you are lucky, you get to see the Northern lights too for the the summer light has left us come September.
When October has arrived, the bulk of the tourists has left and you will have the roads to yourself. The days can be sunny with stunning morning and evening light. You need to bring warm clothes that can withstand a bit of weather and stay up to date with weather and road conditions.
Depending on the weather situation, most of our rental cars might have studded tires by this time. The legal period when studded tires are allowed is from 1st of November to 14th of April but weather might give allowance for an earlier or later exchange of tires.
The sun is also hanging very low during fall, casting long, long shadows. You will also experience some incredibly dynamic views due to the light situation but the light might also limit your view of the road temporarily, shining light straight in your eyes so slow down and never, ever drive faster than the condition allows nor above your experience level.
So do you need a 4×4? If there isn’t any snow, probably not but you will not be able to drive on F-roads in a non 4×4 vehicle. F-roads are anyway very unpredictable during this time and one shouldn’t go up there without an experienced driver with you and, again, NEVER go there without going through all the proper precautions like staying on top of weather and road conditions. The might chance in a blink of an eye.
There is one huge advantage with a 4×4 rental (if your 4×4 is quipped with it) and that is the ability to lock all your wheels. This function is only used at low speeds and for a short period of time. If you happen to get stuck in mud or snow for example, you will only need to turn the knob (differs from car to car) and try to back out from your predicament, safely and slowly. If you manage to get unstuck, turn back the knob to normal 4×4 driving and keep on driving normally. Usually works brilliantly and if that doesn’t do the trick, you have to revert to the old tactics and start shoveling!
One can really drive around Iceland all year around but some seasons needs more prepping and being more aware of the different conditions one might experience, in an blink of an eye.
Read more: A beginners guide to Iceland
Safe driving! #GoIceland
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All photos by: Jordan Rosen photography