• Einar Páll Svavarsson

The 4X4 road trip to tour the Highland in Iceland is a thrilling adventure but not an Off road drive


Traveling in the Highland in Iceland requires preparation, the right 4X4 car, and carefulness
Traveling in the Highland in Iceland requires preparation, the right 4X4 car, and carefulness

Whether you are an adventurer, a photographer, environmentalist, or a traveler seeking to experience something new, different and exciting, a 4X4 trip in the Icelandic highland is a vacation you will not forget. The Highland is a vast area in Iceland, the interior, around 350 meters above sea level. It is a land of hot springs, endless mountains, black sands, recent eruptions, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, geothermal pools, rhyolite mountains, calderas, and many other natural wonders. It is a wilderness loaded with an interesting landscape, peaceful sanctuaries, and surprising destinations.


Why a 4X4 vehicle is required although not an off-road place

Don't tour the Highland in the wrong kind of car!
Don't tour the Highland in the wrong kind of car!

The Icelandic Highland is covered with thick snow most of the year, for nine months. And during those months not accessible. The snow melts in May and June, and as the wet roads and tracks become dry the Highland opens as well as everything that was hidden under the snow. Usually in late June and the beginning of July. Most of the roads are rough gravel roads and dirt roads crisscrossed rivers and creeks. So, it is an area for a 4X4 jeep because of the roads but not the least because of river crossing that can become very dangerous. Anyone entering the Highland in a small car or insufficient vehicle is irresponsible and is putting himself and passengers in great danger. The roads are also often narrow, and it often takes considerable maneuvering to meet a car, something that’s hard if you don't have a 4X4 vehicle. This is because driving outside marked roads or tracks is illegal. Even with two wheels outside the marked road on your right side is not permitted. The Highland in Iceland is not a place for off road adventure but a wonderland for adventures 4X4 driving.


The key to an enjoyable trip in the Highland is detailed planning and thorough preparation

Visti places few people get to see
Visti places few people get to see (Hit Iceland private tour).

There are many difficulties that can await a traveler in the Highland in Iceland, and that is one reason you should never travel in one car or one vehicle. In most places, it is a good rule to travel in the company of two or more 4x4 vehicles. When planning you should study the map, the places, and the distance you want to travel. You should intend to stop at the many natural wonders for a while, even for a few hours. And you should remember that during the opening season it is daylight around the clock. If you bring your vehicle, you should prepare to have difficulties at some point. If you rent a car, you should rent a good and strong 4X4 jeep, like Land Cruiser, a Land Rover, or a Jeep Wrangler. You should organize it as an expedition with tents and be prepared to take on some challenges. To drive slowly through the fascinating places in the Highland and take on the wind and rain as well as the incredible calmness of the weather is incomparable to rushing through the Highland on a day trip. By doing it right, the Icelandic way is to get the most out of your stay and it will stay with you all your life. It is a unique experience.


It is a serious business to drive in the highland in Iceland.

If it starts to rain, the volume increases in a short period, and a small stream can turn into a life-threatening river.
If it starts to rain, the volume increases in a short period, and a small stream can turn into a life-threatening river for a small car.

Most of the roads in the Highland are challenging dirt roads that are harsh and demanding to drive, both for the driver and the car. Often you need to cross over rivers and creeks that can easily be too deep and complicated for a small car to cross. If it starts to rain the volume increases in a short period and a small stream can turn into a river. Many dirt roads are bumpy and require a slow speed, especially if your vehicle is small and low. A drive in the Highland needs a good 4X4 car that can take you safely to your destination. A wrong car in the Highland often costs a huge amount of money if it breaks down, even though you might want to try to fix the damages on the spot. It can also cost major delays in your schedule. Take precaution before you think about hiring a small car to travel the dirt roads in the Highland in Iceland.

Landmannalaugar 4X4 group in the Highland in Iceland
I often see excellent preparation and understanding among tourists who bring their own 4X4 and travel in the Highland in Iceland. I am confident that it is a once-in-a-lifetime tour like this group in Landmannalaugar in 2021.


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