Do I Need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland?

Do I Need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland?

Rúnar Þór Sigurbjörnsson
(Updated: )
5 min read

It depends entirely on what you plan on doing and when you plan on visiting.

A common misconception about the Sand and Ash Protection is that it's there to protect you from the possibility of a sudden volcanic eruption. That's not why it's there.

The Sand and Ash Protection covers your rental car from the possibility of being bombarded by some leftover volcanic ash or sand from many of Iceland's vast sand fields.

Icelandic insurance companies do not cover this type of damage in their Collision Damage Waiver, and as such, this specific waiver was created to cover it.

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When does the wind usually hurl sand onto the roads?

Iceland has beautiful sandy beaches
Iceland has beautiful sandy beaches that can damage your car

February, March and April are known as the Sand & Ash period, when the snow has only just thawed out and the grass hasn't grown sufficiently to keep the sand in its place.

This is the time when it is absolutely necessary to include the Sand and Ash in your insurance package, especially if you plan to drive the South Coast.

Sand and ash protection Iceland

While the high grass during summer can protect you from sandstorms it only does so to a certain point. If the winds are harsh enough then you will be beaten by sand if you're driving anywhere close to the sand fields.

Which is why I would personally always carry the Sand and Ash if I intended to drive the South Coast or take my 4x4 rental car to highland F-roads, if only for the peace of mind.

The exception to this would be if conditions are extremely snowy and there is no indication of it thawing out any time soon.

Do I need Sand and Ash Protection during winter?

That would depend entirely on the conditions during that specific period. Is there snow? If so, then it's not necessary, but Icelandic conditions can change in the blink of an eye.

One second you're driving around Iceland in a winter paradise and suddenly it's raining and the snow is gone! Don't assume that just because it's winter that there will be snow.

If you're traveling on a budget and decide to skip the Sand and Ash, just make sure to be careful, especially when driving the South Coast.

Monitor the weather reports and make sure you're aware if there are any strong winds incoming.

In the case of windy conditions, it might be an idea to park the rental car somewhere safe in the nearest town and wait it out.

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The picture below is from and shows information about hazardous conditions while driving in Iceland. You can find there information regarding "Blowing Sand" or if roads are "Closed" due to weather or other circumstances.

Information about road conditions in Iceland - Information about road and driving conditions in Iceland

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Iceland's landscape is a testament to its volcanic heritage, with vast sand fields and ash deposits that tell stories of eruptions past. While these elements contribute to the island's stark beauty, they also present unique challenges for travelers, particularly those exploring by car. This is where Sand and Ash Protection (SAAP) becomes essential.

The Essence of Sand and Ash Protection: SAAP is specifically designed to shield rental vehicles from the abrasive effects of volcanic sand and ash. These tiny particles, remnants of Iceland's numerous volcanic eruptions, can cause significant damage to car paint, windows, and other surfaces when propelled by Iceland's strong winds. Unlike standard car insurances, the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) in Iceland typically does not cover such damages, making SAAP not just advisable but a critical addition to your vehicle's insurance package.

Why SAAP is Indispensable: The necessity of SAAP becomes evident during the spring months, particularly from February to April. This period, following the thaw of winter snow, exposes loose volcanic sand and ash, which can be easily picked up by the island's fierce winds. The risk is particularly pronounced along the South Coast, near the vast sand fields and areas previously affected by volcanic eruptions. However, summer doesn't guarantee safety from sandstorms, especially in areas close to deserts or ash fields. Even a beautiful sunny day can turn challenging if the winds decide to carry sand and ash across your path.

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Risk Zones and Precautions: While the South Coast and highland F-roads are notorious for sand and ash, it's crucial to stay informed about current conditions wherever you travel in Iceland. Local weather reports and provide invaluable information on wind conditions and potential sandstorm warnings. If you're alerted to an incoming sandstorm, it's advisable to seek shelter and avoid driving until conditions improve. This proactive approach, combined with SAAP, minimizes the risk of damage to your rental vehicle.

Financial Implications: Opting for SAAP may seem like an additional expense, but it's a wise investment compared to the potential costs of sand and ash damage, which can run into thousands of dollars. By choosing SAAP, you cap your liability and protect yourself against unforeseen expenses, ensuring that your Icelandic adventure remains memorable for the right reasons.

The beauty of Iceland's landscapes is undeniable, but so is the power of its natural elements. Sand and Ash Protection offers peace of mind, allowing you to explore this magnificent land without the looming worry of sand and ash damage. As you prepare for your journey, consider SAAP not as an optional extra, but as an essential companion that safeguards your experience in the land of fire and ice.