Driving in Iceland - Watch Out for the Wind!

Arnar Stefansson

(Updated: )
3 min read
Driving in Iceland - Watch Out for the Wind!

Icelandic fall can get supernaturally windy as the storms from the south enter our coastlines. We usually get the 'leftovers' of the big ones that hit North America, but they can be treacherous nonetheless.

Here are some things I've put together where you should be extra careful with your rental car to avoid any accidents and unfortunate events.

The Winds of Iceland

You probably won't have experienced winds like we have in Iceland in your travels before. It almost acts as a character in our country and is often cursed about by locals as if he is a real person. We've even named him Kári.

Although people don't usually refer to him as Kári in this day and age, we do still talk about him like he's the only person at the party nobody invited.

Gusts of Wind

Kári doesn't just blow lightly and evenly, he blows harshly with intervals. You might be standing out in a field telling your friend "oh it's not so bad", but before you can even finish that sentence Kári has already wind slapped you three times leaving you gasping for air, should you be facing the direction of his annoying breath.

When you're driving in the highlands or even across some of the route 1 roads you might find yourself on top of a mountain where there's nothing but moss and lava for miles in all directions, Holtavörðuheiði & Vopna­fjarðar­heiði are places like this.

This is where you should seriously watch out when there are gusts of wind blowing on the side of your car.

You'll feel the force significantly move your car in all directions and, when big trucks whiz by, you should hold on to your steering wheel for dear life as they can form vacuums and give you just the right nudge to go off-road.

Holtavörðuheiði The Route 1 part of Holtavörðuheiði

Now for the serious part. If you rented a camper, or a vehicle which is similarly tall, and safetravel.is or vedur.is has issued a storm warning in these types of areas, you should NOT drive on these roads. Please, for the love of whatever deity you may worship, take these warnings seriously!

You can stay up to date on weather conditions on websites like safetravel.is and en.vedur.is

The Wind Hates Doors

You might be stepping outside your rental car just as the wind has calmed a bit and you think you're good to go, but our windy friend works in mysterious ways.

The worst case scenario here is that the wind will rip the door from your hands and force open the door giving it more than it can handle, leaving you with a crooked door, a big dent in the car and a not-so-good time when you return the car, having to pay for the damages caused by Kári.

Damage to vehicle caused by wind gusts An example of a dent created by our friend, Kári.

Image by Vincenzo Mazza

The solution is to open the door with your right hand while holding the door in it's place with your left, if there's even a chance of harsh winds I cannot recommend doing this enough.

Another thing to keep in mind is to park against the wind. It's a good habit to prevent this type of accident.

When Icelanders say it's going to get windy. It's going to get windy!

I can't stress this enough! If anybody familiar with Icelandic weather tells you that it's going to get windy outside, or there's a storm coming - do not take it lightly. Consult your hotel desk, your tourist information center or go online and look for information on where not to go in that particular weather.