What Is The Difference Between F-roads and Off-Road Driving?

What Is The Difference Between F-roads and Off-Road Driving?

Liam Davies
(Updated: )
7 min read

F-Road and Off road Introduction

When planning your road trip through the picturesque landscapes of Iceland, you might have come across the terms off-road driving' and F-roads.

While they might seem similar, there is a significant difference between the two, and understanding that difference is crucial for a safe and legal journey. In this blog, we will delve into the distinctions between off-road driving and F-roads in Iceland and why it's essential to be aware of them.

In 2018, there was an unfortunate incident involving a group of tourists. They had been led to believe that driving off-road was allowed here in Iceland, this led to them causing major damage and becoming stuck. They claimed that they didn't know about the rules and thought it was common knowledge that driving off-road was allowed.

However, locals were outraged and pointed to the fact there was a sign within close-proximity that clearly stated that driving off-road was forbidden. Below is a photo of the damage that was caused, as you can see the moss was completely ruined.

Image of a vehicle stuck in the mud in Iceland
Image from the off road incident.
According to Ingibjörg Svala Jónsdóttir, Professor of Ecology at the University of Iceland, there are over **606 different species of moss in Iceland**. Moss can help to prevent soil erosion, retain water and humidity, but most importantly, they're a key piece of Iceland's beauty and history.

The Icelandic land is very precious, especially the moss. It takes hundreds of years for the moss to grow and is, therefore, protected under the law. Damaging the moss will severely anger the Icelandic people and some tourists have been unfortunate enough to face criticism from Icelanders after being led to believe that off-road driving was allowed, therefore, causing severe damage to the moss.

Image of moss in Iceland.
Moss in Iceland.
Another reason 'off-road driving' may be bought up in conversation on forums, maybe due to the people confusing it with **F-roads**. I completely understand why such confusion may occur due to their similarities, however, there is definitely a big difference!

F-roads are mountain roads that can only be accessed by 4x4s and are only open for a limited period of time. This being the summer period, from the month of July to September. The reason people may confuse off-road driving with F-roads is due to their similarities in appearance.

A lot of the F-roads are not paved and contain a lot of rough rocks and gravel and have a very rural setting. In fact, some of the F-roads may even have rivers that you will need to cross.

Image of a 4x4 rental vehicle in Iceland driving on F-Road
F-Road are not the same as Off Roads.
A lot of people refer to the F-roads as off-road driving, and this further adds to the confusion. When looking on a map or even google maps, you will see regular roads are marked as numbers I.e. '413'. The **F-roads will be marked with an 'F'**, for example, 'F413'.

Most of them are very clearly labeled in person too, however, some may not be! So, always be careful and make sure you are traveling the correct route. Here is a great website for you to read the information regarding F-road conditions, opening dates and also a map of all F-roads over the island.

F-Road Quick Info

1. Off-Road Driving: Damaging and Illegal

  • Off-road driving is strictly prohibited in Iceland, and those caught engaging in the activity can face hefty fines of up to 100,000 ISK per person.
  • Off-road driving can cause irreversible damage to Iceland's fragile ecosystems, particularly the moss, which takes hundreds of years to grow.
  • Iceland's moss plays a vital role in preventing soil erosion and retaining water and humidity, making its preservation crucial.
  • In 2018, a group of French tourists mistakenly believed off-road driving was allowed in Iceland, causing significant damage and getting stuck, leading to public outcry.

2. F-Roads: A Legal and Exciting Alternative

  • F-roads, or mountain roads, can only be accessed by 4x4 vehicles and are open for a limited period each year, typically from July to September.
  • F-roads are often confused with off-road driving due to their unpaved, rugged appearance and rural settings, but they are legal to drive on.
  • Some F-roads might require crossing rivers and navigating rough terrain, which is why only 4x4 vehicles are allowed on these roads.
  • On maps, F-roads are marked with an "F" followed by a number, e.g., "F413". Some F-roads may not be clearly labeled in person, so always check your route carefully.

3. Useful Resources and Tips for Navigating F-Roads

  • Road.is is a valuable resource for information on F-road conditions, opening dates, and a map of all F-roads in Iceland.
  • If you're renting a car in Iceland, make sure to check out our 4x4 rental guide to the Icelandic highlands for all the information you need.
  • Always plan your route carefully and ensure you're traveling on legal roads to avoid causing damage to Iceland's delicate ecosystems.

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4. Respecting Icelandic Nature and Culture

  • Learn about the importance of Iceland's ecosystems and the role of moss in the environment before embarking on your journey.
  • Be aware of local customs and attitudes towards nature, and avoid engaging in activities that could anger or upset Icelandic people.
  • Educate yourself on the history of the Icelandic landscape and the reasons behind the strict regulations on off-road driving.

5. Preparing for Your Journey on F-Roads

  • Equip your vehicle with appropriate safety gear such as a spare tire, jack, and tools for changing a tire.
  • Ensure that your rental vehicle has suitable insurance coverage for driving on F-roads.
  • Check the weather forecast and road conditions before venturing onto F-roads, as conditions can change rapidly.
  • Carry a fully charged mobile phone, a GPS device, and a physical map as a backup in case of signal loss or technical difficulties.
  • Pack enough food, water, and warm clothing to stay safe and comfortable during your journey through Iceland's wilderness.


By understanding the difference between off-road driving and F-roads in Iceland, you can help preserve the country's unique landscapes and ecosystems while enjoying an exciting and memorable adventure. Always follow the rules and guidelines when driving in Iceland, and be mindful of your impact on the environment.


1. What are F-roads in Iceland?

F-roads, or mountain roads, are unpaved and rugged roads found in Iceland's highlands. They are specifically designed for 4x4 vehicles and provide access to remote and scenic areas of the country.

2. When are F-roads open?

F-roads are typically open during the summer months, from July to September. However, the exact opening and closing dates may vary each year due to weather conditions and road maintenance. Always check the current status of F-roads before planning your trip.

3. Can I drive on F-roads with a regular car?

No, you can only drive on F-roads with a 4x4 vehicle. The rough terrain and river crossings often encountered on F-roads require the capabilities of a 4x4 to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

4. How can I identify F-roads on a map?

F-roads are marked with an "F" followed by a number, e.g., "F413". You can find them on physical maps and online mapping services, such as Google Maps. Make sure to double-check your route to ensure you're on the correct road.

5. Do I need a special permit or insurance to drive on F-roads?

While you don't need a special permit, it's crucial to have appropriate insurance coverage for your rental 4x4 vehicle when driving on F-roads. Check with your rental company to confirm that your insurance covers F-road driving.

6. What should I do if I encounter a river crossing on an F-road?

When crossing rivers on F-roads, always exercise caution. Assess the depth and speed of the water before proceeding, and watch other vehicles cross if possible. Drive slowly and steadily through the water, avoiding any large rocks or obstacles. If you're unsure about the safety of the crossing or the capabilities of your vehicle, it's best not to attempt the crossing and seek an alternative route.

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