The majority of Iceland’s landscape is comprised of rough lava rock. Even the pathways that were established centuries ago across the country’s interior are difficult to navigate. As a result, there are still many areas where certain vehicles cannot travel. This has caused both visitors and locals to stick to Route 1, also called the Ring Road.
But what if you want to visit the more remote parts of the Land of Fire and Ice? How do you get there, and what type of vehicle do you need? Well, if you want to leave the bumpy driving to someone else, there’s always the option to head out on a super jeep Iceland tour. However, are they really necessary? Can you do this same kind of trip, but autonomously? Let’s find out.
What is a Super Jeep?
There’s not an exact definition for a super jeep, as it doesn’t describe a specific vehicle. Simply put, a super jeep is a big vehicle with four-wheel drive that is able to tackle rougher roads. These cars are well-equipped for off-roading, traversing through uneven terrain, crossing rivers and even climbing hills. That being said, do you actually need one of these for Iceland?
There are many parts of Iceland that boast roads which are still unpaved and covered with gravel. While regular-sized, 2WD drive cars can generally handle these, the going isn’t smooth. Big 4WD vehicles will allow for an easier journey and reduce the chances of getting stuck.
Areas like the Westfjords and Eastfjords are where you’ll have to contend with unpaved, fairly flat roads. But if you venture in the country’s interior (known as the highlands), there are more considerations. Most of the highland roads—F-roads—involve river crossings, and there will be potholes and hills to contend with. Here's further information on driving Iceland's F-Roads.
So, do you need a super jeep to journey into the highlands? This depends on the specific F-road and the weather conditions. You won’t need to worry about driving them in winter because F-roads are only open from June to August. Additionally, since off-road driving is illegal here, that’s not a concern either.
If your highland route involves crossing a deep river, it is imperative to have a raised vehicle that is designed for such a task. Take our word for it- it’s very easy to get stuck if heavy rainfall was predominant in recent days.
Is an Iceland Super Jeep Necessary?
For the vast majority of places you will travel to in Iceland, you won’t need a super jeep. Their off-road capabilities will go unused here, due to the previously mentioned laws against them.
If you wish to hire what is considered a super jeep, you’re of course welcome to do so. In fact, Cars Iceland offers its own version, a Land Rover Defender 4x4 or similar model. Notice that on our listing of vehicles online, ‘Suitable for F-roads’ is written next to certain cars. Only these cars should be taken into the Highlands.
You’re probably wondering: if you do hire our version of a super jeep, what are the benefits?
Due to the excellent suspension, those gravel roads won’t feel nearly as bumpy. Additionally, the driving overall is more comfortable than in a smaller car.
You’ll have increased security when crossing rivers.
You’ll have more storage space for supplies and camping equipment.
You’ll have more seats for big family trips; the Defender is a seven-seater.
The bigger engine means more horsepower, making hill climbs much easier.
If you fancy taking advantage of a super jeep rental in Iceland, one thing’s for certain: you’ll have an absolute ball behind the wheel. This experience will give you a chance to get away from the well-traveled tourist routes and see remote Iceland for all it’s worth. But what if you just want a small car for your holiday, and want to sample a super jeep briefly?
Super Jeep Tours
Generally speaking, there are two types of super jeep tours and super jeep rentals in Iceland. There are those where you sit back and enjoy the journey while an experienced guide drives, and then then there are convoy-like Jeep tours, in which you drive your own vehicle but follow behind a guide who is doing the same.
So should you join a super jeep tour in Iceland, and if so, what type? Well, if you’re nervous about driving a big vehicle through rough terrain, the first option will suit you best. With this one, you don’t have to focus on navigation, freeing your senses up to take in your surroundings.
A convoy super jeep tour would allow you to experience driving one of the big vehicles yourself, but also eliminate the chance of getting lost. Although Google Maps makes losing connection much harder, it’s still possible, especially with incomplete/outdated routes and loss of signal. Thankfully, you’ll have an expert close by to assist you if something goes wrong.
When choosing whether to join a tour, the first step is to research where you’d like to go in Iceland. Look at the route to get there, what the obstacles are on your way, as well as recommendations from other travelers. If you’re experienced in driving roads of this type and are confident about doing it for yourself in Iceland, a tour is largely unnecessary.
On the other hand, if the thought of driving gravel roads full of potholes and river crossings makes you nervous, consider joining a tour. That way you’ll be able to see places your small rental car can’t take you. You also have the added bonus of a knowledgeable guide to serve up local information and historical context.
For some people, a super jeep tour is a good option, with less personal risk and responsibility. But let’s say you want to drive your own car, on your own terms. Where do you go then?
Wild Places to Visit in Iceland with a 4x4 Yourself
The Westfjords, located in the north-west of Iceland, are one of the least-populated areas, featuring just over 7,000 people. Very few of the tourists who visit the country make it up here.Even though there are paved highways to allow access to and from Ísafjörður, the region’s capital, many roads are still unpaved.
If you want to see some of the most incredible bird cliffs and extremely small settlements, visit the Westfjords. Most of the area’s income derives from fishing, but they cater well to the tourists who make it all the way up. You’ll have a good selection of hotels, BnBs and restaurants in Ísafjörður, although not so much in other parts.
The highlands are the interior region of Iceland, which is only accessible via the aforementioned gravel F-roads. Some of the best hiking trails are located here, and there are a few campsites to stay at as well. You’ll see multicolored rhyolite mountains, lava fields, volcanoes and natural hot springs. However, there will be limited access to supplies and fuel, so come well-prepared.
Note that the interior of Iceland is only open for visitors in the summer, from and to specific dates. Check the weather forecast before taking a route that involves an F-road.
If there was recently heavy rain, some rivers may not be able to be crossed, even for the most well-intentioned of vehicles. Additionally, dress warmly, no matter the weather forecast of time of year.
The country’s largest forest is found in the Eastfjords, as is Iceland’s population of reindeer, which are curiously not native. While the Ring Road will take you alongside the beautiful fjords, you’ll have to leave it to fully explore them.
The shortcuts to various waterfalls often involve driving steep, winding cliff roads. As such, your car type should determine your route; a super jeep is not a must.
You’ll have no trouble finding food and accommodation at Egilsstaðir, the capital of the east of Iceland. But once you leave that small settlement, urban areas are few and far between so fill up your gas tank/charge your engine whenever you’re half-full, just in case.
The Diamond Circle
The Diamond Circle is the jewel of Iceland’s north when it comes to day trips. Several roads connect into a rough circle in the northeast of the country, encompassing some great sites. Do check our Diamond Circle guide. This includes Goðafoss and Dettifoss waterfalls, Lake Mývatn, Húsavík town, Ásbyrgi Canyon and Dimmuborgir lava field.
A large section of Iceland’s Diamond Circle is, at the time of writing, unpaved. Factor this into your travel time, because the going is always slower on gravel roads. At times, sections of gravel road may be closed due to maintenance or unsafe passage. Húsavík is a good place to start/end your trip, and has some of the best whale watching in Iceland.
Super Jeep In Iceland Vs a 4x4 Vehicle
In summary, a super jeep is not strictly necessary to travel through most parts of Iceland, and neither is a super jeep tour. Renting a super jeep in Iceland is more of a luxury, allowing you to maximize your space and comfort while driving. If that sounds good to you, by all means, hire a super jeep! It will certainly make driving those F-roads less nail-biting.
A 4x4 vehicle will nonetheless be well-suited to most rough roads in Iceland, without the need for a super jeep. One rule of thumb: the vehicle you drive is just as important as the way you drive. Take greater care on gravel roads, pay attention to signs and don’t take unnecessary risks. Make your journey as smooth as possible by planning a little in advance and not rushing.
For your own off-beat Iceland adventure, book your rental at Cars Iceland to guarantee you’ll have the vehicle type of your choice for your trip.