|Location Map ( geo)|
Iceland is a volcanic island in the North Atlantic, lying midway between North America and Europe.
Most roads in Iceland are single-carriageway; however, some roads in the world's most northerly capital, Reykjavík, are dual-carriageway and have grade-separated junctions. Most junctions within the urban area are simple priority junctions, roundabouts, or are traffic-light controlled. There are also some stretches of S2+1 and D2+1 on the way into Reykjavík. Other roads in rural Iceland are surfaced with gravel, though they are generally well maintained.
The majority of roads run along or not far from the coast, as the interior of Iceland consists of high mountains. Iceland's northerly location means that many inland roads are impassible for large parts of the year, and even when open may be restricted to access by four-by-four vehicles only. Even in late April, one of these roads – the Kaldidalur – posed difficulties in a modified Land Rover.
The country's main road is the Hringvegur (Ring Road) which forms a circle around the whole of Iceland and connects the most important towns. It is numbered '1' on signs. The road crosses a number of glacial outwash plains, and some bridges and sections of the road have been damaged in the many volcanic eruptions which have occurred in Iceland. Part of the road was removed by engineers between Hvolsvöllur and Vík to save the bridge over the river Markarfjót during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull as it was threatened by a jökulhlaup (glacial outburst flood) caused by the eruption.
Route signs use the Transport font, as in the UK, though the letter spacing follows Danish norms. Generally, they are black on yellow. In the Reykjavík urban area they are blue on white. A number of other colour schemes are also used with various meanings. Generally, speed limits in rural areas are 90 km/h on asphalt roads and 80 km/h on gravel roads.
Iceland's low population density means that roads are very quiet compared to those in the UK. This, combined with the scenery, makes for some stunning drives in the country.
As in the UK, a zonal system is used. The country is divided into eight administrative regions, each of which has a number between 2 and 9. All roads in an administrative region have numbers beginning with the number of that region. The lowest numbered region, region 2, is called Suðurland (Southern Region) and the number allocated to each region increases clockwise from there. Zone 4 is the exception, covering the two smallest but most densely populated regions, Höfuðborgarsvæði (Capital Region) and Suðurnes (Southern Peninsula). Conversely Zones 2 and 3 share Suðurland (Southern Region) though the Þjórsá river forms a clear physical boundary between the two. Zone 5 covers Vesturland (Western Region), Zone 6 covers Vestfirðir (Westfjords), Zone 7 Norðurland vestra (Northwestern Region), Zone 8 Norðurland eystra (Northeastern Region) and Zone 9 Austurland (Eastern Region).
Roads are numbered in such a way that they rarely cross into different regions. The only roads (other than the Ring Road) to cross significantly into neighbouring regions are some of the cross-interior mountain roads. Most roads in Iceland are also fairly short as the interior of the country has a terrain which makes road construction difficult and a climate which would make many potential routes impassable for most of the year.
Some roads are also given an F prefix standing for fjall (mountain). This indicates that they are mountain roads suitable only for 4x4 vehicles and are closed for all but the summer months (May-October). These roads are generally unpaved and are little more than rugged tracks. River crossings on such roads usually fords. Some no F-roads at high altitudes also regularly see long closures over the winter.
No roads in Iceland, other than route 1, have a single digit number. Two-digit numbers are used for regionally important roads, generally linking the towns not reached by the ring road. The vast majority of villages with more than 100 inhabitants have at least one of these roads connecting them. Three-digit numbers are generally used for local routes although a few, usually interior routes, nevertheless rank amongst the longer roads in the country. There are also four-digit numbers: these are generally short access roads leading to farms and hamlets and are are rarely if ever signed.
- 90 km/h (55.9 mph) on paved rural roads.
- 80 km/h (49.7 mph) on unpaved rural roads.
- 50 km/h (31.1 mph) in built-up areas.