How to Cross Rivers in Iceland with a 4x4

How to Cross Rivers in Iceland with a 4x4

If you are planning to drive in Iceland and having some adventure on the road, the F Roads are the starting point to some of the most stunning places in the highlands of the country. Road quality can vary considerably and many involve crossing rivers (fording).

This is how you should prepare. Crossing a river is better to be avoided if you don’t have a proper car, enough experience and perfect knowledge of river crossing rules. Avoid committing your vehicle to what is in front of you until you are sure of what you are getting into because things could get worse. Crossing big rivers requires a bit of experience. Only well equipped jeeps and larger vehicles are able to cross the rivers. These rivers can be dangerous. Always check the river to ensure that it's not too deep. Car rental vehicles are forbidden to go into the road. Always stop before crossing a river, go outside and take a look at the conditions. If you are unsure or do not trust yourself to cross a river don't, turn around. Always go down the stream when entering the river. Do not go where the water is completely still, it may be the deepest part of the river. Inspecting the river is important, if the river is deeper than your knee, not to take the risk. Next to some rivers on the F-roads they have a sign that is very important to read and follow the instructions. The sign is there for a reason.

Do not attempt to cross with one car, or during heavy rain. Keep in mind that rivers can become impassable after heavy rainfall. It can be treacherous if the water level rises due to lots of rain and warm weather. River levels in the highlands change by the day and even by the hour in summer due to warm temperatures or rain. Do not cross a river unless you are a 100% sure of being able to get to the other side. Wait for another vehicle to cross to see the depth or walk into the river – if you can’t walk into the river your car won’t make it over either. Always check the river to ensure that it's not too deep. Rivers that can change rapidly with rain or change in heat. Be sure of the route you are going to take before entering the water. Do not attempt to cross any glacial river without an expert.


It can be dangerous during the dark night. Go in with open eyes and take proper precautions. Put your car in a low-gear and cross the river slowly (5 km/h) and steady – do not switch gears while in the water. Only those experienced in jeep driving and in crossing rivers by automobile should attempt it. Rivers can change from relative shallow to deep in a heartbeat. Always try to go down stream as going against the current will increase the risk of water going into your engine. In case you get stuck in the river, call 112. It’s not recommended to drive unaccompanied. Do not enter the river where it seems calm – this is a sign of depth and is not the ideal spot to cross. Know your abilities and when to abandon the travel plan and turn around.
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