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How to cross rivers – 2021 guide

How to cross rivers – 2021 guide

River crossings are the main challenge of Icelandic F-roads. If it wasn’t for them, 95% of F-roads would be easy to pass. However, they do exist and create a significant obstacle. Improper river crossing may cause huge and expensive damages to your car. In extreme situations, even your life may be at stakes. That being said – prepare thoroughly for your river crossings!

With river crossings, it all comes to HOW, WHERE and WITH WHAT.

By HOW I mean general rules for a safe river fording. It’s essential to adhere to them, no matter how big your car is.

By WHERE I mean where are you crossing. What is the type of river? How big is it? What is the season? How much did it rain recently?

By WITH WHAT I mean the type of vehicle you are operating. Generally said, the bigger the better – but it’s more complicated.

How to safely cross Icelandic rivers? (HOW)

  1. Make a plan. Do you have a proper car? What types of rivers are in your way? Are you equipped sufficiently? Think before.
  2. Check the road conditions. If they say impassable, don’t even try. If they say passable, read further.
  3. Examine the river.
    • So you arrived at the river. If you can see with your eyes that it’s a small river or even just a pond, you may usually proceed with passing. What’s a small river? Read below in “WHERE“.
    • If you can’t assess the depth with your eyes, find out physically. Go into the river. How are you supposed to do that in ice-cold water? Get inspired by how we’ve done it.
    • Alternatively, wait for someone else (ideally with a similar car) to pass.
  4. Compare the river to your car. The essential thing is, whether your air intake is high enough above water level. But that’s not the only thing. See below in “WITH WHAT“.
  5. Stay inside yellow markers. Those mark the area allowed for crossing (and usually also shallowest). They are situated on the borders of a passable area.
  6. Go for the shallowest part.
    • If it’s a medium-sized or even a bigger river, it’s really important to cross it through the shallowest part. This is usually NOT the exact middle of the river crossing, but rather its sides.
    • This is usually NOT where the river is calm – that’s typically the deep part. Better find a part where you can see the stream of river running into pebbles and cross on that pebbles.
  7. Turn 4×4 mode on.
  8. Drive slowly.
    • First, max second gear, around 10kph to create a little “wave” around your car. Ride that wave.
    • If you drive too quickly, water will splash into your engine and your car may be dead. See below in “WITH WHAT“.
  9. Don’t stop. Don’t switch gears. If you do, you may not get the car going again. Don’t get scared by your car shaking inside the river, just go steady.
  10. Down the stream. If it’s possible, go with the stream, not against it. This will lower chances the water will get into your engine.

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What types of river crossings are in Iceland? (WHERE)

The basic categorisation can be made according to the depth of the river crossing. 

  1. PONDS
    • Up to 20cm / 8inch.
    • If the depth of a river crossing is this shallow, you don’t have to bother much about crossing at all. It’s doable with any car, even with a 2wd one. 
  2. SMALL
    • 20 to 40cm / 8-16inch.
    • Here some ground clearance of your car starts to make sense. I consider 40cm to be still a small river but it’s already a non-trivial crossing. If you do it wrong, you may end up like this.
    • 40 to 70cm / 16 to 28inch.
    • This is already some decent river crossing. You will probably not get drowned but you may waste your car easily.
    • It’s still a manageable crossing though, even for beginners! You just have to adhere to river crossing rules strictly and drive a proper car.
    • Examples: F208 south, F235, F224, F910 
  4. BIG
    • More than 70cm / 28inch.
    • I would avoid these at all costs if I was a river crossing beginner. Not only may you waste your car, but you could also get yourself seriously injured, if not killed.
    • You need to have a combination of a) proper car, b) adhering to river crossing rules and c) experience
    • Examples: F233, F249, sometimes F26, F88, F210 

The depth of the river is the single most important factor when it comes to a river crossing. There are of course several other aspects influencing your fording:

  • Has it rained heavily for a few days? Add some centimetres on top of your expected river depth.
  • Is it just early summer? Glacial rivers will have substantially more water compared to the late summer.
  • What is the riverbed like? Is it stony or muddy? If it’s muddy, it will be harder for you to ford.

What car do I need to cross rivers? (WITH WHAT)

Ok now you know HOW to cross and WHERE will you be crossing. It’s time to get to WITH WHAT. A right car is essential. But how are you supposed to know what car is the right one? Of course, we are talking only about 4wd/4×4 now:

  1. The bigger the ground clearance (and wheels), the better. Because of several reasons. Firstly, your air intake will be higher (see below). Secondly, the chances you will get stuck in a river are lower. Thirdly, the chances, you will damage your undercarriage are lower. 
  2. The higher the air intake, the better. Study this one carefully. The main risk with river crossings is flooding your engine with water (then the engine usually becomes dead). This happens once the water reaches an air intake of your car. The water level should be AT LEAST 10cm/4inch below your air intake!
  3. The stronger engine, the better. Inside rivers, some additional horsepower may only help. BUT – use your horsepower on lowest/2nd lowest gear only when crossing the rivers! 
  4. Snorkel is a plus. If your car has a snorkel installed, it basically deals with point number 2. It adds considerable height to your air intake. It’s not everything, though. You may have a snorkel, but with the too-low ground clearance, you could still get stuck in a bigger river. 

Read our car choosing guide.

When there are only PONDS in your way, you may basically choose any car.

When there are SMALL RIVERS in your way, ideally choose any SUV or 4wd car.

When there are already MEDIUM RIVERS in your way, choose your car wisely and better opt for at least a medium-sized SUV.

When there are BIG RIVERS in your way, either avoid them at all or if you really want to, then choose the super-jeep.

We also offer you FREE discount codes for several Icelandic car rental companies.

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Posted by epiciceland in Guide, Tips, 0 comments
Day 1 – Arrival and Reykjavik

Day 1 – Arrival and Reykjavik


Our flight landed at 15:30. Firstly, we got tested for the Covid-19 at around 16:15 and we received negative results both in app and via SMS early in the next morning. Easy. Overalls, very quick and smooth process. Again – kudos to Icelandic authorities for this. You can read more about our experience with Covid-19 in Iceland here.

Reykjavik shuttle bus car rental

Shuttle bus sign at Reykjavik International airport towards car rental lot

What followed was our car rental. For our first day in Iceland, we decided to rent a cheap 2wd car due to several reasons mentioned here in detail. In a nutshell – we saved around 80Eur compared to 4×4 rental and saved even compared to a return journey from Keflavik to Reykjavik by bus. Our rental experience was slightly cumbersome but still fine. Again if you are interested in details, serve yourself here.

Car rental lot Reykjavik airport

Car rental lot next to Reykjavik International airport

One additional advice: I suggest WALKING from the airport to the car rental lot rather than using the shuttle bus. At least when the weather is OK. The walk takes some 5 minutes and you don’t have to wait for the bus, load all your luggage in and then unload all your luggage out.



Reykjavik is a decent Nordic city where you can spend a couple of hours mainly just soaking up the atmosphere of the region. But let’s be honest, you usually don’t come to Iceland to see Reykjavik. You come to Iceland to see Iceland, and Reykjavik stands in your way as a first stop, because in 99% of cases you arrive somewhere nearby. And we can only confirm this – there are so many beautiful places around Iceland that Reykjavik (compared to them) simply isn’t that jaw-dropping.

Looking for cool places in Reykjavik? Get inspired by the Reykjavik VR tour!


Hallgrimskirkja, the most famous Icelandic church

Our accommodation stood a 3-minute walk from Halgrímskirkja. I recommend this area to anyone else spending just a couple of hours in the city because all you want to see in such a short time is really close.

Reykjavik is famous for its street food, which may sometimes be even more expensive than normal food 🙂 So how to find cheap food in such a notoriously expensive city as Reykjavik? Does it even exist? My friend wrote a nice article about it.

At the end of the day, we took a long walk around Reykjavik’s center, covering Halgrímskirkja, Harpa concert hall and park around Tjornin lake. Nice, but nothing jaw-dropping. If I came to Iceland next time, I would skip Reykjavik and go directly for our main trip. But, because it was our first time, I don’t regret it.

Posted by epiciceland in Our Journey, 0 comments
How to choose the best car for Iceland: 2021 Guide

How to choose the best car for Iceland: 2021 Guide

Type of car = Type of trip

I’ve done tons of research on how to choose the best car for Iceland. I’ve done tons of research on Icelandic car rental companies, reviewing more than 50 of them. If you are like me, and you want to do your research on your own, then would be a great place to start when choosing the best car rental for Iceland. The car is a really important part of any road trip in Iceland, for us, the car was the most important thing to have in many aspects. What I concluded after a thorough research was the following. Primarily, you have to decide what kind of trip do you want to do:

  1. Ring road only, no F-roads
  2. F-roads with no river crossings or only minor ponds
  3. F-roads with medium river crossings
  4. F-roads with big and treacherous river crossings

Read our guide on how to choose the best car rental insurance for Iceland.

Of course, you can always opt for the big, expensive, super-jeep 4×4 car (like Land Rover Super Defender) which will serve you for all of the options above. You will be fine, you’re gonna just end up paying 2-4 times as much as we did. What we aimed for, was the best performance to price ratio, as many people aim for as well. If you aim for that too, here’s what I advise to do (for the trip types from above):

1. Ring road only, no F-roads

small 2wd car

Small 2wd car

Basically any car, just read carefully what’s included in the insurance. We took an old Hyundai i20 for our first day because it was cheaper than roundtrip from the airport to Reykjavik by bus. The company I can recommend for this kind of trip is Go Car Rental. Mostly because they offer one of the cheapest cars in Iceland while being a reliable car rental company which doesn’t scam its customers. Lately also Lotus Car Rental went with their prices lower, so they are one of the cheapest now as well.

If you want to go for a Campervan option, I can highly recommend Happy Campers. They are one of the biggest and cheapest campervan companies in Iceland. You can be more than sure that your experience with them will be awesome.

Go Car Rental promo code:

A PROMO CODE epiciceland will get you a 5% discount with Go Car Rental and us a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

2. F-roads with no river crossings or only minor ponds

small 4wd car

Small 4wd car

Basically any 4×4 car. If it wasn’t for the Icelandic law, which requires you to have 4×4 on EVERY F-road, I would say even 2wd car would be sufficient for most of the Icelandic F-roads which do not have river crossings, during good weather. They are just really bumpy with many potholes, but in 90% of cases easily passable. Bad weather may change this dramatically of course. We had the best experience with Lotus Car Rental and heard great feedback on Go Car Rental from many travellers as well. But, of course, if you prefer to do your own research go for sites like

If you want to go for a Campervan option, I can highly recommend Happy Campers. They are one of the biggest and cheapest campervan companies in Iceland. They even rent 4×4 campervans!

Happy Campers promo code:

We offer to our readers a 7% PROMO CODE for Happy Campers rental.

3. F-roads with medium river crossings

medium 4wd car

Medium 4wd car

4×4 car with decent ground clearance, i.e. in my opinion at least 18 centimetres and with air intake which is high enough (at least your hip height). Best performance to the price in this category is for me undoubtedly Dacia Duster 4wd, the option we took after my research. Again, we had the best experience with Lotus Car Rental, but you should do well also with Go Car Rental or your own research which is easiest to start with the Icelandic search engine If you feel unsure and better want to go for the safest option, you may still choose the biggest car available – super-jeep. In this category, I recommend Isak 4×4 Rental.

Lotus car rental promo code:

A PROMO CODE absoluticeland will get you a 5% discount with Lotus and us a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

4. F-roads with big and treacherous river crossings

Icelandic Superjeep

Icelandic Superjeep

The so-called super-jeep 4×4 car. You need to have really high ground clearance, strong engine, artificially modified air intake, very good tires and other things a car mechanic would describe better than me. Even in this case, crossing big rivers (like Krossá near Thórsmörk) may be dangerous. There are just a few companies which will let you rent a super-jeep, where one with the best performance to price ratio is Isak 4×4 Rental according to my research.

Isak 4×4 promo code:

A RARE PROMO CODE epiciceland will get you a 10% discount with Isak 4×4 and us a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

It’s all about river crossings

At the end of the day, it’s all about river crossings. The size of rivers you want to cross determines what car do you need for those rivers. Apart from river crossings, there’s nothing super dangerous about Icelandic roads in the summer, other than any other roads around the world. Winter season, of course, changes this significantly and factors like how the car handles snow come into the force.

iceland river crossing

River crossing in Iceland. Taken from

I wanted to try many interesting F-roads and see the magical surreal landscapes surrounding them, so I haven’t even considered options 1 and 2. I finally opted for option 3, because you are able to see the majority of the most beautiful places in Iceland without crossing big rivers. You cannot avoid the small to medium ones, however. Secondly, a price jump from option 3 to option 4 is a huge one, you can easily triple the price of your rental car because of it being a super-jeep.

Under option 3, i.e. 4×4 (or 4wd is sufficient as well), the clear winner in terms of performance to price ratio has been Dacia Duster. I can confirm this after our 12 days trip. We successfully drove all our planned roads without any problems, crossing around 20 rivers, including several medium-sized ones. I can highly recommend Duster under normal weather conditions even in the Highlands.

Although we didn’t experience any heavy rain during our drives on F-roads, Duster should still be capable of dealing with most of the situations, except big rivers, which, however, is not an option 3 anymore. You can read this blog further for a list of F-roads which we’ve done and also to see which rivers are considered to be small to medium-sized ones.

Dynjandi Vestfjarðavegur road 60

Road 60, or Vestfjarðavegur in Westfjords towards Dynjandi waterfall

Car rental company and insurance

For me, this was an easy choice. I wanted to do the river crossings. That means, there is always an option that your car can get stuck in water or your engine may be damaged by water. And this may cost thousands of Euros. I definitely wanted to avoid that. And, since there is only one car rental company in Iceland which insures you even for river crossings, I’ve opted for this company – Lotus.

River crossings are part of their platinum insurance package, which costs around 40eur/day, i.e. almost the same as platinum insurance packages from other car rental companies that do NOT insure you in case of river crossings. Although a car rental via Lotus costed a bit more (around 100eur/day for 11 days) compared to some other companies, river crossing insurance was a deal-breaker for me.

lotus car rental iceland

GET 5% DISCOUNT for Lotus Car Rental with PROMO CODE: absoluticeland

On top of that – not only Lotus insures you in case of river crossings – it also allows you to drive on ANY F-road. What does this mean? Majority of car rental companies do not allow you to drive certain roads (e.g. F249, F210, F26). What does it mean “do not allow”? Firstly, you can get fined for doing that. Secondly, in case you drive them, no insurance applies for your rental, even if you paid for the platinum one.

Read our guide on how to choose the best car rental insurance for Iceland.

Of course, with some roads, this makes sense, like the ones I mentioned above, as they may be often dangerous. However, rental companies often tend to forbid you driving even on F-roads which are not that dangerous, but the rental company has “some risk” that you may damage the car somehow, so they better forbid you to drive the road. Which makes really no sense to me – why am I borrowing a 4×4 car then, which is allowed to drive F-roads, when a rental company doesn’t allow me to drive almost half of them?

That’s why I chose Lotus. They let you drive on any F-road and their insurance applies in case of ALL F-roads, which really is a great feature. Then it’s up to you to judge which routes are doable for you and which are not.

Southern part of Icelandic F208 road

F208 road from Vik towards Landmannalaugar

Our car rental experience

With Lotus, the entire rental process was really smooth, you’ve got a nice website with all info you need, you’ve got really great reviews (I would say the best among all rental companies in Iceland).

We arrived at the car rental desk, being the only customers at that time (unlike in the case of some other companies). The car was ready immediately. Kudos to Laura at the desk, who explained to us everything we needed, showed us how to operate the rooftop tent, how to use wi-fi router, gave us advice on how to drive the car the best way and other important basics. The car was in a great condition without any damage (unlike in the case of some other companies).

I asked Laura on her opinion about river crossings we were planning to do and she reassured me they all should be doable in case I drive properly, even in Dacia Duster, and that most of them she had done already and are not that hard. She told us the only river she doesn’t recommend us crossing is Krossá river on the road to Thórsmork, which reassured me even more. I was pretty sure I don’t want to cross this one, I was just afraid whether the ones we were planning (like F208, F235, F905, F910, F347) are not too dangerous as well. For example, some famous Icelandic rental companies are banning you from doing F910. Her reply reassured me that they should be fine.

I studied a lot about how the car may be damaged when crossing a river, so my last question was where the air intake of Duster is located. She replied that it’s somewhere above her hip height (i.e. some 80-100cm) which reassured me even more. I definitely was not planning crossing rivers that big (from what I’d studied, the biggest should be around 50-60cm maximum). So, empowered with my newly gained confidence from Laura’s advice, we started our journey.

Fellabær campsite

Fellabær campsite next to Egilsstaðir

First day – 2wd rental

For our first day in Iceland, we decided to rent a cheap 2wd car due to several reasons. Firstly, we had to wait for the results of Covid test adhering to “social distancing”. Secondly, we wanted to explore Reykjavik, Keflavik and their surroundings at least for a few hours, for which a 4×4 car would be useless. Thirdly, we wanted to prepare for our trip doing shopping etc. for which again a 4×4 would be useless.

Last but not least by renting a 2wd car we saved around 80Eur compared to 4×4 rental and saved even compared to a return journey from Keflavik to Reykjavik by bus, not to mention the flexibility the car gives you). So I’ve done quick research for a cheap car rental company with decent reviews (you obviously can’t find the cheap company with fabulous reviews as these 2 things contradict each other).

Our rental experience was a bit cumbersome in this case but still fine. Mainly, because we had to wait around 1 hour in a waiting room full of customers served by some really slow clerks from the car rental company, which, during Covid face masks times, was an awkward experience. Moreover, the car we got had tens of scratches, chips and damages of both to the interior and exterior of the vehicle – none of them huge, however. Maybe that is why the rental was so cheap (around 50eur).

I didn’t buy any additional insurance on top of the compulsory one (CDW, TPL), because damaging the car on a way from Keflavik to Reykjavik and back was highly improbable. I was a little bit afraid whether the rental company would examine each scratch on the car after I return it, so I took tons of pictures of the car before departing from the car rental lot. When returning the car the next day, however, the return process was smooth. There were no customers waiting and nobody examined any scratches, so it luckily took maybe 5 minutes.

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Posted by epiciceland in Guide, Roads, 9 comments