Waterfalls, Maps and "F" Roads.

One of the major sights of Iceland is the Dettifoss waterfall in the north east. This is claimed to be the biggest waterfall in Europe at 500 cubic metres of water per second. Access to the falls is by either the 864 or the F862. The F862 provides access to the western bank of the falls (with better views) but is for 4x4 vehicles only, even the 864 is fairly rough (but Womble could do it).

The falls are very spectacular but because the water runs over many kilometers of soft volcanic lava it is a rather disappointing grey colour.

As with many things in Iceland it is not really possible to do them justice with small pictures on a web site, but just to give you feeling for scale there are at least nine people visible beside the falls on the east bank.

Iceland Maps: Paper and Digital.

Whilst buildings in towns are sometimes difficult to identify because of a lack of street numbers and names the Icelandic road system is very well signed. Not only are the major roads all numbered and graded (see below) even very minor roads (to clusters of farms or hamlets) usually have a map posted at the junction with a major road.

The two paper maps of Iceland we have found to be useful are the Insight Iceland FlexiMap (1:898,000) and the Freytag & Berndt Iceland Road Map (1:500,000).

Because Mog has both a Garmin GPS-V and a Sony Vaio SR1 notebook computer mounted in the cab for navigation I naturally looked for digital maps of Iceland. (Because you can now buy a second-hand notebook computers on eBay for as little as $400 you can make a very flexible GPS navigation system that cost less than a stand-alone system but with a colour screen big enough to read whilst moving.)

I looked at three digital maps to use in Iceland, Autoroute 2002 (, Garmin WorldMap Version 2.0 and VisIT ( Whilst Autoroute 2002 covers the world (just), detailed information is restricted to Europe. Garmin WorldMap attempts to cover the entire world (and fails). The version of VisIT that I bought is specific to Iceland. Below is the information provided by each map for the area near the volcanic caldera of Askja in central Iceland (only reachable by "F" roads). The red dot, bottom right, is at N65.000° W16.500°.

Autoroute 2002 provides reasonable coverage of the major roads in Iceland but the coverage of minor roads is poor. For example the F905 and F910 are mislabeled as the (nonexistent) F98. The F902 to Kverkjökull (were we are now) is not shown at all.

Garmin WorldMap only shows the major roads in Iceland. Very few "F" roads are shown. The F88, the F910 and the F902 (all necessary to get where we are) are not shown at all.

VisIT only covers Iceland and is supplied as a single CD-ROM containing raster (not vector) images from paper maps (1:250,000). If you have a notebook computer with a GPS input this is the one to use! Contact The Map Shop Iceland (cost about $35USA)

Road Types and Conditions in Iceland.

Unlike most other Western European countries Iceland's main roads are not all tarmac (paved). Even the main "ring road" (route 1) is a mixture of two lane tarmac and two lane well graded dirt. Lesser roads vary from tarmac down to single lane ungraded dirt. In general two digit roads (e.g. route 85 and 83) are in good condition whilst three digit roads (e.g. route 864) may be fairly poor. Some road numbers begin with "F" (e.g. the F88), these "Fjallvega" or mountain roads are routinely closed in winter and only open in late June or early July. Many minor roads are restricted to specific types of vehicle.

Drivable Track - For reliable vehicles only, rough and steep but few wet sections. (OK for Womble)

Rough Track - Good 4x4 vehicles only, rocky and wet sections, rivers to cross.

Mountain Track - Special 4x4 only, steep hills, snow or treacherous rivers.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2003-10-26.