L ocals call it the Ring Road but you can as well call it Highway 1. Should your visit to Iceland involve driving odds are you will be driving on the Ring Road.
We call it Ring Road for the simple reason it runs in a rough circle around the whole country apart from the Western fjords. The whole way is 1332 kilometres long and still today chunks of it are plain gravel instead of asphalt.
Most civilized people stopped using gravel roads in the 14th century but on world road scale Iceland is pretty much on par with Africa. Venture off main roads and instantly gravel roads make your drive anything but comfy and scenic.
Even nicer roads here are horrible and most of the Ring Road for instance is only two lanes to and fro. This means should your attention wander for just a second you might not leave Iceland again in one piece. Add to this the fact that many bridges on the Ring Road are just one lane so traffic from either direction sometimes has to wait.
Indeed, the most common accidents, including deaths, of foreigners in Iceland are connected to high speeds on gravel roads. Add wintertime with frost and snow to the mix along with thousands of not very safe roads and you see why driving in Iceland is no picnic.
In any case the Ring Road is the road to take if you want to take in superficial Iceland so to speak. It takes you by most towns in the country and services are available with regular intervals. As opposed to other roads where you can easily drive for hours without seeing one gas station.
Take special care if you drive a caravan or some such bigger vehicle. Over long distances on the Ring Road there are few possibilities of stopping and official rest stops are few and far between.
Naturally, this being part of the hardcore Nordic countries drunk driving is not allowed and just one beer will get you suspended. Many locals drive way faster than the 90 kilometres allowed on most stretches of the Ring Road knowing the police is short staffed. But this is being solved in some places with speeding cameras. All foreigners stopped for speeding must pay the fine onsite before they are allowed to travel further.
View The Ring Road of Iceland in a larger map