Dangerous laziness


Driving in Iceland: 5 traffic warning signs and the appropriate reactions to them

I decided to migrate this post here from my old blog, because its contents are getting more and more relevant as more tourists flock to Iceland, many of them renting cars. I have changed and expanded the text a bit from the original.
You may or may not have seen something similar in other countries, for example deer signs  in the USA or moose signs in Sweden and Norway,  (Apparently, tourists steal a number of these every year. Can’t say I blame them: These things make pretty good souvenirs). However, these signs aren’t internationally standardised like so many other traffic/road signs, so it’s good to know beforehand what they look like and what they mean.
(Here is a link to some other interesting animal warning signs from around the world)

And now, on to the signs:

Sheep crossing

Sheep are a special danger in the spring when they have just been released from their winter confinement but have not yet been taken into the highland pastures, and in the autumn when they have been brought down again but not yet housed for the winter, but you will see the occasional naughty ones throughout the summer. No fence seems capable of holding an Icelandic sheep that thinks the grass looks greener on the other side. They are unpredictable and if you see them on both sides of the road, slow down and use the horn. If they take no notice of you, passing is probably safe, but you may just see a lamb sprint across the road to join its mother.You may also see the corpses of cute little lambs by the side of the road. (I once nearly hit the remains of an ewe that had already been hit and had exploded all over the road – it was horrible).

The right thing to do if you do hit a sheep is to drive to the nearest farm and let the farmer know and offer to pay compensation, or if there is no farm nearby, call the police and let them know.

Location: Holtavörðuheiði.
Horses with riders crossing
This generally means that there is a riding path alongside the road. A risk at any time of the year, but especially during the warmer months. Note that there are no warning signs for riderless horses, but you can come across those just about anywhere out in the country.
Slow down but do not use the horn, as horses spook easily. Stop for herds and wait for them to clear the road, or inch through them very slowly. If you hit a horse (or a cow or a reindeer) you must call the police to let them know.
Location: Hvalfjörður (I think).
Cows crossing
A risk during the warmer months.
Usually found in herds, sometimes walking in a line, nose to tail, and will generally not stop for anything.
Stop and let them pass.
Location: Skagi, northern Iceland.


Enough domestic animals. Here’s some wildlife:
Reindeer crossing
Seen in the eastern part of the country at any time of the year.
May come singly, in pairs or in small herds. Unpredictable.
Wait for them to pass (using the horn will probably scatter them, but they might run back onto the road).
Location: East Fjords.
Ducks and geese crossing
Mostly seen in towns near duck ponds, but also in occasional locations in the countryside where ducks and geese nest in large numbers.
Will generally ignore you and do their own thing. Follow advice for cows.
Location: Downtown Reykjavík.


The sign you will not see, but should be there: 

Dogs that chase cars. The best way to deal with them is to slow down and use the horn, or come to a gradual stop, open a window and shout at them. This will hopefully scare them from doing it again. On no account should you brake suddenly, as this can cause the tyre biters of the tribe to miscalculate their speed and get run over.

Ignore these warning signs at your own risk.


In a collision between a horse, cow or reindeer and a car neither can win. 

If you hit any livestock you are liable to pay damages to the owner.

If you hit a lamb, a duck or a dog, you will feel like a murderer, and the larger animals can also damage your vehicle and injure you, so drive carefully.


Saturday drive

I took my brand new car out for a spin on Saturday, its first drive outside the city limits. It’s a Volkswagen Caddy Maxi panel van, and if you think it’s funny that I should be driving one of these when I work in an office, don’t be: it has been equipped as a small motor-home and since I can’t afford to insure and operate two cars, it will be my day-to-day vehicle as well from now on.

Isn’t it beautiful?

I will post some shots of the interior some time or other.


I drove up Þjórsárdalur, visited the Brúarfoss hydorelectric plant, took a look at the Þjóðveldisbær – a replica of a 12th century farmhouse – which is only open from June to the end of August, so I only saw the outside. I also checked out some electricity-generating windmills that stand near the reservoir for the hydroelectric plant. Then I drove to Flúðir, a small community nearby, and had lunch in a rather unexpected restaurant. I will post photos of all of this later this week. Today, I give you views through the windshield:

This is from the southern shore east of Selfoss. Looks very flat, doesn’t it? Actually, there are mountains and glaciers up ahead, but they are nd obscured by clouds.

(I love it when there is so little traffic that I can stop for shots like this).


This is from Þjórsárdalur (the valley of the river Þjórsá). The landscape there is dotted with rock formations, some free-standing, others part of a mountain range. Here the road runs along the river-bank: