What To Pack For An Iceland Road Trip in Autumn

What to pack for an Iceland road trip in autumn

Iceland © Juliette Sivertsen


The land is desolate.

There’s a black rim around the edge of the island, revealing the volcanic territory I’m about to fly into.

From my window seat in the sky, I can see a single road edging around the island and the occasional moving rectangle of a vehicle below.

I had imagined Iceland to be mountainous everywhere, with rugged shapes visible from the sky. I didn’t expect the entry into Reykjavik to be quite different – a bare landscape, brown, barren and desolate, as if I was flying to the ends of the earth.

But once on solid ground, driving further inland revealed the Iceland I had painted in my mind already – majestic glaciers, volcanoes and the most beautiful waterfalls I’d ever seen.


What to pack for an Iceland road trip in Autumn: Faxi Falls stopover

Faxi Falls, South Iceland | © Juliette Sivertsen




Depending on the activities you want to see, a road trip to Iceland in autumn is an ideal time of year for exploring. It’s not yet too cold and snowy, which makes driving much easier and you’re less likely to face weather-related road closures.

It pays to always have a backup plan if you can’t make it to your destination due to a sudden change in weather conditions – which does happen frequently!

Iceland in autumn is cold – I was there in October and most days the maximum temperature was 5ºC. The wind chill factor is something else though – so prepare for the iciest wind blasts of your life. I still had reasonable amounts of sunshine each day – in fact, more than I expected for Iceland, but conditions change rapidly. Be prepared.

Some activities are not available in autumn, as it’s still not cold or frozen enough, such as ice cave or glacier tours – so if that’s on your Iceland bucket list, then wait until after November. Activities such as scuba diving or snorkeling the Silfra are offered year-round. 

Snorkelling the Silfra Fissure: snorkelling between continental plates

The Silfra Fissure, Iceland | © Juliette Sivertsen



I only had 5 days to explore Iceland – a bucket list country squeezed into a bigger trip around Ireland and Scandinavia. It’s a long way from New Zealand and I couldn’t visit the Nordic countries without at least a few days in the Land of Fire and Ice.

I considered staying in Reykjavik and simply joining day tours to the top sights, but the expense was going to add up quickly. As I was travelling solo this time, with hubby holding the fort back at home, I was initially a little hesitant about driving by myself, but I just felt a self-drive tour was a far better fit with my travel style.

It gave me freedom to see the most important parts of the country and the hidden gems that only those who self-drive will get to see.

Knowing what I know now, hiring a rental car in Iceland was the best decision I could have made.


What to pack for an Iceland road trip in autumn: visiting Seljalandsfoss

The trusty Duster at the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall | © Juliette Sivertsen




I chose to rent a vehicle with SADCars and couldn’t have been happier with my choice. Iceland is an expensive country and SADCars offers the most affordable rental cars in Iceland.

I was given a 4WD Manual Dacia Duster – perfect for an Iceland road trip in autumn.  


Iceland Road Trip In Autumn: Dacia Duster car rental

The Dacia Duster | © Juliette Sivertsen


Even though it was just me driving, I felt safe being in a bigger vehicle. Especially when those Icelandic winds pick up and you can feel the car moving in the gales.

The staff at were super friendly and helpful with any questions I had and made a real effort to welcome visitors to the country.

The company premises is not on the airport site itself, but they include pick-up and drop-off. Be sure to factor in the extra time when you arrive and leave Iceland.

I highly recommend paying for additional insurance – and SADCars has a number of various insurance packages available such as theft cover, sand and ash protection and gravel protection.

There’s a complete bundle for 28 Euro per day which includes all of that plus collision cover. At the very minimum, you’ll want sand and ash, and gravel protection for your Iceland road trip in autumn. 

Peace of mind is always important for me – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

As always in any car hire situation, check the vehicle for any pre-existing damage such as dents and scratches, mark them off on the form and take some photos before driving off.

Iceland road trip in autumn

Mountains in South Iceland | © Juliette Sivertsen





I don’t go on any road trips – or travel anywhere for that matter – without a portable charger. I’m quite partial to my rose gold Mophie powerstation which means I’ll never be caught short on battery charge for my iPhone or GoPro or any other device which can charge via a USB port. A portable charger is especially important if you’re planning on using your phone for GPS, video and photo, which will drain the battery.



Think layers that can keep you warm, dry and act as a windbreaker. I lived in my ski jacket everywhere I went in Iceland. Brands like Northface, Colombia and Patagonia have some great options – or, if you’re a skier or snowboarder, the jacket you wear on the slopes will be ideal in Iceland. Keep it in the car at all times!



Waterproof hiking pants are a must for exploring Iceland. Jeans will not protect you from the rain, nor will any other type of athleisurewear. I always kept a spare pair of pants in the car, in case it was raining heavily and I didn’t particularly fancy driving in wet clothes.

I have a pair of Flinders Women’s Pants from New Zealand’s Kathmandu – Colombia does a similar version.



I usually had two pairs of shoes in the car at all times – one pair of decent hiking boots for exploring, and another pair to change into in case my hiking boots got muddy. I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots – they’re comfortable, durable and offer great support.



As my second pair of boots, I brought my cosy thermal-lined snow boots to change into as a ‘nice’ pair if I was going into a cafe or shop, rather than my muddy hiking boots. My Northside Kathmandu snow boots have been a great investment for winter travel.




Fortunately, in Iceland, the water is good to drink straight for the tap – or even straight from the lake in some cases! Make sure you have a water bottle handy to stay hydrated through your trip. I like to travel with a foldable water bottle because it packs down nicely when empty and molds to whatever luggage space you might have left.



A must for travel to Iceland. Icebreaker is my go-to choice for quality merino thermals. Layer up – you can always take layers off inside the car, but you’ll want them all on when you step outside.



As a skier, I’m well equipped with gear to stay warm. One of the best investments before my Iceland trip was my Icebreaker merino wool flexi-chute, which I pulled up and over the back of my head underneath my hat and across my face to stay warm.



Kinda obvious, you’d think? Well, as it would happen – I forgot to bring gloves to Iceland! Can you believe it?! So I had to go out and buy a pair ASAP and treated myself to some delightful Icelandic-patterned woolen gloves.




Iceland has some wonderful geothermal spots – both paid and free – so be sure to pack the swimwear for a dip in the hot pools along the way.

Note that Iceland has quite strict rules for hot pool complexes – you must shower (without clothes) prior to entering the hot pools. So be prepared to strip first for a shower, before donning the swimwear.




On that note, it pays to always have a quick-dry towel handy in the car! You will need it if you head to a secret, free hot pool, or simply to dry your face off after being out in the rain or next to a waterfall.



Choose a comfortable daypack that’s lightweight for travel and can hold the necessities. Osprey, as well as many other well-known ski brands, have great options, including daypacks that come with a hydration unit.



The sun can sit very low in Iceland, causing glare. Be sure to pack your sunnies to help protect your eyes. If you’re short on space, opt for some foldable sunglasses.




The most important item to keep in the car during your Iceland road trip – cameras to capture the beauty! If you plan on capturing those silky smooth waterfall shots, you’ll need to bring an ND filter and tripod to allow you to slow the shutter speed down and keep the shot steady.

What to pack for an Iceland road trip in autumn: ND filter

The top of Gulfoss Falls | © Juliette Sivertsen

What to pack on an Iceland road trip in autumn: Skogafoss

Skogafoss Waterfall | © Juliette Sivertsen




DRIVE ON THE RIGHT: Motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road in Iceland. If you’re from New Zealand, Australia or the UK, you’ll find this rather strange – it means the driver seat is on the other side of the car! I lost count the number of times I got into the passenger seat to drive.

HEADLIGHTS: All motorists need to have their headlights on at all times.

SPEED LIMIT: The speed limit in urban areas is usually 50kmh, while on the open road it’s 80-90kmh. It’s lower than many countries – and there are speed cameras in operation.

GIVE WAY RULES: At four-way intersections, the driver on the right has the right of way. In roundabouts, the right of way goes to the driver son the inside lane.

SEATBELTS: Seatbelts are compulsory for all passengers

ROAD CONDITIONS: Stay up to date with the latest road conditions with the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website.


Is Iceland on your bucket list? What are your road trip essentials?



A complete guide on how to plan and what to pack on an Iceland road trip in autumn

 Huge thanks to SADCars for the complimentary vehicle during my stay in Iceland. All opinions are my own.


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  • Anthony

    Great tips. Our experience was very similar in late March. We agree that driving is really easy and opens up a lot of adventure as long as you know how to follow the rules and are careful.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep traveling blogging. Adventure is better when shared with friends!

  • Martha Lueders

    This is a great packing list. I was in Iceland in November and I would highly emphasize wearing layers! There were days I could wear a long sleeve and vest and other days where I felt a long underwear, long sleeve, sweater, vest, and down coat wasn’t enough, ha! Also echo the recommendation to rent your own car, you’ll see so much more of Iceland that way. I was fortunate enough to do the entire Ring Road!

  • Theresa

    Great packing list. I have a Mophie in rose gold as well and never leave home without it. I just have to remember to charge it up. 🙂 Also, absolutely gorgeous photos of the waterfalls. I wish I had the camera skills to do the same. Glad to read they drive on the “right” side of the rode. Coming from the U.S., that’s a relief. Iceland is definitely on my bucket list. Just can’t figure out what time of the year I want my son and I to go. The Northern Lights are also on my bucket list and would love to see it either in Iceland or the Scandinavian countries.

  • Dada KS

    Ohh my I am not sure I would like to visit Iceland when it is cold but I guess there would be fewer tourist around and it might be worth it! But if I only had one chance to visit Iceland I would go no matter what time of the year it is! And I love road trip so I would definetely rent a car!

  • george

    Your pack list for the road trip to Iceland in autum is great. I was wondering how to make this list. Thank you very much.

  • So many beautiful impressions from amazing Iceland, this brings back a lot of nice memories from my road trip there. Your packing list covers all the important things from my exprience. Especially chargers are really helpful and needed when you are in the Icelandic wilderness and forget about time because of all these breathtaking impressions. And yes, warm clothes are mandatory as well since the weather can change drastically within a minute there.

  • Lisa Rivera

    I wish I had read this before travelling there a few years ago. I had no thermals, cosy hiking pants or neck warmer! I did ok considering, but this is really essential as Iceland is very cold. Good tip about the water bottle, I wouldn’t have thought to bring one!

  • First off, your pictures are just amazing. I am glad you shared this bit on packing for Iceland for it makes it so much more easier for any one heading there for the first time. Warm clothes with trekking shoes and even snow shoes make absolute sense. Glad you tackled the charger bit too.

  • Beautiful pictures taken there! Now I understand why there’s a big hype of traveling to Iceland nowadays.. 🙂

  • Hilary

    As always your photos are beautiful! How brave of you to go on a solo road trip like this! I’m impressed! Thank you for sharing on #farawayfiles

  • An Iceland road trip has been on my bucket list for a very long time! Your photos are absolutely beautiful and thank you for sharing such a awesome list of what to prepare for/take with me. A swimsuit is a good one – it’s easy to forget you can easily go for a dip in the hot springs and lagoons, even in the middle of winter!

  • I can’t even think of trying to drive there! Driving, as it is, is stressful and driving on the right would be a nightmare in my case!
    Thanks for this excellent list of things to pack. Foldable waterbottles & travel towels are worth investing on.

  • Great packing tips. I always tend to over pack, and because Iceland has so many awesome outdoor activities, I would definitely go heavy on the warm clothes (and the camera gear). The last time I visited Iceland, I didn’t even own a camera…

  • Parnashree Devi

    You have given the best packing tips. The car renting details and the rules are absolutely helpful. Iceland is one country where road trips are mandatory for the scenic drive and breathtaking landscape. Snow boots are always great to invest in.

  • Ha

    I love your list! Waterproof jacket is defintely necessary in Iceland trip as there are many waterfalls around. I didn’t pack swimsuit during my trip to Iceland, so I missed all the hotspring there. Trekking shoes are really important too! I had a road trip around Iceland and cannot wait to do it again!

  • Samah

    I bookmarked this, as it’s the most helpful post I’ve read about Iceland, particularly about driving. I’m also keen on visiting Iceland solo, and I rent cars everywhere I go, so these are great tips! I may just consider going on autumn next year

  • Map Camera Travel

    Let me say, your pics are so amazing. The list is wonderful and i am glad to read this post before our travel to iceland. Certainly helpful.

  • I’m so glad you went over the car rental information. I find that to be sometimes the most confusing when you’re in a different country. So many options and how do you know you’re getting the best deal? We’re actually researching car rentals for a trip right now…ha! Looks like you had an amazing time! #flyawayfree

  • Samantha Applewhaite

    What a great packing list for Iceland. I wasn’t too sure what the temperature was like there in October. Seems typical and same as it is in Southern Ontario, Canada. But that wind chill gets ya every time!

  • Punita Malhotra

    I cannot think of anything missing from that packing list. Road tripping through Iceland in autumn sounds perfect for us, since its not too cold then. I suppose the weather can take a turn anytime, specially if it gets windy.

  • That’s a good list. I went road tripping in Iceland with my husband in winter. Sunglasses and swimwear might sound surprising to many, but they were absolutely essential. So was sunscreen. Never thought the winter sun would be so harsh. Water bottle is also an essential. The water is so clean, there’s really no need to buy water.

  • Food and Footprints

    Very useful tips. One of us actually took a road trip through Iceland in September, so much of what you wrote was familiar! Beautiful country!

  • I didn’t realize you did Iceland by yourself! I’m definitely a self-guided route person and hate being stuck to a tour’s schedule even if it is more convenient and less stressful. Great list and sustainable too! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Happy New Year from Copenhagen! Erin

  • Such a good list! But let’s talk about how GORGEOUS your photos are! I’m dying to visit because of them! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday – hope to see you for the 1st one of 2018 tomorrow! xo

  • Janine Good

    I love packing lists as they get me so excited to travel to new places! I LOVE the scarf set that is 100% Icelandic! And I would definitely pack thermals as they will keep you warm. Dampness is the WORST in cold conditions so anything to avoid wet feet like the boots you suggest are gold. Thanks so much for coming out to the Christmas Fly Away Friday. Happy new Year and see you tomorrow!


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