The F35 – or Kjölur Route is likely the most famous road trip in Iceland, apart from route 1, the Ring Road. The reason is that you get Icelandic Highland feeling with a relatively limited difficulty of driving. Other routes like the famous F26 Sprengisandsleid will already ask you to ford rivers, for example. While weather prevented me a few times from doing this road trip of my dreams, I finally made it in summer 2022. Here are my impressions.
This posting comes with 131 major size pictures in the travel galleries.
F35 Kjölur-Route – The Road
One additional factor why the road is that popular among tourists is that you typically include its Southern starting point in your tour planning anyway. The route starts between famous Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir Hot Spring Area. However, the “real” route is starting in the Gullfoss region, where I also started my coverage. The route finishes, when it merges in the 731 route South of Bolstadharhlidh, which is located at the ring road.
Despite the route is a comparably easy road trip, it is only open in summer. Depending on how frosty the winter has been and how much damage it took on the course, the Icelandic road authorities will free the road for traffic in June or July. If you aim to do F35 in mid-September and make it, you are already a very lucky guy. During the opening months, there is even a scheduled bus connection between Reykjavik and Akureyri using 4WD buses and the F35 route. However, the “traditional” ring road connector is much faster.
F35 Kjölur-Route – Car & Driving Demands
The Icelandic authorities several times changed the route numbering beween F35 and 35. The F would indicate that only 4WD cars with a suitable chassis clearance are allowed to use the road. At the time of driving and writing, the F35 did however not have that limitation, some locals drive it with ordinary cars. However, if you haven’t arrived by ferry and do your road trip through Iceland by rental car, your car rental company will limit the selection of cars allowed to drive this road. A few even determine between cars suitable for F35 only and F-Roads in general, as the Kjölur is relatively easy. You should always consult road.is for the actual driving conditions at the beginning of the day.
Regardless what your rental company allows you, I would definitely recommend not to do the trip with a car with low chassis clearance. There is a lot of gravel (see below) and it will mean that you have to drive really slow. A Suzuki Jimny or a Dacia Duster (which I used, rented from Geysir on this trip) is already an excellent choice. I would however say that you do not need to have four wheel drive for the trip is not necessary, even under adverse weather conditions. However, if you want to go for the lovely detour and also go up to the very top to Hveradalir on F347 Kerlingarfjallavegur, you should have that option (however, the list of elevated cars without 4WD in Iceland is rather limited anyway).
F35 Kjölur-Route – The Trip
My trip has been done from South to North, i.e. I started in the early morning at the Litli Geysir Hotel, passed Gullfoss and then headed on the F35 towards Bolstadharhlidh to reach Akureyri the next day. The pure F35 traveling time, not including the F347 detour, but with some photo stops, was roughly 3:30 hours. The traveling distance is about 170km.
The first kilometers of the trip are a normal paved road and you already ask yourself why you have invested into a 4WD car. Also the first kilometers of gravel road are very easy drive and are comparable to good gravel roads in other parts of Iceland. As you see on the pictures, the weather during my trip has been at most reasonable. However, the landscape is soon turning into what you expect from the trip, e.g. a moon alike lava structure. You also see on the pictures below that the shoulders of the street soon turn from green grass to gravely structures.
An Easy River Crossing
The first highlight of the trip is the crossing if the river Ölfusa. You also see here how comparably well the F35 is maintained – at other locations in Iceland, you would definitely been asked for your river-crossing skills. Soon after the bridge, there is the possibility to take a detour Northwest towards the Hagavatnsvegur (F335), at which end you can reach the Nyifoss waterfall. I did not go for that, rather due to a lack of experience how long the whole day trip would finally take me. F335 will require fording.
The following section of the F35 has been the most beautiful parts of the trip to me (not only due to better weather). A very rocky area, also the road conditions are getting worse. However, they require some increased concentration, but even with a simple 4WD jeep, they are no bigger challenge. Later you pass the beautiful Hvitarvatn glacier lake, one of the next eye-catchers of the trip.
Shortly thereafter, I went for the detour Eastbound on the lovely F347, which I highly recommend if you feel you are fine with the road conditions. In the following section of the trip, you get rather close to the glaciers. The F735 (Thjofadalavegur) is a popular detour. The washboard-alike track is maybe one of the roughest of the trip, but still absolutely doable without major effort. One one of the pictures, you see the 4WD bus service between Reykjavik and Akureyri, by the way. Another picture shows you a cyclist, which is surprisingly popular – I feel I passed some twenty to thirty on the whole F35 route.
Finally: Power Plants and Sheep
The closer you get to the Blöndulon lake, the more F35 tells you that the “fun part” is going to be over very soon. Rather quickly, the landscape becomes green again and sheep greet you along the road. There are also some informative stops, including a pillar which is giving you an overview of the sights around. There is also some information how the water power power plant at that sight is working. After passing the lake, there are also more houses. The slowest part of the trip has by the way been the last kilometer, as I had I group of Icelandic horses right in front of me.
F35 Kjölur-Route – Services
The list of services is really limited. There are one or two cafes along the route and there will be some touristic facilities at the F347 soon. However, there is no petrol station along the route. Especially if you add more detours than I did and for example have a look at some of the lakes on mainland, fueling up your car is absolutely mandatory. There are card-only fueling facilities near the geysirs in the South of F35. Coming from the Ring Road in the North, you should refuel at Varmahlid or Blönduos, depending if you are traveling clockwise or anti-clockwise.
F35 Kjölur-Route – The Gallery
There are 131 major size pictures related to this posting in the travel galleries:
F35 Kjölur-Route – My View
Riding the F35 is definitely a memorable trip. If you are looking for a real Icelandic driving challenge, the route might be a bit of boring, but it offers some really nice detours to add thrill. I really loved the trip, especially as it has not been full of touristic sights, cafes and services. If you are in Iceland in summer and have sufficient time (and a reasonable car for it), I definitely recommend the trip.
Postings about Road Trips
Here are all road trips on Flyctory.com
Flyctory.com and Iceland
Here are all my postings related to Iceland:
Hi, thanks for the article. I’m going to be in Iceland the first week of September and am looking to spend two or three days hiking around the Kjolur route. I’m looking to avoid renting a car due to cost so I was wondering which bus company will go from Reykjavik up the F35?
thanks for your question. I had that trip on my bucket list and am really confused about it now. I am rather sure that Straeto ran that trip. At the current may map of public transport, there is no bus connection marked via the F35, not even to Gullfoss:
They might add it. The only thing I found is a trip by Gray Line daily return, but they turn back somehow in the middle of the trip:
Might be sensible to ask the two companies directly. I could imagine that they only sell the tickets once they know exactly that F35 is open for road traffic (which may move by a couple of weeks). Not even sure if first week of September is already too late. Keep my fingers crossed!