Information on the approximate opening date of the principal mountain roads is given in the table;the map below shows the locations of mountain roads. The first two columns of the table show the earliest and latest opening dates of the roads over the past 5 years. The third column shows the average date of opening during this period. More detailed information on the opening of highland roads can be found in maps issued weekly by The Icelandic Roads Administrator and the Environmental and Food Agency during the spring and early summer, and published in the press. Further in formation on the state of the roads is also available on telephone 1777 (Icelandic Road Administration).
Travel in the highlands of Iceland has increased considerably in recent years; this reflects an increase in leisure time, improvements in vehicles for rough-country travel, and awakening interest in year-round travel.
Land which is more than 300 metres above sea level is classified as highland;the climate in the highlands is changeable, and these regions are generally blanketed with snow well into the summer months.
During the spring and early summer, when the snow melts and frozen earth thaws, both roads and vegetation are in a vulnerable state and easily damaged. The greatest risk is due to the impact of premature traffic, especially when vehicles drive off-road to circumvent snowdrifts. Attempts to use snowmobiles in spring, when snowcover is decreasing, can also inflict damage.
The highland summer lasts only a month and a half, and this is the period of growth for highland vegetation, which is thus low-growing and sensitive to any disturbance. Even walkers can inflict permanent damage on vegetation. So all travellers in the highlands should treat the natural environment with care and respect.
The state of snow cover is the most important factor in deciding when mountain roads can be opened to traffic. Roads are often very wet following the spring melt, and this can also lead to roads remaining closed to traffic.
In cases where mountain roads pass through conservation areas, the roads may not be opened until the area as a whole is in a state to withstand the pressures of visitors, even if the road itself is clear of snow and could withstand traffic.
Since 1989, the Public Roads Administration and the Environmental and Food Agency have published maps showing the condition of mountain roads every week during the spring and early summer. The maps are issued each Thursday, for as long as any mountain road remains closed. About 300 copies of the maps are distributed to hotels, the media, travel agencies etc. Up-to-date information on the state of the roads, including mountain roads, is available on telephone 1777 (Icelandic Road Administration).