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All You Need to Know About The Askja River Crossing

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Askja is a very unique area which you should definitely visit while traveling around Iceland. Askja volcano is the most famous place for all volcanoes fans. The surrounding of the Askja caldera looks like the lunar landscape and it attracts many tourists every year. It also worked well for the Apollo astronauts training which we spoke about in our previous post.

Askja is a stratovolcano which last erruption took place in 1061. It belongs to this group because of the lava layers that formed as a result of constant eruptions thousand years ago. Its interior is filled in with the milky water which is so warm that you can take a swim in it. Lakes nearby and countless lava fields make a beautiful surrounding for this area.

Beautiful Askja lanscape - driving in Askja involves river crossing on F-roads

Roads to Askja- River crossing

Askja is a part of Vatnajokull National Park in the Icelandic Highlands and the only way to get there is through the moutain roads called F-roads. If you decide to visit this magical place you need to be prepared for driving on F-roads and crossing rivers. Central highlands driving is difficult or even impossible for inexperienced drivers so you will need few tips and some advice.

There are two routes leading to Askja. The first one is the easier one which should be choosen by all those who do not have much experience in driving on F-roads and crossing glacial rivers. You will start your trip on the Ring Road which is the well known Road no. 1. then turn onto mountain road F905. You will continue on this road for about 21 kilometres and then you take Road F910 for the next 62 kilometres.

In total there are three river crossing on this route. The first one though should not cause any trouble as it is not very deep so don’t be surprised if you don’t even find it on Google Maps. Apparently it is not challenging enough to even call it a river crossing. However for most of you who come to Askja for the first time, it will be a great beginning for the other two crossings.

The second route is more challenging and the most known among tourists. This is why it always comes up as the first option and it is really challenging. If you do not have much experience in driving on F-roads I would rather you stick to the first option which is much easier. This route involves the mountain road F88. There are several river crossings on glacial rivers, which are really difficult and can be very dangerous for inexperienced driver with small cars.

How to cross a river - tips and advice

Before even starting your trip to Askja, you should check the weather and roads conditions not once but several times during the day. Weather in Iceland is unpredictable and can change any minute, this is even more drastic in the Central Highlands.

Also remember that F-roads are only open in summer. If you are travelling in the middle or end of September, you should check if the roads are still accessible and open. Normally they close in mid September around the 15th, however there is no fixed date and it all depends on the weather forecast and the roads conditions, which change every year.

A group of two cars crossing river in Askja

One should note that Iceland is a very rainy island. If you are planning your adventure in Askja, check first if there was a heavy rain in the last few days. This will make a huge importance because you will be crossing the river and the water lever would rise which makes it even more difficult. So before entering, try to figure it out how deep the river is. The water level will always be higher in summer.

It all starts with the car rental to be perfectly honest. We will repeat ourselves but we really want it to be clear. Small cars are not suitable for any type of river crossing in Askja. If you are renting a Jimny or a Dacia Duster - do not do it because you will get stuck. We have already seen people who got stuck in the river and believe me, you would rather avoid this stress on your trip to Iceland.

So when you are planning to visit Askja, start with choosing the right car for your adventure. This will be worth it to pay a litte extra for your rental than regret it in the end. The best idea would be to use a Super Jeep four- wheel-drive which has enough clearance. It might seem like we’re exaggerating but believe it. If you do not believe us, you will realize it when you get to the river side and see how it looks like for yourself.

It is a good idea to ask your car rental company if the model you rent is suitable for Askja roads and if so, ask for some additional tips and advice. They will be happy to help and share some tricks with you.

It is highly recommended to cross the rivers in groups of more than one car so if you see more people travelling to Askja with you on the road, do not hesitate to offer to join each other and do it together. This is mostly for safety and in case you need help.

Another tip, that might seem obvious (to you (but not to everyone) is to make sure you close all the windows to avoid the water getting inside the car. And if you ever get stuck, which we hope will not happen to you, do not get out of the car and try to swim in the river. The stream is too strong and it can be deadly.

Try to always go with the stream and cross the river diagonally to avoid being pushed away by the water. Going against the current can increase the possibility of the water entering the engine. Adjust your speed to around 5 km/h on a low gear so you do not loose control of the car. You need to go slowly and steadily, not too fast and do not worry about the loud sound of the engine, nothing will happen.

This is important: you should never switch gears while you are already in the water! And do not speed up. You might see some of the big cars entering at a really high speed crossing the river immediately and might think that the faster the better but this is not true. Note that those cars have snorkels which allow oxygen intake of the engine, so unless you have this device, do not follow them!

It is also recommended to cross the rivers before noon as the stream is calmest then. It peaks in the evening though we know it is not always possible. Never get into the river if you are not entirely sure that you can reach the other side. There’s no rush; think it over and if it is necessary just wait for another car to come by and then decide together.

You should plan the route you will go through before entering. A very important thing to remember is that you should not enter where it seems extremely calm. This is only the sign that it is very deep in there. Many tourists misjudge the situation and choose to go through the calm areas, which is very dangerous.

Probably your first thought when you enter the river will be that you are sinking and the worst you can do is to panic. So stay as calm as you can because like that you have the full control over yourself and the situation. As always, common sense rules the day and if you feel that you will not manage to cross the river, just leave it and maybe give it another go on a different day or go for an organized tour to avoid self driving on F-roads in Askja.

River crossing in Askja involves a glacial river Jokulsa a Fjollum

All You Need to Know About The Askja River Crossing

We hope our tips and advice on crossing the rivers in Askja is helpful and makes you more prepared for your new adventure. If we contribute in helping to cross the river, make sure you let us know! We are awaiting your comments and feedback. Have a safe crossing!

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