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Sandstorms in Iceland: The Ultimate Guide

What is a sandstorm? Are they dangerous and what can you do to avoid them when travelling around the country? This guide is for anyone renting a car in Iceland.

If you are planning a trip and looking at a car rental in Iceland you might have noticed some strange-sounding insurances available such as the Sand and Ash insurance. You might be thinking it's all for nothing, but if you are planning to rent a car in Iceland you might just want to select this additional insurance. At the end of the day, it can make a big difference at the end of your trip. In this blog we will go over the sandstorms in Iceland and what it truly means.

What are sandstorms in Iceland?

When we speak about sandstorms, we should be talking more about dust and ashes. Although it might be easy to connect sandstorms only to lose sand, there is more to it. If we put it into a concept that when a Volcano has finished erupting all the ash and other materials will need to come down somewhere. In simple words, it will land where the wind takes it.

If we think about the ash it will sit on the vegetation which will hold on to the sand and ash resulting that it binding together. These storms aren't solely associated with volcanic eruptions; they happen when strong winds pick up loose material that has been displaced by plumes during various types of events including earthquakes or hurricanes—and send them spinning around until there finally comes an end (or perhaps beginning) at someone else's vehicle. What it can do is damage the painted surface of the vehicle and even the windows.

Sandstorm in Iceland

When do these sandstorms happen in Iceland?

If we put it simply, the best time to avoid sandstorms is by visiting Iceland during the summer months. At this time, the grass and the moss are growing in warmer weather and with its moisture. Resulting in the vegetation will not have loose ash or sand on it.

During the winter, snow and ice can hold down the loose sand and ash without causing any damage to vehicles. But without the snow, the vehicle will be vulnerable should the wind pick up, and vegetation hasn‘t yet had time to grow back. As the weather in Iceland is very unpredictable it is hard to know when this might happen during the winter months.

Where in Iceland do sandstorms happen?

The most common question we ask ourselves is, do the sandstorms happen in specific areas on the island, the answer is unfortunately not so simple. If we try to keep this on the more simple terms, the most common area where sandstorms happen is on the south coast of Iceland. However, it can also happen all across the island. It‘s just more likely on the south coast. The wind can be extremely strong at this location, as well as you will have black sand beaches covering around 200km (roughly 124 miles). The sand can easily pick up and hit your rental car. This is why the Sand and Ash insurance can play a vital part in your experience in Iceland. We all know, we cannot predict damages, so having the correct coverage will be important in Iceland.

Black beach in Iceland

How frequently do sandstorms occur?

Again, it is difficult to say exactly how often they happen. With the unpredictable weather conditions, a large part of Iceland is an open place meaning it can happen at any time. The wind is typically stronger during the winter months so it is important to look into the weather forecast while travelling in Iceland. We also strongly recommend monitoring the Safe Travel website, it provides all the important information we need while on the road. It will provide you with weather and road warnings.

What does a sandstorm in Iceland look like? 

The sandstorm in Iceland looks like a fog and when you go outside you will not notice it, but as soon as you go outside and drive your car you will feel that something is wrong. You will hear strange noises coming from your engine and you will feel that something is wrong. When a sandstorm passes over a place, it blocks out the sun, but the first thing people notice is that it looks like fog. This is because the particles in the air catch and reflect the light from the sun, creating a colourful fog effect.

Car damaged due to sandstorm in Iceland

This photo shows a car in Iceland damaged due to a sandstorm. 

Red sandstorm in Iceland, is that real?

The infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010 and caused all kinds of problems; since then it has become one of Iceland's most famous volcanoes. When this volcano erupted, its ash covered much of the surrounding area and there was even some dust that mixed with the ash and caused a reddish colour on the cars and roads. 

Do I need Sand and Ash insurance in Iceland?

Depending on, how safe you would like to travel, having Sand and Ash insurance is recommended in Iceland. Without protection, we are taking risks that might be expensive in the end. But with SAAP you will have reduced your liability in case of sand storms. We recommend reading all about Sand and Ash insurance right here for more information.

Ready to get on the road?

Once you have found the right car for your trip to Iceland, you can read our blog about Iceland and our travel guides for more information. You can also look at our wide range of vehicles and compare 2WD and 4x4 vehicles. Having the correct coverage is important in Iceland to give you that extra peace of mind while on the road.

At Icerental4x4 we have a wide selection of insurances that you can read about.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our experts that are always happy to give their local advice about vehicles, insurance, and Iceland in general.

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