Stranded In Snow With Our Rental Van In Iceland

car stuck in snow

When I saw a $99 flight to Iceland, I jumped on it, regardless of when the date of travel was. After finding out that it was during the worst of Icelands winter (January), I tried to take the appropriate caution and prepare for driving on the snowy roads. Car rental insurance? Check. Driving slow to avoid black ice? Check! We drove in snow before, so I wasn’t too worried.

On our first night we went out searching for the northern lights. We eventually pulled over on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, in the complete dark. This is exactly what you SHOULDN’T do.

We pulled off into what we thought to be only a little bit of snow. Turns out a little bit was actually about 10 inches, and we were officially stuck.

It’s one thing to be stranded on the side of the road, but stranded in a foreign country, in 20 degree weather, in the snow, without a 4WD is definitely something else.

Iceland winter driving


With 3 guys pushing the van and me trying to gas the car out of the ditch we dug, nothing seemed to work. After 15 minutes of no progress, I naturally started to freak out. My mind reeled back to all those blog posts I read about how Iceland winters were no laughing matter. Why didn’t I save that Iceland Road Assistance number? I felt like crying.

Just then a car pulled over on the side of the road, and we lucked out with someone coming to our aid. Soon after another car with 2 men arrived, and another one after that. In a matter of minutes we added 4 more people to our cause, at 1:30 in the freakin morning. I couldn’t believe it!

After 15 more minutes of effort, (and me effectively being replaced because my driving skills suck), our party of 8 cheered as our van finally freed itself from the snow back onto the road.

We kindly thanked everyone who helped us. Icelandic people are so generous and kind! It was definitely one of those, “Wow, humanity can be pretty awesome” moments.

We definitely learned our lesson:

car stuck in snow


Don’t pull over onto the side of the snowy road, especially when you don’t have a 4WD!

Snow can be very deceiving, so it’s best to be overly cautious. Pulling off to the side in pitch black is also not recommended – you don’t want to get run over by other drivers do you?

Luckily no one was hurt and our car wasn’t damaged. (I’m glad we got rental insurance though; it’s always a safe bet, especially with icy roads.)

Sadly we weren’t the only ones who got stuck – we saw 2 other cars during our trip that we had to assist, but we were quite happy to return the favor! The experience was definitely a story to remember 🙂

Some useful information so you don’t end up unprepared like me:

Iceland Road Conditions

Iceland Road Assistance