Excuse me, what? Sandstorms in Iceland? That has to be some kind of typo. I’m here to tell you that no, you read that absolutely right. Just like the Sahara desert, Iceland gets sandstorms as well. Of course, ours come from volcanic ash and sand, so they’re a little bit different. But they can still do a ton of damage nonetheless.
Sandstorms in Iceland: What are they?
Sandstorms in Iceland are also known as ashstorms or dust storms. These types of natural phenomena are quite common along the South Coast. This part of Iceland has a lot of residue leftover from volcanic eruptions. The wind gets whipped up into a frenzy and before long it’s turned into a dangerous storm. Iceland sandstorms can come up out of nowhere, and if you’re unlucky enough to get caught, will cause major damage to your rental.
So how do you protect yourself or just plain avoid them in the first place? Let’s dive in and find out.
What Causes Sandstorms
So what causes sandstorms exactly? When strong winds meet loose sand or particles of dust, it picks up some of this material. When it picks up enough, the wind continues to blow and greatly reduces visibility for anyone who encounters this dust cloud. They tend to be more common in deserts as there is plenty of loose sand around, but conditions are also ripe for them to form in Iceland as well.
How Common are Sandstorms in Iceland?
When volcanic eruptions happen, these fiery mountains spew ash and dust into the atmosphere. Eventually, this volcanic material settles on the ground in the surrounding areas. Additionally, dried lava breaks into pieces and gets grounded down into the fine black sand we see on dark beaches. Combine this with the fact that Iceland has almost no natural vegetation like trees to create a wind barrier.
This creates the perfect storm for well, a sandstorm. High winds pick up these tiny particles and before you know it, they are blowing your way in a scary sand cloud.
They’re not only unpleasant and dangerous because they limit your visibility. They can also be quite abrasive and will scratch the painted surfaces and glass of your car, camper, or motorhome rental. Many of these particles will be trapped beneath ice and snow in the winter. But as soon as things start to thaw or have melted already, you no longer have ice or vegetation to bind loose elements together.
Frequency of Sandstorms in Iceland
While I can’t give you the exact number of the frequency of sandstorms in Iceland, I can’t tell you the best time of year to visit. We talked about the importance of vegetation and how it anchors loose materials to the ground. you’ll find things like volcanic moss and Icelandic grass growing in warmer temperatures with moisture. Growing season in Iceland goes from the end of spring to the beginning of autumn, so summer is the best time to avoid sandstorms.
This isn’t a guarantee, but it does give you the best chance of reducing your risk sand damage.
How to Avoid Getting Into Sandstorms in Iceland
Probably the most important question is to know how to avoid getting into sandstorms in Iceland in the first place. As you are likely already aware, Icelandic weather is completely unpredictable and ever-changing. Your best friend when you’re traveling isn’t your thermal underwear, but rather the weather forecasts issued by the Icelandic Meteorological Office.
You’ll want to check their website daily to stay up-to-date with weather alerts and warnings. In fact, if you plan on driving, I would check it multiple times a day.
Check the wind forecast for the area you plan on driving through, especially if it’s located in the South. A sandstorm Iceland forecast or weather warning can save you a huge headache. If there are wind advisories up, I advise delaying your trip.
This isn’t just applicable to sandstorms. Icelandic wind can be very strong and can make it very difficult to steer your vehicle. It has even been known to push drivers off of the road.
Also stay up-to-date with the Travel Conditions Map on the Safetravel.is website that tracks road and weather conditions.
Iceland sandstorms: Protect Your Rental
They always say that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and that’s especially true when renting a car in Iceland. Even if you faithfully check the weather forecasts, you still might get caught in sand and ash. If you want to minimize the amount you pay for sand damage, I suggest getting the SAAP (Sand and Ash Protection) insurance. The rental companies offer it and some already include it in the price.
Iceland sandstorms are no joke, so I highly recommend taking steps to protect yourself and your rental. This coverage isn’t just for if you get caught in a freak sandstorm. It also covers damage you might incur from sand or ash. After traveling around Iceland you don’t want to get stuck with the bill for a new paint job at the end of your amazing trip.
Be Prepared Above All
The most important thing to remember is that you need to be vigilant. By checking the weather forecast and paying attention to your surroundings, you should be fine. If you do get caught, it’s best to pull over and wait out the storm. Make sure your loved ones know where you are and that the Icelandic authorities have a copy of your travel plan. You can submit it on the Safetravel.is website.