A Comprehensive Guide to Camping in Iceland
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
The best way of exploring our beautiful country is by renting a campervan. No other means of traveling in Iceland gives so much freedom and a sense of adventure. Proper preparation is essential to make your trip smooth and pleasant at the same time. There are many ready-made Iceland itineraries you can just download online. We do recommend to plan it according to your needs and your own preferences. If you decide to go for a camper rental, then our guide to camping in Iceland will be very useful.
Where to camp in Iceland
Where to camp in Iceland is quite a common question! Travelling in Iceland with your rented vehicle is the best way to see as much as possible in our country. You can drive as much as you want, visit only those places that you always dreamed of and park whenever you want, right? Well, not precisely, at least regarding the latter.
In Iceland, the right to roam is quite limited. Tourists have always destroyed the delicate Icelandic vegetation—especially those going off-road with their camper vans and cars. Guided by the sake of nature, the Ministry of Environment changed the camping law in Iceland in 2015. Since that date, you are only allowed to park your vehicle on the designated parking and campsites in Iceland.
Wild camping is no longer permitted, and you can be fined. You can only stay outside the campsite, if you have the permission of the landowner. This is quite difficult to get, especially in the remote part of the island. The best way then is to plan your trip around Iceland according to the available campsites along the Ring Road. Your Iceland road trip will be much more pleasant and worry-free. Believe, me it can be a bit stressful when the night is coming, and you still have no place to stay. It is just more comfortable and much more convenient to park on the campsites.
Van camping in Iceland
In order to make your trip pleasant and enjoyable, there few things you should plan and think about. If this is the first time you will be driving in Iceland, check our safety guide on roads in Iceland.
Renting a camper van in Iceland can give you a real headache. Many companies are offering similar services, and the most challenging part is to choose the best rental company. When you already have then done, you need to select the right vehicle, which will suit your needs best. Of course, the personal preferences and the budget will be the decisive factors. Make sure though it has the right equipment and everything you might need during your camping on the Iceland trip. Check that is has a good heating system and sleeping bags included. There is nothing worst than sleeping in a cold van.
Most of the tourists start their trip directly from the Keflavik airport, from where they pick up their rental vehicle. If it will also be your starting point, make sure you stock up for food first. The grocery stores can be found in towns and cities. The little stores available at the gas stations might be a bit more expensive, so if you want to save money, do your shopping in the bigger supermarkets and refill whenever you have the chance.
The same applies to the fuel. Make sure you refill the fuel tank any time you have the chance.
Some of the gas stations are even 200 kilometers away from each other, so never leave the tank empty. This way, you will not need to stress about running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. Some of the rental companies offer a fuel discount card, which can also help you save some money during your trip.
Tent camping in Iceland
Many people also prefer to rent a car for their trip in Iceland and go tent camping. Here, legally -wise, the things look a bit differently than in the campervans case. You can set a camp with no more than three tents on uncultivated land unless there are any restrictions from the landowner.
If you happen to travel with three tents or more, you will need to get permission from the landowner first. In places like National Parks, camping is forbidden, and the signs will inform about it.
Tent camping is the perfect choice if you decide to rent a car rather than a campervan. This way you can save money on the hotels, and have much more freedom as you do not need to stick to the strict itinerary. It is much easier to find a free spot on the campsite than a vacancy in a hotel without a previous booking.
If you are planning a tent camping in Iceland, there are few things that you should think about and prepare for. First of all, you need to make sure you get the proper equipment.
The waterproof, good quality tent is essential, it will basically become your temporal home for the nights. If you choose the appropriate one, it will make you feel like you are at a real home. The space inside the tent has to be adapted to the number of people that will stay in. Choose a tent that will withstand the worst conditions you may expect. Iceland is a very rainy and windy island, so you will need a tent that will be your shelter.
Sleeping bag- same as if you will be renting a camper van, you will need a warm sleeping bag, especially if your trip was planned for early spring or winter. If you go for tent camping, you will need to take care of it yourself as well. A good sleeping bag will be the one that can keep you warm even when the temperature drops to minus zero. It must have the right size, so it can cover you entirely. If you have such a possibility, get some additional blankets just in case you get cold. You can also use them during your night hunting for the Northern Lights if it gets chilly.
Camping equipment- while it is a standard equipment in camper vans, in case of tent camping we recommend to get all that equipment in Iceland directly. You will need a gas stove, a gas bottle, cutlery, and all the necessary pans, pots, and plates. If only two people are traveling, do not get the whole tableware for 12 people. The more useless stuff you will be carrying, the less space you will have in your car.