Helpful Tips For Camping In Iceland For your Next Trip

Camping in Iceland is a fantastic experience everyone should enjoy. I traveled to Iceland four years ago. It was the third time I had traveled alone and my first stop on my world tour after graduation. After booking the cheapest flight I could take to Reykjavik and Couchsurfing my way around the capital city, I realized I hadn’t seen much of the country. I made a classic mistake of only basing myself in a capital city, but later regretted it and knew I needed to return to go camping in Iceland.

So, when we recently had the chance to revisit Iceland, we jumped at it. Iceland is a land full of natural, raw, and untouched beauty. It’s a place that doesn’t even look real, which is probably why so many movies have been filmed there in recent years. To make the most of a trip to Iceland and reach these rugged destinations, I suggest camping on Iceland’s ring road.

Iceland Camping Tips to Know!

If You’re Camping in Iceland, Consider a Vehicle

Cameron In A Happy Campers Rental Van In Iceland

We suggest renting a vehicle to explore everything Iceland offers. As much of the country is sparsely populated and undeveloped, public transportation is limited. A rental car allows you to explore more freely and spend time in nature away from the crowds. The country has plenty of wild spaces and campsites, so it’s easy to travel anywhere while camping.

It’s possible to camp in tents around Iceland with a rental car. Many campsites are level and have reliable space for tents, including showers, kitchens, and lounges. However, given the inclement weather in Iceland, it’s far more comfortable in a converted camper van or caravan, which is the most popular option for travelers.

We’ve used Happy Campers vans twice, and both times have been a tremendous experience. On our last trip, we spent two weeks in the van and found it surprisingly comfortable. It will save you from the hassle and cost of booking hotels individually or setting up a tent every night. A camper van is your transportation, accommodation, and kitchen for your trip to Iceland – which is pretty much all you need.

Multi-Day Hikes

Laugavegur Trek In Iceland

A couple of multi-day hikes, such as the Laugavegur Trek or Volcanic Trails Trek, could be completed without a car. However, a combination of public transport and private transfer shuttles will be required to reach the trailheads. If you’re planning one of these hikes, you can travel to Iceland without renting a car.

On our last trip, we also saw a handful of travelers hitchhiking around Iceland. If you’re adventurous, it could be a good option, as there are only a handful of roads in the country. Plus, you’d have the right to camp in more remote areas without a vehicle. Best of all, it would be a pretty affordable trip, as while grocery stores in Iceland are not cheap, it is possible to cook budget-friendly meals.

You Can’t Camp Wherever in Iceland

Natasha Sits In Camper Van At Waterfall In Iceland

We came to Iceland expecting to pull up to waterfalls, cliffs, and oceans and camp at Iceland’s most stunning locations. We had our gas stove and kitchenware, could shower at public pools, and use public toilets. We’d wake up at every destination with one of those killer #vanlife shots. We should have done more research.

It is the law that all campervans must have written permission to camp on the property, or in other words, a receipt from a designated campsite. Given the explosion of tourism in Iceland, it was bound to happen. Too many tourists and campervans parking all over the country became anarchy. The legislation targets vehicles and land rights, not tents or camping. You can still pitch a traditional tent in the Icelandic wilderness, but you must be on foot.

Campsites In Iceland

Camper Van View In Iceland
Some campsites still have a great view!

So, where do you camp in Iceland? There are plenty of campsites around the ring road. Most of these campsites provide necessary facilities like a toilet, shower, communal area, and maybe, if you’re lucky, some WiFi. Campsites in Iceland charge between 1500 and 3000 ISK per person per night.

If you travel between October and May, you may find many Iceland campsites closed. Don’t worry too much, though, because some sites allow you to camp for free in the offseason. However, there is a lack of facilities because they are locked.

Gas is Very Expensive

Iceland Ring Road Trip

I thought I would only have one heart attack this year when we paid $2 a liter for fuel in the middle of nowhere Zimbabwe. We just hadn’t traveled through Iceland yet. Fuel in Iceland is expensive at around $2 a liter – roughly $8 a gallon for all my American friends!

If you want to save fuel, opt for a fuel-efficient vehicle. Be prepared to pay if you’re traveling in a campervan or 4×4 like us. We spent $400 on fuel to drive our campervan around the country for ten days. Check out our Ring Road itinerary (plus some detours).

So is everything else…

Natasha Has A Bowl Of Fish Soup

If you came to Iceland for a cheap trip, you are in the wrong country, but I’m sure you already know. Just about everything in Iceland is crazy expensive, including accommodation and food. Even a cup of coffee from a machine can cost you close to $6. So make sure to budget for your Ring Road trip accordingly.

Get off Iceland’s Ring Road

Múlagljúfur Canyon hike

Some of Iceland’s best sites and attractions are not on the Ring Road. We suggest looking up the sites you want to see online and through guidebooks. Once you know what you want to see, save it to an offline Google Maps. 

Regions worth mentioning but not on the Ring Road are the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Landmannalaugar, Husafell, and Dettifoss. Everyone also recommended that we travel and camp in Iceland’s Western Fjords, the country’s least visited area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to make the most of that detour.

Ditch the GPS when Camping in Iceland

Natasha Stands Along A Small Lake In Iceland

While on Google Maps – don’t bother paying for a car GPS. Instead, download an offline Google Map on your phone. You can do this via their app. We download offline maps everywhere we travel, which rarely leads us astray. It may eat up some space on your phone memory, but it’s worth not getting lost and knowing where you are going. It’s the most efficient way to plan your routes between campsites.

But Get the WiFi

A Laptop At A Campsite In Iceland
Breakfasts while camping in Iceland

Our Happy Campervan had built-in WiFi for the entire rental period. This was fantastic for checking emails, posting to social media, and browsing for things to see in Iceland. If the internet is part of your daily life, getting a SIM card at the airport or an eSIM via an app like Airalo is easy.

Learn to Love Instant Coffee!

Camping in Iceland Ring Road Trip Happy Campers Van

Are you a coffee or tea drinker like us? For your trip, you should consider picking up tea and instant coffee at a grocery store in Iceland. Remember when I said Iceland is unimaginably expensive? Well, those costs trickle down to even the coffee and tea, so if you want caffeine, it’s best to buy instant coffee. You can also bring an Aeropress with your favorite roast from home.

Watch Where You Step!

Natasha Sits In Front A Waterfall In Iceland

One thing you will notice about the landscape in Iceland is the iconic moss. It is everywhere, and the locals cherish it. For a good reason, too – it’s a fragile part of Iceland’s gorgeous landscape. It’s important not to step on the moss, and God forbid, don’t trample it, write your name in it, or pull it up from the ground. It can take up to 70 years to grow back, so stick to the paths and admire the moss from afar.

This goes for driving down roads as well. Many of the country’s most majestic campsites and regions are down F roads in the center of Iceland. There is no development here and lots of open ground. We witnessed firsthand the harmful effects of tourists driving off-road and “having fun” doing donuts in the moss. It’s a surefire way to end up with a hefty $5,000 fine if caught or a broken nose from a local.

Northern Lights = Winter — Midnight Sun = Summer

The Northern Lights In Iceland Next To A Boat House

If you’re going to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, you must travel there when it is dark. If you are heading to Iceland to see the Midnight Sun, you must go camping in the summertime when it is light at midnight. Northern Lights in Iceland  = September to mid-April. Midnight Sun in Iceland =  May to August. Just make sure you have a warm jacket because the winter months can be freezing at night! If you want to learn more about when to visit Iceland, we have a post for that!

Practice Proper Pool Etiquette

Hidden pool in Iceland

Most towns in Iceland have a public swimming pool. It’s considered a public necessity and an important part of Icelandic culture. It is a place where Icelanders get active, relax, and socialize. They aren’t just for locals, though; foreigners are welcome too. We tried to go to as many swimming pools as possible when camping on the ring road.

Swimming pool entrance fees run around 1000 Icelandic Kroner, a fraction of the price of a Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon ticket. Public pools are fed by geothermic water. They will all have at least one main pool for swimming and two different hot tubs for relaxing. Some pools even have saunas, ice tubs, water slides, and steam rooms! You will probably want to shower on a camping trip in Iceland. We had several instances of the campsite without a shower available. That’s not a problem; you can head to the local pool for a hot shower and swim.

You Will Need to Get Naked

Hvammsvik Hot Spring

Speaking of pools in Iceland, you must get naked and wash before you enter a pool. Casual nudity is a normal part of the Scandinavian culture, and taking a shower before swimming is the law in Iceland. (No, seriously, it is the law that you must get naked and scrub.) Showers are divided by sex, and they are open-air in the locker rooms. The proper way is to undress, lock up your belongings, place your bathing suit and towel in the convenient cubbies, shower, put on your bathing suit, and leave your towel behind when you return to the locker room.

Icelanders take their hygiene very seriously, and the pools use minimal chemicals, so entering clean is important. If you don’t feel comfortable getting naked in front of others of the same sex, then going to a pool in Iceland is not for you. Showering with your swimsuit on, or worse – not showering, will likely get you scowls and maybe even a good scrub from an Icelander in the shower… they’ll do it! There’s no need to be shy, and we consider visiting a local pool a must for anyone visiting Iceland.

There are Ways to Save Money Camping in Iceland

Cameron Fills The Camper Van Fridge

Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to travel to, but there are ways you can save money! The first would be not to eat out. A basic meal for two can run about $100 USD at a restaurant. Stick to the grocery stores if you are on a budget. We found Bónus the cheapest grocery store in Iceland, followed by Krónan. Our campervan had a fridge to keep veggies frozen and milk cold, but depending on when you travel, you may not need it. The temperatures in mid-October are to be around 1 C at night. If you buy perishable items without a fridge, stick them outside while you sleep!

If you want to drink while in Iceland, be sure to either bring your alcohol with you or shop duty-free before you enter the country, or you may be paying for the most expensive cocktail of your life. Traveling in a group will save you money on car rental and gas. However, campsites charge per person and range from 1500 ISK to 3000 ISK (and some charge an extra 500 ISK if you want to use the shower). The number one thing to remember is that enjoying nature is free! There are plenty of trails, viewpoints, and waterfalls in Iceland. All of those don’t cost a penny (yet).

Credit Cards Work Everywhere

Driving Down The Road In Iceland With GPS

The country runs on credit cards; we never once had to pay with cash in Iceland. Everything from bathroom attendants to grocery stores and campsites has a credit card machine. You can also pay for an apple at a gas station with a credit card! This is excellent news for travel hackers like us and helps us earn some serious travel points.

Pack Smart While Camping in Iceland

Cameron With A Down Jacket On In Front Of Camper Van In Iceland

I’ve traveled to Iceland in summer and winter, and it was windy and cold. I recommend packing clothes that layer well. A good rain jacket and hiking boots are must-haves. Even in Reykjavik, people dress pretty casually, so there isn’t much need to be fashionable.

Pack comfortable, quick-drying, and waterproof clothing for a good time. We can easily suggest everyone pack a down jacket, rain jacket, and rain pants no matter the time of year. It’s almost always cool with a good chance of rain in Iceland. We have a great article on packing for Iceland if you’d like suggestions.

Don’t Overestimate Your Iceland Camping Rental!

Rental Vans In Iceland

No car rental insurance will cover you on Iceland’s “F” roads, which cut through the center of the country. They are rough, gravel, and mud and suitable for tough 4×4 vehicles with experienced drivers. When we picked up our Happy Camper, we were informed that we could not drive on these roads under any circumstances, and most other rentals have the same policy. If you’d like to drive these roads, you should inform the agency and reserve a 4×4 vehicle.

We recommend you stick to the nice paved roads unless you are an experienced driver with a heavy-duty vehicle. Oh, yeah – and there is A LOT of wind in Iceland. So hold the door, or it could blow right off the hinges – that’s not covered by most insurances either…yes, I’m serious.

Bring Your Own Bed

Natasha At Viking Village In Iceland

Whether camping in Iceland in a tent, car camping in Iceland, or campervanning, comfort is a priority for sleep. When we camped in Africa, we invested in heavy-duty sleeping mats, and our backs thanked us every night. Make sure to bring the right gear.

We traveled through Iceland in October, and temperatures were already around freezing. It never hurts to invest in a good sleeping bag if you’re in a campervan or tent. If you’re coming from the US, we suggest checking out REI for camping equipment, as they only carry quality products.

Towels are a Lifesaver When Camping in Iceland

Cameron Sits In The Hot Spring River

We always carry a travel towel. It doesn’t matter if we plan to hop between hotels, camp in Iceland, or head to a beach resort. They almost always come in handy. Especially if you’re camping and using the public pools of Iceland because they will charge you around 500 ISK for towel rental, you can check out our favorite travel towels here!

Learn to Cook Basics while Camping in Iceland

A Photo Of The Shelves In A Bonus Grocery Store In Iceland

Learn to cook a few easy meals. We’ve spent a lot of time camping this last year, so it’s been a process of learning simple meals that be done with one burner.

  • Wraps: These are super simple. Cameron made hot wraps by cooking a stir fry in a pan using vegan hoisin duck, frozen veggies, and mushrooms. Dish it out in some wraps and top with vegan cheese. (You can use the real stuff too!)
  • Soup: We love to make soup because it’s delicious, requires one pot, and it fills you up. For an easy and healthy soup, Cameron recommends the following: Saute onions in a pot until translucent, add mushrooms, tomatoes, vegetable stock (bouillon cubes to save space), rice, potatoes, carrots, and season with paprika. If you’re a meat eater, cook it first with the onions. The key to a soup is layering flavors and letting it simmer for a long time.
  • Pancakes: Who doesn’t love pancakes? They’re dead simple, and when you top them with peanut butter, they’ll keep you going for hours. For camping, we suggest the premade mix from the store.
  • Pasta: Roasted red pepper, pesto, avocado, or mushroom stroganoff. There are countless variations of pasta you can make. We love to mix them with frozen veggies when camping in Iceland. Fresh produce is expensive!

Camping in Iceland is No Longer a Secret

sólheimajökull Glacier Area

Chances are, if you’ve heard of the destination in Iceland, so has everyone else! You’ve probably seen photos of that abandoned plane sitting in the middle of nowhere Iceland. It’s still in that same location, but it’s now surrounded by tourists and littered with trash (including tourist poop). More importantly, it’s in the middle of nowhere!

The hike is well known for being in a flat desert area with no vegetation. It is used to add to the mystique. Now, you’re just in a line behind the other tourists trying to get that same photo. Iceland is well explored, asides from the middle, where most people can’t get. You should think about what you really want to see in the amount of time you have. However, there are some very popular sights like Skogafoss that still live up to the hype.

What Are the Best Campsites While Iceland Camping?

The Glacier Lagoon In Iceland

Like previously mentioned, you will have to stay at designated campsites overnight while camping in Iceland. There are plenty around the country. Many of the campsites at least have hot showers available, but for the most part, you are paying for the right to park your car there. You’ll find some with WiFi, a communal area, and cooking facilities if you’re lucky. We stayed at a few of our favorite campsites in Iceland: Skaftafell, Snorrastaðir, and Staðarholt.

Plan For Your Trip

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

1 thought on “Helpful Tips For Camping In Iceland For your Next Trip”

  1. Hello. We have been to Iceland twice and considering a camper for the next trip so your blog was very useful. However if I may offer one correction about the water. Yes it is pure and almost everyone agrees you can drink the water from streams but NOT glacier melt. Water from glacier melt runoff is a milky/white, contains a lot of dust and dirt and it is not recommended for drinking. Also water from streams, waterfalls and similar is clear but I would look to make sure there’s not a pasture full of sheep or Icelandic horses upstream.

Leave a Comment