Camping along the Golden Circle Iceland
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Iceland is blessed with so many natural wonders that it can feel overwhelming. First-time visitors to the country want to see and do it all. But with so much to explore that’s just not possible. Unless you have a good six months that is! The best thing to do is to choose an area or aim for your trip and then come back again for more.
For the first-time visitor, the Golden Circle is akin to a greatest hits album of Iceland’s finest sights. It makes for the perfect introduction to the wonders of the country. From powerful waterfalls to incredible landscapes and shooting geysers. All within an easy drive of each other and close to both the capital and the Keflavik International Airport. Camping along the Golden Circle is also very much manageable for all in terms of time, distance, and access.
How to reach the Golden Circle Iceland
The Golden Circle lies in South Iceland and all three sights are really easy to reach. The roads here are well-traveled and very well maintained. So driving is smooth and the whole area is well signposted. If you head out from Reykjavik the entire round trip should take you around 3.5 hours to drive. Not including any stops. As such there are a great many Golden Circle day trip tours offered from the capital.
But you can of course explore independently. And this is by far the best way of seeing the sights at their best and at your own pace. If you like you could do the whole thing in one long day. But a much more fulfilling option is to hire a camper van or motorhome and really take your time.
Wait a minute - what exactly is the Golden Circle?
The Golden Circle is sometimes also referred to as the Golden Triangle. This trio of beautiful sights consists of the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geyser Geothermal Area. For more information and pictures of the individual sights you can visit our article Everything you need to know about Iceland's Golden Circle.
As well as these main sights there are plenty of other things to see and do along the way. We have included some of our favourites in the aforementioned article. You could also take short detours to nearby sights. It all depends on how much time you have to explore.
Camping along the Golden Circle
Iceland overall is really well set up for camping holidays. The country’s residents are big camping enthusiasts themselves. The joys of Iceland are all centered around appreciating the great outdoors after all. So the country naturally lends itself to camping trips. Exploring by camper or RV camping in Iceland means that you get closer to nature and its rhythms. You’ll see sunrises and sunsets and experience the fresh air and the weather more intimately. Sleeping outdoors just naturally slows the pace of life right down. Things take a little longer to achieve and that’s just fine. Slowing down and stepping out of your usual busy routine is what a vacation is all about after all!
But that is not to say that you need to rough it too much. Iceland’s campsites and especially those on the Golden Circle route are well equipped. There will be hot showers and BBQ facilities to enjoy. Plus all the necessary facilities to top up, empty and plug in if you are hiring a motorhome.
We will just add a note on wild camping here. It is now illegal to wild camp anywhere in Iceland unless you have express permission from a private landowner. This means that you must not pull over on the side of the road or anything similar to spend the night. Iceland camping law states that it is only allowed in designated campsites.
This might seem a shame but it is simply down to protecting the natural beauty of Iceland for all. In recent decades Iceland has become much more visited. So it is just the sheer number of visitors that makes wild camping unsustainable. There are plenty of campsites right across the country however so you’ll always find somewhere to pitch up.
What are the benefits of camping in Iceland?
These are many and varied. Firstly it is a great way of keeping control of your budget. With a camper or motorhome you have three expenses rolled into one. These being travel, accommodation and eating and drinking. Iceland can be expensive so by not eating out for every meal you will make great savings. Especially true if you hire a motorhome where you’ll be able to cook up a storm in your own kitchen.
Another big plus of camping in Iceland is the flexibility it gives you. And this is particularly pertinent on the Golden Circle route. As you can imagine these incredible sights are popular. So at the height of the summer season they can get quite busy with other tourists and visitors. By camping in one of the nearby campsites you can visit each one at your leisure.
Buses of day-trippers head to the Golden Circle head out of Reykjavik at about 8-9am and again at 1-2pm. This means that the quieter times are first thing in the morning before 9-10am and later in the evening. If you are camping nearby it is really easy to visit at these times. So you can happily avoid the crowded times and get a much better view of these wonders.
When is the best time of year to go camping along the Golden Circle?
With it southern Iceland location and easy access you can camp along the Golden Circle year round. By far the most popular time to visit Iceland and to camp is in the summer. For obvious reasons camping in summer is easier and more comfortable. This in turn means that the campsites and the sights are at their busiest. You will also find that the prices for camper rental and camping sites are a little higher.
The benefits of a summer camp trip are considerable though. The Midnight Sun shines late into the night through the summer months. Bringing beautiful sunset skies and plenty of daylight hours to spend outdoors. The weather in Iceland is also milder and at its most settled. In winter the days will be short and the weather potentially quite harsh. But weigh this up with the potential to see the Northern Lights and you might have a tricky choice!
A good middle ground can be to visit during the shoulder seasons either side of winter and summer. So we are talking April/May and September/October. At these times of year you lay yourself open to chance with the weather. It could go either way! But September and into early October can often stay mild and you might also get to see the Northern Lights.
Where are the best campsites along the Golden Circle?
There are several excellent campsites on the route where you will find plenty of space for all. Here is a quick rundown of our favourites. Prices for campsites in Iceland are in the region of US$15 per night per person.
Depending on how long you are staying you might consider investing in an Iceland Camping Card. The card is valid from mid-May to mid-September. It applies to two adults plus up to four kids all staying in one camping vehicle. So if you are visiting over the summer months it is likely a money saver.
Þingvellir National Park Campground
This spacious campsite puts you right next to the action. When we say action we actually mean mile upon mile of ancient untouched landscape. This campsite is open year-round however in winter several of the services are unavailable. The summer months are certainly the best time to visit Iceland's national parks. And the campsite gives easy access to a myriad of lovely hiking trails.
This campsite lies a mile or so from the geyser fields so it is perfect for avoiding the crowds. It can get a little wet under foot if there has been a lot of recent rainfall. There is no shop nearby but there is a very good restaurant featuring reasonably priced pizza.
This is a great campsite with really good amenities. There is a wonderful shared cooking space with sinks and cookers. There is also a room for drying out your clothes. Very useful sometimes! The campground is close to shops and restaurants so it is super convenient. This is one of our favourites for convenience and facilities.