Exploring Iceland is an incredible experience with its epic landscapes and unique natural wonders. But it is true that Icelandic travel can get expensive. One sure fire way to keep things affordable is to make your vacation into a camping trip. As well as cutting costs there are all sorts of reasons to pitch a tent and go alfresco.
By travelling this way you can be spontaneous about where to stay and enjoy the freedom of the open road. This beautiful country is all about the great outdoors. So by staying in campsites in its national parks and wild places you’ll be much closer to it. If tent camping doesn’t float your boat you can have a similar experience by hiring a camper van or motorhome. You might also enjoy a combination of the two by packing a tent in the back of your camper.
Wild camping in Iceland
We’ve all heard of the right to roam. And the idea of parking up or pitching up in the wilderness can be very appealing. However since 2015 wild camping in Iceland is not permitted anywhere. That is unless you have written permission from the landowner. The law was passed because an increase in visitors to the country made wild camping untenable. The delicate balance of the landscape and its pristine beauty just had to be protected.
Are Iceland campsites open all year?
It is possible to camp in Iceland year round but the prime time is certainly during the summer months. When the Midnight Sun is shining in the sky you will have plenty of time to explore and sightsee. Camping trips to Iceland in winter can also be great fun but you will be more limited. With shorter days and wilder weather you will be better off taking shorter trips. This is not the time for tent camping either. You will certainly be much more comfortable in a heated motorhome.
The shoulder seasons either side of summer and winter are also good options. At these times of the year the campsites will be quieter and generally cheaper too. If you time it right you might even see the Northern Lights from your camper van bed! Do note though that many campsites close for the winter months. The actual opening and closing dates can change depending on the weather conditions in Iceland. However there are several along the Ring Road route that stay open year round.
How much are campsites in Iceland?
The price for camping in Iceland varies a little from site to site. But you will find that it generally costs well under US$20 per night per person. The price is a little higher during the high season summer months. But during winter and the shoulder seasons you will pay less. Payment does work on a per person basis but kids are charged at much less per night. There are also various special offers and group discounts available.
You will need to pay extra for your RV electricity hook up if you need it. The same goes for emptying chemical toilets and grey water. Hot showers are often charged extra too. A good tip is to get in the habit of going to the local swimming pool and using the showers there.
Our favourite campsites in Iceland
Yes, even the capital city of Reykjavik has its own campsite. This is really useful for spending a few nights in the capital at the beginning or end of your stay. You could arrange to have your motorhome or camper meet you at Keflavik International Airport. From there it is a short drive into the city.
The campsite is very well equipped with all the amenities you might need. It is open year round and is lively and sociable. It is a great place to meet fellow travellers and pick up hints and tips for your trip. Before you head out on the road it’s a good idea to stop at one of the larger grocery stores. They have much more choice and more economical pricing than the small rural stores.
Ólafsvík Campsite - Snaefellness Peninsula
This little gem of a campsite is in the far north of the Snaefellness Peninsula. It’s a small campsite with a laidback, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. It has all the basic facilities that you need with toilets, hot showers and a kitchen and dining area. There are several great hiking trails that you can enjoy right from the site.
If you are heading here from Reykjavik then make sure you come all the way on road 54. This is one of the most beautiful drives in the area. It is also a good bet if you are planning on catching the ferry to the Westfjords. The campsite is generally open May to September.
Hamragardar Campsite - Seljandifoss
This is a fantastic campsite if you are exploring the South Coast of Iceland. The well-equipped site is just a short drive off of the southern Ring Road. It is located within easy walking distance from Seljandifoss Waterfall. In fact you can see both the Seljandifoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls from the campsite.
There’s plenty of space to park up or pitch a tent. One of the best things about it is that you can walk over to the waterfalls for a late sunset or early sunrise. These are magical times to be up and around and enjoying the views in Iceland.
This is an open-all year campsite in a popular location not far from the South Coast and the Vatnajökull National Park. Despite its popularity it is nice and spacious with trees planted to create private spaces.
Here you are perfectly placed for many incredible hikes. There are many well-marked routes starting at the campsite and leading out into the national park. You could also base yourself here and take day trips to the black sand beaches at Vik or Diamond Beach. You’ll find that there is much to see and do in the vicinity.
This is a popular and well-equipped campsite in West Iceland. It makes a perfect stop if you are on a road trip along the Ring Road route. The camping spots here are set in a shady woodland park area. So even though it gets pretty busy in the summer months there is some privacy to be had.
There are over seventy electrical hook ups for motorhomes. So even in the height of summer you are likely to be able to get a spot. During the high season the campsite organises children’s activities and bonfires. There are good facilities with a restaurant and golf course and lots of nearby hiking trails. It’s a great place to spend a few days decompressing after a long drive.
Bjarg Campsite - Lake Mývatn
Bjarg Campsite is located right next to the lovely Lake Mývatn in North Iceland. It is a convenient base if you are exploring the Diamond Circle or the Ring Road route. The campsite is only open in the summer months. North Iceland gets the wilder weather so camping here in winter is not popular.
In the summer months though there is so much to do in the area. It is a great central base for heading out to explore on day trips. Whale watching tours in Husavik or visiting the Askja crater are all very doable from here. You can also walk to the Myvatn Nature Baths and bathe in the beautifully warm hot spring waters.
Some camping tips for a successful Iceland adventure
One important factor to consider is the weather. This is the number one consideration for staying safe and enjoying your time. You should keep a regular check on the weather forecast and alter your camping plans accordingly. You won’t want to get caught driving your motorhome in high winds. And you certainly won’t want to set out on a long drive too close to nightfall or in stormy weather. There are several really useful mobile apps for tourists in Iceland to help you plan your adventures safely.
Another factor is staying warm at night. Being too cold to get a good night’s sleep is miserable. Campers and motorhomes come equipped with webasto heating systems and a sleeping bag each. Even so you might like to bring bed socks and a hot water bottle or comforter for extra snug.
Groceries can be pricey in Iceland. It is a good idea to head to the supermarkets in the larger towns to stock up on supplies. Also you should never buy bottled drinks or water. The water in Iceland is some of the best and purest in the world. So bring a couple of refillable bottles with you and enjoy this Icelandic bounty for free!