Car Camping in Iceland
When it comes to camping, Iceland is in a class all to itself. Few places offer such stunning beauty balanced by rugged isolation. Icelanders have not only embraced the outdoors, but they have also bonded with it. Read on to see how they have managed to share their natural wonders with the world. And you will see why these aren’t just the best campsites in Iceland. These are arguably the best campsites in the world.
Camping in Iceland
Let’s explore the best campsites in Iceland.
Iceland is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. That is if you’re into breathtaking views and jaw-dropping vistas. Iceland generously serves some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
Packed with mountains and glaciers, full of geysers and hot springs, and surrounded by black sand beaches and the vast North Atlantic, it seems unfair that such a small island was allocated so much natural beauty.
Coupled with its understated silence, you can really get lost exploring this expansive island. Spending your nights camping in Iceland is the best way to soak it all in.
Why Camp in Iceland?
Just look at the pictures! When you see all of the natural beauty, it’s hard to believe all of this can be in one place, let alone one single island.
Starting with black sand beaches, green rolling hills, abundant waterfalls, and rocky crags. You can hike to glaciers, geysers, steam vents, and hot springs. Looking up, you have an unspoiled view of the night sky. Which is oftentimes lit up by the Northern Lights.
And if you catch Iceland in the right mood, you may even get to witness an erupting volcano.
Additionally, besides the Southern part of the country where a majority of people stop to take pictures, most of the country is desolate and lonely. Which allows you ample time to just soak in the beauty that screams through the silence.
With few major cities, Iceland is dotted with small villages and vast farmland. But the majority of it is left for the explorer.
As soon as you arrive in Iceland, you are greeted by an adventurer’s dream. In fact, the landscape practically begs you to come.
With such an abundance of wonder, the real question is: “Why not camp in Iceland?”
Want a Camping Checklist that you can take anywhere? Check out our Basic Wild Camping Checklist! (Hint: it’s coffee + a few other things)
Where to Camp in Iceland
Here is the kicker. And some people may consider this a downside. But, there are rules for camping in Iceland.
Just a few years ago, you could pull off anywhere and set up camp. Unfortunately, not all visitors have respect for nature nor other people’s property.
Irresponsible campers were ruining things for the locals and for visitors that appreciated the unspoiled landscape.
Leaving their trash everywhere, Iceland was quickly being transformed from a pristine wilderness into the littered mess that most of the rest of the developed world has become.
Rather than banning camping altogether, Icelanders came up with a viable solution that solved two problems: what to do with all of the litter and how to offer amenities for all types of campers.
The solution was to limit where you can camp. These rules especially apply to RV campers. In a nutshell, here are the guidelines:
Box: Rules for Tent Camping in Iceland:
- You may camp along public routes in inhabited areas if:
- The land is uncultivated
- There is no designated campsite nearby
- The landowner has not restricted camping with signs or gates
- You may camp along public routes in uninhabited areas if:
- The area is not explicitly restricted by private landowners and national parks
Rules for RV Camping in Iceland
- Only in designated campsites; No camping allowed along public roads
What are designated campsites in Iceland?
Before you groan over the idea of camping in a campground, let me explain. Iceland’s rules are a stroke of genius.
Most of us from the United States who grew up camping may have a very specific vision of overcrowded, and loud campgrounds with underwhelming cleanliness.
When camping in Iceland, erase those images because it is nothing like those State Parks you grew to despise.
You see, while there are some RV parks scattered about, most of the “designated campgrounds” are around existing hostels. Which are amazing in Iceland if you have never visited one.
So, not only do you get to set up your tent or park your RV at a small campsite, you also get all of the benefits of a hostel.
Hot showers in a clean bathroom are a nice bonus. Additionally, a designated kitchen area where you can cook, eat, and clean up indoors is a welcome luxury on cold or rainy days.
And you can sleep well knowing that you are supporting a small family business by giving them an extra income while they provide a service to the campers and help contain the litter that was beginning to damage what made Iceland such an amazing place to visit in the first place.
Why We Chose Car Camping in Iceland
When deciding whether to rent an RV or car camp, the choice was easy: Car Camping all the way!
Why? First of all, the cost. When you rent an RV, it is much more expensive than renting a car. An average RV cost starts around $150 per day.
Renting a car is about $40 per day. And you get the full use of the same facilities when car camping: Hot showers, fully stocked kitchen and dining area, amazing night sky.
We did some quick calculations and found that the savings more than made up for checking on an extra bag to carry our backpacking, an upgrade to the car size, and a camping trip into the interior with Volcano Huts.
And, I’m not going to lie, more than paid for a night in a hostel and a cabin to end the trip in the most relaxing way.
Of course, you could save even more money by camping in some of the free spots. The average cost of camping is about $15 per person per night. But that was well worth it for the ease of cooking and pleasantness of traveling with freshly showered companions.
The other alternative is to rent a tent in Iceland. Here a couple of options:
Rent-a-Tent in Reykjavik
Iceland Camping Equipment in Reykjavik
Both places rent more than just tents. We stopped into Iceland Camping Equipment to pick up a camping map. They have everything you can think of to rent for camping. From air mattresses to camping chairs, if you don’t feel like flying with it you can rent it there.
What are the Best Campsites in Iceland?
So, before we continue we should point out our favorite campsites in Iceland. The last time we were there we drove around the Ring Road and camped all along the way. Here were our camping sites:
We started in Reykjavik and drove North and circled clockwise. The first leg was the longest drive taking close to 6 hours. The last time we went to Iceland we spent a lot more time exploring the South and West.
This time we wanted to start in the North and complete the Ring Road in about a week.
Recommended Campsites for a 7 Day Road Trip in Iceland
Campsite 1. Camping 66.12 NORTH
One of our favorite parts of Camping 66.12 North is that it’s so close to Husavik. What’s in Husavik you ask? Only the best whale watching in Iceland!
Whatever you do when camping in Iceland, dont
Whatever you do when camping in Iceland, don’t miss whale watching when you’re in Husavik. It is by far one of our favorite things we have done on any of our travels around the world.
The other great part of Camping 66.12 North is that it is so far off of the beaten path that you get unobstructed views of the Northern Lights with the bay at your feet. What a beautiful spot to camp.
Campsite 2. Guesthouse Skjöldólfsstadir
Campsite 3. Fossardalur Campsite
Campsite 4. Skaftafell Camping
Campsite 5. Hamragarðar
Campsite 6. Volcano Huts Þórsmörk
You can see Them laid out on Google Maps here:
Iceland Camping Map
Free Camping Gear in Iceland
Before you decide to rent or buy anything for your camping trip in Iceland is to stop by the bigger campgrounds. A lot of campers wind up with extra things that they just didn’t need: Extra fuel for their camp stove, unopened canned goods or food packages, lighters and other things they couldn’t carry on or didn’t want to pack in their luggage.
Reykjavik Eco Campsite is right in town, a convenient last stop for campers leaving Iceland. Which makes it a great spot to gear up before heading into the wilds of Iceland.
Just be sure to reciprocate. If you take something on your way in, be generous and leave something for the next explorers to come behind you.
Best time to camp in Iceland
We love to camp in Iceland in the fall. Between September and October are ideal. The days are shorter, so there are more opportunities to see the northern lights.
Yet the weather isn’t as severe as in the winter. We found the temperatures to be only about 10°F cooler than New York while we were away. So expect highs around 50°- 65°F and the lows to dip around 40°F.
This is our ideal weather for hiking during the day. Warm, but not stiflingly hot.
And the perfect weather for sleeping at night.
How to Camp in Iceland
If you are interested in learning about how to camp in Iceland, look for our upcoming guide on everything you need to plan your camping trip to Iceland.
For starters, check out our Iceland car camping packing guide. It includes a full checklist of everything you would need to bring to have a perfect camping trip in Iceland.
Better yet, we have a full checklist for wild camping. Since it is a compact list, it is exactly what you need to fit in your luggage for flying to Iceland. you can download your copy of the Wild Camping Checklist here:
And don’t miss Husavik’s whale watching tour! We can’t recommend it enough. Here is our guide and why we recommend North Sailing as Husavik’s best whale watching excursion.
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