Ultimate Guide to Car Camping Iceland

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? One thing that makes a road trip unforgettable, is not only an amazing destination, but a beautiful journey.

Iceland, a destination that just keeps giving, with it’s stunning scenery and unique landscapes, it’s full of a vast amount of sites from volcanoes to glaciers, henceforth why it is commonly called “The Land of Fire and Ice.”. However, where Iceland has an abundance of illuminating nature to see, it’s mostly remote outside of the main towns of Reykjavik and Vik. 

This is why Icelandic car camping might be just what you need to cover ground easily when you’re short on time or money, want to see as much as possible, or just want to feel better connected to the beautiful nature that Iceland has to offer.

A grey tent pitched on a field in Iceland at sunset
Car Camping in Iceland is super easy and allows for amazing photo opps like this one!

Getting Around

When planning a trip to Iceland, you’ll typically be lured in by the majestic waterfalls and jaw-dropping landscapes. What most people don’t know is how remote the country gets once you’re outside of Reykjavik, the capital and home to the international airport. 

You’ll find with a bit of research how many Icelandic treasures can be found far apart, so what’s the best way to travel Iceland? Well, car camping in Iceland is not only helpful for planning, but is fairly easy. It makes for the best views and allows access to some exclusive “off-the-beaten-path” spots that are not normally seen.  It’s also a great way to make Iceland more budget-friendly, as it saves on accomodation, which is typically extremely limited and can be expensive.

When you begin on your journey, you’ll become acquainted with the famous Ring Road, an enormous interstate that encircles the entire country; This is the main roadway that is used to navigate the once viking-filled landscape. The roads of Iceland are known for being treacherous in some parts, with some places there being almost no semblance of a road. Though these roads may discourage you from taking your own vehicle, you will typically find that the Ring Road is paved smoothly and poses no threat to your rental car. 

A close-up of the Icelandic Lupines that line the main road in summer
Fields of Lupines line the Ring Road during summer!

Though the most popular road of the country is this popular interstate, there are several sights that require a 4×4 rental in Iceland. While it may not be considered offroading, it’s pertinent that you are always paying attention and taking your time when you reach an unpaved road. 

Additionally, you can find all of the routes through google maps, and I have a self-driving Iceland tour here. Now that you know more about how to get around in Iceland, it’s important to look at the best transportation available.

Accessing Transportation

Of course, the first thing to think about is where you’ll be renting from and staying in. There are several reputable options, and many that can provide you with a more comfortable experience than typically seen when camping. 

A camper driving up a hill to a church in Iceland
Get yourself a campervan for your Iceland road trip

Happy Campers is one of the most popular companies for renting campers in Iceland. One thing that sets them apart from your typical rental is the Tablet and Wifi that comes with the rental; the tablet is equipped with a GPS, hotspot with unlimited data, and weather warning system. If you’re interested in Iceland ecotourism, this is the place for you! They commit to going green with solar panel equipped vans and many more responsible green initiatives. You can rent a camper that seats and sleeps 2 people with automatic transmission starting at €115/day. 

For those looking for a more affordable camper alternative, another rental company that offers extremely discounted prices is Cheap Campers. Despite the possibly misleading name, Cheap Campers has exceptional reviews and offers fantastic campers at a fraction of the cost. They also offer 4x4s with tents, as well as several resources to make your camping experience more comfortable, with campers starting at just €33/day.

Then there’s always your generic rental car, and for this, there are several options to choose from. My first car camping experience was a rental from rentalcars.com– a booking platform that can be used to search multiple rental companies for the best deal. We rented a hybrid 4×4, and were able to make a cozy setup in the back. Though it did not include all that’s included in some of the camper packages, we were able to get away with renting it for approximately €100/day.

Wandering Words of Wisdom: Most of the rental vehicles you find in Europe will be manual transmission (or the automatic options will come at a higher cost), so learning stick may be worth the while!

No matter which option you choose to make home along Iceland’s Ring Road, your experience can easily be upgraded, making it slightly more costly, but adding comfort with add-ons such as portable gas stoves.

Gearing Up

When car camping, there are several things that can make or break the experience. Even in the hottest part of the year, temperatures in Iceland can still drop to below 40°F. The average temperature in the winters typically hover around 30°F, so it’s important to pack accordingly. 

Below is a comprehensive guide for what you should bring as far as apparel for Icelandic car camping:

    • Long-sleeve shirts
    • Your best winter coat
    • Windbreaker
    • Waterproof/water-resistant coat and pants
    • LOTS of socks
    • Gloves and hats (beanies are a personal favorite)
    • Layers, layers, layers!
Laynie bundled up in front of Fjadrargljufur Canyon in Iceland
Staying warm, even in summer.

If you’re visiting in the summer, it’s still important to layer up, as temperatures will typically only be about 55℉, but I got away with just a few pairs of leggings and a reliable windbreaker.

Another important to consider would be food. Though there is an abundance of great food to be found in Reykjavik, once you are outside of the city, it can be quite difficult to find food along the Ring Road. That’s where portable gas stoves and excessive amounts of snacks really come in handy while on the road. 

If necessary after your flight, grab a quick meal at the airport or spend a few hours in Reykjavik, but we preferred to stock up on essentials in Selfoss. There is a Kronan grocery store, with somene of the most affordable food options you will find in the land of fire and ice- to be found in Selfoss, a small town that can be found just after completing the Golden Circle.

Knowing the Hotspots

You’ll likely find a variety of accommodations throughout the Ring Road when searching for a place to sleep along the appealing landscapes of Iceland; but what you might not see much of are the rustic (and cheap!) campsites that the country has to offer.

While there are no specific laws stating that you cannot park off the side of the road, this will most likely not be beneficial for you in your car camping journey- especially if you are looking for showers, and these will come at such a low cost.

So where can you find the best campsites in Iceland? Look no further, as I’ve compiled a “Camping in Iceland Map” with nothing short of the phenomenal camping sites in Iceland throughout the southern and eastern regions of the country!

Digital map of campsites throughout Iceland

These campsites are the best that I’ve seen in Iceland, and definitely worth your while when camping throughout the country. Their descriptions are in order from left to right on the map:

  • Grindavik is a well equipped campsite not far from the airport, perfect if you get into the country late or have an early morning flight, or even if you’re visiting the Blue Lagoon, which is just 10 minutes from the site. They have several amenities including washer, dryer, and kitchen offered at an extra cost, and showers included in the 2200 ISK (~$16 USD) camping price. They are, however, only open from March 1- December 1 but they do accept and sell the Icelandic Campingcard.
  • Thorlakshofn has an almost seaside view and if perfect for a peaceful night at the campsite. The camping price is 1600 ISK (~$12 USD) and includes hot showers as well! There is a nearby swimming pool and sports center if you’re keen to hit the pool. 
  • Gesthus Selfoss has all you need for a relaxing night’s stay in the town of Selfoss, where most people stop after completing the Golden Circle and moving on to the South Coast. This campsite truly has everything you need and more: hot showers, a fully equipped kitchen, free WI-FI, and washer and dryers available at a small fee. They even offer a breakfast buffet and hot tubs in the summer, along with bungalow accomodation if you’re looking to ditch the camper for a night!
  • If you don’t want to stay in Selfoss and would rather lodge closer to the first attractions along the South Coast like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, Hvollsvolur is a perfect place to stay in between the two. Price for adults is 2000 ISK (~$14 USD) including access to a small cooking and dishwashing facility as well as washer and dryer, with showers being an extra 400 ISK (~$3 USD)and electricity an extra 1000 ISK (~$7 USD).
  • Skjol is a campsite between Geysir and Gulfoss accompanied by a restaurant with excellent pizza reviews! A great stop for those who wanted to begin on the Golden Circle but fall short of finishing it in a day, and it offers basic amenities including showers and toilets, with a camping price of 1500 ISK (~$11 USD).
  • A short drive from the town of Vik along a rather adventurous road, the Thakgil campsite is surely one of the most picturesque stops I’ve seen along the Ring Road. Complete with bathrooms, showers, and space for washing dishes, this site also boasts an extremely attractive array of hiking trails to be explored. It’s important to know that a 4×4 is necessary to reach the campsite, which is only open June 1-September 15, and the camping price is 2300 ISK (~$17 USD – includes one shower per night).
  • Tjaldsvaedid, located not far from Diamond Beach and the Svinafellsjokul glacier, is open May 1 – September 30 and offers a small kitchen, showers and toilet for 1800 ISK (~$13 USD). They also offer sleeping bag accommodation in one of their heated huts, as well as private huts that are available year round to book.
  • Camping Hofn offers plenty of space to camp before heading East along the Ring Road, fully equipped with hot showers, toilets, and a kitchen area. Open year round with small cottages available for rent in the summer, the camping price is 2000 ISK (~$14 USD), and showers cost 100 ISK (~$1 USD) for 3 minutes and 200 ISK (~$1.50 USD) for 6 minutes. Located walking distance from several amenities such as a swimming pool, walking path, and golf course, this campsite in Hofn will be your last stop along the South Coast before going East!
  • Not far from the stunning Hengifoss along the eastern region of Iclenad, Hofdavik has all that you need including hot showers, electrical outlets, and outdoor barbecues with a camping price of 1900 ISK (~$13 USD) per person. Nestled in Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormstadur, there are several hiking trails nearby as well that are not typically seen on Icelandic itineraries!
An Icelandic campsite at sunset
There are so many options along Ring Road for camping

Discover these hidden gems off the beaten path where not many tourists venture toward, and you may just find a stunning view that you can call home for a night or a few. 

With all of the amenities to make your trip run smoothly, these campgrounds can be found on the road less traveled, and you may find views that are unbeknownst to most common tourists who make their way along the coasts of Iceland. 

Most of these sites will charge a small fee that contributes to the upkeep of their facilities, these spots cannot be missed when looking for a place to stay overnight.

Quick Tips

Is it windy in Iceland/How to protect my rental car Iceland? You’ll find that the wind in Iceland can be especially unforgiving, and as much as it lays the groundwork for wind-blown hair, it can also pull the door right off the hinges as soon as you step out of the car! Always make sure to hold the door when entering and exiting, and do so as swiftly as possible.

Don’t cheap out on the insurance- or the heater. Two undeniable things can be said about Icelandic roads: they’re unexpected and they get frigid However, to make your camping experience more enjoyable, make sure you insure your vehicle for all the things you don’t expect to see, and never underestimate the importance of car rental insurance in Iceland. Also, make sure you get some type of heater whether it be included in the car or an extra from your rental company, especially if you’re driving Iceland in winter.

Laynie looking at Kvernufoss during the Midnight Sun in Iceland
Kvernufoss at midnight during Midnight Sun

Get gas before you can’t. Getting the luxury of exploring a country not riddled with overcrowded cities and bustling neighborhoods everywhere you turn means letting go of some luxuries you may not even think about, like having easy and consistent access to gas stations. Gas can become hard to come by the further you venture from Reykjavik, so don’t wait to get gas, or you might find yourself hitchhiking back to catch your flight. 

Avoid the sit-downs. As much as you can, try to stock up on your non-perishables that can be prepared on the road to avoid hitting the expensive restaurants of Iceland. This will save you so much money – though you won’t have to worry about tipping if you do decide to dine out, it’s not customary in Iceland. However, if you are looking for some traditional Icelandic food, or want to try Europe’s best hot dog, check out my [30 things to do in Reykjavik] for more food options!

I’ll take that bottle! If you’re planning on drinking in Iceland, you’ll soon learn that one drink costs as much as 3 back home, and the alcohol prices in Iceland can really cut into your budget. If you don’t want to waste money, but still want to get wasted, stock up on liquor at the royalty free shop at Keflavik Airport, arguably the best place for buying alcohol in Iceland.

And with that, your Icelandic road trip doesn’t have to be costly or uncomfortable! You’ll soon see that the best way to see Iceland and all of it’s natural beauty is camping by car. By giving yourself extra flexibility of owning your gameplan, you’ll also be able to modify the trip to your liking, and be able to explore on your own time!

For more information for your Iceland trip, check out these posts:

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  1. Wow there’s so many great ideas in here! I’m not sure if i am ready to car camp yet, but now i know it can be done!

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland! All these spots in Iceland look gorgeous to visit. Thanks for sharing your recommendations!

  3. I love the idea of camping your way around Iceland to see all the sights. Good to know there are a couple of options for renting suitable vehicles for the trip. And to know that there are some great camping spots around the island. We would definitely want to make sure there was a good heater!

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