Camping In Iceland

Camping in Iceland: The best campsites in Iceland

Camping in Iceland can be an incredible experience. Imagine spending the night watching the Northern Lights dancing over the fjords, before relaxing in your campervan. Or how about pitching a tent somewhere lush and green after an amazing Icelandic festival?

Like many of the regions throughout Scandinavia, Iceland offers a fantastic opportunity to get back to nature and discover some incredible sights. Of course, there are some challenges to be aware of too.

Uninhabited landscapes, unpredictable weather, and a number of cultural changes all ensure you need to be properly prepared for successful camping in Iceland.

Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the best campsites in Iceland, what you need to know when camping in Iceland and so much more.

Is camping safe in Iceland?

Before we dive into our exploration of the best campsites in Iceland, or places you can check out during your visit, let’s look at how safe camping is in Iceland.

For the most part, camping in Iceland is reasonably safe — as you’ll be in a country where people respect both each other and the natural landscape. However, you’ll need to do your research and ensure you’re probably prepared.

The weather in Iceland can be extremely harsh, particularly if you’re visiting in the winter. Snow and high-force winds are common, so make sure you know exactly what to expect from the temperatures while you’re there.

This will help you to determine what to pack for camping in Iceland, and whether you need extra support from a tour guide or lodge owner.

Other points to be aware of when camping in Iceland include:

Wildlife

Provided you’re visiting an official campground; you shouldn’t have too much to worry about in terms of dangerous animals. However, you are going to need to be cautious in hunting season, to ensure you don’t fall victim of a hunting party.

It’s worth researching the region you’re camping in before you visit to protect yourself.

Nature

The natural landscapes in Iceland are beautiful, but they can also be extremely dangerous. If you’re visiting the Golden Circle for instance, avoid going too close to waterfalls, and be very cautious on slippery paths.

Follow any guidelines given to you by your tour managers if you’re taking a tour.

The unexpected

Unexpected issues can happen in any camping environment. Make sure you’re prepared for anything by taking a camping kit complete with everything from extra food and water to warm clothes, and a first aid kit.

When is the best time for camping in Iceland?

While there are a lot of amazing things Iceland is known for, one of the most worrisome for campers is the unpredictable weather. Although Iceland isn’t covered in ice (like some people assume), there are a lot of cold places, particularly during the winter.

If you’re a relatively novice camper, you may want to avoid camping in Iceland when the weather is particularly cold.

Notably, while camping in Iceland in winter can be a challenge, it’s also one of the best ways to make sure you get a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

If you want to snap some amazing photos around the Golden Circle during the colder months of the year, we’d recommend paying for a guided tour, and hiring a lodge or somewhere warm to stay.

If you’re travelling throughout other periods of the year, you’ll have a little more freedom to stay outside in a tent, without being overly cold. There’s also the option to look into RV camping in Iceland if you want some extra creature comforts.

Camping In Iceland

RV camping in Iceland: Campsites in Iceland for campervans

When it comes to camping in Iceland, the unpredictable weather often sends people looking for more comfortable places to stay. The easiest way to camp in Iceland will usually be to hire a campervan or take your own if you’re travelling from someone relatively local.

Rentals can cost between $80 and $200 per day depending on what kind of van you rent, and where you’re located.

There are plenty of campsites in Iceland for campervans. Unfortunately, you can’t just stop your van wherever you like, as Iceland has made it illegal to simply park and camp outside of designated zones. You’ll need to get permission from the landowner if you want to stop anywhere.

These rules also have an impact on your ability to sleep in your car in Iceland. Although there are some allowances for people who need to pull into a safe place and take a quick nap, you will be expected to visit a campsite if you’re going to stay anywhere for very long.

Parking your car temporarily on the side of the road in the countryside is often discouraged because the areas can be very dangerous in wet or icy conditions.

While your car or campervan provide you with more protection from the elements, it’s best to double-check the rules and restrictions about where and how you can sleep as you travel throughout Iceland. The laws and regulations can change very quickly here.

Is it legal to camp anywhere in Iceland? Wild camping in Iceland

As mentioned above, there are some restrictions on where and how you can camp in Iceland. There’s a lot of outdated advice online, as Iceland only recently changed its laws regarding where you can stay, and how long you can stop.

It is now illegal to spend the night in tent trailers, caravans, campers, and similar locations outside of organized campsites and areas. The only way to stay anywhere is to get the permission of the landowner.

In the past, camping in Iceland used to be similar to camping anywhere else in the Scandinavian region, which meant you could engage in “wild camping”. Wild camping involves simply setting your tent down wherever you choose, without looking for an official campsite or amenities.

However, this is much tricker today, thanks to the Environment Agency of Iceland’s new rules.

You can still camp along public routes in inhabited areas for a single night on “uncultivated” land, provided there’s no immediate campsite in the vicinity, or anyone’s home to worry about. You can also pitch a traditional camping tent on national land, provided you stay away from public routes.

It’s also worth checking the rules and regulations in the specific areas, as some areas completely prohibit camping — even for just one night.

You’ll need to get the permission of a right holder or landowner in Iceland if:

  • You’re camping near places of human or animal habitation.
  • The land you want to camp on is cultivated.
  • You’re going to be camping for longer than one night.
  • There are more than three tents to pitch in your party.
  • You’re going to be using tent trailers, caravans, or cars.

If you’re uncertain, it’s best to check the environmental agency website here, where you should be able to access up-to-date insights into some of the current “off-limits” locations.

Is it easy to camp in Iceland?

With wild camping in Iceland may not be as simple as it once was, but that doesn’t mean camping is complex in general. You can still wild camp in some locations throughout Iceland if you follow the rules carefully.

There are also tons of campgrounds in Iceland where you’ll find additional amenities like running water, showers, and restrooms.

Here’s what you can expect from camping in Iceland, depending on where you choose to stay:

Field camping

Camping in a field in Iceland is similar to camping anywhere. You’ll have plenty of open space to roam around, without any specific amenities on-hand.

You might be able to find an open field for camping which has a site nearby where you can shower, fill your water bottles, and complete other tasks.

Make sure you grab a cozy Icelandic sweater to keep you warm when you’re out in the wilderness. 

Luxury camping

Iceland, like many of the locations throughout Scandinavia, and indeed around the world, has begun embracing the concept of luxury camping.

You can find a multitude of campsites which offer things like lodges and campervans so you can sleep more comfortably, without as much exposure to the elements.

Luxury camping experiences are even available as part of tours to see the Northern Lights.

Camping sites

Camping sites are similar to field camping locations; however, they generally have more features and options to choose from. Bigger camping sites in Iceland will include access to parking spaces where you can put your vehicle or camper van.

You might also be able to find camping sites which offer lodges and other places to stay if you don’t want to stay exclusively in a tent.

Be mindful of the rules and restrictions of the camping locations you visit in Iceland. Each destination has its own set of distinct rules to be mindful of. You’ll also need to make sure you’re not doing anything like setting fires without the express permission of the landowner.

For the most part, follow the rules expected in every part of Scandinavia. This means being respectful of the people around you, and the nature you’re staying in.

Do not leave any trash hanging around when you’re done with your camping site. Avoid causing any damage to any of the locations you visit, even if you’re staying in a “wild” camping spot where there appears to be no observation from local employees.

How much does it cost to camp in Iceland?

The exact price of the best campsites in Iceland will depend on a number of factors. Usually, you can expect to spend more if you’re staying in an area a lot of people want to visit. For instance, camping near Reykjavik will be more expensive than camping by lesser-known locations.

Generally, the fees for camping in Iceland will be charged on a per-person, rather than a per-site basis. However, you might be able to save some cash on kids, as many will be able to stay in the campsites for free if they’re under a certain age.

Taxes are also included with your campsite prices, so keep this in mind. Even with the taxes, you shouldn’t be spending more than $20 per person just to use a tent.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re prepared for a successful camping experience in Iceland, is to purchase a camping card. Camping cards are designed to help cover the various fees associated with camping throughout Iceland.

Your card covers all the costs except for tax for up to 28 days of camping for 2 adults and four children.

Notably, if you’re planning on getting a camping card, it’s worth keeping in mind these cards are only accepted at participating campgrounds, and there are around 40 to choose from throughout the country. The campsites you can visit with a camping card are listed here.

Though camping cards can be a really good way to save money, make sure you plan your route ahead of time to ensure you’re going to visit only the destinations where you can reasonably use your card.

Don’t forget to plan for tax expenses too.

Best campsites in Iceland: Great campgrounds in Iceland

As mentioned above, campgrounds in Iceland are relatively easy to find, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding somewhere appealing to you and your family. To help you make the choice, here are some of our preferred camping spots in Iceland.

1. Grindavik

Perfect for beginners visiting Iceland’s camping grounds for the first time, the Grandavik campsite offers an easy introduction to Icelandic living. You’ll find a local fishing town nearby, where you can enjoy some delicious food when you don’t feel like cooking for yourself.

The campsite is also close to a number of major airports, so you don’t have to travel far to arrive in your destination. The campsite also comes with access to toilets, cold and hot water, washing machines, and showers.

There’s also internet access available.

2. Hofn

Enjoy a truly charming camping experience with the adorable camping cabins and grounds at Hofn. The ideal place to relax and unwind when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Hofn campsite is located in Eastern Iceland, and it’s usually open from April to September.

If you get a chance when visiting, it’s worth taking a tour of the Jokulsarlon glacier on the edge of the Vatnajokull national park when you’re here. Horse rental, golf courses, and walking paths are all available nearby too.

3. Reykjavik

Probably the most popular campsite on this list, the Reykjavik campsite offers an excellent opportunity to see the capital city of Iceland from a new perspective. This location gets a lot of travelers, so it’s best to make sure you’re not visiting during the peak season in summer.

You’ll have access to plenty of great amenities here, including charging points for your electronics, a kitchen with cookware, hot showers, toilets, dining areas, and Wi-Fi. You can visit the campsite all year round.

4. Olafsvik

The Olafsvik campsite is located in the Snaefellness Peninsula, where you’ll discover some truly phenomenal sights, matched with helpful amenities. The campsite includes hot showers, toilets, sinks, and a dining area, not to mention views to take your breath away.

The campsite is a little small, but it’s great if you’re planning on traveling North to see the fjords. Keep in mind this campsite isn’t open the entire year, so you will need to double check availability before you visit.

Make sure you check out the swimming pool nearby.

5. Breidavik

Ideally situated on route to one of the most popular tourist areas in Iceland, Latrabjarg, the Breidavik camping site is a wonderful destination for any Icelandic explorer. You’ll have access to valuable amenities here, including a barbecue grill for the summer, a washing machine, and even Wi-Fi.

Tea and coffee are included as part of your price, and you’ll be able to save cash on family visits, as kids under 12 can stay free.

6. Tjaldsvæðið Flókalundi

Don’t let the complicated name dissuade you, this campsite is one of the best places to visit if you’re visiting the western fjords of the country. The view at the Folkalundi campsite is phenomenal, so you can look forward to waking up to picturesque sites every morning.

There’s a gas station, minimart, and hotel nearby, and the campsite itself includes showers and bathrooms too. There’s also a common area for relaxing with other campers. A hot pool is located around two minutes down the road too!

7. Egilsstadir

Located towards the Eastern side of the Vatnajökull national park, the Egilsstadir campsite offers a wonderful place to stay all year-round. One of the best campsites in Iceland, this location is ideal for people who want to get back to nature, but still have access to valuable amenities.

Thanks to a destination near a town center, you’ll be near a range of service stations and shops. Plus, you can easily take day-trips to scenic locations like the Hallormsstaðaskógur forest.

8. Tunguskogur

For phenomenal natural beauty and plenty of outdoor exploration, it’s definitely worth visiting the Tunguskogur campsite in Ísafjörður. The site is located near a waterfall, with tons of trees and little spaces where you can find a quiet space to relax with your loved ones.

You’re sure to find plenty of walking trails and natural flora to discover while you’re here. Like many popular campsites in Iceland, this location comes with access to Wi-Fi, cooking and dining areas, toilets, and hot showers.

There’s also a cute port town nearby where you can grab lunch and coffee.

9. Þakgil

Situated in the Vik region of Iceland, Þakgil is an excellent little campsite, with phenomenal one-of-a-kind scenery and some of the best hiking trails in the area. Since there is another campsite nearby in Vik itself, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed by crowds when staying here.

There are various amenities included with your stay, including hot showers, toilets and sinks. You can also access cabins if you want a more comfortable place to stay. In the evening, there’s a candle-lit cave you can visit for your dinner.

10. Husafell

One of the most popular camping destinations in Iceland (at least in the West), Husafell is a short distance from various attractions, including golf courses, swimming pools, and a local town. You’ll also be a short walk away from some of the biggest Icelandic glaciers, like the Langjokull.

Make sure you plan to visit this destination in the summer, because you’ll be able to enjoy the huge campfires on Saturday evenings when you’re there.

Camping in Iceland

Camping in Iceland is a truly unforgettable experience and something everyone with a love of the great outdoors can enjoy. If you take your time to find the ideal campsite and ensure you’re prepared for the somewhat unpredictable weather, you’re sure to make memories which last a lifetime.

Whether you’re looking for RV camping in Iceland, or camping near Reykjavik, there’s something for everyone. Don’t forget to check our other guides to camping in Scandinavia.

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