While there are several activities that Icelanders take pride in and keep up with continuously, camping is something that comes off as more of a tradition than just another adventure activity in the country of fire and ice. Every few weeks apart (during the summer time), locals pack their bags and go to one of the many camping sites across the country to indulge in what we may call ‘a meet and greet with nature’. Iceland has its natural beauty intact and knows how to preserve and appreciate it to the fullest. Camping is one of the many ways to do so. The fact that Icelanders themselves are so indulged in the camping and such activities is enough to make travelers and tourists fall in love with it as well. Camping is one of those few activities in Iceland which are both relaxing and thrilling at the same bringing the two paradoxes together in perfect harmony.
Camping as an Activity
Perfect for watching the sunrise on the horizon, watching the midnight sun or hunting the northern lights, spending some time under the clear skies of Iceland glimmering with the stars, or to simply kill some hours with mother nature, camping is the heart of a country like Iceland which is all about nature and adoring its beauty. As an activity, camping stands tall among many others and go hand-in-hand with ones like hiking. No matter what part of the country you are traveling to there is always a campsite available near you to hang around. So, you are coming from your whale watching trip in Húsavík but feel like spending the night under the stars instead of your hotel room? Think no more and go to the Húsavík campsite. Fairly close to the grocery market and within a walking distance from the swimming pool of the city. Near the city or far from it, you have many options from which you can choose your poison and get lost in the magic of the moment. Let’s find out all you need to know to go camping in Iceland and enjoy it to the fullest.
Most Asked Questions About Camping in Iceland
- Is camping expensive?
Surprisingly, in a country like Iceland where almost everything is more expensive than usual, camping comes very cheaply as compared to other activities. This is probably one of the many reasons which makes it as popular as it among locals and tourists alike. There are over 170 camping sites around the country which means that you not only get camping for cheap but also get to choose from a truck-load of options.
- What is the average fee for camping around Iceland?
The average fee for an adult for camping can be anywhere between $10 and $20. The fee can differ according to the campsite that you choose. There are a few different ways you can pay the fee which includes – per person (kids under the age of 15 can camp for free), Credit Cards with Chip, and Camping Card.
- What is a camping card and what good would it do?
If you are planning to camp around the country for more than just a few days then getting a camping card is probably the best way to save even more expenses. Camping cards cover your entrance fee for campsites for 2 adults and up to 4 children for 28 days.
Although camping cards are accepted only at the participating campsites. There are about 40 different campsites around the country that accept the card. Make sure that the routes you plan to cover in your camping trip pass through these campsites.
Camping cards are available online as well as at the car rental agencies, participating companies, campsites, and post offices. It is better if you get it from your agencies from where you hire your car or camper van because there is a chance that you can get a discount. Usually, a camping card costs $180. Just make sure that you have researched the route and the campsite on it ahead of time so that your itinerary and the camping grounds fall in-line with each other.
- What about the taxes?
A separate tax is chargeable on top of the entrance fee of the campsites. It applies to all kinds of payments including cash, credit cards, and camping card.
- What are the different types of camping available in Iceland?
There are a few ways you can camp in Iceland in addition to the basic tent camping. Let’s find out what they are:
- Campervan Camping: A bit different from the basic form of camping, campervan camping means that you will not have to build a tent. You can simply park your campervan at the camping site and that is it. Campervan camping has become widely popular in the past few years among tourists. While it is not as authentic as camping with real tents, it is fairly easy to do.
- Tent Camping: The traditional and probably the best way to get an authentic experience of camping at any place, tent camping is another way you can choose to go about it. Although erecting a tent at every single site you hit can be a bit of work but it is worth it because of the kind of experience that it offers.
- Motorhome: The motorhomes work similar to Campervan Camping but those vehicles are usually larger and include some kind of kitchen, seating area and beds.
- How to stay safe when camping?
Iceland is very scarcely populated which means that there is a great chance of you encountering not even a single soul for miles. In such conditions, it is better to keep prepared for every possible scenario and keep supplies like edibles and emergency kits containing first aid handy.
Always look for the weather forecast ahead of time. Weather in Iceland is not something that can fall into the category of stable things. So, you need to know what is coming ahead to be prepared for it.
The official website of the Icelandic Search and Rescue Team is also something that you should check. They regularly update info about roads that are closed to travel or routes with potential weather-related risks.
The last thing to be extra safe is to run a few trial rounds of camping in the presence of someone experienced. You must know how to erect a tent, and place things ideal inside the tent to avoid accidents and work swiftly.
- What amenities are available at the campsites?
You can expect to find at least drinkable water, trash pits, and restrooms even at hard to reach places like the highlands. As far as more accessible places are concerned, there are indoor kitchens, showers, and even playgrounds for kids to play at. Several mountain huts along the popular hiking trails in Iceland offer these facilities as well.
- What is Wild Camping and it is legal in Iceland?
Wild camping is the act of stopping anywhere on the road, finding a proper ground, and setting up a tent for camping. Wild camping does not require a designated campsite for you to set base. Unfortunately, it is not allowed in Iceland anymore.
- Can one build a campfire in Iceland?
It is an established rule that you can not build campfires in Iceland at campsites. Although there are few pre-approved sites where it is possible to make a campfire. The firewood is mostly provided at the campsite at such places since there is hardly any tress on the island for you to go and search for the firewood in the good old traditional way.
About the Weather – Best Time to Go Camping
Although it is very crowded at this time of the year peak season is the best time to go camping around Iceland. Peak season aka summer season with a tad bit of spring and fall are the times when you can expect to find comparatively milder weather and less temperamental changes.
Although this is not a hard and fast rule. The best way to decide on the question of “when” is to think about the things that you would like to experience when camping in Iceland. If you want to camp under northern lights then there is no question that you should be setting camp from late August to mid April. But be aware that it can get very cold during the winter months and staying in a tent is not recommended. Some Camper Vans have heating systems so it is possible to stay at the winter campsites in those camper vans the whole year. At this point, the ideal time is the one that gets you are craving to experience. Just make sure that you are prepared for the weather.
Top Camping Sites Around the Country
Vatnajökull National Park is one of the best places to camp. It is fairly close to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon so you can easily wander off to nearby destinations and take some fantastic pictures without being upheld by a tour schedule. The camping ground is segregated into many small areas which are designated to various kind of campers. There is an area for the ones who want to camp in their camper van, an area for those who have a motor home and a separate base for the ones who are there to set a tent.
There is an information desk, an exhibition, a gift shop, cafeteria, phone booth, computer with internet, and free Wi-Fi offered by the Visitor Center. There are showers as well on the campsite. You can basically sit back, relax, and experience all the beautiful sites around you without a care in the world.
The Húsafell campsite is one of the most popular campsites around the country and is a very family-friendly place as well. Equipped with literally every single facility one can need, the Húsafell campsite even has a swimming pool, talk about fun activities for kids, right? Moreover, every Saturday evening comes with a huge campfire which ups the ante a lot more. In addition to that, the campsite is fairly close to tourist places like the Langjökull glacier and Eiriksjökull glacier so, you can easily plan a day trip around the area. Don’t forget to check out Giljaböð natural hot springs and the tours into the glacier.
Located very conveniently in proximity to sites like the Sólheimarsandur plane crash site, the black sand beach of Reynisfjara, and Vik village, Þakgil campsite is simply one of the most beautiful campsites around Iceland. It is situated between high, mighty mountains covered in lush green vegetation – the perfect camping spot. Since Vik village is located quite nearby, fetching groceries and other items is also not a problem at Þakgil campsite. One of the unique things about Þakgil campsite is that there is a lava cave located next to the campsite, where you can cook your food and eat dinner. Lying at the foot of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Þakgil is one of the must-visit campsites on the list.
Ásbyrgi Canyon is known as one of the best places to go hiking or to catch northern lights during the autumn. It is located in the north part of the country and hence also qualifies for a beautiful campsite. The campsite is fairly close to destinations like the Dettisfoss waterfall and Dimmuborgir which makes it a fascinating place to erect a tent at. It is also one of the very few sites in Iceland which have permission to light campfires. So, will not only find everything that you would need at a campsite including all necessities but also some of the rare occurrences. There are plenty of day tours, multi day tours and educational tours available at Ásbyrgi Canyon site for you to take.
This small town in the east part of Iceland was recently caught in the news with an alleged sighting of a mythical monster from Icelandic folklore – Lagarfljótsormur. The much-suspected monster sighting apart, this is a great place to camp out in eastern Iceland. Not only you can easily most of the nearby villages from the campsite, but you can also make a day trip to the eastern highlands very conveniently. All basic campsite facilities are available at the site.
For those who want to have the experience of camping out in the open but do not want to travel very far away from the capital city, Úlfljótsvatn is the ideal campsite to explore. Located very close to Reykjavik on the southern side of lake Þingvallavatn, Úlfljótsvatn is quite family-oriented with many activities for both kids and adults including boating on weekends (rental) and all prices inclusive fishing. Several other events take place on the campsite during the peak season and facilities like barbecue and cooking are available along with a service desk on the campsite.
GPS: 64° 5’41.84″N 21° 2’52.51″W
The camping grounds of Látrabjarg are located between the high mountains and deep fjords which means that you will have the best of both worlds. The facilities in the campground include shower, laundry area, kitchen, and a barbecue. Many popular tourist destinations are accessible via a vehicle from the camping grounds for example the tip of Látrabjarg. The campsites in Látrabjarg face the vast Atlantic Ocean which is quite a relaxing site to sit by and enjoy the beauty of nature.
This little campsite is located on the tip of Snæfellsnes Peninsula – one of the top touring sites in the country. The small village of Hellissandur is located at the foot of Snæfell mountain so you will have a pretty good view from the campsite. The campsite has shower and restroom facilities and also offer power outlets for your battery operated and electronic gadgets. The sites around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula are all accessible with a short drive only.
Packing Essentials – Gearing Up for Camping
Camping sites are indefinite and it may take a while to decide on which ones you want to make base at. One thing that remains constant through all the sites is camping gear. There are a few basic things that you will need no matter where or how you decide to camp. We have created a curated checklist for you to make sure you have packed everything that you will need.
Taking Care of the Base – Campsite Essentials
- Sleeping Bags
- Sleeping logs or pillows
- Lamp or a Flashlight
- Folding Camping Furniture (chairs and tables)
- Stove and Fuel
- Cooking and Eating Utensils
- Dish-Cleaning Equipment
- Recycling Bin (or disposable trash bags)
- Groceries (get fresh from nearby markets if possible or keep stored)
Clothing and Accessories
- Quick-drying pants and shirts
- Long-sleeve and full-length clothes
- Lightweight Warm Jackets
- Moisture-Absorbent Undergarments
- Raincoat, Gloves, and Hats (as per the season)
- Swimsuit (optional)
Hygiene and Health
- Toilet Paper
- Tampons/Sanitary Pads
- First-Aid Kit
Now, you are all set for camping around in Iceland with all the necessary things that you need in your arsenal. Get in a car or rent a camper van and get set on a journey around the land of ice and fire that you will never forget. Camping is one of the best ways to admire the beauty of this majestic country to the fullest. So, grab your backpack and start the journey. Happy camping!