Going camping in Iceland is a unique experience. Iceland has the most beautiful campsites in the world, located in the middle of pristine nature and with all the basic facilities you need. Camping in Iceland is a great way to get to know the country. Not only is it a sustainable way of travelling, it is also a lot cheaper than staying at hotels. Another benefit of camping is that you don’t have to plan your trip months in advance. It gives you a sense of freedom, in more than one way! In this article, we tell you the ins and outs of camping in Iceland!
Can you camp anywhere in Iceland?
Let’s first cover the question if you can camp anywhere you want in Iceland, also known as wild camping. The short answer is, no, you cannot set up camp anywhere you want.
With the growth of tourism, wild camping has become a problem on this small Arctic island. As most of the land in Iceland is privately owned, farmers have been bothered by people setting up camp on their land without permission. Be a responsible tourist, and always camp at official campsites.
We discourage wild camping in Iceland, as the only way to preserve nature and respect farmers’ properties is to camp at official campgrounds. This also counts for people travelling with a motorhome or camper van.
When you go camping in Iceland, there are a couple of things you have to keep in mind. The first one is the changeable Icelandic weather. Even in summer, the weather is fickle and it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before you head out. You don’t want to get stuck in a storm, and in the highlands, it can snow as early as in August! This being said, nothing tops the experience of waking up on a sunny morning, opening your tent door and eating a simple breakfast while directly overlooking a fjord.
Because of the weather, it is not a good idea to go camping without a tent, as might be popular in warmer countries. Always bring a water and windproof tent, enough tent pegs and guy-ropes. And do not forget an isolating mattress and warm sleeping bag. The temperature at night will not drop below zero during summertime, but it can be slightly above zero. And it’s good to keep in mind that in the highlands it will get colder than in the rest of the country.
The midnight sun shines bright, and you probably want to bring a sleeping mask, as the nights will not get very dark between May and August. Of course, littering is forbidden, so make sure to clean up after your stay. One last thing to remember is that some campsites are very isolated and located far away from towns. There is a chance that your campsite will not have a store. Therefore, before you go on your way, you should check where the nearest supermarket and gas station are.
What about camper vans?
If you don’t feel like putting up a tent, renting a camper van might be the right option for you. This method of travelling has gained popularity in recent years. Because of the high demand, you have a lot of options to choose from! Camper vans offer a sleeping space and depending on the option you go for, perhaps even kitchen utensils and a gas stove. When you travel through Iceland by camper van, it’s important to overnight at official campsites – you will have all the facilities you need and you will not spoil Icelandic nature.
Best campsites in Iceland
Whether you go camping with a tent or with a camper van, the following campsites are not to be missed!
Þakgil – Þakgil is a beautiful campsite located sheltered inside a canyon not far from Vík on the south coast of Iceland. A lot of hiking trails start at the campsite, for both easy and difficult hikes. There are restrooms and hot showers on-site, and the “kitchen” is located inside a naturally formed cave, in which a grill and a fireplace are placed.
Húsafell – The campsite at Húsafell is one of the most popular campsites in Iceland. Húsafell’s geothermal pool is located close by, and a golf course, playground, shop and restaurant are also just a short distance away. The campsite has restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities and electricity. In the area you will find the impressive waterfalls Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.
Mývatn – The campsite of Mývatn is located on the shore of the famous lake. In summer, dozens of different bird species flock to this lake, making it the perfect place for bird spotting. Near the lake are many impressive sights, like the lava field Dimmuborgir and geothermal area Námaskarð. If you feel like relaxing, head to Mývatn Nature Baths. The campsite has restrooms, hot showers and laundry facilities. It’s located close to the town centre, where you will find a tourist information centre and a supermarket.
Ásbyrgi – Ásbyrgi is a stunning hoof-shaped canyon in North Iceland. The story goes that the canyon is formed by Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse, who touched the ground there with one of his hoofs. Inside the canyon is a large campsite with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. The campsite is the perfect starting point for many hikes and you can get information about hiking trails in the area at visitor centre Gljúfrastofa.
Skaftafell – Skaftafell is part of Vatnajökull National Park and the location of an excellent and large campsite with space for about 400 tents, right next to the visitor centre. From the campsite you can go on many beautiful hikes. The hike to the waterfall Svartifoss is recommended, as is the hike to glacial tongue Skaftafelljökull. The campsite has restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities and Wi-Fi.
Landmannalaugar – The campsite at Landmannalaugar is located in the highlands of Fjallabak Nature Reserve. It is the starting point of highland trek Laugavegur, a hike of about 55 kilometres to Þórsmörk. The campsite has a small store, hot showers and restrooms. The best thing about this campsite is the geothermal river right next to it! Please note that the gravel ground makes it difficult to drive pegs into it, so it’s important to take the right equipment with you. Also, the roads to Landmannalaugar are closed in the winter and usually open in late June! Check out the road conditions before you head out, and make sure that your car is suitable for driving on the highland roads.
Enjoy your camping trip!