A Guide to Experiencing Iceland in a Campervan

A Guide to Experiencing Iceland in a Campervan

Campervan Iceland

Iceland may be a small island country, but it has all the diversity of terrain you could hope for. Stunning mountains, pristine waterfalls, enormous glaciers, volcanic craters, black sand beaches and green pastures are just a taste of what you’ll experience as you explore Iceland. Ring Road is the “highway” that follows the perimeter of the island and passes by many of the key landmarks. It would take about 16 hours from start to finish if you drove it without stopping; Kyle and I took 1o days to make our way around the route, sleeping somewhere new each night. As we drove, every few hours we were completely immersed in an entirely new landscape.

What is a Campervan?

A campervan is exactly what it sounds like it should be — a utility van that has been remodeled to allow you to car (really, van) camp. There are different sizes but ours had the usual two front seats for driving around; the back was converted into a lofted queen size bed with storage underneath. The mattress was surprisingly comfortable and roomy. The campervan rental came with everything we needed to camp: a small propane stove, pots and pans, silverware, dish towels, sheets, blankets, pillows, and a GPS. All we had to do was show up and go!

Campervan in Iceland
Our campervan in one of my favorite camping spots.

Why Rent a Campervan in Iceland?

  • To really see Iceland on an extended trip, you’ll want to drive around Ring Road; this road travels the perimeter of the island and takes you by many of the best places to see. Note: there are many sites that you can do as day trips from Reykjavik using public transportation, and if you’re only going to be in Iceland for a couple days it’s a great way to go. But for a longer trip, your best bet is to venture out on Ring Road with a car or campervan.

Ring Road in Iceland

Route 1 (Ring Road) around Iceland (Photo Credit)

  • The flexibility! Instead of being tied to hotel reservations in certain cities, we were free to travel the country at our pace. Trying to plan ahead of time how long we wanted to stay in each area was tough, and we appreciated being able to change our tentative plans as we explored. We never camped at the same place twice; instead, we slowly made our way around Iceland each day.
  • Hotels are relatively limited throughout the island (once you get beyond Reykjavik). We were planning our trip about 2 months ahead of time and were having trouble finding places to stay in certain areas (especially, in the Vik region of southern Iceland).
Looking out from a cave onto the black sand beaches in Vik
Looking out from a cave onto the black sand beaches in Vik
  • There is no need to set up camp each night with a campervan. When you’re ready to sleep (or eat or nap), you just pull over and you’re good to go!
  • You don’t have to fly with all your camping supplies since the campervan rental has everything you need.

Tips for your Campervan Rental

  • There are campgrounds all over Iceland that you can pay a small fee to use their showers and bathrooms. Many of the showers were geothermal (hot water that is heated naturally by the earth) and were fantastic! You can also choose to camp at these campgrounds each night, which would give you access to the showers as well as the camaraderie of camping-neighbors and sometimes small communal kitchens. If you are going to park your campervan at a campsite each night, you can get a Camp Card which gives you discounted rates at 41 campgrounds around Iceland. You can even buy the Camp Card as an add-on when you’re making your campervan rental.
  • You are allowed to set up camp anywhere that isn’t personal property. While there are many places to pull off along Ring Road, we usually chose to go off on a smaller road to find more privacy (though Ring Road is not busy at all). We successfully found a beautiful, remote place to camp each night, usually within 15-30 minutes of deciding we were ready to stop. We camped by the ocean, in a field of flowers, by a river, and overlooking a glacier; it was exciting finding our “home” each night, and we were always impressed by the scenic and quiet places we found.
One of many beautiful waterfalls found along Ring Road in Iceland.
One of many beautiful waterfalls found along Ring Road in Iceland.
  • If you are planning to stick mostly to the Ring Road, save money and stick with the 2WD. If you’re planning to head into the interior of the country, many roads require 4WD so you’ll want to upgrade. However, there is so much to see along Ring Road, we never regretted the lack of 4WD on our trip.
  • The campervan comes with velcro curtains you can put up to ensure complete privacy and darkness for sleeping (which is important because there is minimal darkness during the summer in Iceland). It took us about a day to come across the curtains, so don’t make our mistake and find the curtains right away.
  • For 1600 isk (about $12.50) a day, you can get a GPS with the campervan. We rarely used the GPS because we had pre-printed directions, and the signs around Ring Road very clearly label the towns and sites along the route. We did use the GPS a bit more during our time in Reykjavik, and it was nice to have as a backup in case we got super lost, but overall we would have been fine without it.
  • Before you leave Reykjavik, be sure to go grocery shopping. Almost every town has some amount of grocery options; the smaller towns have gas stations with basic camping food options, while the bigger towns have supermarket with anything you could want. We made sure to have a couple days’ worth of food at all times just in case we couldn’t find a grocery store, but it was never a problem.
  • Bring some water bottles that you can fill up as you travel. The water in Iceland is pristine and readily available. We filled our bottles up in bathrooms whenever we’d stop. I wish we had brought more water bottles to fill up, especially since we were using some of the water for cooking and were both running 6-12 miles a day during the trip.

Glaciers and Iceburgs in Iceland

All in all, a campervan was absolutely the way to go for our trip. It made the trip as flexible as we could hope for and allowed us to see all the amazing sites of Iceland. Stay tuned for more details about our route and some of my favorite spots in Iceland. Sign up on the side bar to get posts emailed to you and to follow me on social media so you don’t miss out!

Interested in a day by day itinerary? Click below:

9-Day Iceland Itinerary Days 1 – 3

9-Day Iceland Itinerary Days 4 – 6

9-Day Iceland Itinerary Days 7 – 9

10 thoughts on “A Guide to Experiencing Iceland in a Campervan

  1. Oh my word! You just convinced me to put Iceland on the top of my places to go someday list. This looks amazing! And LOVE the campervan!

    1. It’s such a bummer traveling isn’t cheaper! There is great camping and hostels there, so once you’re there you can be about as cheap as you’d like to be. But the getting there can be pricey.

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