When we think about Iceland most of think about the Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis), snow, volcanoes, coldness but we are not sure camping features high on the list. Yet, Iceland has many campsites dotted throughout its moon like landscape and in summer it’s one of the locals favourite weekend activities. Hop into your car and off you go, not only that, tis is wild camping. Real adventure. This leaves many unanswered question such as: is it cold? is it safe? where can go camp? when is the best time of year to go? and many more. So, here, we try to answer some of your questions, hopefully after reading, you’ll want to pack your bags and jump into a 4×4.
Why Camp In Iceland?
Camping in Iceland is a great way to experience Iceland. Whether it’s in a tent, camper or a trailer, the proximity to nature is hard to top. Iceland is pretty easy to get around, there is one ring road and several arteries but with a 4×4 you can explore the mountain and off road tracks too. Camping will give you experiences staying in a hotel just cannot match. Of course, camping is not for everyone, you don’t have the luxuries of a hotel room, no reception to call. But what you may lack in service is more than made up for in waking up with views to die for, bathing in hot springs, solitary walks and exploring with no one but you in sight.
We work with local Icelandic partners and hosts and strive to make that camping experience as problem free and comfortable as possible by offering specially designed Campers and Camping cars for you stay in Iceland.
Is It Cold?
Some websites will tell you ‘No, not really’. They’re lying. Of course it can be cold, it’s not called Iceland for nothing! However, just because the weather may be cold that doesn’t mean you will be. During summer months, those with almost 24 hour sunlight, the temperature can reach the mid 20’s in the South of the island. During winter time though the temperature can be cold. Our CEO Chris visited in March a few years ago, he took his big wooly coat he used to work for work. When in Iceland he immediately realised he needed to buy a new coat, the one used in and around London wasn’t any where near warm enough (by the way, he still has that coat today, it isn’t cheap but it’s lasted, it was made by a local Icelandic company). He also bought a new hat and gloves.
During winter months the temperature can drop especially in the North where snow will also fall. The trick of course is layers of suitable clothing and a thermal layer too of course. If you’re camping then you need to ensure your sleeping bags are suitable for low temperatures, you can heat the tent or vehicle and you have suitable clothing. The high winds can make the temperature feel much colder too. Wrap up.
Summer though, is wonderful!
Is Camping Convenient And Easy In Iceland?
Iceland has over 200 equipped campsites. Most campsites do not require any reservations giving you the possibility to adjust your schedule according to your preferences and complete freedom to “follow the weather”. Once at a campsite, you can expect to find electrical hook-ups, running (drinkable) water and restrooms. Most campsites also have a playground for kids, and a communal charcoal grill (charcoals not provided). Most campsites are open plan and therefore allow campers to choose the spot of their fancy, so make sure you have a good look around before you pitch your tent. If you don’t want to stay at a campsite the whole time, in general, travellers are allowed to encamp everywhere except close to residential buildings, protected areas, and on cultivated land. (A fenced of grass field is also cultivated land. The grass being the product, as most animals stay indoors during winter, and even those who stay outdoors need feeding).
There are campsites in almost every little town and at most attractions. The camping card is a great investment if you intend to camp at campsites for a long period of time. It is valid for 2 adults and up to 4 children for up to 30 nights. The Camping card is valid for 41 campsites all over Iceland. A small tax should be expected on entrance. The camping card can be bought at our offices as well as most gas stations.
Click here to visit a useful website detailing the campsites in Iceland. Below is a map featuring the main campsites across Iceland, as you can see most lie on the coast just off the main ring road.
Is Camping Safe in Iceland?
Iceland is very safe! In fact, it’s one of the safest countries in the world, and frequently tops the charts, as well as being one of the most developed country in the world according to the UN. Theft in Iceland is not common, and robbery almost unheard of.
There are safety measures you can take to further improve your safety.
1st and foremost, let people know where you are. A simple twisted ankle can be problematic if you are in the middle of nowhere, and nobody knows you are there. Write a quick note with your travel plan and when you intend to be back, leave it at the nearest information center, kiosk, or even in your car if no one is around. It’s better than nothing as an untended vehicle often raises suspicion, and the note would tell rescuers where you went.
Wear layers! You are not likely to die of hunger in Iceland, and water is abundant. But getting whet and cold can finish a person in a surprisingly short period. It’s more common that people succumb to the cold in above freezing temperatures than in extreme colds. Why? Because in extreme colds people tend to dress accordingly and can better withstand laying motionless without loosing to much body temperature.
Have a phone. It’s usually quite easy to get a phone signal in Iceland and if the signal is not strong, going up the next hill usually does the trick. And having some means of communicating with the outside world is invaluable when the unexpected happens.
Talk to the locals. Don’t worry, almost all Icelanders speak English and most welcome the opportunity to help someone out, so don’t be shy to approach an Icelander, whether you need assistance or just feel like talking. Most Icelanders are very friendly, and welcome travellers as if they were long lost cousins. According to the World Economic forum, Iceland is the friendliest country in the world to visit.
Is There A Guide To Driving In Iceland?
Driving in Iceland can be a rewarding but difficult task, and it is important that drivers know as much about Iceland and its road system as possible. Below are some of the main areas of interest. We encourage every driver to read the following information and watch the video to the left.
Most mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a gravel surface. The surface on the gravel roads is often loose, especially on the shoulder of the road. You should drive carefully and slow down whenever approaching an oncoming vehicle.
The mountain roads are also often very narrow, and not made for speeding. Blind corners and hills are also very common in Iceland. It is important to slow down and keep well to the right when approaching such areas.
The same goes for most highland bridges, which are only wide enough for one car at a time. When meeting another vehicle on a bridge, the one arriving first has the right of way, but caution and consideration should always be shown.
Icelandic roads are often raised (to help keep roads open during heavy snow). Because of this, rollovers can easily happen if the car strays too far to the side of the road.
Domestic animals, mainly sheep, often stray onto the roads. Please take care and slow downwhen approaching the animal since it might panic and run in front of the oncoming car. If you hit an animal you should immediately call the police or notify the nearest farm.
The general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 90 km/h on asphalt roads in rural areas, and 80 km/h on gravel roads in rural areas. This applies to a straight empty road in the best possible conditions! Special warning signs might indicate danger ahead, such as sharp bends, but there is generally no separate sign to reduce speed. The cause of a vast majority of traffic accidents in Iceland can be traced back to driving faster than the condition of the road allows. Please choose a safe speed according to conditions.
Motorists are obliged by law to use headlights at all times, day and night.
In Iceland all off road driving, or driving unmarked tracks is prohibited by law. Heavy fines apply!
Icelandic law forbids any driving under the influence of alcohol.
Leaving human waste is prohibited by law and considered littering. Fines are applied accordingly.
In Iceland you drive on the right and overtake on the left.