With its safe environment, great campsites and a big, main road, Iceland is a great place to travel by campervan. As a non-camper and city dweller, I was hesitant about living in one, but the one week I spent in an Iceland campervan is one of my favorite experiences.
Here, I share practical tips on how to plan and what to pack for your first Iceland campervan trip. I also share an Iceland-specific campervan template to make your planning easier.
- Why Travel Iceland in a Campervan?
- About This Iceland Campervan Guide
- How to Rent and Choose Your Iceland Campervan
- Preparing for Your Iceland Campervan Trip
- Arriving in Iceland
- What To Pack for an Iceland Campervan Trip
- Planning Template for your Iceland Campervan Trip
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Why Travel Iceland in a Campervan?
If it’s your first time traveling anywhere in a campervan and are hesitant about it like I was, here are a few reasons to consider trying it in Iceland:
- Iceland campsites are well-maintained and accessible to first-timers. Traveling in a campervan is not “roughing it” like it can be with camping. In Iceland, you can stay in campsites that have kitchen facilities and hot showers (see below for more on campsites). You can cook in nature, but you can pivot and cook at a campsite facility or drive to a restaurant if it’s not enjoyable.
- Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit in the world. Traveling in a campervan can be more economical, especially if you book it in advanced. This Iceland cost breakdown outlines my trip’s travel expenses.
- Iceland has a big main road, called the Ring Road, that runs around the country. To travel in Iceland, you need to travel by vehicle (bus, car or campervan) around the Ring Road, so it’s not a big leap to have to drive a campervan vs. a car. Everyone on the road is used to seeing campervans.
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Staying in a campervan doesn’t pose any significant risks and a lot of people visit by campervan, so you won’t be alone.
- Iceland is known for its natural beauty and there’s something breathtaking about waking up to it. The moment you open your campervan doors, you often get to stare at beautiful mountains or landscapes and that’s not an experience you get to have everywhere.
About This Iceland Campervan Guide
To give context to this guide, here’s what you need to know about my Iceland trip:
☀️ Summer season. I traveled in August, which is peak season in Iceland. The weather is volatile in all seasons, but it’s warmer (45°F-55°F) and much more crowded.
During the summer months, the sun rises early and sets late in Iceland (sun sets ~9-12am, rises ~3-6am). This gives you more time to explore during the day time.
✌️ Two travelers. I traveled with one other person, so I didn’t have to account for kids or a larger group. I was in a standard two-person campervan that seats four and sleeps two people.
⌛ One week. I thoroughly explored the South Coast, from Blue Lagoon to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. With only a week at my disposal, I decided not to do the full Ring Road because I would have felt rushed.
⛺ Campsites. I list and comment on the campsites I stayed at in this 1-week Iceland itinerary.
How to Rent and Choose Your Iceland Campervan
Once you’ve decided you want to travel Iceland by campervan:
- Book your campervan months ahead
- Be familiar with campervan features
- Educate yourself in Iceland campervan insurance
When to Book Your Campervan
If you only know how to drive automatic and are traveling in the summer, you need to book your Iceland campervan 4 or more months in advance or your options will quickly become limited.
I searched for a campervan a month in advance during peak season and all 20 sites I checked were largely completely booked out. This included popular rental companies like:
For the full list of all 20 Iceland campervan rental sites, check the Iceland planning template. I ended up deciding to change my travel dates to match campervan availability since my options were very limited.
A friend also went to Iceland during peak season and rented a similar two-person campervan and here’s a comparison of our experiences:
|Friend’s Experience||My Experience|
|6 months ahead||1 month ahead|
Cost Per Day
|Top Rental Company||Rental Company with Inconsistent Reviews|
Campervan Features To Consider
When choosing a campervan, consider these three important campervan features:
- Automatic vs. Manual Campervans: Which type of car can you drive? Manual transmissions are more common in Iceland, so automatic campervans often get booked out faster.
- Campervan Size: How many people are in your group? And what campervan size are you comfortable driving? I was traveling with my partner so we ideally wanted a campervan that sits and sleeps two people , but because we booked at the last minute, we had to rent a bigger and more expensive campervan that sleeps two and sits four.
- Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) vs. Not: Will you be driving on Iceland’s F-roads (i.e., gravel and mountain roads), which require 4WD? If you want to explore Iceland’s Highland, the sparsely-populated middle part of the country, you’ll be driving on F-roads. If you plan to stick to the Ring Road, you won’t need a 4WD.
Automatic and smaller campervans are in higher demand in Iceland. Booking in advance is even more important for these.
Iceland Campervan Insurance
Campervan rental companies offer an overwhelming number of different types of insurance. Get familiar with Iceland’s insurance types so you only pay for what you need.
Many travel credit cards provide some coverage (e.g., Chase Sapphire Reserve, Venture X, American Express Platinum). Call your card company to see what’s covered (e.g., are campervans covered?) and under what requirements (e.g., do you need to deny insurance?). You may not need campervan insurance.
What campervan insurance you need and should get depends on your risk tolerance and what the weather looks like during your trip.
Here’s an overview of Iceland campervan insurance types:
- CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) is mandatory in Iceland and should be automatically included by your campervan company. CDW means that there’s a limit to your liability.
- SAAP (Sand and Ash Protection) is recommended since Iceland is windy and the volcanic ash/rocks can damage the campervan.
- GP (Gravel protection) is recommended if you plan on driving on F-roads and are deviating outside of the Ring Road.
- TP (Theft Protection) is silly to get and most people do not recommend it since theft rarely happens in this low-crime country.
Some Iceland rental companies, like the one I used, offer an all-or-nothing insurance package (i.e., CDW-only or everything together). My “premium” package cost $277.
I would have preferred a la carte insurance, but the upside of paying for the “premium” package is that they barely inspected the campervan when I returned it. I didn’t have to worry about post-return charges that others have complained about.
Preparing for Your Iceland Campervan Trip
After booking your campervan, you can start preparing for your Iceland trip by:
- Planning your campsites
- Having an idea of how you’ll get your meals
- Making sure you have everything you need (see below for an Iceland campervan packing list)
Get an idea of which campsites you want to visit, but know that having a campervan means you have the flexibility to change your mind. Here’s what you can expect from an Iceland campsite:
- A place to park your campervan. Be aware that Iceland campsites are just large patches of grass. Most don’t have any parking lines or separation that are clearly marked, so park wherever there is space, and try to leave room for others.
- A bathroom facility. Even the most remote Iceland campsites with provide sink(s) and toilet(s), but hot showers are more rare (see tip #2 below). Some remote campsites will not have hot water.
- A kitchen facility. Most campsite facilities, except the more remote ones, will have a kitchen facility that has at least a stove, a sink and a dining table.
Happy Campers built this useful map of all the campsites in Iceland. Searching “Iceland campsite” on Google Maps will not list many of these.
⛺ Here are five tips on Iceland campsites to consider:
- Tip #1: Most campsites don’t require reservations, so you can just show up. The overwhelming majority of campsites don’t have a booking system and very few campsites require reservations like Reykjavík Campsite).
- Tip #2: Google reviews will tell you valuable campsite information not readily advertised. They will tell you things like:
- Whether a campsite has hot showers (some campsites claim they do when they don’t).
- Whether the campsite is really crowded that week; make sure to sort by “recent reviews”.
If you want to shower without having to rely on a campsite, visit a hot spring with a shower facility. I enjoyed my showers at Blue Lagoon and Secret Lagoon the most.
- Tip #3: Iceland campsites are not free, so budget accordingly. Iceland’s law requires all campervan drivers to park at a campsite or on private property (but you need the landowner’s permission). Average campsite costs are ~$15 per person per night. Some have extra shower fees (e.g., $2 to $3 per 3 to 5 minutes).
Depending on how many nights you are spending in Iceland, you can potentially save money on campsites by buying the Iceland Camping Card. This card gives a family access to specific campsites for a fixed cost.
- Tip #4: Campsites will have signs on how to pay. Different campsites have different payment methods, including paying at the reception when you arrive, paying the campsite manager when they arrive in the morning/night, and leaving money in a box.
- Tip #5: Not all campsites are open year-round, so double check their availability. This is especially true in the winter. I went in the summer, so this wasn’t an issue for me.
I overall found the Iceland campsites clean and well-kept, even when they were crowded. My Iceland itinerary has all the campsites I stayed at.
Eating Out of a Campervan
When traveling Iceland in a campervan, you can eat your meals by:
- Going to a restaurant
- Cooking at a campsite kitchen facility
- Cooking in nature with your campervan’s equipment
Restaurants and grocery stores are not readily available everywhere in Iceland, so you need to plan your meals a day or two ahead.
Here are some tips when planning your meals in Iceland:
- Tip #1: The popular Iceland grocery store options are:
- Bonus, which is the budget option.
- Kronan, which has a wider selection of options.
- Netto, which has a smaller selection of options
- 10/11, which tend to target tourists and are overpriced.
- Tip #2: Eating at an Iceland gas station is nice and affordable. Unlike the gas stations in the US, the gas stations in Iceland are a decent place to have a meal. Gas station hot dogs in Iceland are particularly yummy and affordable. For example, the popular Skaftafell area has limited dinner options and many people ate at the nearby Orkan gas station.
Iceland food is expensive. Iceland in general is expensive because it’s hard to farm anything in their climate and they need to import a lot of farm equipment and food.
- Tip #3: Check your campervan’s supply list for missing cooking ingredients. Some items that you may need to buy include salt and pepper, napkins, sponges and dish soap.
Some Iceland campsites are very popular and/or have small kitchen facilities so you may need to wait a bit to use a stove or table. Out of the five nights I ate a campsite kitchen facility, I couldn’t get a table three times, so I ate while standing.
Arriving in Iceland
Once you’ve arrived in Iceland and are ready to start your campervan trip:
- Be familiar with the Iceland road rules
- Know the Iceland driving norms
- Pay careful attention during the initial campervan walkthrough
Iceland Road Rules
Driving in Iceland is different from different in other European countries. Here’s an overview of Iceland road rules you may not be familiar with:
- One-lane bridges: In Iceland, the car closest to the bridge has the right of way. Some bridges will have light signals; most will not. These are relatively common.
- Headlights: Headlights must be on at all times in Iceland, including during the day time.
- Roundabouts: The main thing to know about Iceland roundabouts is that the inner lane has the right of way to exit. If you’re on the outer lane, you must stop for a car exiting from the inner lane. Multi-lane roundabouts were only common near Reykjavík.
- Speed limits: The speed limit in Iceland is relatively low (90 kph/56 mph on highways). Iceland has speed cameras with expensive fines ($300+), but I didn’t run into many of them outside of Reykjavík.
- Camping rules: Despite the wide open spaces, you can’t park and sleep anywhere you want in iceland. It’s illegal and you will be heavily fined if caught. Make sure to stay on a campsite or private property if you have the landowner’s permission to do so.
Iceland Driving Norms
After spending 20+ hours on Iceland roads, here are some of the Iceland driving norms I’ve noticed that you should be aware of:
- Hold the door during high winds. Doors flying off is a common issue in Iceland and it’s not covered by insurance.
- Passing is common. The Ring Road mostly has a single lane in each direction. It’s common for there to be a slow car enjoying the views so expect to pass and be passed. Always be careful when passing.
- Watch out for animals. Sheep and other animals may be on the road. Fun fact: Iceland has ~800k sheep and ~300k people.
- Download the Iceland map via Google’s offline feature. Iceland’s wifi infrastructure is great, but I had unstable signal east of Vik.
- You might need a PIN to pump gas. Some gas stations only take debit cards and require you to enter your PIN. I sometimes had to go inside the gas station to pay.
Budget gas for your Iceland trip. Gas is expensive in Iceland and you can easily spend $400+ for a drive around the country.
- Check road conditions. It’s worth repeating that Iceland weather is very volatile. Check the daily up-to-date road conditions (watch out when roads turn red) and wind conditions.
When you pick up your campervan, the rental company will do a quick walkthrough. I’ve been advised to take the extra time to double check everything; I now fully agree with this advice.
Consider doing the following when doing your initial campervan walkthrough:
- Take a video or photos of the campervan to avoid charges later. Some people have complained about being charged for existing damages.
- Open and check equipment. My walkthrough guide said “the curtains are in those bags”. I didn’t open the bag until later and realized some were missing magnets, meaning I didn’t have full privacy for the entire trip.
- Double check how unfamiliar equipment works. During the walkthrough, I was shown that the cooler needed to be plugged in. I later couldn’t get the cooler to work and didn’t realize I was using the wrong plug (the one to the car battery instead of the external battery). This sounds like a silly mistake, but a lot of people make silly mistakes with different equipments.
What To Pack for an Iceland Campervan Trip
When traveling in a campervan, you’ll have to pack things that are different than when you’re staying in a hotel, hostel or tent. Below is a detailed packing list for your Iceland campervan trip.
I usually travel in a carry-on luggage, but I highly recommend packing in a duffel bag if you’re doing an Iceland campervan trip. A duffel bag makes it easier to reach for things (you just reach the top and unzip it) and it’s easier to handle and store in a limited space.
🎒 I was able to fit my entire Iceland campervan packing list into a 25L backpack and a 55L duffel bag, with some room to spare.
- Waterproof hiking shoes. Iceland weather is unpredictable, even in the summer. Waterproof is key. I wore my Salomon hiking boots every day and worried being in them all week would be uncomfortable and it turns out they weren’t.
If you plan to do a glacier hike in Iceland, you’ll need hard, ankle-protected boots, which my boots were not.
- Flip flops or sandals. You’ll want to pack sandals for showers and hot springs.
Some Iceland campsites don’t allow outdoor shoes inside the kitchen facility, so you’ll want something easy to slip on and off. I wore my Chacos which worked, but wished I had invested in Crocs for easier slip on and off.
- Swimsuit (1-2). You’ll need at least one pair of swimsuit for the Iceland hot springs.
- Hiking pants (2+ and at least 1 waterproof). My biggest regret was not packing a pair of waterproof pants. I got soaked and cold while hiking in rain and visiting powerful waterfalls. I bought these quick-dry hiking pants specifically for this trip and they were amazing (very quick to dry) for the days I didn’t get too wet.
- Rain jacket. Again, being waterproof in Iceland is key. I bought this rain jacket specifically for my Iceland trip, wore it every day and was happy with it.
- Warm pajamas. You’ll want warm PJs in case the campervan heat shuts off or you need to step outside at night. I bought these fleece leggings that worked well.
- Sun hoodie (2+). Some recommend bringing short sleeves or tanks, but I thought sun hoodies worked better for the warmer moments due to the sun and wind.
- Warm hiking socks (7+). Bring extra socks. It’s hard to dry clothes and it’s easy to get wet in Iceland due to waterfalls, sudden rain or accidentally missing a step in a river crossing. I brought 3 light hiking socks, 4 heavy hiking socks and 2 regular socks.
- Packable down jacket (outer layer). Bring a down jacket that’s easy to pack away since you can be switching layers often. I didn’t need mine to be waterproof since I could layer my rain jacket on top of it.
- Warm thermal base (inner layer). Being able to layer is key. I brought my Smartwool tops and bottoms. Fleece-lined leggings will work as well.
- Sweater or hoodie (middle layer). Bring a warm layer that you can wear between your outer and inner layers. Fleece or wool are great options.
- Airplane clothes. I missed this and wished I had brought a clean set of clothes for my flight home.
- Headband and/or hat. You’ll need head protection in Iceland. I brought a hat and headband and was glad I did when my North Face headband got soaked and I wasn’t able to conveniently dry it.
- Waterproof gloves. You’ll especially want a pair of gloves if you do a glacier hike.
- Sleeping mask. You’ll want sleeping masks if your campervan doesn’t completely block out the sun. I bought this sleeping mask specifically for Iceland. They worked well for me, but if you’re sensitive to light, you might need a heavier pair.
Iceland sun sets late and rises early, especially in the summer months.
- Sunglasses. The sun in Iceland is strong. Sunglasses are helpful for driving and hiking. I brought my Goodr sunglasses everywhere.
- Ear plugs. In some popular (crowded) campsites, your neighbor campervan might park closer than you like, and their inhabitants might sleep later or wake up earlier than you. I bought a pack of ear plugs and used them most nights.
- Toiletry bag with a hook. One of my biggest mistakes was bringing a toiletry bag without a hook, which made it difficult/impossible to put my bag down in the campsite bathrooms. All the campsites I stayed at offered hooks to hang your toiletry bag.
- Toiletries. Campsites don’t offer toiletries, so make sure to bring some.
- Scrunchies (for long hair). You may not want to dip your hair in the hot springs.
Minerals in hot springs can cause hair dryness. Due to high levels of silica, the Blue Lagoon specifically will make your hair stiff and difficult to manage.
- Sunscreen. While you’ll mostly be in layers, you’ll need face sunscreen at minimum. I highly recommend this lightweight travel-size face sunscreen.
Iceland is further up in the Arctic Circle and closer to the sun. People have gotten sunburnt in Iceland.
- Waterproof phone case. You’ll want a case for the rain and hot springs (especially the famous Blue Lagoon). I brought a waterproof phone case to all hot springs I visited.
- Plug adapter. Iceland uses the standard Europlug (two prongs with round pins). I bought this universal adapter for this trip and was able to charge my electronics at some stops.
- Phone charger (USB). Most campervans offer USB charging so you’ll want to bring a charger while you’re driving during your road trip. Check your campervan’s description to make sure it has USB charging.
- Portable battery pack. Charging can sometimes be slow in a campervan. I found it helpful to have a battery pack in case I needed an extra boost when I couldn’t charge fast enough.
- Quick dry towel (1-2). You’ll need towels for showers and the hot springs. I brought my quick dry towel and wished I had brought two separate ones for hot springs and showers for cleanliness.
Some hot springs will offer towels (e.g., Blue Lagoon as part of your entry fee, Secret Lagoon for an additional fee), but not all will (e.g., Hrunalaug hot spring).
- Small towels. You’ll need a towel to wipe up messes, but also to wipe down windshield condensation in the mornings. I didn’t bring one of these and had to use dirty clothes.
- Day pack. You’ll likely do at least one hike and you’ll need something that can carry your water and the many layers you’ll need. Make sure you have a way to waterproof your bag.
- Water bottle. There’s no need to buy bottled water in Iceland. I brought my Hydro Flask everywhere.
Iceland water is one of the cleanest in the world and 90%+ of the water come from natural springs.
- Wet wipes. You may have days where you don’t have access to a shower facility. Remember that some Iceland campsites claim they have shower facilities when they don’t.
- Reusable plastic bag. You’ll want one for grocery shopping as Iceland has banned stores from providing plastic bags to shoppers for environmental reasons.
- Ziploc bags. Iceland doesn’t seem to commonly carry Ziplog bags and you might want one to pack a sandwich for a day hike or waterproof items. You can also bring a reusable sandwich bag.
- Trash bag. You’ll need to create a temporary trash bag inside your camper sometimes.
- Headlamp (optional). You’ll need headlamps to navigate inside your campervan when it’s dark on cloudy nights. If you want to save space, your phone’s flashlight will be sufficient
Iceland sun sets really late. It remained bright outside late into the night (even at 3am). I only needed the head lamp during cloudy nights or when visiting dark bathroom stalls.
Planning Template for your Iceland Campervan Trip
To help make your travel planning easier, you can download my template for free and use it as a starting point. The template has country-specific information shared in this post.
The template is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I’m not paid to say this; I just like the tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
More Iceland Travel Guides
- 💰 Iceland Campervan Trip Cost: 2023 Travel Expense Breakdown
- ❄️ Iceland’s South Coast Travel Guide: 20+ Great Things To Do in a 1-Week Itinerary
- 💧Hrunalaug Hot Spring Guide: Tips, How To Visit and Comparison to Other Hot Springs
- 🧊 Iceland’s Vatnajökull Glacier Hike: How To Visit, What to Wear and Expect