When we were planning our 9-day road trip around Iceland, we decided to camp. By camping in Iceland we were able to save money while enjoying the magical landscapes.
Although my family often went camping when I was younger, I never considered camping in another country. I wasn’t even sure where to begin planning! But if there’s one thing to know about me it’s that I am always up for a challenge.
However, after much research and digging I was able to successfully organize a trip that included 7 nights of camping in Iceland. But rather than having you dig too, I put together this helpful guide to help you plan your camping adventure!
IDENTIFYING CAMPGROUNDS DURING PLANNING
The two best resources I found for identifying camp sites were regional travel websites and the Camping Card. Most, but not all camp sites, are listed on regional tourism websites. That’s a lot of data to mine through, so I am working on creating a one-stop guide for camping in Iceland. For now, here are the resources I used/am using to create the guide. Expect the guide to be live for free download in spring 2019!
- Aning Guide (Hostels, hotels, camping, and swimming pools)
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CAMPING IN ICELAND
Unlike many those I was familiar with in New York State, the campgrounds in Iceland vary drastically. This is understandable considering they are all privately owned.
Some are near scenic attractions, like waterfalls and brooks. Some are little more than a patch of 100 feet by 100 feet grass next to a parking lot.
THE COST TO CAMP IN ICELAND
Camping costs vary from site to site, typically 1000ISK to 2100ISK per tent/camper per night. With the Camping Card you pay a flat rate upfront and then pay the “bed tax” each night. In 2018 the bed tax was 333ISK per night. You then have to pay for amenities, such as shower access and electricity.
DO I NEED RESERVATIONS?
Reservations are not needed at the some 200 campgrounds around Iceland. Just show up!
If you head to Iceland in the summer, be prepared that many of the campgrounds will be packed. Icelanders love to camp and tourism continues to rise. Most of the places we stayed were full. In fact, less than two hours after we arrived at the campground in Vík, the entire “tent” area was packed.
Some, like Tungudalur in Ísafjörður, have phenomenal and updated amenities, including a communal kitchen area, showers with hot water, playground, grill space, and heat in the bathrooms (important when it’s been raining all night and you just want a warm, dry space). Others, like the one near Geysir, Skjól, had a restaurant on-site.
Shower use is not included in the price of most of the campgrounds. You’ll need to pay 400ISK-600ISK per person per day for shower access.
Electricity is another amenity that needs to be paid for separately. We ended up charging our phones in the communal kitchen/community spaces and in our car because rather than splurging on electricity.
Most sites do not allow open flames, so you will need to either make your food in the communal kitchen space (if available), eat food that doesn’t need to be heated, eat out, or purchase a burner and small propane tank. These propane tanks and burners can be purchased at many rest areas or rented.
WHAT ABOUT WILD CAMPING?
Most people identify Iceland as an isolated dream landscape that is pristine and raw. True, but with the massive increase in tourism, some of the old ways of finding a place to stay in Iceland are no longer permitted.
Wild camping, or camping outside of any maintained camp space, is illegal in Iceland. With good reason; no one wants to find your #2 hidden behind a rock. There’s just too many people visiting the country now. You can read more details on this regulation passed by the Icelandic government in 2015.
HOW TO BE A RESPONSIBLE CAMPER
Some of the most responsible things you can do as a camper, and tourist in general, is to limit your waste and take a look at what is in your hygiene products.
Icelandic nature is fragile. So I packed hygiene items that wouldn’t negatively impact the water stream. Toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and lotion all end up down the drain and into the water system – it isn’t only the corral reefs that need saving from harmful chemicals.
To lessen our impact when camping I packed reusable plates, bowls, silverware, cloth napkins, a small container of dish soap, a wash rag, refillable water bottles, and coffee mugs. By bringing these simple things with us, we ensured that we limited our single-use waste. We certainly were not 100% trash-free but we were able to limit our trash and purchases.
Curious about what else you can do to be a responsible traveler in Iceland? Review and sign the Icelandic Pledge, created by the tourism board.
CAMPING GEAR TO HAVE IN ICELAND
In our checked bag, we brought: a tent, hammer for the stakes, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, pillows, cooler, and the kitchen supplies I mentioned above. It was a tight fit but we maximized space by packing items in the cooler and we purchased compression stuff sacks to shrink our sleeping bags.
You don’t have to buy new items if you aren’t a regular camper! Renting gear for your week is easy with Iceland Camping Equipment. Just reserve online and pick up in Reykjavik.
IS THE CAMPING CARD WORTH IT?
It entirely depends. The card is good for 28 nights of camping in Iceland, so it certainly is worth more the more it is used. I think the response to this question is based on what campgrounds you are near. Once you determine that, and determine if they are part of the camping card (not all camp grounds are), then you can weigh your options.
If I were to plan the trip again, I’d actually create a point by point comparison based on the camp grounds we wanted to stay at. This way I could adequately determine whether or not the purchase was worth it.
I am planning to release a camping resource to help you plan for you in spring 2019. Would you like to be the first to receive this map and guide so that you can plan your summer 2019 camping trip to Iceland? If so, leave your email below!
What questions do you still have about camping in Iceland? Share them in the comments and I’ll do my best to share more about my experiences.