Our Iceland campervan trip was one of the most fun and exciting adventures I’ve ever had. Traveling by campervan isn’t how I normally choose to travel when visiting a new country, but taking an Iceland campervan trip (especially Iceland in the summer) was the perfect way to get around and see the country!
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Why Do a Campervan Trip in Iceland?
There are three main reasons to choose to take a campervan trip in Iceland: your ability to be in nature 24/7, the affordability of a campervan, and the flexibility it offers. Let’s take a closer look at these three things:
Always Be in Nature
We often camped in spots with the most gorgeous views out the back of the campervan.
Iceland is one of those countries where the landscapes and natural wonders are the main attraction. By camping, we really felt that we got to maximize our time being surrounded by that beauty.
Iceland is expensive and so doing a campervan trip is a very budget-friendly way to get around. They are your all-in-one rental car, hotel room, and mini kitchen.
We spent $670 on our campervan, which is way less than the other expenses would have been separately.
And with restaurants being so expensive, having an easy way to prepare warm food for ourselves was an additional savings. (I’d estimate we saved probably $800-1000 overall by doing Iceland in a campervan.)
Read more about our budget for Iceland and everything that we spent here.
Utilizing a campervan for your Iceland trip gives you the ultimate flexibility with your schedule.
Although you could do stay in hotels or guesthouses around Iceland, or do a basecamp and day trips each day, I really think the best way to see the country is one long road trip and leveraging the flexibility of a campervan to maximize your time (more on that later).
The sights of Iceland are strung out all over the country and to maximize your experience, I really recommend renting a vehicle and drive from place to place to place. If you are staying in a hotel or AirBnb, that means you are changing hotel rooms just about every night, which takes a lot of time.
With the campervan, your hotel room comes with you. Also, with hotels there are often limits on when you can check in and that boxes you into a more rigid schedule. With a campervan, you can flex your time however you want.
That being said, I can understand that an Iceland campervan trip isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of cute, small guest houses scattered around the country, and you can still have a great trip that way!
My #1 Tip For The Best Iceland Campervan Trip
Related to flexibility, if you are going to Iceland during the summer, you should absolutely take advantage of my #1 tip for a great Iceland trip: sleep during the day, sightsee at night. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out!
Iceland is so far north that during the summer it never gets dark! Yes, the sun does set, but because it is only down from 11pm-3am (ish, this varies), it only gets slightly less light.
We never, ever had darkness when we were there, even when it was overcast and rainy at 2am.
When you get off the plane coming from the United States, you are already jetlagged and thrown off your normal sleep schedule. Add to that the fact that it never is dark, so your circadian rhythm will be thrown off no matter when you sleep.
Essentially, this is the perfect situation to embrace the weirdness and change up your schedule.
And the main reason to switch your sleep schedule: there are way less tourists during the wee hours of the morning.
By sleeping during the afternoon and evening, you can have the gorgeous sights of Iceland mostly to yourself instead of sharing it with 5 tour buses full of people!
What It Was Like Sightseeing at Night
We visited Iceland in early June 2021, right when Iceland opened up after Covid. Every local person we talked to said that tourism was still way down – so understand that we were dealing with a lower crowd load overall.
Regardless, as we were traveling around the Ring Road in our campervan in Iceland, no one else (and I mean no one) was doing what we were doing. We saw a person here or there once or twice during the middle of the night (one couple said they couldn’t sleep, another said they had had some car trouble), but 95% of the time between 11pm and 9am we had places ALL. TO. OURSELVES.
Honestly, I can’t overstate how incredible this was.
These gorgeous waterfalls or beautiful hot pots – and we didn’t have to share them. We often wouldn’t even pass another car for hours while driving. It felt like we had the whole country to ourselves.
Yes, a lot of this was magnified by post-Covid tourism still down, but even in normal times you will absolutely have way less people doing this mode of travel.
However, if you want to do Iceland during the night like this, you really *have* to have a campervan. It just doesn’t work nearly as well to sleep during the day at hotels, especially if you’re only staying a night or two at one place.
If check out is at 11am and check-in is at 4pm, you can’t really just go to sleep at 3pm, you know? The logistics are just harder to manage.
Flexibility with the Weather
Another benefit of a campervan and being flexible with when you sleep is the volatility of the weather. The weather could change dramatically and frequently. One minute it’s fairly pleasant, the next you’ve got a super windy, heavy rainstorm hitting you. Wait another 2 hours and the rain is gone and you’ve got a nice day.
Certainly, abrupt changes in weather are common everywhere , but the volatility of the weather was definitely magnified in Iceland.
This happened several times: we would get somewhere, have really crappy weather, and decide to go to sleep then instead of doing our hike (or whatever it was). Then we’d wake up and sightsee when the weather was better. This flexibility really allowed us to maximize our time and experience in Iceland.
We did find that the day-sleeping schedule did throw us off a bit – so occasionally it would be 10am and we would be getting rather tired. No problem – just park the van anywhere, climb in the back, and take a quick power nap.
Despite the weirdness and occasional struggles, I really do recommend this strategy 100%!
Unique Considerations with a Campervan
Icelandic food (particularly restaurant food) is extremely expensive, so if we wanted to have a budget trip, we needed to make our own food as much as possible. (You can read all about our Iceland budget here).
The campervan came with a large water container (I would guess it was 20L), an electric cooler, and a butane stove, plus plates, utensils, and a camping table.
Utilizing these resources we were able to prepare warm meals and keep cold food, like deli meat and dairy, on hand for meals so that we didn’t have to rely on restaurants.
We probably ate 15% at restaurants, 40% what we bought in Iceland, and 40% food we brought from the USA.
From grocery stores and gas stations, we kept a steady supply of Skyr yogurts, fruit, crusty bread, and drinks. We also bought butter, some smoked lamb, potato salad, and pastries.
You can read all about our favorite Icelandic foods here!
Food from the United States
From the United States, we brought granola bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, and some oatmeal cups. Having these was actually incredibly helpful; it was so nice to have a bunch of easy options with us so we could hit the ground running (especially since the grocery store closed before we could get to it the first day).
We also brought 5 dehydrated meal pouches from the United States. Backpacker’s Pantry was the company we used and we thought the meals were delicious.
This was actually an idea Matthew had and it ended up being brilliant. Between having a hard time making ourselves stop (there was so much to see! We never wanted to stop!) and it sometimes being rainy or super windy when we were ready to eat, it was nice to not have to invest a lot of time in order to get a hot meal.
Just heat some water, pour it in the bag, and 10 minutes later we had a hot, savory meal that we could easily supplement with other things we had. One pouch was enough to feed both of us for a meal.
It was a time, energy, and money saver, for sure! If you are traveling by campervan in Iceland and, like us, have a million things you want to see, I would highly recommend bringing some of these with you.
The cooler was electric, but it was still a cooler, not a fridge. We found that putting our cold foods outside at night actually kept them colder, and then we just used the cooler during the day.
It was totally safe to do this because there are no racoons or bears or any sort of animal that would get into food in Iceland. The only thing to note is to put everything in one bag and make sure it is heavy enough not to be blown by the often-strong wind.
Tap water in Iceland is not only safe to drink, it is incredibly delicious.
We had two modes of storing water: the bigger water jug that came with the campervan, and our two hydroflasks.
We refilled the hydroflasks from the tap whenever we could, and then prioritized using the in-van container for cooking meals and topping off our water bottles in more remote areas.
The BEST water we had though we drank straight off a glacier on our glacier hike! Deliciously crisp!
As we were looking at different campervan companies and options, we went back and forth on whether we needed/wanted a campervan that had a heater in it or not. We ended up booking a campervan that had a heater included, and I’m so glad we did!
Nighttimes were in the low 40’s or upper 30’s Farenheit, and even with the sleeping bags and body heat, it got pretty chilly if we did not have the heater on.
The heater also ended up being really beneficial for drying wet clothing. You will get wet in Iceland. Full stop. So being able to dry towels, swimsuits, jackets, socks, etc was so nice!
Even if you are traveling by campervan in Iceland during the summer, I would highly recommend getting a van with a heater!
Our campervan came with a mobile hotspot. If you have the option of renting a hotspot through the campervan company, I would highly recommend it. It gave us terrific coverage for our phones and computer through almost the entirety of Iceland.
If the hotspot was not included in the campervan package, we were going to rent one through this site. If you choose not to, and don’t have an international plan, make sure you download maps to your phone ahead of time.
A Few Campervan Specific Things to Pack
Microfiber camping towels – These thin towels are very absorbent, but pack down really small and dry extremely fast. These are must-haves for campervanning, especially considering all the hot pots around Iceland you’ll want to hit up.
Car adaptor for charging – I’m so glad I remembered to grab this because it was an absolute lifesaver. We were constantly charging our phones and computer as we drove around. Note that you don’t need any converter to use U.S. appliances because car outlets are already universal.
The PRO TIP: If you do the longer glacier hike with our favorite glacier tour company, you will go far enough up on the glacier to drink straight from a glacier spring! It was easily the best water of my life (and bring your hydroflask to fill up there!)
Change (krona) for showers – A few of the showers we used were coin operated. 100 kr coins are the standard denomination.
Possible Downsides to Note
Living out of a campervan for a week was not all sunshine and roses. Some of this section is particular to the van we got and some are just the nature of the beast.
The biggest struggle of traveling by campervan in Iceland was not having enough space. It is definitely tight in the back – there was not a lot of space for luggage and people to be in the back together. We figured out a few things that helped combat this.
First, instead of keeping the back set up in the “couch” position during the day, we always kept it set up in the “bed” position. This way we could stash some of our bags underneath, and sit on the top if we needed something.
However, all of our stuff did not fit underneath, so during the day we put our largest bag on top of the bed, with our pillows and sleeping bags pushed into the back corner. When it was time to sleep, we quickly moved the large suitcase up to the front seats of the van, and arranged our sleeping bags.
There was also a little desk/table that we kept set up right by where we slept where we kept our phones while we slept and used it for laying out damp clothing during the day.
This setup worked out pretty well. It was still a little hectic, but I think it was the best solution for the space we had.
For context, we brought 2 backpacks, 2 small duffel bags, and one large rolling duffle bag (similar in size to a checked suitcase). We wanted to have bags that didn’t have hard sides and thus could be squished into smaller spaces if needed.
We went with the duffel-type bags also to avoid how traditional, rectangular suitcases take up so much more area when opened. The types of bags we had unzipped at the top but didn’t fold open, which helped with the smaller space.
I really wanted to pack lighter than we did, but even in June the weather was pretty chilly and we needed a lot of winter-type clothes and layers.
The small size was also interesting when it came time to sleep. If you are a couple who needs a lot of personal space when you sleep, you might want to consider a larger campervan.
We were pretty cozy, which was less of an issue than that the length of the back area of the campervan was just barely longer than we are tall. I’m 6’0 and Matthew is 6’2 and we barely fit lengthwise (Matthew is pretty sure the length of the space was exactly 6’2”).
It was doable, but the next time we campervan around Iceland (or anywhere) I do think we will consider getting a slightly larger model.
In general, this style of traveling by campervan in Iceland is not going to have tons of room, but the exact setup and exactly what kind of space you end up with will be mitigated by what company and what model of campervan you go with. As we drove around, we saw many variations on campervan sizes and styles.
One other kind of negative quirk was that because we used the heater in the back of the van to dry our swimsuits, towels, and other wet clothing, the water that was evaporating in the back had nowhere to escape and we got a lot of condensation on the ceiling of our campervan.
We eventually were able to mitigate this by having some airflow going through the van (e.g. having both the side and back doors open) when we were stopped. But the first two days or so, when it was raining most of the time, this wasn’t really an option.
However, it looked like some of the other campervans had better ventilation on their roofs, which might help mitigate the condensation problem.
There’s just no way around it – if you are campervanning, you are going to be exclusively using public bathrooms and showers.
A lot of the waterfalls and attractions did have free bathrooms in their parking lots – but not every single one. Also, if you are driving for a while, by a wild hot pot, or on a hike, there are not easily accessible bathrooms – be prepared to occasionally use nature as your bathroom.
I will say that every single bathroom and shower we used was extremely clean!
The Campervan We Rented
We rented from Campervan Reykjavik. It seems like they are a broker of sorts – the actual rental company we picked up from was Lava Car Rental. We rented their Renault Kangoo Maxi Diesel campervan. We chose this company and model for our Iceland campervan trip because:
A. It was the cheapest overall cost. Other options we looked at seemed lower or comparable in price at first, but then you had to add on extras (extra driver, extra mileage (in one case), sleeping bags, hotspot, heater) that all added to the cost, AND
B. It offered a complimentary shuttle from the airport. From what I can tell, most campervan rental companies are a quick 5 minute shuttle ride away from the airport.
There was a company I looked at that was located quite a bit away from the airport and charged a 60 euro fee to get a shuttle ride to their office, each way. I would only consider them if you are staying in Reykjavik for a few days and then picking up your campervan from the city.
In theory, you will need to find campsites to sleep at every day.
Now, we ended up only staying at campsites 3 of the 7 days we were in Iceland. The other 4 nights we did wild camping – aka parking the van and sleeping in spots that weren’t actually campsites.
Because of the schedule we kept, as I described above, where we slept during the day, and would often take an impromptu nap when we got tired or if the weather was particularly bad, we ended up sleeping in a lot of random spots, often in just any parking lot where we happened to be.
This worked out well for us, but sometimes you will come across signs that say “No overnight camping.” We only saw this sign twice, and only one time at a spot we were actually planning to sleep at – oops (more on that below).
I will also note that I have read some articles saying that any kind of “wild camping” is not allowed in Iceland anymore, but we did see other people doing it and that rule did not seem to be enforced.
I am definitely a rule-follower and definitely did not want to break the rules (or advocate for breaking rules), but parking somewhere during the middle of the day to hop in the back of the van for a nap really didn’t seem like it was going to be a problem. Consider yourself disclosed.
Here’s a run-down of where we stayed each night:
Campsite in Hverageði. There was nothing particularly scenic about this campsite, but there was a covered area for cooking, and the indoor bathrooms and showers were nice (and included in the cost). Cost: 1700 kr per person listed, but I only paid 3000 kr ($24) in cash for the two of us.
In the parking lot for the Reykadular Thermal River hike. This parking lot doubles as parking for the trailhead and for a small restaurant.
There are also bathrooms with a separate entrance that were in good condition. The bathrooms are also connected to the restaurant, though, so they close when the restaurant does, and the building and bathrooms were closed when we got back from our hike about midnight.
We were planning on staying at the campsite right in front of Gljufrabui waterfall that night, but since we had to adapt our plans that day, we didn’t get to camp there.
When we did come to see Gljufrabui, I kind of wished we would have have been able to camp there! It was this awesome spot in a grassy field in front of the waterfall, with some beautiful views. I would highly recommend that campsite if you have the chance to use it.
(Read all about the waterfalls we saw and loved in Iceland here!)
Glacier Lagoon parking lot. I loved opening our back doors in the morning (at 2am) to see the icebergs in the lagoon. We snuggled and watched the icebergs and seals in the lagoon for a long time.
I loved staying in this spot and waking up to that incredible view, all to ourselves. It was for sure a high point of our Iceland campervan trip.
Bathrooms were open 24 hours, but there were no showers.
Höfn campsite. The main building was locked during the afternoon, which was not ideal. The campsite was interesting in that it was in the middle of the city, but there was also nothing really around the camping area.
The cost here was about $13 per person, and a cooking area, laundry, and showers were available.
Showers cost 100 krona (about 0.80 USD) for 3 minutes – we spent 600 krona (about $5) for the showers. (Matthew wants to note that it was one coin for him and 5 coins for me – show off!)
We were able to exchange money for some 100 kr coins from the front desk when we checked. In.
Day Four and a Half:
By Skútafoss waterfall. Day 3 had been crazy busy and we had had a short sleep that night. Thus, we slept for a decent chunk in Höfn during the afternoon but actually had our second sleep of the day here (from about 11pm-2am).
Skútafoss is a very off the beaten track waterfall in southeast Iceland. It looked beautiful but we couldn’t drive right up close to it (the road/trail got rougher than what campervan was rated for), so we parked the van so the back was facing the falls in the distance and went to sleep.
It was in the middle of nowhere nature and completely secluded. We loved it.
Initially we planned to camp at a guesthouse near Stuðlagil canyon, which we had just finished hiking. But, when we gauged our energy levels and reevaluated our itinerary, we changed our plans. We still visited the guest house, but just ate lamb stew in the restaurant (delicious) and paid $6 to use their showers, and continued on to:
Selfoss/Dettifoss west parking lot. This one was the sketchiest spot we stayed at because there were signs posted that said no overnight camping…. honestly though we were exhausted at that point and really couldn’t handle the thought of going further to find a spot.
There was almost no one else in the parking lot when we arrived, plus we figured we were only planning to sleep a few hours and wake up in the middle of the night, so it wasn’t really overnight camping, was it?
The bathrooms were open 24 hours here and were impressively nice. No showers or running water, though, with it being a parking lot and not a campground. I wouldn’t stay here again though because there were actual signs saying not to do it.
66.12 North Campground outside of Husavik.
EASILY my favorite campground of our Iceland campervan trip. It was about 20 minutes north of the city, right on the coast (we literally parked our van 20 feet from the water’s edge) and had the most beautiful ocean view.
The price (1700 kr per person – $27 total) included showers and the use of a fairly nice kitchen area. The owner was super friendly, too. We watched the midnight sun from this area – incredible!
Volcano parking lot. We wanted to hike the volcano again, and at this point didn’t feel like paying for another campground when we were only going to stay 5 hours.
We went to the campsite we had planned to stay at and asked to pay to use the bathrooms/shower, and the owners were very accommodating and friendly. Then we continued on to the volcano parking lot and camped there for a few hours until we woke up at 2:30am to hike the volcano again (amazing, so glad we hit it twice). Read all about visiting the volcano here!
The more we got into our Iceland campervan trip, the harder it was to feel like the cost of the campsites justified how much we were using them.
Since all but one of the times we wild camped we found good spots to camp, it made it hard to pay for 5-7 hours of use at a campground. Plus, it did add to the adventure feeling of the trip to just park and camp more in nature areas!
We had good luck with paying for a shower at different campsites and would likely consider doing a similar sort of plan when and if we go back again.
There were also showers at the Blue Lagoon, GeoSea spa, and Höfn city pool (or any city pool) that can be used if you are visiting those spots. However, I would still shell out for campsites that have something unique to offer, like Gljufrabui and 66.12 North.
We decided to go for an ambitious 7 day tour of Iceland’s Ring Road, which took us to one place after another that was absolutely incredible. It was a busy itinerary, but I’m so glad we did the full Ring Road loop.
You can read a detailed breakdown of our 7 day Iceland Ring Road itinerary here!
Cost of Gas for Your Iceland Campervan Trip
While this isn’t a unique cost to a campervan, as renting a car will also include this cost, our van probably wasn’t quite as fuel efficient. Gas is extremely expensive, at around $7-8/gallon. Expect a full tank of gas in a campervan to cost close to $100.
We never wanted to run out of gas in some remote spot in Iceland, so we tried to fill up when our gas tank was about half empty.
Doing an entire loop of the Ring Road (approximately 1300 miles for us) while traveling by campervan in Iceland put our total gas cost at $321.
Final Thoughts on an Iceland Campervan Trip
I know it may seem like a lot of information and logistics, but traveling around Iceland in a campervan is really very manageable! I 100% maintain that doing a campervan trip in Iceland is the best way to experience the country!
And if you are traveling by campervan in Iceland in summer, don’t forget my #1 hack for Iceland and sightsee at night!