Camper Rental in Iceland

A camper parked on the side of a mountain road.

In the past few years, campers have become tremendously popular amongst tourists in Iceland, leading to an abundance of camper rental services popping up. They offer freedom and flexibility that you won’t get from your typical hotel trip and more comfort than regular camping. Both fit well with the unpredictable nature of Icelandic weather. If you get doused with rain or caught in a storm, the car will provide you with better shelter than a tent and allow you to quickly leave for greener pastures, should you desire. But how convenient is travelling in a camper van in Iceland, and is it a cheaper alternative to hotels? Is it suitable for families, winter travel and trips to the Highland? Here are the answers to all these questions and more.

Campers in Iceland – cost and convenience

Due to its high popularity, renting a camper in Iceland has never been easier. There are close to 20 camper rentals on the market, all of which provide similar baseline campers, as well as ones with more amenities and comfort.

Whether renting a camper is cheaper than the combined price of a regular car and hotel accommodation depends on several factors. Firstly, camper rentals don’t all have the same prices, which is, in part, due to varying levels of luxury. For a two-week trip in a two-person camper, the price can range anywhere from around ISK 150.000 to over ISK 450.000 [$1072-3216, €993-2980]. 

The same goes for hotel accommodations. Their prices will vary depending on location, level of service, amenities, and so on. The average nightly hotel rate in Iceland is around ISK 21.000 [$150, €139], which would get us well above the price of a camper on the cheaper end. However, by choosing the cheapest lodgings available, you might end up paying a price similar to that of renting the camper. This means that if price is an important factor in your decision to rent a camper, you should get some research in before booking. 

In terms of convenience and comfort, campers strike a balance between good old-fashioned tent camping and a hotel. They provide better shelter than tents, a big plus considering the famously unpredictable weather of Iceland and the ever-looming possibility of cool temperatures and rain. Some of them even come with a heater and/or heated beds, a welcome luxury on cold nights. And if you would rather flee the bad weather, it’s a breeze to move unexpectedly to a different part of the country since you won’t have any pre-booked accommodations to get to. They also allow you to take unplanned detours to explore anything and everything that catches your eye or extend your stay if you get mesmerised by a black beach or highland wilderness

A black beach in Vík í Mýrdal, South Iceland.
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. A black beach in Vík í Mýrdal, South Iceland.

Regulations and insurance

To rent a camper, the basic Icelandic rules of car renting apply. You must be 20 years old or above, and you need to bring a valid driver’s license. In Iceland, all licenses issued in the USA, Canada, and the European Economic Area (EEA) are valid. Those with a license issued outside these areas have to ensure that their license is printed in Latin characters and has all three of the following: A license number, a photo of the license holder, and a valid date. If your license does not meet these requirements, you must acquire an international driver’s license before you can rent and drive cars and campers in Iceland. Usually, you’ll need to have a valid credit card as well.

On the insurance front, renting companies will offer several insurance options when you order your camper. They range from the most basic coverage, usually only covering collision damage, to a full one covering everything that might happen, such as various types of damages and theft. Seeing as car repairs are expensive in Iceland, buying extra insurance is always a good idea. This is especially true if your travel plans include gravel roads or Highland driving, where the risks of damage are higher than elsewhere. 

In terms of regulations, the same traffic and driving rules apply to campers as regular cars. The only addition is that when parking your camper for the night, you must do so at a designated campsite. It is prohibited to park your camper overnight in parking lots, on the side of the road, or in the wild. Breaking these rules can result in a high fine. 

Driving campers in the Icelandic Highland

For those planning on exploring the Highland, where the roads, called F-roads, are rough and unpaved, it’s imperative to rent a suitable camper. When browsing, look for campers with a four-wheel drive (4×4) or campers that are specifically marked as suitable for the Highland. Additionally, you should always follow the camper rental’s instructions on where you can and cannot drive. Not following these can impact your insurance should anything happen to the car. 

Mountain roads in the Highlands.
Photo: Golli. Mountain roads in the Highlands.

Many people have overestimated the ability of their two-wheel-drive (2WD) cars on these roads, leading to damaged vehicles and other car troubles. Do not attempt the F-roads on a two-wheel-drive camper. Even with the correct car, you need to be extremely careful, especially when crossing highland rivers. You don’t want to end up stuck in one of them! You should also note that not all campers are allowed to cross rivers unless you buy extra insurance.

In terms of finding places to park the camper overnight, the same restrictions apply in the Highland as in the rest of the country. You need to find a designated campsite. This is a bit more challenging in the Highland, as many of the

That being said, if you have the right camper, take caution when crossing rivers, and follow the camper rental’s instructions, campers are a wonderful way to experience the Highland. For more detailed information on how to drive safely in the Highlands, check out Safetravel’s Highland driving tips.

Can you travel in a camper during fall, winter, and spring

in Iceland?

It’s possible to rent and travel in a camper in Iceland throughout the year. However, doing so in fall, winter, and even spring will require careful consideration of the weather forecast and road conditions, as storms and cold weather are frequent during that time. During storms or heavy rain and snow, driving can be hazardous, and roads in the countryside sometimes get closed. Note that the majority of Highland roads are inaccessible from fall to spring due to snow, meaning that Highland travel is off-limits for campers during that time. 

Difficult driving conditions in the countryside during a snow storm.
Photo: Art Bicnick. Difficult driving conditions in the countryside during a snow storm.

For safety measures, keep a look out for weather alerts on the Icelandic Met Office website and road conditions on the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website. If the wind is expected to reach more than 18 metres per second [40 miles per hour], it’s advised that you keep driving to a minimum. Should it reach 22 metres per second [50 miles per hour], it’s advised not to drive at all. If you see in the forecast that a storm is expected, the best thing you can do is head to the nearest town and wait it out there. In case you unexpectedly need to wait out a storm in the countryside and can’t make it to the next town, it’s a good idea to always have extra food in the camper.

You’ll also need to bring some extra warm clothes with you, seeing as the average lowland temperature is around 3-7°C [37.4-44.6 °F] in fall and spring and 0 °C [32 °F] in winter. While some campers are equipped with a heater or even heated beds, not all of them are, so having the appropriate attire is crucial. Lastly, you should keep in mind that not all campsites are open during the wintertime, and campsites are the only place you’re allowed to park your camper overnight in Iceland. For an overview of campsites open all year round, have a look at the map in the ‘Campsites in Iceland’ section.

A campsite direction sign in Dalasýsla,
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. A campsite direction sign in Dalasýsla,

Campsites in Iceland

Even with the legal restrictions to where you can spend the night in your camper, we promise you won’t have any trouble finding a spot. Iceland is crawling with campsites, but some of the more popular include Húsafell in the west, Ásbyrgi in the north, Hallormsstaðarskógur forest in the east, and Laugardalur in Reykjavík (south). If you’re looking for something a bit more secluded, check out Fjalladýrð campsite in Möðruvellir (north-east), Raufarhöfn village in the north, or Urðartindur campsite in the Westfjords. Note that the last one requires driving on a gravel road where conditions can sometimes be less than ideal. You should always take caution when driving on gravel roads. 

The cost of camping in Iceland is usually between ISK 2000 and 5000 [$15-36, €13-33] per person for the night, not including electricity. If you plan to drive around Iceland in your camper for more than a week, you might want to consider purchasing the Camping Card. It gives you access to 35 campsites in Iceland for up to 28 nights and is valid for two adults and four children 16 years old or younger. It can be used from early/mid-May when participating campsites open for the summer to 15 September. Note that some campsites may close before that time. With the price of ISK 24.900 [$178, €165] it will quickly pay off, even for a couple with no children.

Above is a map of some of the most popular campsites in Iceland, some more secluded ones and ones that are open all year round. It was updated in 2024 and is not a full list of campsites in Iceland.

Are Campers suitable for family vacations in Iceland?

If you don’t mind the limited space, campers are a great way for families to travel in Iceland. The flexibility of the camper is ideal for those types of vacations, allowing for impromptu camp setup should anyone be too tired to keep going and eliminating the need to rush to get to your accommodation for the night. At the same time, they give you added comfort compared to sleeping in a tent, and as mentioned above, they can potentially save you money on the accommodation front.

Besides that, travelling in a camper means that the kids will have plenty of space to run around and play in when you set up camp. A lot of campsites in Iceland have playgrounds, areas for ball games and sometimes even mini-golf. Usually, they are also located close to swimming pools. That is to say, the kids will have plenty to do. Two particularly fun and popular campsites for families are Kjarnaskógur forest in the north and Úlfljótsvatn lake in the south. They both have expansive areas for various outdoor activities and playgrounds that are well above the average. 

A giant jumper, commonly found in playgrounds in Iceland.
A giant jumper, commonly found in playgrounds in Iceland.

Where to Stay in North Iceland

With dramatic landscapes, lush farmlands, and charming villages, North Iceland has much to offer travellers. It’s fantastic for outdoor activities, culinary experiences, and cultural exploration and in terms of lodgings, it’s most definitely not lacking. But with a myriad of enticing options, finding a place to stay in North Iceland can be a challenging quest. But don’t worry – whether you’re after the cottagecore vibe or a city stay, family-friendly, luxury or budget, we’ve got you covered. 

In Akureyri

Staying in Akureyri is a great option for those who want a city break or are going skiing in Hlíðarfjall mountain. Due to how easy it is to get there without a car, it’s also excellent for those who want to explore the North without having to drive. You can simply take the bus or go by plane, and book North Iceland day-trips that leave from Akureyri. Northern lights, geothermal baths, whale watching and major attractions are all on the table. You can even book a tour tailor-made for you!

For a classic city stay, Hótel Akureyri ($$ – $$$) has three fabulous central locations in town. First, there’s Dynheimar, housed in what used to be Iceland’s firts movie theatre. It’s a quaint hotel on Akureyri’s main street, perfect for those who want something modern and eclectic. For a more classic and sophisticated design, go for Skjaldborg (use Hótel Akureyri when searching). The house was built in 1924 by the sobrietry social group Good Templars and later transformed into a printing factory. Lastly, there’s Akurinn Residence, a stately villa with the same classic design as Skjaldborg that can house up to 17 people. 

Ideal for skiers, Hótel Hálönd ($$) is situated at the base of Hlíðarfjall mountain, only a five-minute drive – or a 40-minute walk if you want a warm-up – from Akureyri’s skiing area. You’ll have access to a hot tub after your adventures on the slopes and a chic, modern room to rest up in. There’s no restaurant at the hotel, but the city centre is only an eight-minute drive away.

People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.
Photo: Golli. People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.

On a budget

It must be said that finding cheap accommodation in Iceland is not an easy task. With a high cost of living, hotels and guesthouses tend to be on the more expensive side. On the bright side, the standard of accommodations in Iceland is relatively high, so in most cases, you’ll be getting your money’s worth. Even so, some lodgings have a below-average price tag whilst also keeping up the good ratings. 

Guesthouse Svínavatn ($) by Svínavatn lake is a small and friendly shoreside accommodation offering rooms with shared or private bathrooms. The lake is popular for fishing, an activity guests can enjoy free of charge. The guesthouse is also conveniently located within an hour’s drive from popular attractions such as Kolufossar waterfalls in Kolugljúfur, Kattarauga pond, and the historic Glaumbær turf house.

A 15-minute ferry ride or a short flight away from the mainland, you’ll find Syðstibær Guesthouse ($) on Hrísey Island, also known as the Pearl of Eyjafjörður. It has a retro vibe and a fantastic location, which allows you to experience the island life. You can take a stroll around the island on four different trails or book a sightseeing tour by tractor. Hrísey also has a bring-you-own-discs disc golf course, a sport that has taken Iceland by storm in the past few years, a small swimming pool and a museum (open by appointment; email [email protected] for inquiries).

The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.

Salt Guesthouse ($) in Siglufjörður is simple, comfy, central, and has historical roots. The house was built as a hotel during the boom of the herring era, and the name ‘Salt’ pays tribute to that history. It’s within five minutes’ walk from the bakery, grocery shop, pharmacy, information centre, and several bars and restaurants. Guests on Booking have noted that the guesthouse is not clearly marked on the outside. Look for a flag hanging above the entrance and the marking ‘Hvanneyri 1935’. This is the name of the house and the year it was built.

Right in the centre of Akureyri, there’s Hafnarstræti Hostel ($-$$), which offers a unique, spaceship-like capsule experience, and Akureyri Backpackers ($), a more typical hostel with a slightly cheaper nightly rate and a sauna. These are great if you want a budget accomodation in the town centre, or if you just really enjoy the more social hostel life. 

For families and groups

With tons of family-friendly adventures, North Iceland is a fantastic place to bring your family! From horseback riding and nature exploring to interesting museums and swimming pools, there’s a lot to discover. Finding suitable lodgings for the whole family might be the hardest part, but following are some that accommodate up to seven people and have nearby activities for kids. These are also ideal for groups that don’t want to split themselves up in hotel rooms. 

Brimnes Bungalows ($-$$$), located by Lake Ólafsfjörður, are classic family cottages that sleep up to seven people. They are fully equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, as well as a hot tub on the veranda. Guests also have access to boats to row on the lake, a great activity for the whole family. Ólafsfjörður Swimming Pool, which has a waterslide, is only a six-minute walk away. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Stóra-Ásgeirsá Horse Farm Stay ($-$$$) offers guests a true Icelandic farm experience. As Brimnes, it accommodates up to seven people, making it perfect for family vacations. The kids can run around the fields, interact with the friendly farm animals, and even take part in farm chores. It’s also possible to book horseback riding, an activity that most children love. At Mjólkurhúsið pub, you can buy drinks and traditional Icelandic meat soup, a hearty dish that will fuel you up after a long day. The price per person for this accommodation depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the rooms.

Hotel Kjarnalundur ($) in Kjarnaskógur forest, one of the relatively few in Iceland, offers accommodation for up to six and is located in an area that is immensely popular with families. It stretches across 800 hectares of land and is filled with fun trails, playgrounds, volleyball courts, covered grill areas, sledge slopes (during winter), and more. You might even spot some rabbits hopping around. It’s a superb area for family adventures and picnics.

Cottagecore

If hotel rooms and apartments are not your vibe, and you want something a bit more country, perhaps the numerous cottages available in North Iceland sound more attractive.

For nature lovers, Hestasport Cottages ($-$$$) in Varmahlíð, surrounded by fields of grass and mountainscapes, perfectly capture the countryside feeling. They offer a serene atmosphere and an excellent opportunity to experience both the magnificent winter sky and bright summer nights. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

There is also Vegamót Cottages ($-$$) in Dalvík, which has an old-fashioned village feel to it. You can choose between a small cottage with a private toilet (no shower) and kitchenette or a slightly bigger cottage with a private bathroom, full kitchen and living room. It does have a three-night minimum stay, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a good base location for day trips to Siglufjörður, Akureyri, Grímsey, Húsavík, and more. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Romantic and luxurious

There’s also plenty to pick from on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re on the hunt for romance or luxury, North Iceland will certainly not disappoint you. Whether it’s to get the ultimate relaxation, celebrate an anniversary, pop the question, or just to treat yourself, you won’t have any trouble finding the right accommodation. 

Brimslóð Atelier ($$) is situated in the oldest part of Blönduós village. A small, farmhouse-style hotel right by the sea, it’s well suited for a couple’s getaway. Breakfast is included, and those interested in a Nordic culinary experience can dine at the in-house restaurant, which serves “Icelandic heritage food with a modern twist” from locally sourced and natural ingredients. They also offer a cooking workshop where participants learn about Nordic nature and cuisine.

For something striking a balance between nature and city, try Sigló Hótel ($$$), an outstanding hotel located by Siglufjörður’s harbour. Its classy, romantic design, paired with the marina hot tub and sauna, is perfect for a romantic stay or relaxing after a tiring day. A continental breakfast is included in the price. The hotel also runs three restaurants, offering guests dinner and lunch options ranging from fine dining to burgers and pizza. 

Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.
Photo: Golli. Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.

For those wanting the best of the best, Deplar Farm ($$$$$) is a remote hideout that offers a highly luxurious experience of the Icelandic wilderness. Surrounded by mountains, fields, and rivers, with nothing else in sight for miles, it’s ideal for recharging. It has a Nordic and minimalist style and offers a range of activities, both in summer and winter. With nightly rates starting at around ISK 600.000 [$ 4.500, €4.100] and a minimum stay of three nights, it is one of the most – if not the most – expensive hotels you can book in Iceland. However, it’s also one of the most exquisite, making the 2023 Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List as one of the “Best Hotels in the World”. 

One with nature

If you’re going to North Iceland to breathe in the exquisite nature, you can enhance your experience by choosing the right place to stay. Although a great deal of the available accommodations in North Iceland are, in fact, surrounded by nature , there are several that really stand out from the crowd in regards to location or design.

Fosshótel at Lake Mývatn ($$$), designed with nature in mind and in perfect harmony with its surroundings, is an excellent choice for those wanting to immerse themselves in Iceland’s beautiful landscapes. Sitting in the magnificent lava fields of Mývatn and facing the lake, the enormous dining hall windows offer an unobstructed view of nature. The hotel has a first-class continental breakfast and an in-house restaurant perfect for those wanting to try the famous Icelandic lamb or fish

Sky sighting Iglúhús ($$) takes the closeness to nature one step further. With cosy and rustic, dome-style cabins that have windows across the roof, you’ll have an unrestricted view of the night sky while you lie in bed. This is a unique way to experience the midnight sun of summer and the northern lights of winter. Located in Árskógarsandur, it’s in the same area as The Beer Spa, quite literally offering their guests to bathe in beer whilst also drinking beer. A cheaper alternative is Hauganes beach baths, where you can refresh yourself with some sea swimming and relax in the ocean-view tubs. If you’re easily disturbed by light while you sleep, this is a place you should visit in fall, winter, or early spring while the sun isn’t up half the night. Note that there are no showers at the accommodation.

Iceland Yurt ($$ – $$$) takes camping to the next level, offering guests a traditional Mongolian wool-insulated and wood-fired yurt. Wake up to the birds singing or the sound of raindrops on the tent and connect with nature in a new way. Five minutes from camp is the Gaia god/dess temple, where you can book conscious movement and dance sessions, as well as deep relaxation. The tents accommodate up to five people, and included in the price is a yummy breakfast stored in cute little cooler boxes.

Camping and campervans

Should you be travelling in a camper van or with a tent, you need to find an established campsite ($) or get a landowner’s written permission to camp on their property. You should be able to locate a campsite easily, as plenty of them are around, but here are some of our favourites. 

People setting up camp.
Photo: Golli/Morgunblaðið. People setting up camp.

Hamrar in Kjarnaskógur, the same one mentioned above, is one of the most family-friendly campsites in Iceland. The campsite, situated in a woodland area just outside the city, is large and offers amenities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, volleyball courts, a bring-you-own-discs disc golf court, mountain bike trails, and covered barbecue facilities. There are also 12 km [7.5 miles] of gravel tracks to walk on, as well as ungravelled trails and tracks.

Ásbyrgi, located in one of Iceland’s national parks, is a curiously shaped glacier valley and a popular attraction. It has strong ties to Old Norse Mythology, which states that the horseshoe-shaped canyon was formed by Sleipnir, Óðin‘s eight-legged horse. The campsite is an ideal base for nature exploring, as there are several trails of various lengths in the area, which will lead you to a handful of natural attractions. If you have the time, you can even plan a multi-day hiking adventure. On the campsite, you’ll have access to electricity, a washing machine and dryer, toilets, showers, and a playground.

Situated in a small forest, Hólar in Hjaltadal has plenty of quiet and secluded corners and beautiful meadows, described by a Google reviewer as “one of the best campsites”. If you want a true old-school camping experience, this might be the place for you. At the Hólar campsite, there is no electricity, bad internet connection, and limited amenities, all of which are part of the attraction for those wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are bathrooms and sinks with (mostly) cold water but no showers. 

Mánárbakki is the ideal place for a romantic camping experience. Situated on the Tjörnes peninsula, right by the sea, you’ll have an amazing view of the sunset right from your tent. The campsite, which offers washing and cooking facilities, toilets, showers, and electricity, has an exceptionally good rating of 4.8, based on 791 reviews.

Although it is possible to book some campsites in advance, you generally don’t need to. Most campsites are open from sometime in May into September, but this is different for each place, so be sure to look into that beforehand. If you need help finding a campsite or general information about them, Tjalda.is has a list and map of all campsites in Iceland.