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A camper parked on the side of a mountain road.
Photo: Photo: Eyjólfur Thoroddsen. A camper parked on the side of a mountain road..

Camper Rental in Iceland

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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.

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