François is originally from Belgium but now calls Iceland home. Before joining the tourism industry as a guide, he was involved in Iceland’s volunteering sector, promoting cultural exchanges and working on nature conservation projects. Nature and people are his impetus for travel, adventure, and discoveries.
Travelers to Iceland usually want to experience the country’s untouched wilderness and open spaces. If this is your goal, there’s no better way to travel around Iceland than camping. Here are my pro tips on the best places to camp in Iceland.
Where is it? Located in the southern region, on the northern side of the famous Eyjafjallajökullvolcano, Þórsmörk is a haven of greenery where volcanic rocks, birch trees, moss, berry trees, elves, birds and arctic foxes cohabitate.
What to do and see?Þórsmörk includes several campsites and mountain huts spread throughout different parts of the valley of Þór (Thor), offering countless hikes such as the popular Fimmvörðuhálsand Laugavegurtreks.
How to get there? The road to Þórsmörk will take you past the popular Seljalandsfosswaterfall and onto the F249 road, a scenic gravel road with a few streams and rivers to cross. Make sure to have the appropriate vehicle before venturing on those gravel roads. Also keep in mind that access to some of the camping grounds involves crossing the tricky river Krossá. Always ask for advice and make sure you have the right vehicle before you attempt crossing.
Check out the following websites to find out more about the different camping facilities in the area.
Where is it?A detour off the main Ring Road 1 in Northeast Iceland will take you to this beautiful green canyon. Formed during the last glaciation, the horse-shoe shaped depression hosts a well protected little forest, which is very rare in Iceland.
What to do and see? Ásbyrgi is part of the biggest Icelandic National park, Vatnajökull National Park. It offers many opportunities for hikers. North of Lake Myvatn and east of the coastal town of Húsavík you’ll find the perfect base location to enjoy many hidden gems in the area. Other nearby attractions include Dettifoss waterfall, whale watching in Húsavík, and Geosea.
Where is it? On your journey around the Ring Road, you will inevitably drive past Skaftafell in southeast Iceland. Located at the foot of the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur, it is the perfect base for unforgettable outdoor activities.
What to do and see? Skaftafell is also part of Vatnajökull National Park and offers a multitude of hiking opportunities. One popular trek is the short but steep walk to Svartifoss waterfall. It is also one of the best locations to venture on a Glacier hike or try out Ice Climbing on one of the magnificent Glaciers of the area.
Where is it? Taking you off the beaten track, Eskifjörður is a small fishing village located in the far eastern region of Iceland. It is the perfect place to stop for a few nights while traveling around the Ring Road. The camping ground here is quite simple compared to the above mentioned, but the location has a lot to offer.
What to do and see? The local swimming pool is one of my personal favourites in the country because of its incomparable mountain view, and it’s well worth the detour. Other available nature activities include a walk to a small protected crystal (Spar) mine, hiking, horse riding and fjord fishing.
But that’s not all. The drive off the Ring Road to Eskifjörður will take through part of the beautiful East fjords, where the glacier valleys connect majestic mountains to the ocean. Another must do in the area of the East fjords is the award winning Wilderness Center in Egilsstaðir.
Where is it? An unforgettable journey to the Westfjordsawaits you here in northwest Iceland. Winding roads along the deep fjords and breathtaking landscapes offer countless photo opportunities on your way to Heydalur. Located at the bottom of a fjord 130km east from Ísafjörður, Heydalur is the perfect location to enjoy everything the region has to offer.
What to do and see? Heydalur is both a farm and a family-owned guesthouse, camping site, and countryside restaurant. Spend a few days here for bathing in the natural hot springs surrounding the farm, hiking, horse riding, sea kayaking, and berry picking. While in the area, you can also visit the Arctic fox museum in Súdavík, observe seals resting by Litlibær or venture into the Witchcraft museum in Hólmavík.
What are the camping rules in Iceland?
In Iceland it is now mandatory to use designated campsites when camping in Iceland. You cannot just set up camp anywhere.
However, with more than 150 registered campsites around the country, Iceland has a lot to offer every camper and traveller. You can camp in a stunning national park, next to a charming Icelandic farm, by the cutest fishing village on the coast of Iceland or close to a natural pool or hot spring. Each and every night will be an experience to remember. Check out the list of registered camp sites.
Every campsite offers different services such as access to fresh water, showers, bathrooms, information about the area, etc.
When to camp in Iceland?
The weather plays a big part of your experience while camping no matter where you are in the world. This is even more true in Iceland.
The summer season is the most recommended time of year to camp in Iceland. The weather then is usually milder and more stable. Nevertheless, rain and wind can be quite common for a short while in summer. In order to make the most of your days, make sure to check the weather forecast several times a day while travelling. Don’t forget to save up the Icelandic meteorological office website on your phone and stay safe : https://en.vedur.is/
Most camping grounds will open in May or early June at the latest depending on the region. Spring and summer take a bit more time to settle in the Northern regions or in the highlands. By this time, days are already very long and by late June you will be able to camp under the Midnight Sun. The camping season will generally stretch until late September, which then gives you a small chance to spot the Northern Lights in the clear night sky.
Of course there are still possibilities to camp in winter time, but make sure to be prepared, have the right equipment and be flexible with your plan in order to avoid bad weather. Expect the unexpected!
What to bring to camp in Iceland?
What about the weather?
Icelandic weather is pretty mild and benefits mostly from the Gulf stream, bringing warmer temperatures in those northern latitudes. With an annual average temperature of 0°C (32°F), summer days typically reach 10-15°C (50-60°F), and can push to 20°C (68°F) some days. On the other hand, winter temperatures can go down to -10°C (14°F) or -15°C (5°F).
The warm Gulf stream current usually brings moisture and a risk of precipitation as it approaches Iceland’s by the south and southwest coasts. On the other hand, the northern and eastern currents and East Greenland and East Iceland currents sometimes blow over Iceland and bring dryer but possibly colder weather.
Being an island in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean, the weather changes often, even several times in the course of the same day. As the weather is always a major part of our debates and conversations, the popular saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” is particularly true in Iceland. In order words, just be ready for any type of weather.
What to pack for camping in Iceland?
Whether you’re camping in a tent or a campervan, make sure to bring sleeping equipment made for the cold climate and that can withstand Icelandic weather. Let’s have a look at essential pieces of equipment and some points of attention:
Tent. (if applicable) As it will be your home for many nights, a good quality tent is essential. As the weather can change fast, make sure your tent is easy to set up even in the wind and properly waterproof. Ideally your tent must be rated for 3-4 seasons.
Sleeping bag and mattress. The comfort temperature rating of your sleeping bags should be between -5/5ºC (23/41ºF) as nights can get chilly. A good and comfortable mattress is also important, ideally providing insulations from the cold ground. If not, you can always add a foomy mat or other second layer to keep yourself warm and cosy at night.
Warm clothes and undergarments. As the weather isn’t always warm enough to quickly dry clothes, make sure to pack enough warm gear and spare layers. The best way to keep yourself dry and warm at night is to keep specific sets of warm clothes for the nights and others for your explorations during the day.
Cooking equipment. Don’t forget to bring your own gas stove and utensils. Gas canisters can be easily purchased in many shops, gas stations, and campsites. Some but not all campsites offer cooking facilities for campers, so be prepared and equipped to brew your own coffee in the morning.
Water bottle.Icelandic tap water is incomparable in quality and always free of charge. So don’t forget to pack your own reusable water bottle and don’t waste your time and money buying plastic ones. Water is literally everywhere and you won’t have any trouble to filling up your water bottle on your daily adventures.
Charger and battery packs. As every turn you take will bring another photo opportunity, make sure to never run out of power. Packing an additional charging cable to plug your devices in the car or packing a battery pack / power-bank is a wise idea. Some camping facilities will offer charging opportunities but sometimes as a cost.
In addition to the essential equipment listed here, I also recommend reading the following blogs before your trip: