Exploring Iceland by campervan was one of my top bucket list items. There are moments when you see pictures from around the world and you just think I have to see and experience that place for myself. An experience of the Iceland campervan holiday is very much one of those things I wanted to experience for myself.
I have seen many pictures and thought to myself. Seeing is believing. I have to visit Iceland for myself. Experience the sounds, smells and views for myself. See and walk across the glaciers, smell the sulfur-infused air of Geysir, sleep next to beautiful waterfalls, chill out in the warm waters of The Blue Lagoon while a mineral mask attempts to preserve my youth.
Visiting Iceland was everything that I thought it would be. Just an out of this world experience with landscapes that truly just take your breath away. Yes, you can sample Iceland on a layover but nothing beats a slower experience of a journey around Iceland’s Ring Road. We had a couple of days and a long list of things to do in Reykjavik. I shared a post on whale watching experience recently. As we explored Iceland via a combination of campervan and car rental. With that in mind, I thought I could share a couple of tips on why exploring Iceland by Campervan is a must!
Exploring Iceland by Campervan allows you to paces yourself and make as many stops as your heart desires. Trust me there are plenty sights in Iceland that you won’t even have considered but see them from the Ring Road and you are stopped in your tracks to explore. Svinafellsjokull Glacier was exactly that, an unplanned stop that we definitely didn’t regret.
We actually hadn’t even thought that you could come this close to a glacier without having a tour guide. You can definitely explore the surrounding area but just be careful and resist the urge to be MacGyver or Wonderwoman and you will be fine.
A lot of the tours pick and chose which spots to stop at, whereas renting a camper van in Iceland allows you the freedom to pick and choose where to spend the night, the flexibility in your itinerary. Iceland is beautiful and you will find it hard not to want to stop every five minutes. I would so love to return again, this time with my DJI drone though.
Below I share some of the benefits to exploring Iceland by Campervan together with plenty of tips for when you rent or hire a campervan in Iceland. Most of these tips also apply if you are renting a car to do your Iceland exploring. So as not to overwhelm and cram too much into the post, I will do another post on what to pack when visiting Iceland.
- What To Pack For Iceland
- Tips For Visiting The Blue Lagoon
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- Camping To Norway’s Fjord View
- How To See Florence In One Day
Iceland Campervan Holiday Tips – First things first! Book Well In Advance
Iceland is pretty popular and if you are going in the summer then you will most like need to have started looking at car rentals and campervan rentals in Iceland right about now. I have shared tips on finding the cheapest rental camper in Iceland. There is a lot of interest in Iceland so whether you are looking for hotels, hostels, and apartments in Iceland you need to book well in advance because they sell out fast. Iceland is expensive so booking early means you have plenty of choices.
If you leave it to late, they either run out of campervan rentals and you will have to come up with other plans to explore. So to avoid disappointment book as soon as you have decided on a trip to Iceland or at least as soon as you have bought your flights. Check out AutoEurope, HappyCampers or GoCampers for the best rates.
Benefits of Exploring Iceland By Campervan
1. Flexibility in your itinerary.
The fact that you can make as many stops as you like without incurring any additional cost for tours is a a huge bonus. You can add and remove sights and spend as much time as you like in a spot is an added benefit to exploring Iceland by campervan or car rental. You can be as spontaneous as you want. We had plenty of unplanned stops on the Ring Road that not many tours in Iceland cater to.
We stopped at Iceland’s hidden pool in the mountain which not a lot of tours stop at but perfect if you have your own car you can go any time of day. We went back to Skogafoss twice and made stops to Vik and black sand beach at 9 pm (summer in Iceland its doesn’t get dark until midnight). Exploring Iceland by campervan or car rental means you are not tied to a particular tour itinerary time when you can see places.
2. You will save money on hotels as you can sleep almost anywhere in the camper van.
There are lots of places in Iceland you can park your campervan. From sleeping to the sound of waterfalls on camping sites with a view of the beach to having beautiful mountain backdrops when you wake up in the morning. There are many more places in Iceland where you can pitch a tent or park your campervan but just respectful of the local land and not be one of those just pitching a tent on the side of the road which creates a hazard for other motorists.
Majority of the campsites have access to showers and toilets to refresh yourself. Some also have restaurants nearby to grab some food if you get tired of cooking on the little gas cooker provided with the campervan. You can also book hotels in major cities and towns along the way especially if you are doing the full circle of the Ring Road. Hotel stops in Reykjavik, Akureyri, Keflavik or Vik.
3. Tours only have an allocated time they can spend on a tourist spot.
Another benefit and freedom of Iceland campervan holidays. If you are exploring by campervan or car rental you choose how long when you come and how long you stay there. One of the best reasons for me, though, is avoiding the tourist crowds all together sometimes. You can have the beautiful waterfalls all to yourself at sunrise. Just amazing how calming the endless volumes of water flowing from a great hight can be. I could have watched Seljalandsfoss falls forever and a day but alas we had to move on to Vik!
There is a plenty of activities in Iceland that you can combine with a self-guided tour of Iceland by Campervan. Tours like glacier hiking, ice climbing, helicopter ride, scuba diving, ice caves, snowmobiles, whale watching, snowboarding are all tours that you can do while exploring by campervan and cannot do on your own self-guided tour of the country as they require additional equipment. Check out Get your Guide or Viator for Iceland tours.
4. You can explore into the wee hours of the night.
The beauty of visiting Iceland during the summer months is that you get to experience the white nights. Which means you can explore until your little eyes can’t stay open anymore. With the sun sometimes setting at midnight or 1 am there is still enough light to see and experience many places most of which you can explore without crowds as the tours don’t run late into the night. Just a note though when exploring by campervan.
Make sure you switch driving to allow each other to take breaks from the wheels. Also, try to get as much sleep as you can to reduces any risks of accidents. As I said we stopped in Vik and the black sand beach in the evening with hardly any crowds, the same with Skogafoss, Gullfoss as well as exploring Reykjavik late in the evening without any crowds. I would highly recommend experiencing Iceland in the summer unless you are heading for Northern Lights in which case you need to travel during a specific season.
5. Save money on food.
Restaurants are few and far between. You basically have your little restaurant on wheels. You can stop in the middle of nowhere, make food and enjoy lunch with breathtaking views of Iceland.
Additional Tips When Exploring Iceland by Campervan
Below are some things to consider when renting a campervan in Iceland but also if you are going to be campervanning around Europe check out these tips.
Drive Cautiously – Some roads in Iceland can be narrow and some have gravel which can damage screens and dent cars (you may be liable for damage).
Insurance – Make sure the car rental includes insurance. It might be an additional expense to the rental but considering some of the terrain and unpredictable weather in Iceland. It an added peace of mind to know that if anything happens you are covered. This is in addition to making sure you have travel insurance too.
Check the Car Condition – Like any car rental, check the car for dents and damage before you leave. Also, make sure the car has a full tank of gas. When we book our car we were given a car with a quarter tank. Forgot to check this until we started driving. I took a picture of this and emailed it to them just as left. Our rental came with internet MIFI so it was easier to let them know that the car was not going to be rented with a full tank – gas in Iceland is super expensive!
Check camper equipment and supplies – Before you hire a campervan check what is included. Most of the rentals will include a mattress, pillows, cooking equipment and standard utensils. You also do get the option to add extras like outdoor table and chairs, thermal sleeping bags, fridge… check with your rental what is included and when you pick up your rental make sure all these things are in the car as the last thing you want is to be all the way in Vik when you realise that they didn’t include something. Most importantly make sure you have curtains for the back of the van as this is another item that they forgot to give us. We were already halfway across the Ring Road to bother coming back for them.
Camping Grounds – You will most likely need to stay on camping grounds when you make stops along the Ring Road just note that some or most of these will be closed during some of the Winter months. They do however leave gates open should visitors wish to use the camping grounds. There is plenty of information on camping grounds in Iceland.
Petrol/ Gas Stations – There are plenty of gas stations along the Ring Road but make sure you fill up the van/car as and when you see a gas station as there is no guarantee the next one will be open.(We did experience this.) Below is a map of gas stations around.
Buy groceries before leaving Reykjavik and save money – Yes, Iceland can be expensive but if you know when and where to save its not really that bad at all in my opinion. Exploring by campervan means that you get to cook your own food and buy the old burger and coffee here and there on your stops around the Ring Road.
Depending on where you are collecting your campervan in Iceland, I would highly recommend loading up your little campervan with groceries before you leave. There are a few budget grocery stores in Reykjavik to stock up on food, snack, wipes and cleaning products( your will need to watch your utensils at some point).
There is Bonus, Kronan and Netto are all budget brands. Then you have Hagkaup, Iceland, and 10-11 are mid-range to somewhat expensive. We got introduced to Bonus by our host at the Airbnb place we rented for our first few days in Reykjavik, we stocked up on groceries before we left Reykjavik in our little campervan.
For more details on Iceland Supermarkets, IHeartReykjavik did a detailed post on supermarkets in Iceland to stock up on food and supplies. Stock up on nonperishable foods like canned food that you can easily prep meals like rice or pasta, breakfast cereals and bars so that you leave room for the small fridge for milk, cheese and other essentials.
Iceland Campervan Packing Listing
Pack appropriate clothing – Iceland weather can be pretty unpredictable, even in the summer.
- Pack plenty of thermals(you get to wear your normal clothes and still stay super cozy)
- Warm and/or waterproof jackets,
- A decent pair of hiking/walking shoes.
- A couple of pairs of sock
Tech packing list
Between my husband and I, we travel with quite a bit of gear and these all require charging. So invest in a multi-port car USB charger, pack additional batteries for cameras and other techs you have. Also, pack additional power bank changers for when you are on the go.
More On Iceland
- How To Find Iceland’s Hidden Hot Spring In The Mountain
- Exploring Svinafellsjokull Glacier
- Sleeping Under Waterfalls In Iceland
- Exploring The Glacier Lagoon
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