There’s just something so freeing about taking your home with you wherever you go. No plans and no place to be. Having the complete freedom to travel wherever you please, whenever you please.
This is the beauty of the camper van. It can literally be your home and vehicle wrapped into one kooky, adventurous, colorfully painted package.
Traveling to Iceland? Don’t leave home without getting travel insurance! You never know when something could go wrong and you’ll definitely want to be covered by insurance! Click HERE to get a quote!
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Why Should You Explore Iceland with a Camper Van
Filled with rugged landscapes, endless waterfalls and ever-changing scenery, Iceland is a country that appeals to outdoor lovers who seek a bit of adventure.
There is so much to see in do within this Island country that the best way to explore it is by getting behind the wheel of a camper van and setting off on your own adventure.
As you may have guessed, Iceland is a country that isn’t exactly equipped with a public transportation system outside of Reykjavik. This means that there are limited options in which explore the island if you want to go beyond the Golden Circle or popular south coast waterfalls.
These options include taking organized tours, renting a car and staying at accommodations along the way or renting a camper van. In this post I will be discussing why you should choose a camper van rental in Iceland.
During two of my trips to Iceland I decided to give myself complete freedom and flexibility by renting a camper van. I have also traveled Iceland by combining a rental car with accommodation. Both are great options but I will explain the one major benefit of renting a camper van.
Freedom and flexibility.
A camper van gives you the kind of freedom that just doesn’t exist otherwise. It allows you to move around the country at your own pace and stop wherever you want for the night. Tired and don’t feel like continuing to drive any further?
No problem, just find the closest campsite and put your van in park. Or maybe you decide to drive further than expected, covering more ground and exploring more places within the country.
These are the things that you just can’t do if you’ve pre-booked your accommodation. Speaking of accommodation, there aren’t a ton of options in Iceland once you’ve left the main towns and are driving on the open Ring Road (Route 1).
The times I have traveled through Iceland and stayed at proper accommodations I always found them to be a bit far from the main sights. We ended up doing a lot of back-tracking during those trips.
Another benefit to renting a camper van is that you can make all of your meals in your car and won’t need to search for a restaurant when you want to eat. We found this to be incredibly handy and was a great way to save even more money.
The best part is that Iceland is very well equipped for camper vans. There are numerous accessible and inexpensive campsites located along the ring road, which allows travelers plenty of options for places to park their camper van or pitch a tent.
Best Camper Van Rentals in Iceland: Which Company to Choose?
With so many different companies it can be hard to choose the right camper van rental in Iceland. After doing a lot of research we ultimately chose to rent our camper van through a company called KúKú Campers.
KúKú Campers has beyond excellent customer service. Our initial inquiry was met with a speedy reply from a real person who really works there! Not someone from some large corporate office who you’ll never put a face to.
Their reservation specialists are super helpful in accommodating your requests and will make sure to get you set up with the best camper van option for your trip. KúKú Campers has a large fleet of various sized camper vans.
From a two person Renault Kangoo to the larger Ford Transit five person van, the choice of these typical vans or even a Ford F-250 or Land Rover Defender. They literally have all the sleeping arrangements one could ever need with 15 camper van options for you to choose from.
There are manual transmissions, automatics, 4×4 vehicles and more. But like I said, the staff will be able to give you great insight in helping you choose which is best.
I’ve stayed in both a Category A (AB & AA) camper van for 2 people and a Category C camper van for 4 (up to 5) people.
KúKú Campers, as well as some of the other companies, offer pick up and drop off services with the rental. This is helpful since the Keflavik airport is actually quite far from their main offices in Reykjavik.
These options, even with the extra cost of €60 (€120 total), put KúKú Campers at the top of our list. To top it all off there is no additional cost for extra drivers and there is free mileage!
Driving in Iceland: Important Things to Know
1. Driver’s License Needed to Rent a Car or Campervan Iceland
In order to rent and drive a car or camper van in Iceland you will need a valid driver’s license from your home state or country. You do not need an International Drivers License. However, you do need to be 21 or older to rent a car or regular camper van and 23 or older to rent a 4×4 vehicle.
Renting a campervan in Iceland will come with some sort of basic insurance. KúKú Campers applies the standard CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) Insurance to all of their rentals. Basically this means that you are responsible for paying up to €3,000 in damages if something were to happen.
Your credit card may give you some insurance benefits as well but you’ll need to check with your bank prior to your trip.
Luckily, you can purchase additional insurance once you arrive in Iceland. The extra insurance that we added on and recommend you do the same was the sand and ash protection.
This cost an extra €10 per day but covered the costs of any damages that could be caused to the paint, windows and lights. Since we know how unpredictable the weather can be and how strong the winds are in Iceland we felt like this was worth it to add on.
3. Speed Limits and Speed Cameras
There are 4 main speed limits in Iceland and the laws are strict. Yes, there are speed cameras and they do work. If you receive a speeding ticket you will have to pay when you return your rental and with KúKú Campers that comes with an additional €50 processing fee.
The speed limit on the highway (Route 1) is 90 km/hr (55 mi/hr), in tunnels it is 70 km/hr (43 mi/hr), on gravel roads it is 60 km/hr (37 mi/hr) and in towns it is 50 km/hr (30 mi/hr). While these speed limits may seem slow they won’t feel slow when you are driving around taking in as much of the scenery as you can!
In all seriousness though, the speed limits are put into place for your safety and the safety of the wildlife in Iceland. Especially the sheep who have a mind of their own and will cross the road whenever they please!
Designated Roads to Drive on in Iceland
Driving in Iceland can sometimes be challenging. This is especially true in the winter when some of the roads may be closed or just not that safe to drive on. You can check the road conditions through the website Road.is where they provide the best up to date information, as well as a web cam.
One of the main things to worry about when driving around Iceland is the incredibly strong winds. We were advised that the wind can rip off car doors when opened so we maintained extreme caution every time we opened our doors. If it is really windy then be sure to park into the wind.
Driving up into the north of Iceland in the winter may require you to rent a 4×4 camper due to potentially icy roads. However, that is something I would discuss with the rental company.
» DO NOT STOP for any reason in the middle of the road in Iceland. You’d be surprised by how many people we saw actually doing this and it is so incredibly dangerous!
Route 1 (Ring Road) Iceland
The Ring Road or Route 1 in Iceland is the main highway that you will drive during your travels around the island. It is well marked, easy to follow and passes through all the main sights in Iceland.
Toll Roads in Iceland
During your road trip through Iceland you may drive through the toll tunnel in the north. This is actually the only toll road in Iceland as all the other roads are completely free to drive on. The Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel has a fee of 1500 ISK ($12 USD). You don’t have to drive through this tunnel but it will save you 16 km (9 mi) of travel time.
To pay the toll fee you can either pre-pay by logging on to veggjald.is and proceeding to their rental car payment section. You will need to enter your license plate number, use a credit card and select the time when you will be driving through.
You can also pay this fee after you’ve driven through the tunnel but you will need to do so within 3 hours. Otherwise the fee will be sent to the rental car company and you will receive an additional 1000 ISK ($7 USD) collection fee. Pay online after driving through the toll HERE.
F-Roads in Iceland
The F-roads are essentially inland roads that traverse through the highlands and mountainous areas of Iceland. There are quite a few regulations about driving on these roads and the first is that you will need a 4×4 vehicle.
They only have seasonal access and are closed the majority of the year due to weather. Typically the F-roads are open from beginning of June to the end of August but those times can vary. It is best to check on the website Road.is prior to attempting to travel through any F-roads.
Go to Road.is, click travel info, then select condition and opening of mountain roads. Or you can just click HERE as I’ve linked the exact page for you. They publish a new Mountain Roads brochure every year for foreign travelers which gives the approximate dates that the mountain roads will open.
One-Lane Bridges in Iceland
One lane bridges are exactly what they sound like. It is a single lane bridge that you have to take turns driving over if there are cars coming in both directions. The rule is that whoever gets to the bridge first goes first, simple as that.
But that’s not to say that people will forget to use common sense and there could potentially be a stand off in the middle of the bridge. Don’t let this be you. Use caution when crossing the bridge and only proceed once you’ve seen that it is clear.
Gas Stations in Iceland
While there are plenty of gas stations located throughout the country you could drive for some time without ever seeing one. This is why it is always important to stop and fill up whenever you come across one while driving along the Ring Road (Route 1).
Typically you won’t see many, if not any, gas stations outside of a town. The most prominent gas stations that you will see in Iceland will be either N1, ÓB, Olís and Orkan.
Also good to note is that if you are filling up at a gas station at night then you will need to use a debit card with a pin. During the day you’ll be able to pay inside with cash or a credit card.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
When to visit Iceland depends entirely on what you want to see and do. There are pros and cons to each season so I will do a quick breakdown for you.
Visit Iceland in the Summer
- Longer hours of daylight with the midnight sun (from May until August)
- You can see puffins, whales and seals
- Slightly warmer temperatures and less rain
- All campsites and roads are usually open
- Very crowded and lots of tourists
- High season so everything is more expensive
- You’ll need to make reservations for places like the Blue Lagoon farther out
- No northern lights
Visit Iceland in the Winter
- You can witness the Northern Lights (tips for photographing the northern lights)
- Many winter activities such as ice caving, glacier hiking, dog sledding, snowmobiling and more!
- Less tourists and cheaper rates due to low season
- Less daylight hours due to the winter solstice. During December and January you might experience only 4 hours of daylight.
- Less campsites are open
- Colder weather so you’ll need to pack more with layers and big coats
Visit Iceland in the Spring or Fall
- Milder temperatures and normal daylight hours
- You can see the purple lupin flowers in some parts of the island
- Shoulder season so prices are lower
- Less tourists
- Less wildlife and less likely to see the northern lights although it is still possible around March and early April. As well as late September into October but the activity needs to be fairly strong with almost no cloud coverage.
- The weather (rain, wind and snow) is a bit more unpredictable in the shoulder season
Where to Park Your Camper Van in Iceland
While I do like to camp and find that tents can be quite cozy, Iceland’s unpredictable weather and high probability of rain made me feel that a camper van was a far better option. An Iceland camper van not only protects you from the notoriously temperamental weather but also makes packing and unpacking a breeze. Honestly, it was a no brainer.
Iceland appeals to campers and adventurous travelers with its rugged landscapes and frequent campsites. During your time driving around the country you won’t have any problems finding a place to sleep.
There are many dedicated campsites all around Iceland with sections for tent camping and camper vans. There is an entry fee of $10-20 USD per person plus a small tax to stay at the campsite. This will be paid via credit card or cash upon entry to the campsite. The campsites in Iceland do not allow reservations but we never had any issues with them being full.
It is illegal to wild camp in Iceland. You must stay at a designated campsite or get a written approval from the landowner to stay on their land. If you are not at a designated campsite you could be fined. Rule of thumb is to stick to areas with signage stating it is a campground. If you aren’t sure if a place is off-limits to camp then you can find a list of those places HERE.
My first adventure in the camper van was in the summer, where the midnight sun and warmer temperatures were definitely an advantage. In the summer months all of the camp grounds around Iceland are open unlike in the winter. They have restrooms, showers and some even have kitchens and laundry facilities.
You can easily look up the closest campsite to your location through an offline map such as maps.me. If you have an internet connection, you can also find all the campsites that are open in the summer HERE.
Like I briefly mentioned before, the only snafu we ran into when we again rented with KúKú Campers in the winter months was that most of the camp sites were closed. That also included the showers and bathrooms. We ended up spending a couple of nights parked in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon visitors center after asking for permission.
There still are campsites that are open, however the options are a bit more limited. You can find all the campsites that are open in the winter HERE.
One huge bonus of having a camper van during the winter months is that you can drive out searching for the northern lights and then stay at a campsite nearby! Find them, photograph them and when you’re tired just climb into your cozy sleeping bag. Sounds like a dream, right?
Best Resources for Driving and Camping in Iceland
- 112 is the Emergency number for Iceland. You can also download the 112 Iceland Emergency app which will allow you to send your location directly through the app if there is an emergency.
- Road.is is the best website to check for current road conditions. You can also call 1777 for up to date information on road conditions during the day.
- The website Gasvaktin will show you the closest gas station to your location.
- Vedur.is provides the most accurate weather updates in Iceland. This is saying a lot considering the weather can change within minutes anywhere on the island. They also have an app that you can download right to your smartphone.
- Safetravel.is is filled with tons of safety tips including driving in Iceland, avalanche safety, camping safety and more.
- Campeasy.com provides a very useful map of all the campsites in Iceland. There is also a map for hot springs, museums and specific winter campsites.
- My Aurora Forecast is one of the best northern lights apps you can download if you are chasing the lights on your own! We’ve used this app for our trips through Iceland and Norway when we were chasing the northern lights!
Add on Rentals for Your Iceland Camper Van
KúKú Campers offers tons of extra stuff to rent so that you don’t have to pack and bring it with you. We’ve rented sleeping bags, a heater (for the winter nights), a power inverter and a cooler.
Fear not, they automatically supply each of their camper vans with all the cooking essentials (utensils, plates & bowls, a pot & pan and electric burner) so that you’ll never go hungry!
In addition they include some trash bags and a dusting pan to keep your “home” clean. The five person van has an electric cooler, a sink and a water reservoir for cleaning dishes and freshening up.
With permission from the workers, we refilled our (removable) water reservoir from the water spigot on the back of the visitors center at the Glacier Lagoon.
Most of the camper vans also have the option to rent a portable wifi for a daily fee. This is a great option if you don’t want to purchase an Iceland SIM or an international phone plan.
Is it Safe to Rent a Camper Van in Iceland?
Traveling around Iceland in a camper van is no doubt awesome. The one concern that many travelers have during any trip is safety. Luckily, Iceland is easily one of the safest countries in the world and we were never worried about anything during our travels there.
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WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO I USE?
- Main Camera: Sony A7III
- Wide angle lens: Sony G Master 16-35mm f/2.8
- Zoom lens: Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
- Secondary Camera: Canon 6D Mark II
- Canon wide angle lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L
- Underwater camera: Leica X-U
- Camera with gimbal: DJI Osmo Pocket & Underwater Housing
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro
- Camera Bag: Polar Pro Drone Trekker
- External Hard Drive: LaCie 1 TB rugged mini external hard drive