After 19 days of driving around every corner of Iceland in a rented Kuku Campers van, I got to experience the best and not-so-great of Iceland’s campground offerings. First things first:
- If staying in a camper van, car, RV, whatever – you MUST stay in an established campground. Kuku Campers was good about educating on this, but I’m not sure all rental companies are… or tourists don’t care. But you cannot just simply pull off wherever you like, and stay the night there. The only time “wild” camping is allowed is with tents, and in remote areas. That is not the side of the Ring Road, people!
- All 17 campgrounds we stayed in took credit cards. Coins may be necessary for laundry and showers at some, but you can at least pay your camping fee with plastic
- On the matter of the Camping Card, we didn’t use one. We didn’t want to limit our stays to just those participating campgrounds, and with it ending on September 15th, we still would’ve been paying for camping since we stayed through September 19th.
- If reception wasn’t open, or there simply wasn’t a reception, someone came around at night to collect the fees. Pretty simple!
And here we go… all 17 campsites stayed in during our adventure September 1-19, 2018. (*Prices and offerings may change)
1500 ISK / person
Laundry facilities (for fee)
Outdoor (but sheltered) kitchen area with hot/cold water
Open year around
This was our first night in the country, so we were quite exhausted after an overnight flight and spending all day exploring and hiking. This campground was packed full, but quiet. There is one shower in each bathroom, which is free, but I had to wait in line to use it. I thought the campground was reasonably clean and tidy. There trees and the whole place is just very green!
1500 ISK / person
Large indoor kitchen/dining area
Stop for the Trex bus into Landmannalaugar
We stayed in Hella for two nights as we were catching the Trex bus into the highlands from here, and it just made the most sense. Busy, but a very large campground and we did not have to park right up next to someone. It was a tad bit muddy, but Iceland is a very moist country! There were two showers in each bathroom, which had a nice private changing area outside of the actual shower. There is a very large dining and kitchen area. We only used it to wash dishes, and we discovered that the counter and water from the sink had an electrical charge which was literally shocking! Fun adventures! There are lots of trees and bushes, and the Ranga River is right next to the campground.
1500 ISK / person
Laundry facilites (500 ISK / cycle)
This campground sits behind the Hverinn restaurant and small store. I think there were a total of 5 campers there when we were, making it very quiet and enjoyable. I did not shower here, so I cannot report on the conditions of the showers. The women’s bathroom has the washer/dryer, and was heated and very clean. We did laundry here, and the dryer never did dry our clothes (it also appeared to be older than the 1980s). We prepared our dinner on the outdoor patio area of the restaurant, and the owner came out to chat… such a nice guy! There are trees and bushes and grass parking areas.
1500 ISK / person
Indoor kitchen area
This campground does not have reception, when we arrived after sunset there were people collecting camping fees. Gorgeous scenery in this campground, and has nice facilities. There was one shower in each restroom. I managed to get myself locked inside of it as I didn’t understand how the door lock worked… whoops! Clean and tidy. Playground was on site.
1800 ISK / person
Indoor dining area
The reception for the campground is located just a bit down the road at Hótel Flókalundar. There are great little hiking trails you can take to get there that are covered in wild bilberries (similar to blueberries). There is also a hiking trail that goes right to the Hellulaug hot pot. I did not use the showers so cannot comment on them, but the service house was clean and tidy.
Bíldudalur Camp Site
This campground is behind the sports center (recreation center), and reception is located in the sports center. This is also where the showers are located, so they can only be accessed during opening hours. No shoes are allowed in the sports center, and the facilities are very very clean. There are not private shower stalls for those who might care, but they are gender specific obviously. There are bathroom facilities that are accessible 24/7. It has a big bounce pad which is a lot of fun! This was a very quiet campground, but then again, it was end of season. Though online sources said closing was August 31st, we arrived on September 7th and they were still open (I had tried emailing them earlier in the year and never received a response). We had an interesting experience with some bored local children, but they were pretty harmless. The campground looked out over the fjord, which was a beautiful sight.
Large indoor kitchen
I gotta admit, we didn’t see much of this campsite! We arrived after dark and after a delicious dinner in town, and pretty much settled into the van to sleep. I did visit the kitchen facility, which was very nice with cooking appliances, tables, etc. There is a waterfall at this campsite, and hiking trails for those who might have more time to explore.
Indoor common space
Laundry facilities (400 ISK each for washer and dryer)
The groundskeeper comes around to collect the camping fees, there is no reception. There is one big common building which houses the toilets, laundry, showers, and cooking/eating space all in one room which can be odd, but it was clean. We had a snafu with doing laundry… the washing machine handle broke off! Luckily the groundskeeper was there, and called a repair man, but we managed to get the door open before the repair man showed up. The hot pots are a short walk away, and it was nice to see the town during the walk. Great views of the fjord from the camp site as well!
1300 ISK/person + 333 ISK lodging tax
Like our last campsite, there is no reception and a groundskeeper will come around to collect the fee. The campsite is in a large field bordering an elementary school. The showers are pay showers, so we did not use them. It is a very short walk down to the town swimming pool, which has a scenic view (this is what we did to get our showers). Bathrooms were clean.
Outdoor sinks for washing dishes
We arrived at 11pm to this campsite, so did not see much of it before going to bed. There is a large, unisex bath house with private free showers, toilets, and sinks. One thing I noticed about this campsite was all the “rules” posted everywhere about what you can and cannot do. Really not an issue if you’re not looking for trouble, but still interesting. The space and facilities were clean. We hit the road early in the morning, so overall did not really experience much of this campsite. It was definitely a busy place, but we didn’t feel crammed in.
1200 ISK/person + 333 ISK lodging tax
Talk about getting off the beaten path! We were the only campers in this campsite! A lady came down from the neighboring sports center to collect our fee. There are a couple of bathrooms (nicely heated!), free shower, and outdoor sink – all clean and tidy. Definitely quiet!
Seyðisfjörður Camp Site
Large indoor kitchen/common area
This campsite is understandably very popular and busy. We definitely had to park very close to others. It is centrally located in town, making it very easy to set up camp and then walk to restaurants, grocery store, and other sites. We did not use the showers since they are pay showers. Bathrooms seemed clean and tidy otherwise. There is a very large and busy indoor kitchen/common area which a lot of people seem to hang out in.
Indoor kitchen area
A beautiful, but basic campsite off of the Ring Road. The bathroom and shower facilities were fairly dirty (or it could’ve just been disrepair and mold… I couldn’t tell). One of the toilets were broken. Luckily the views seemed to make up for things, and we did see the aurora here as well! Sheep graze around the campsite, which added to the experience (watch out for poop!). You can rent pre-set up tents here as well. The least busy of the south coast campsites that we stayed in.
Ferðaþjónustan í Svínafell
Indoor kitchen area
An alternative to staying in Skaftafell, this is a nice, clean campsite with lots of room. There is a main service house, and then in reception there is a sink/tables and unheated bathrooms. There is also a waterfall and sheep!
Vík í Mýdral Camp Site
Very very very busy. Which is a given. It’s Vík! It was also very muddy, so had to take care on where to park. Did not use the shower facilities since there was a fee. I found the women’s bathrooms to be dirty and not tidy. Also, there was a man that kept hanging around the open door into the women’s bathroom which was just weird. Indoor kitchen had free item shelves and some appliances to use, such as an electric kettle which was nice for speeding up our morning coffee! This camp site was very much a “pull in, park, sleep, get out of there quick in the morning” type of place. Unfortunately my #1 choice in this area had closed the night before (Þakgil) so we didn’t have another option. A new Krónan grocery store was within walking distance.
Hamragaðar Camp Site
One word: CROWDED. More campers than space for them. It also doesn’t help that most of the land is a mud bog, so anything 2 wheel drive (and probably a good amount of 4 wheel drive vehicles) are unable to park there without risk of getting stuck. You’re paying for the privilege to sleep with a view of Seljalandsfoss, and pretty much nothing else. We came so close to just eating our camping fee, and going down the Ring Road a bit to stay in Hella again, but finally managed to squeeze the van onto a semisolid piece of ground. I used none of the facilities, but I can only imagine they were dirty (I used the bathrooms in the Seljalandsfoss parking lot, and they were disgusting). Obviously, you’re within walking distance of Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi. We had a great view of the falls out of the van, and did see a faint aurora. The views to the south of the Westman Islands was neat as well. But if you can avoid it, don’t stay here. Unless you like crowds and mud.
Large indoor kitchen and common area
Outdoor kitchen space
Large free shelves of everything
This was a bittersweet stay since it was our final night in Iceland. So much space to spread out in the off season, so never felt like we were too close to others. I can imagine this campsite gets quite full in the summer, though! Bathroom facilities were large. I did not use the showers, so cannot common on cleanliness, but I found the toilet/sink areas ok… not really clean, but not really filthy. The indoor kitchen and common space is huge with tons of room. The free shelves are quite the marvel, and we did leave quite a bit of stuff we had leftover and saw people claiming the items quickly. This campsite champions being “green” so they encourage sorting trash and composting items.
So how did I go about all my research? Well, mainly Google is my best friend, along with countless travel blogs I had read, and then some Facebook Iceland travel groups. There are a few helpful websites:
- Tjalda.is – “Official” link to campgrounds in Iceland. However, it is not comprehensive. Even the one in Vík is missing.
- Cycling Iceland List – most comprehensive list I have found of campgrounds, their amenities, and mountain huts, last updated fall of 2019. Relevant to all travelers, not just cyclists
- Cycling Iceland Map – once again, one of the most comprehensive maps of Iceland I have seen, which lists campgrounds, attractions, etc. Still helpful to those traveling by car, not bicycle!
- Campingcard.is – Even though we didn’t use the Camping Card to pay for our camping, this website is a valuable tool for information on camping in Iceland
- Happy Campers Campground Map – Just what it sounds like… a map of campgrounds and information!
What really amazes me about Iceland is the availability of campgrounds. Nearly every “larger” town has one in some form or another, along with the national parks, and places in between. They’re a great place to connect with other travelers, and even maybe swap stories with the locals (I mean, where else can I stand in a town I can’t pronounce and discuss the mismanagement of U.S. forests and our wildfire season with a local restaurant owner and then go on to the see the aurora later that night?! AmIright?). Most campgrounds we stayed at were clean, tidy, and had great amenities. And if they didn’t have an amenity (like free showers), often other places in the town would meet those needs, like a local swimming pool, which are outstanding in Iceland by the way.
Happy Icelandic camping to you!