Why travel around Iceland

in a Camper Van?
7 min read

I’m sure, if you’ve read anything about Iceland, you’ve probably seen plenty of travelers trekking around the country in camper vans. If you’re not sure an Icelandic camper van adventure would be right for you, read on below!

You can see all of Iceland

Let’s start off with the most obvious reason why a camper van is an awesome way to go around Iceland. You can go anywhere! Most people who visit the country make Reykjavik their home base. While this is a great option for exploring the city, it limits what you can see. Since Reykjavik is located in the Southwestern part of the country, the North and East parts of Iceland are too far for day tours. That means much fewer people getting in your photos. In fact, the only tourists you’ll likely run into are also traversing the country via camper van. Say hello and ask them about where they’ve gone, what they’ve experienced, and what conditions to expect in the next few days. We actually found several spots that weren’t on our itinerary from chatting with other camper van travelers.

Grjótagjá Cave (from Game of Thrones) is in the Northeast side of the country

A camper van gives you much more flexibility

Okay, this might be the most obvious reason to use a camper van. You’re literally bringing your living situation with you wherever you go. Don’t want to visit the Strokkur geyser that day? Just drive on by. Can’t find the campground you wanted to stay at? Find a safe (and legal) spot and park your van to sleep. We only stayed in an actual campground once, because we found unobtrusive spots to park the van and made sure we cleaned up after ourselves. Just be respectful, make sure you don’t leave any trash, and don’t park on private land and you’ll be fine.

Altering your course on the fly can lead to some increidble sights

You avoid the tourist clusters

As I mentioned earlier, most of the people visiting Iceland stay in Reykjavik. That means the areas within tour bus distance from the city will have the most amount of people. The Golden Circle is the route around some of the most visited sightseeing spots in Iceland and is easily accessible from Reykjavik. That means there will be a ton of people clumped up around these particular sights. However, since Reykjavik is in the Southwestern part of the country, North and East parts of Iceland are almost devoid of tourists. In fact, the only tourists you’ll likely run into are also traversing the country via camper van.

You can skip packed tourist places like Skógafoss (although I wouldn’t recommend missing this waterfall)

We used Rent.Is for our camper van adventure and it couldn’t have gone better. Rent.Is’ staff were very nice and informative and the van itself was exactly what we needed. It had bunkbeds that allowed 4 of us to sleep (relatively) comfortably. A storable propane burner and fridge made it super easy to store and cook food along the way, especially with silverware and cooking materials provided. The van also had an independent heater, which meant we could stay warm without leaving the van running. That heater saved our skin in the Northern part of the country where the temperatures dropped into the 20s and the winds reached tropical storm velocity. I would highly recommend using Rent.Is for your Iceland adventure!

It ends up making your trip cheaper

Iceland is an expensive place. Your average meal will come out to approximately $30-$40 USD, with anything nicer getting exponentially more expensive. Your living situation will also be pretty pricey, depending on how fancy you want to stay. Our camper van ended up costing somewhere around $1,400 USD for 9 days. Split between 4 people, that’s pretty cheap! On top of that, you’ll end up saving a bunch of money not eating at restaurants. By using the camper’s stove/fridge combo and eating frugally (lunchmeat sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner), you can save tons. In fact, my entire trip to Iceland, flights included, came out to less than $1,300. I can thank the van lifestyle for a majority of the savings.

Steve just standing there and admiring how much money we saved by taking the camper van (probably)

You increase your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis

Full disclosure, there are Northern Lights tours that operate out of Reykjavik that “guarantee” you’ll see the Northern Lights or you’ll get a refund. That’s a perfectly viable option if you choose to go that route. Being in a camper van, however, allows you to move to a spot that would be the best for seeing the Lights. It’s actually how we coined the name for our group, “The Light Chasers.” Between using the mobility of the camper van as well as the Aurora app, we were able to see the Northern Lights twice during our time in Iceland. Just by being in the right place at the right time.

We wouldn’t have seen these Northern Lights if it wasn’t for our camper van

It makes your trip feel like an adventure

There’s something magical about camping overnight at Glacier Lagoon and waking up to the sunrise at Diamond Beach. Jumping out of the van to walk right to Gulfoss is a pretty incredible feeling as well. Plus, you can divert from your plans and find something off the beaten path, like a river cave outside of Arnarstropi or a Beer Spa in Akureyri. Being in a camper van allows for unparalleled spontaneity and, in my opinion, it’s the perfect way to experience Iceland.

Waking up to Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach was one of the highlights of the entire trip

That’s why you should take a camper van around Iceland!

Using a camper van to experience Iceland takes what would already be an incredible trip and makes it exponentially more awe-inspiring. You’re fully enveloped in the majesty that is the Icelandic wilderness. Have you taken a similar trip? Comment below and let me know!

Did you like the photos in this post?

Luckily for you, I offer all of my landscape shots as photo prints! If you think one of my shots from Zion National Park or Polihale Beach would look good as a framed print or a canvas, you can buy them here! If you see a picture that isn’t listed as a print, contact me and let me know! I’ll make a special order just for you.