Scattered with vast swaths of plains, Iceland is a country bearing nature’s plentiful bounties. This means that often, there are great distances to be covered between locations. Therefore, road trips are the best option to make the most out of Iceland’s lush beauty.
The lack of public transportation outside Reykjavik, the capital, is another reason to opt for the van. You don’t want your long-awaited trip to be limited to just a handful of tourist destinations accessible by bus.
Why Campervan Through Iceland?
The flexibility and the freedom to explore any part of Iceland is the biggest advantage of using a campervan. You don’t need to worry about your meals or booking hotels. By combining your transportation and accommodation costs, you can use the budget for other attractions like glacier hiking on Sólheimajökull.
You get the chance to camp at one of the hundreds of campgrounds across the country and visit any place you want without worrying about a place to stay.
The best time to visit Iceland entirely depends on you. Every season showcases a different facet of Iceland that you have never experienced before.
Summer in Iceland attracts the most tourists in the year who enjoy the outdoors, midnight sun, milder weather and access to most campgrounds and locations which may be closed during other times.
The festivities in the capital also bring in visitors.
For the nyctophiles who would like to enjoy the Northern Lights, the winter months from November to March offer the cheapest rates albeit with colder temperatures. Expect to have fewer campgrounds open as well as limited daylight. However, the winter wonderland and fewer tourists more than make up for the cold.
Fall and spring offer fewer tourists and affordable rates to enjoy the best of both worlds. However, the weather is unpredictable at this time, so be prepared for any sudden rain and cold spells.
As campervan becomes a popular mode of travel across the country, several companies have opened up to compete in the market. Generally speaking, F-roads open by June and close by September. On the other hand, campgrounds are open all year round, but if you plan to camp in summer, your timeframe will be from June 1st to August 31st.
However, all this is subject to weather changes.
Your itinerary will be the basis of your trip. Mark all the spots you plan to hit on your map and ensure the roads are open for the season if you plan to visit the highlands. Always follow the weather to determine your route. During fall and winter, it is best to go clockwise on the Ring road followed by the Westfjords, then enjoy the view of the Arctic Coast way at Siglufjordur.
With fewer vehicles on the road, driving in Iceland will be an enjoyable experience. Your country’s valid driver’s license is eligible for driving in Iceland. However, renting vehicles has an age requirement of over 21 years and over 23 years for a 4×4 vehicle.
There are a few pointers to keep in mind while on the road. The highland roads are only accessible by 4×4 vehicles and are best visited in the warmer months. Otherwise, you risk getting stuck.
The speed limit on the Ring road is 90km/h and 50km/h on city roads, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Nonetheless, always drive as per the weather condition to stay safe. Speed cameras often come with warning signs ¼ mile out, and you risk paying hefty fees added to your van rental if you break any rules.
Parking is prohibited on the side of the road but you can rest in the designated campgrounds for the night. Check the weather forecast and stop driving if the wind is too strong (Icelandic winds can be strong enough to blow the car door off its hinges).
Keep in mind that staying in campervans or tents is illegal unless it is at designated campgrounds. With most campsites across Ring Road, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and in the Westfjords, there will be no shortage of places to spend the night. However, in the Highlands, you can camp in the wild.
Look for facilities provided by the campsite, which often include swimming pools, hot tubs, and wifi before making a choice. Fees are charged for the caravan, car, power, and monthly taxes.
Though a campervan can make your Iceland trip very affordable, it is still important to have a budget plan prepared for your trip. Krona is the Icelandic currency, where one Krona equals less than one US dollar. Although most places accept credit/debit cards (with a chip!) hence, you won’t need to carry a lot of cash.
Gas is an essential commodity for your road trip. Thankfully, the extensive network of gas stations across the country ensures you won’t run out of fuel. The rule of thumb is to fill your tanks while it is still half full. Remember that the gas is the green handle while the diesel is the black handle. However, you will need a debit/credit card with an active PIN to pay.
Some gas station chains across the country are N1, Olis, and Orkan. Be sure to use the bathroom facilities as public restrooms are hard to find on the road.
Packing For Your Campervan Trip
Most campervan rentals will include kitchen essentials, a gas stove, bedding, and blankets. You can also rent tents, folding chairs and sleeping bags.
Always pack lightly to keep things organised. Iceland is cold throughout the year, so pack in enough layers. It is wise to pack rain gear as it can rain even in the driest months but leave the umbrella behind, which is useless against the strong gusts. Here’s a small list:
- Quick dry towel for hot springs
- Weather-proof boots
- Gloves, hats, and masks
- Headlamps (winter)
- Day pack for hiking
- Collapsible Tupperware, water bottles, and zip locks
- Toilet paper
- Car chargers for all electronic devices
Unlike the comforts of a hotel, you have to look after your basic needs on your own on the road. Here are a few tips.
Although there are plenty of restaurants and gas stations, buying food from grocery stores is ideal for saving costs. You can purchase easy-to-make meals and other snacks to enjoy on the trip. Cooking at a campsite can also be a fun experience.
As most campervans don’t have showers fitted, you can wait until you reach campgrounds to wash up for a small fee. Many heated pools require showering before use, so take advantage of those facilities.
Public bathrooms, gas stations, and campgrounds will be your only way to answer nature’s call while on the road.
Security in Iceland
Ranking 1st on the Global Peace Index, you can travel Iceland in peace. The only wildlife predator is the arctic fox, and crime is low.
However, the road access is susceptible to the whims of the weather. Additionally, download the 112 Iceland app which has a one-click button for emergencies and a check-in feature that stores your last five check-ins. This will help the search and rescue team in case something goes wrong.
Iceland is a vast country with a low population so if you are stuck on the road, it will be hard to find help. Thus you should be comfortable with tasks like changing tires. Avoid tricky roads where your campervan can get stuck. You are unlikely to find reception to call for help.
No matter where you travel, you must respect your host country and maintain courtesy to other travelers.
Despite the breathtaking allure of the country, avoid stopping in the middle of the two-lane roads and inconvenience other tourists.
Swimming plays an important cultural aspect in Iceland with public swimming pools in almost every village that has shower facilities.
Use organic soap if you plan to use the lakes, streams or hot springs for a natural bath. Furthermore, absolutely refrain from relieving yourself in these natural water sources.
Dispose of your rubbish in bins on the campsite or other designated areas. Respect the fragile environment and avoid off-reading which is illegal in Iceland.
A well-planned trip and traveling responsibly will ensure both enjoyment and safety on your Campervan trip. Prepare for your campervan trip and experience an unforgettable Iceland that will leave you with fond memories.