Updated: Jan 2
There’s no doubt about it- camping is a brilliant way to explore Iceland. Whether you rent a campervan or a motorhome or kick it old school in a tent, a visit to Iceland is all about getting out and about in the great outdoors.
After all, what better way to appreciate nature than by camping in the midst of it? Sleeping under the stars, feeling grass underfoot, and watching the sunset each night, the experience is invaluable. Fortunately, the Iceland Camping Card can help with that pursuit.
Icelandic campsites are super handy and will place you smack dab in the center of incredible scenery. The entire country is extremely well set up for camping trips, with literally dozens of campsites where you can park or pitch up. Both plentiful and high-quality, they are usually well-equipped and expansive with hot showers, BBQ zones, and areas for washing up.
Iceland really is a nation of campers. In fact, up until 2015, locals and visitors could all enjoy wild camping in Iceland. Unfortunately, with an increase in visitor numbers, this soon became unsustainable and is now forbidden by the Icelandic camping law. The Icelandic countryside and its flora (the beautiful, vibrant, and slow-growing moss) are very delicate.
Therefore, if feet, tires, or tent pegs damage it, a scar is left on the precious landscape. To protect the environment for everyone, wild camping is now illegal in Iceland. Thankfully, this is not too much of a loss since there are so many excellent campsites to choose from.
What exactly is the Iceland Camping Card?
The Iceland Camping Card is a pass that allows a family to camp together at participating campsites. It covers around thirty-five locations around the country and is valid for twenty-eight days starting from your group’s first night of camping. On-site, a campsite attendant will swipe your card to begin a digital log of your trip.
Your group can consist of two adults and up to four children, all under the age of sixteen. You also all need to stay in one unit for the card to be valid. One big motorhome would qualify, for example. If you have another adult in your group, then they would need to have a separate card.
Alternatively, they could just pay separately for the campsite per night. Likewise, if you have another vehicle traveling with you or anyone sleeping in a tent, they would need to pay separately for another unit or have purchased another card beforehand.
The camping card has a limited time span of twenty-eight days to be used between May 15th and September 15th. The summer months are certainly the most popular time to visit Iceland and when the majority of campsites are fully open. After all, for a successful camping trip, everything comes down to both the weather and the daylight hours.
But fall and winter camping trips are still possible for less ambitious itineraries. You will just need to check in advance which campsites are open in winter, as many close for the winter months.
The timing of closures can vary quite a bit, so if you have a camping card but are traveling in May or September, be sure to double-check. Otherwise, there’s no need to book your stay in advance; you can simply turn up and flash your card.
Is the Iceland Camping Card Worth it?
This depends on a few different factors, but it is certainly a big money saver under many circumstances.
These deciding factors are the size of your group, the length of your visit, and the timing of your visit. For example, for a family of two adults and four kids visiting for a week in the summer, the Iceland Camping Card is most certainly worth it.
You’ll save quite a bit of cash on the pay-as-you-go method. However, if you are a couple visiting for just a few days of camping, then it’s not going to be worth it.
How much does the Iceland Camping Card cost?
So, let’s get down to business and talk money. The cost of the Iceland Camping Card for the 2022 season was 159 EUR (ca. 179 USD), and it doesn’t fluctuate a great deal from one year to the next.
If you don’t have a camping card, then campsites will charge you on a per-person basis. This price will differ slightly from campsite to campsite and from adults to children. But generally, the cost per night is around €10 per person. So, if you are a family of four looking to camp in Iceland for five nights or more, then a Camping Card is a good investment.
In this scenario, with the camping card discounts, you are saving money as soon as you hit five nights. Staying for a week or ten days means you will save quite a bit of cash. And things will get even better if you can stay for the full twenty-eight days!
Is the Camping Card Always Worth it?
The times when it won’t be such an advantage are if you are on a very short trip. It also doesn’t work if you are traveling solo, with one or several other adults, or planning a winter trip.
As mentioned, from September 15th to May 15th, the card is unavailable. This is mostly due to the fact that many campsites close their gates for winter. During this time of year, it’s not a good idea to be out in the elements for very long.
Where to buy the Camping Card in Iceland
You can either order the Iceland Camping Card online or buy it on arrival. To make a purchase online, please visit this website.
If you plan to order the card and have it posted to you, be aware of the postage time, as it can take time for your card to reach you from the distant shores of Iceland. You won’t want to cross paths with your camping card when you are already en route to the Land of Fire and Ice.
You can also order your card in advance and then pick it up in Reykjavík if you already plan on spending a few days in the capital. Just note that the pre-ordered card can only be picked up Monday to Friday within office hours.
If you are worried about postage times, simply buy your card when you arrive. You can easily purchase it at several different convenient places, such as the larger Tourist Information offices in Reykjavík or some of the larger participating campsites and even in large supermarkets.
Which campsites are covered by the Iceland Camping Card?
There is a great range of campsites covered by the camping card, including some of the best campsites in Iceland.
If you are planning on driving the classic Ring Road route, you will find participating campsites right the way around the loop. There are also some on the Golden Circle route and on the Reykjanes Peninsular.
You’ll find one well-situated campsite on the lovely Snæfellsnes Peninsula and others around the wilds of the Westfjords. To help you plan your itinerary to perfection, there is a full list of participating campsites on the Camping Card website.
Camping in Iceland
The Iceland Camping Card has been gradually gaining importance as camping has become one of the most demanded ways to travel around Iceland. Therefore, it is essential to prepare for your trip well in advance. Select the campsites you wish to head to and also a couple of backups.
Then, once you have everything arranged and the bigger picture is clear, you can simply head to Iceland and enjoy the freedom and closeness to nature that camping provides. Do not forget to lock your campervan rental, as that is also an essential step for camping in Iceland!