Updated: Mar 8
There is definitely a certain sense of romanticism that surrounds traveling by boat. That peaceful moment where you set sail across the open ocean and watch the land recede into the distance behind you.
There’s a quiet contemplation of the vast expanse of ocean and sky, and then the excitement of getting ever closer to your next destination. All of this together feels like real travel or even adventure, in a way that air travel sometimes doesn’t.
Journeying by boat is a slower and more intentional mode of transportation, and not one to rush. Some dedicated travelers might consider Iceland's ferries along with a motorhome or a camper. But this would only be viable if they are planning on devoting a great deal of time to travel.
If you are visiting Iceland for a road trip, then there are some short ferry ride options available, too. These routes will bring you to various islands off the Icelandic coast or across wide sea channels.
Can motorhomes go on ferries?
There are a range of ferry routes in Iceland, with some that can only accommodate foot passengers. On the other hand, there are routes that offer space for motorhomes or rental cars.
In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at Iceland’s ferry routes, exploring whether they are exclusively for foot passengers or can also accommodate vehicles. We will then delve into some things that you can do once you arrive at Iceland’s seaports. So, sit back, relax and take notes if you planning an upcoming trip to the Land of Fire and Ice!
Iceland ferries routes
The Westfjords Ferry
For many travelers, this is one of the most useful Iceland ferries routes. Hopping on this ferry means a considerably shortened journey time from Reykjavík to the Westfjords. Foot passengers are welcome here, with additional space for vehicles as well.
One look at the map will show you a long and winding route to reach the remote and beautiful Westfjords. From southern Iceland it takes several hours to get to the edge of the region, and then a few more to reach the far end of this wide peninsular.
In winter, parts of the area can be quite inaccessible by car. With high mountain passes to negotiate, they frequently become completely impassable. The ferry route offers a lifeline for the handful of people that live in this wild region.
In the summer months, though, it is a popular choice with motorhome road trippers. The ferry for the Westfjords leaves from the ever-popular Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and it takes around two and a half hours to arrive in the northwest Westfjords. There is a brief stop on route at the tiny island of Flatey.
Note that this is a car-free island, which means foot passengers only for disembarkation here. Those with vehicles will continue straight on to the Westfjords.
Once you arrive in the Westfjords, there is much to see and do. It is a particularly beautiful and remote area for road tripping, as the landscapes are stunning and there are some interesting villages to spend time in.
Hornstrandir in the Westfjords can be reached by road, but the ferry zips over a fjord enabling you to arrive at this this remote spit of land much quicker.
The Westman Islands Ferry
The Westman Islands are located off the coast of South Iceland. They are an archipelago of some fifteen islands and numerous rock stacks. Most of the islands are uninhabited, aside from the presence of several thousand puffins! In fact, people inhabit only one of the Westman islands, Heimaey, the place where the ferries make port.
There are two ferry routes that arrive at the island and both of them are vehicle ferries. The Þorlákshöfn route takes about two and half hours whereas the Landeyjahöfn route is much shorter at around thirty-five minutes.
In the summer months, there are more frequent crossings in order to meet demand. These are some of the busiest ferries in Iceland, so plan and book in advance- especially if you will be taking your motorhome with you on to the island.
Heimaey is home to an excellent campsite where you can park up and enjoy the peacefulness of island life. An excellent area for walking and bird watching, once you’ve parked up you can wander around on foot or by small boat towards the cliffs.
In the summer months, the island and the surrounding rock stacks are home to millions of birds. The most prominent of these is the characterful puffin- bright orange-beaked seabirds that make their homes in coastal crevices. In August, there is also a regular summer festival on the island. It is well worth timing your trip around this special event if you plan on visiting at this time of year.
Grimsey Island Ferry
Grimsey is a far-flung island off the coast of North Iceland. It sits just within the Arctic Circle and is an excellent place to see the Northern Lights when they are in season. It is foot passenger only and has space for just one hundred passengers. Therefore, book your trip in advance to secure your spot. With just three sailings a week in summer it can fill up quite quickly.
This small car-free island lies off the coast of Reykjavik, so visiting it is a popular activity for day-trippers from the capital. It is a short boat ride, and the island is a peaceful place to walk and enjoy scenic views.
Papey island, situated off the East Coast, is currently uninhabited although there were people living there up until the sixties. If you’re a foot passenger, this is a great plan for another scenic day trip. If you have a vehicle, better to choose another option from the list.
Hrisey Ferry Route
One last ferry route for day-trippers is an island in the Eyjafjörður fjord to the north of Akureyri. It is ideal for bird watching and taking in breathtaking views. With just a fifteen-minute ride and hourly sailings in season, the Hrisey ferry is both beautiful and convenient.
Ferries from Europe to Iceland
If you are looking for ferries that travel from the UK to Iceland, you’ll have to look again. There did used to be a ferry from Scotland to Iceland, but sadly it is no longer running. These days the only ferries from Europe to Iceland are from Denmark.
If you are living on the road for several months, then you might decide to travel to Iceland with your own motorhome. However, since Denmark-based ferries to Iceland with a camper van are not cheap, you would want to be planning on staying for a significant amount of time to make it worthwhile.
The Smyril Line ferry route leaves from Hirtshals in Denmark with a stop at the Faroe Islands, arriving at the port of Seydisfjordur in Iceland. There are between one and two sailings a week between March and October. The journey takes about four days each way, so although it is lengthy, it is possible!