Updated: Jan 2
Touring Iceland’s Ring Road by campervan is a little different from what you’d experience in a car. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of both before making your choice, but we can promise you there are plenty of advantages to the campervan option.
Here’s what you need to know if you plan to cruise the Ring Road with this mode of transportation.
Why choose a campervan over a car?
Let’s start with the obvious: when you choose a campervan, you’ll be carrying your home with you, eliminating the need to find proper accommodation. This also makes it much easier to keep track of costs.
With a campervan, you won’t have to work out what each night’s hotel or guesthouse is going to cost or concern yourself with fluctuating supply and demand – remember, accommodation gets pricier as it sells out. Still, travelers don't always want to tie themselves down to firmed-up itineraries months in advance.
Instead, you’ll have already taken care of a significant majority of your accommodation budget with the money you’ve shelled out on your campervan rental. Allow a little extra for campsites and you’ll be surprised just how cost-effective it can be. Additionally, the fact that you can easily self-cater helps you save on eating out, though you’ll probably still want to treat yourself to restaurant meals occasionally.
What’s so special about the Ring Road?
Some of Iceland’s most remarkable sights are either found right alongside the Ring Road or very close by. If you can afford more than a few days, this route is ideal for first-time visitors as you’ll be able to tick off some of the most extraordinary places in the country. An added benefit: waterfalls like Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss or Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon have the means to make a cuppa in the car park before you hit the road again.
Iceland’s Ring Road is a cinch in a campervan. The road is well-maintained and although it’s not a dual carriageway, it’s still wide enough for two large vehicles to pass each other without fearing for your wing mirrors.
The extra height you enjoy in a camper will also come in handy, particularly as you approach those single-lane bridges that cover Iceland – you’ll be able to see further along the road and work out what’s coming.
How long does it take?
Well, how long is a piece of string? This is possibly the most frequently asked question when it comes to driving in Iceland, but the hardest to answer.
In truth, you can drive the Ring Road non-stop in less than 24 hours. However, the number of days you’ll need to set aside for this campervan adventure depends on a number of factors. These include:
What kind of activities do you plan to do along the way, and how long will each take
What tolerance do you have for busier sights and how important it is to get off the beaten track
The amount of daylight at the time of year you choose to travel – you’ll cover far more ground in summer but the places you visit will be more crowded
How unpredictable the weather turns out to be. In July and August, it can still be wild, while if you get lucky, winter can be dreamy, especially if the Northern Lights show up
Where to stop overnight
Even though in some parts of the world it would be perfectly legal to pull over pretty much anywhere you like, wild camping here is prohibited by the Icelandic camping law and that includes campervans.
Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent campsites and with a little bit of research, you’ll be able to identify which of them best suit your needs and your planned itinerary.
Reviews will also help you identify the best sites that are available during the time of year you plan to travel. If they’re really popular, you should reserve a pitch well in advance, particularly if you’re planning to travel in July or August.
At Skógafoss, for instance, you can camp right in front of the waterfall – surely one of the best views in all of Iceland – but you won’t be the only one who wants to do so.
Detours and day tours
The decision of whether to rent a campervan or car for the Iceland Ring Road might also be impacted according to the experiences you're most keen on having.
There’ll be times when you’ll want to see places or sign up for activities beyond the Ring Road. Where this involves driving along more challenging roads or fording rivers, you might prefer to park the campervan for a short time and let someone else do the driving.
For example, if you want to get up onto the glaciers or into the highlands, book a snowmobile or super jeep tour. However, it's important to know your limits: the gravel road to breathtaking Studlagil Canyon won’t faze anyone in a 4x4, but novice campervan drivers might find a tour less stressful.
When you’re pulling off the Ring Road, you’ll still need to consider the potholes in some of the car parks. After experiencing the smooth surface of the route itself, it can come as a bit of a shock. Of course, this shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem in a car or a campervan, so long as you take care and keep your speed down.
Working out a campervan itinerary
Settling on the perfect Ring Road itinerary takes a little time and thought. Starting with the number of days’ holiday you’re able to take, figure out if you want to have an in-depth look at a few areas, or try to cover most of the must-visit places.
Think about the kind of scenery you’ve come to see. If it’s mostly glaciers you’re after, hang around longer in South Iceland, whereas if you’re more interested in nature and wildlife, then the north of the country with its seals, whales, and horses will tick all the boxes.
If you plan to add on other driving routes – such as around the Snæfellsnes, Reykjanes peninsulas, or the Westfjords – then allow plenty of time for these add-ons.
Though most travelers are likely to have come to Iceland for the wow factor of its countryside, a campervan trip shouldn't mean that you rule out stopping in urban areas.
Iceland’s towns and cities have many excellent attractions such as museums, plus great coffee and restaurants you won’t want to miss. Good signage and plenty of spacious car parks mean that even in a vehicle like a campervan, you don't need to worry about being too large to fit.
If you’re struggling to make a decision, it can help to choose your campsites first and work out the sightseeing from there. Check out the map on the Tjalda website for a glance at where the country’s campsites are located and what facilities they offer. For example, you can easily check if a site has WiFi, electricity, gray water disposal, and other amenities.
An adventure of a lifetime
Cruising along Iceland's Ring Road in a camper van will leave you with extraordinary memories. A comfortable way to explore the country at your own pace, all you need to figure out now is which campervan or motorhome rental is the best fit for you. Once you have that nailed down, pick up the keys, and bon voyage!