Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Camping in Iceland in winter takes a bit of preparation as the country’s elements are extreme. You’ll need to take additional safety precautions when driving and also pack the right clothing. We want you to be safe in Iceland! You need to know about winter camping in Iceland and the open all year campsites in Iceland in order to plan your itinerary well. We’ve compiled some information about the things to know such as camping regulations, what to pack for camping in the wintertime, and a list of the all year campsites in Iceland sorted by region.
Winter Camping in Iceland
Camping in Iceland is a favorite (not to mention cheap) way to visit our breathtaking little island. Tourists save even more money when visiting during the offseason. You’ll find discounts on everything from campervan and car rental to restaurants to accommodation. As a result, winter camping in Iceland has grown in popularity. A large percentage of Iceland’s 2.2 million annual visitors come to the island, rent a campervan, and set off on the road trip of their dreams. Campervans, in particular, are a popular choice for camping in Iceland in winter because you don’t have to deal with the hassle of pitching a tent in the midst of powerful winds or driving down tent stakes in the snow or frosty ground. Instead, you’ve got your sleeping and cooking facilities all in one place and that nice Webasto heater to keep you warm overnight while you slumber.
Open All Year Campsites in Iceland - A Full List
There are over 240 campsites in Iceland. Some, like the extremely popular Reykjavik Campsite, are open all year long. Unfortunately, the majority of them shut down from October to May. Having a winter opening of a campsite is just not very common. If you plan on renting a campervan for your road trip and camping in Iceland in winter, you’ll need to stay at one of the campgrounds that stay open all year. Here’s a full list of the 26 open all year campsites in Iceland:
Open All Year Campsites in the Reykjavik Area - Southwest Iceland
Garði Campsite next to the sports center
Grindavik Campsite (Close to the Blue Lagoon)
Laugardalur – Reykjavík campsite (Iceland campsite closest to Reykjavik)
Skjól Camping (Iceland campsite near the Golden Circle route)
Uthlid, Biskupstungum (Iceland campsite near the Golden Circle route)
Open All Year Campsites in South Iceland
Hofn í Hornafirdi (Southeast Iceland)
Hveragerði – Reykjamork
Selfoss – Guesthouse
Open All Year Campsites in East Iceland
Open All Year Campsites in North Iceland
Budardalur (Northwest Iceland)
Hamrar vid Kjarnaskog
Hlid Campsite, Lake Myvatn (Northeast Iceland)
Vopnafjordur (Northeast Iceland)
Open All Year Campsites in West Iceland
For anyone camping in Iceland, I recommend visiting the Tjalda website page with a full list of all year campsites in Iceland. There’s a short description of each one and links to homepages where applicable. Click on “Meira” to see detailed information about facilities, rates, opening times, location, and even a few photos of the campgrounds.
Camping Regulations in Iceland
In doing research for your Iceland trip, you may or may not discover some conflicting information surround the rules and regulations for camping in Iceland. This is likely because the laws have changed in the past few years. What was true in 2014 or 2015 may not be correct now. It’s important to know about the most current camping regulations in Iceland so that you can respect the laws and be a good traveler. Essentially, if you are traveling with a car, campervan, or motorhome, you have to stay at one of the campsites in Iceland. No exceptions. In emergencies, you can set up no more than three tents for one night on uncultivated land unless there is a sign posted that specifically forbids it.
Wild camping isn’t technically illegal, but there are so many hoops that you have to jump through (always seeking landowner permission, not staying near populated areas or roads or campsites, no motor vehicles, no camping on farmland even though much of the country is farmland, etc.) that it’s basically impossible to wild camp legally. Also, the locals really don’t like it and highly encourage you to camp at one of Iceland’s many well-outfitted campsites. And don’t you want to respect the wishes of the people whose country you’re visiting?
What to Pack for Camping in the Wintertime
When taking a winter vacation to Iceland, it’s important to bring the right items in your suitcase. When you’re not driving your nice, heated camper around the Ring Road, you’ll be spending a lot of your time outdoors in freezing temperatures and wet conditions. Iceland is great because of the plethora of cool outdoor activities like glacier hikes, ice caves, and glacier caves in Skaftafell, Vatnajökull, and Langjökull. But eventually you’ll work up a sweat, so layering correctly with the right choice of layers is key. Bundling up like an onion is an ineffective way to retain body heat. Let’s look at exactly what to pack for camping in the wintertime so that you can stay warm, dry, and happy.
What to Wear for Winter Camping in Iceland - The Four Layer System
I always recommend following the four-layer rule for winter dressing in Iceland. Your first layer, or base layer, needs to be a breathable, moisture-wicking, heat-trapping material like Merino wool. It serves two purposes: to remove sweat from the surface of your skin (which keeps you dry) and to trap the precious heat your body produces. Nothing is worse than wearing damp or soggy clothing when it‘s cold outside. A high-quality pair of wools socks and a good set of thermal underwear are crucial.
The second layer, your mid-layer, needs to serve a similar purpose as your base layer. I’d recommend either another piece of Merino wool or some fleece items for the second layer. Now that you’ve done your best to keep warm air close to your skin, it’s time to add the third layer, your insulating layer. A parka, a down jacket or another similar piece of clothing will keep in as much warmth as possible. Just be careful with down. If it gets wet, it deflates and can take a couple of days to dry out, which defeats the whole purpose.
Lastly, you need a waterproof shell layer. Notice I said waterproof, not water resistant. Iceland’s weather, general dampness, and waterfalls like Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss all mean that the entire country is conspiring to splash you and chill you to the bone. Don’t take it personally. Just invest in a good rain jacket and stay protected from the elements. Cold and wet is for people who didn’t realize they needed to read the Campervan Reykjavik blog for helpful tips on what to wear for winter camping in Iceland. Thankfully, you’re not one of those people, and you’ll be nice and warm.
Open All Year Campsites in Iceland
Camping in Iceland in winter is a one of a kind experience. You’ll see and do amazing things that you’ve never even dreamed of. Armed with your list of all year campsites in Iceland, you’re ready to plan your adventure. Just remember to pack correctly for camping in the wintertime, follow camping regulations in Iceland, be safe, and take lots of pictures of the stunning scenery. To learn more about campervan models available, take a look at our wide selection of vehicles. Have a great trip!