I adjust the beige strap on my seat belt buckle and look over my right shoulder at the foreign landscape the flows across my eyes. People have told me that Iceland’s terrain looks like another planet; they’re absolutely right. I can hear the jumble of our belongings jostling against the sides of the campervan shelf. During every big bump, my left foot instinctively shoots sideways to hold the refrigerator door in place so it doesn’t swing open. I later learn that I shouldn’t put too many items in the refrigerator door because it won’t stay closed with all of the weight. My inexperience is forgiven though because this is my very first time traveling in a campervan and I had much to learn.
Iceland has been a travel destination buzzword these days. There has been a flurry of flight deals to and from Reykjavik from all around the world. You’ve either been bombarded with flight notifications, your friends have gone to Iceland, or you are planning a trip yourself. With some deals as low as $250 from SFO, how can you afford not to? One of the best and most efficient ways to see Iceland is by campervan. In this guide, I’ll share how I traveled in a campervan for three days and nights around Southern Iceland so you can do the very same.
Why should you get a campervan?
You may have heard– Iceland is extraordinarily expensive for the average American. If a pack of bacon in Iceland costs about $15 USD, it’s easy to consider how expensive it might be to organize a tour that’ll shuttle you back an forth from the capital city of Reykjavik to the destinations you want to visit. Combine that with all those hours you would be driving just to reach those areas. Think of the campervan as your lodging for the night, storage for your belongings, and gateway to see more of Iceland. Plus, you can be on your own timetable. Stop off to ogle at the moss-covered lava rocks, majestic Icelandic horses, or pick up a gas station hot dog whenever your stomach grumbles… can’t do that on a tour bus.
Another consideration is that you are likely already going to pay to get from the Keflavik airport into the city of Reykjavik on a shuttle bus. An individual one-way ticket on the Flybus will cost around 3.300 ISK, which is about $31 USD. If you pick up the campervan at the airport, you’ll be saving on these costs that you could have incurred. There are some instances where having a campervan won’t necessarily be more economical than renting a regular car and staying in guest houses along the way. Depending on how many people you have and the level of flexibility you want, you’ll have to decide this for yourself. In my case, I traveled with five other people so we saved quite a bit with a campervan since we split costs for gas, supplies, car rental, and parking fees.
What is driving in Iceland like?
If you are American, you’ll be relieved to know that the steering wheel is on the left side and you drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. Just like home. Once you are out of the populated areas, many of the roads are single lane. It’s important to remember to use the designated pull off points along the road versus simply stopping immediately when you see something interesting. The shoulder is quite narrow on the single lane roads, so if you pull over in the wrong spot you’d be causing a road hazard. Don’t be that foreigner, please. Roads and signage are fairly straightforward, but having the ability to use Google Maps on your phone is key to finding certain destinations.
Some campervans will come with GPS devices, but Google Maps still wins all day every day when traveling abroad.
Most rental companies will require you to be at least 23 years old to rent a larger vehicle, but these policies may vary so be sure to check beforehand. Iceland recognizes all national driver’s licenses, so you won’t have to make any other special arrangements. Woohoo! There is an Icelandic website called SafeTravel dedicated to safe adventure and should be regarded your campervan guru as you drive around the land of fire and ice. I recommend following them on social media accounts before your trip and even consider leaving your travel plan with them so the ICE-SAR (search and rescue) team can better help you in the event of an emergency. For more general information on driving in Iceland, the Visit Reykjavik site is another great resource.
Campervan rental companies in Iceland
Geysir – Car and motorhome rentals. We used this company to rent our 6 person motorhome which came equipped with a kitchenette, refrigerator, and bathroom (which we didn’t use for fear of having to empty the waste container). I was very happy with the camper and cooked a few meals on the stovetop which saved me a pretty penny. If you ask nicely, the manager Gylfi might show you the sweet tattoo portraits he has on his arms of his parents.
Pro tip: Sweet radio jams can be found on 91.9 and 96.7
Kuku Campers – for smaller campers and 4×4 trucks. My friends Garrett (TheTravelHuman YouTuber) and Nina of Where in the World is Nina used them for a smaller two-person van with a sweet black and white design on the outside of their car.
Happy Campers – simple, smaller campers from a family-owned business. They look solid and I would have considered renting from them if we weren’t getting a motorhome.
Sold. I’m getting a campervan. What should I see for my road trip in southern Iceland?
Iceland is brimming with epic fjords, waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs. It is essentially “Nat Geo status” everywhere you go. Half of the terrain in Iceland is mountainous lava desert and a tenth is covered by glaciers. Icelandic horses have the most incredible manes and can be seen grazing on bright green pastures, making for stunning photos. Check out my 3-Day Southern Iceland Campervan Itinerary post for a step-by-step breakdown of each day along with a map to these destinations.
What are some things to keep in mind when traveling by campervan?
Most of the country’s population lives in the southwest portion of Iceland. Larger grocery stores are in populated areas such as Reykjavik and Vik. It’ll be difficult to buy groceries outside of these areas, so load up when you can. Use the bathroom whenever you see one. Restroom facilities can be sparse on the road, but you should be able to find them at major attractions (some require payment) and gas stations. Finally, respect the whims of Icelandic weather changes. You may encounter stretches of rain, wind, or cloudy days. But, there are also radiantly bright days of sunshine that’ll make you peel off your layers too. Be flexible with your plans and bring waterproof gear so that you can continue to enjoy the scenery. After all, a little rain never hurt anyone!
What kind of supplies will I need inside of my campervan?
- Disposable plates, cups, and utensils to keep clean up easy
- Paper towels
- USB chargers for the cigarette port
- Solid music playlist
- Earplugs for snoring campervan mates
Where should I get my supplies and groceries?
The most wallet-friendly grocery store is Bonus. There are several locations near Reykjavik and Southern Iceland. Once you lay eyes on their quirky pig logo, you won’t easily forget it. Prices are considerably cheaper here compared to other stores. Keep in mind that grocery stores do not sell liquor, so you will need to go to Vínbúdin if you’d like wine or the hard stuff. Stores in Iceland have shorter hours of operation (some even close at 5:30 pm), so be sure to make a plan and double check hours before you go.
Excellent. I’m jazzed about seeing Iceland by campervan!
You should be! My friend, you are now ready to go for your grand Icelandic road trip. Remember that safety should always come first when you are driving. Keep a close eye on road conditions and do not hesitate to pull over into a gas station or cafe to wait out inclement weather. One of my favorite road snacks was having crackers and a nice wedge of camembert cheese, which was very affordable in Iceland. Who says you can’t eat classy in a campervan? If you need some extra Iceland hype, you can also watch my pal Todd’s Hata’s video of our trip. If you are currently planning your adventure or have just come back from it, I want to know all about it in the comments.
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