Best Free and Cheap Campsites in IcelandPublished: 2. October 2019
Walk through the heart of Reykjavik, and you’re bound to hear a tourist complaining about the high price tag that comes with staying in the city. Not up for a $60 hostel stay with bunk beds full of strangers? Trying to catch your breath over a no-frills $250 hotel room? I feel you. But there are fun and affordable options that open up Iceland to your doorstep. Camping in Iceland untethers you from conventional accommodations, saves a bundle, and provides unparalleled experiences like waking up to fjords and waterfalls at your door. And in Iceland, you can legally camp for free.
As a general rule, you can set up a tent for one night on any uncultivated public land for free and start exploring Iceland’s hidden gems. And if you want to go camping in Iceland on private property or a farm? You just need express permission from the owner. Sounds good right? But before you pack up your tent to venture into the Icelandic countryside, you should know a few things. For starters, it’s not always immediately obvious what constitutes as uncultivated land and you need to get into the rugged wild to find a legal spot. That requires 4x4 off-roading, which is generally prohibited in Iceland.
There are also some hidden rules and caveats within that freebie rule about camping in Iceland. For starters, laws can vary between municipalities and are continuously changing with greater enforcement due to the influx of tourism, causing confusion to wayward camping tourists. In addition, you’re only allowed to camp for free on such land if there are no other legal campsites in the area, and you can’t park overnight in a campervan for free.
In the southern part of Iceland, it’s flat-out illegal to camp outside of a designated campsite whether you’re in a tent or not. You also can’t camp out for free, or beyond the designated campsites at Iceland’s three National Parks of Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir), Vatnajökull National Park or Snæfellsjökull National Park.
To sum up, in order to go camping in Iceland for free, you need to:
Become an expert on Icelandic land ownership and laws
Proficiently understand the gray area of how far law enforcement thinks you should be from a legal campsite
Study up on what’s considered cultivated land and what’s not throughout Iceland
Know the local municipality laws inside and out
Understand the country’s evolving camping regulations
Become a YouTube-worthy superstar negotiator with private landowners holding the fate to your free camping spot
So yes, technically, you can set-up a tent and go camping in Iceland for free. But it’s incredibly challenging to do and leaves you exposed to friction with locals and law enforcement. Instead, choose from among the 170 registered campsites in Iceland that are usually affordable, and sometimes free.
Peak camping season in Iceland stretches from June until mid-September. Expect to pay between $4 and $20 to go camping in Iceland, or maybe a little more to park your camper van. During off-seasons, you may even find some campgrounds are still open, but unmanned, potentially making them free. But again, this is a gray area that isn’t worth the legal headache. Campsite amenities also vary with some being a basic place to park or pitch a tent, and others with hot showers, free WiFi, charging stations, and laundry facilities.
Camping in Iceland is a relaxing way to spend your vacation where the country is at your fingertips. Here are ten ideas to kick off your camping adventure with budget-friendliness in mind.
1. Gata Free Camping
This is the place to be if you really want to go camping in Iceland for free without turning yourself into a bizarre expert on local Icelandic law. Situated near Strandarkirkja in the Southwest of Iceland, Great Free Camping offers basic amenities like running water, waste disposal facilities and toilets all for free. They do charge a small fee for the shower, and you can also find designated BBQ areas to cook up your dinner for the evening.
Gata Free Camping accepts donations, so be a good guest and throw in a few Icelandic Króna to keep this place running. You can get in touch with the campsite at +354-892-7954.
Head to the southern end of Akureyri to the forest of Kjarnaskógur. The Hamrar campsite is ideal if for groups looking to spread out while camping in Iceland. The grounds come equipped with playgrounds, hiking trails, washing facilities, electricity and grassy areas for a nature-inspired escape. For a splurge, add on a boat rental, frisbees for sale, or mini-golf for added fun.
Hamrar is open year-round with a camp warden available 24-hours a day from May 15th until October 15th. During the low season, you can speak to a warden by calling (+354) 843-0002 during the off-season. Rates run around $13 during the low-season for an adult for a basic tent set-up.
If you've ever wanted to go camping in Iceland and wake up surrounded by stunning lava fields, Hellissandur Camping Ground is your place. Located in Sandahraun, the camping area comes equipped with toilets, showers, and washbins along with electricity to charge-up your devices.
Expect to pay around $12 for the night at Hellissandur Camping Ground with an added fee for electricity. Spend your day strolling the paths or head out to one of the nearby sandy beaches. Make sure to say hit to their neighbor, the glacier Snæfellsjökull.
4. Vik Campsite
Sleep in the southernmost village in Iceland off the country’s main ring road in Vik. The Vik Campsite welcomes up to 250 people in tents, cabins, cars, or caravans and no reservations are required in this oversized campsite. Campers enjoy running water, showers, WiFi, dining facilities, washing machines, electricity and more to make your stay cozy and comfortable.
Vik campsite on a clear summer morning
Open from May 15th until October 31st, Vik Campsite rates run nearly $14 for the night. Expect to pay extra for electricity, showers, washing machines and dryers, or a cottage stay.
Feel like you’re at summer camp again in western Iceland at the popular Húsafell Camping grounds. Their perks extend past robust electricity and working washing machines. Húsafell boasts a swimming pool, golf course, playground, convenience store, restaurant and bar. It's upscale camping without getting into pricey glamping territory. Rates run out $12 with add-ons for electricity and other extras.
Pro tip: the nearby Vallarsvaedi and Reyðarfellsskógur are less glamour, but cheaper. You can pitch a tent without the frills or coveted swimming pools and bars for around $4 per day.
For a peaceful night stay in an Icelandic grove, head to Mosfellsdalur just outside of Reykjavík. The organic farm opens its grounds to campers from June 1st until November 1st, and also hosts a farmers market every Saturday starting at the beginning of July. Take a hot soak in a roof-less shower and bask in the warm sun or nightfall. There’s also a resident dog, horses, and a communal greenhouse serving as a kitchen and dining space to get to know your fellow campers.
Expect to pay around $12 a night per adult to go camping in Iceland at this tranquil farm. Get in touch with Mosskogar at +354-663-6173.
7. Skaftafell Camping
Nestled within Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell features gorgeous campgrounds with room for 400 tents. Campers and trailers can also park in designated areas and hook-up to electricity for an added fee. Spend your day hiking, visit the glaciers, and see Iceland's wildlife in its natural state. Showers and washing machines are available, and visitors can even bring along well-behaved pets who have their own camping in Iceland agenda.
Skaftafell campsite was not busy in the faill
Although Skaftafell is open year-round, there’s limited pitch availability during winter months. A site fee at Skaftafell runs just over $4 per night, with the addition of a $14 charge per adult per night. You can also rent huts, and pay extra for shower, electricity, and amenities.
8. Látrabjarg Campground
As one of Europe's biggest bird cliffs, Látrabjarg welcomes wild puffin and local birds calling the westernmost point of Iceland home. The breathtaking fjords are a must-see and enhanced by a camp-out. There grounds also host an indoor sleeping bag room and hotel accommodations if you get tired of roughing it in Iceland's great outdoors.
Adults pay around $18.50 per night at Látrabjarg Campground with included facilities. There's also an on-site restaurant to relax after a long hike.
9. Ferðaþjónustan Bjarg
Nestled near Lake Mývatn along the Diamond Circle route, Ferðaþjónustan Bjarg campsite offers easy access to North Iceland. Guests have access to toilets, hot showers, and an indoor place to set-up your own cooking equipment to whip up dinner. Ask the staff about whale watching tours at a discount price through the reception desk.
Unlike many of Iceland's campgrounds, showers are included in the nightly rate that varies around $20 per night. Enjoy the use of electricity, laundry, bikes and boats for an additional fee.
10. Egilsstaðir Campsite
Get out to the remote region of East Iceland near the town of Egilsstaðir for the best in winter camping in Iceland. Dubbed as the "happiest campsite in Iceland, the grounds are nestled along the banks of the picturesque Lagarfljót River. Guests enjoy hot showers, toilets, washing machines and cooking facilities.
Rates at Egilstaðir Campsite run around $16 per night per adult with a fourth night free. Electricity is extra, but indoor and outdoor WiFi is free along with toilet and shower use.
Looking over Lagafljot lake in Egilsstadir
Keep in mind that camping in Iceland come with brisk winters, and rates can change at any time so check in advance before setting your budget in stone. And let’s all keep something else in mind. Be a gracious guest by leaving nature (and the rest of the country) the way you found it, take your garbage with you, skip the open fires, and stay in your designated area.
Camping in Iceland is an inexpensive (and sometimes free) way to soak up the country’s gorgeous landscape and views. Skip the headaches hunting for free camping in Iceland’s uncultivated wilderness and embrace the budget-friendly convenience of the country’s campgrounds instead.
I’ll meet you there.