Campervan hire Iceland
Star in your own adventure movie with a visit to the dramatic and otherworldly land of ice and fire
Iceland is a country of extremes and opposites, where the long darkness of winter finds relief in the pinkish link of summer’s midnight sun. With 4,500 square miles of glacier, this really is a land of ice. But alongside frozen glaciers is fire: rumbling volcanoes, spurting geysers, and steaming geothermal lagoons. This is a place where future-forward technology and avant-garde architecture rub shoulders with tales of trolls, giants and the ‘hidden folk’: 37% of Icelanders say they believe that elves exist. With a campervan hire in Iceland, the top of the world, you can discover a land of unearthly beauty — by which we mean truly not of this earth. A landscape of charging waterfalls, 30-odd active volcanoes, erupting geysers, fragrant meadows, and rugged beaches. Go ice-climbing on a glacier. Spend the evenings lounging in geothermal pools. Take a whale-watching tour or explore the New Nordic culinary movement. Amp your holiday up a notch with a helicopter ride. But the best idea yet? Explore this spectacular land on four wheels with an RV rental/campervan hire in Iceland. Because this is road-trip terrain sent straight from heaven.
Getting around Iceland by campervan
Unfortunately for your campervan hire in Iceland, it’s one of the most expensive countries in Europe for fuel, in league with the likes of Norway. However, our campervans run on diesel, allowing you to save a bit of cash compared to unleaded petrol throughout your RV road trip experience in Iceland.
Important to know for your RV rental in Iceland is the speed limit: 50 km/hour within cities and towns, 80 km/hour on rural gravel roads and 90 km/hour when driving your campervan on paved rural roads or motorways. Iceland also advises lower speed limits with blue rectangular signs in trouble spots, such as sharp corners or single-lane bridges.
Anyone who chooses a campervan hire in Iceland will at some point drive the Ring Road, which extends around the entire coast of the country. It’s well-maintained and mostly paved, although there are stretches of gravel in the east. Elsewhere, most roads are paved and in good condition for a motorhome or campervan drive along the coast, although the more remote, the less maintenance they receive. Highland roads are often rocky and narrow and can be closed during winter.
Great news! You won’t face the need to pay tolls during your RV rental adventure in Iceland, except for some tunnels, such as the Hvalfjudor Tunnel which costs ISK 1,000 (8 EUR) to pass through.
Wild camping is allowed but unfortunately only in tents. That’s not as limiting for campervan travellers as it sounds, however. You can easily find spots to park an RV, especially in villages. And if you ask a landowner, they’ll often give you permission to park the van on their land too. Plus, there are plenty of campsites where you can park your campervan in Iceland — and many are starting to open even during the winter months.
The upside of the country’s financial crash in 2008 was that travelling around Iceland (road trips included!) became slightly less expensive. Nevertheless, it’s definitely not a cheap country. A meal can cost you 1,500-3,000kr (€11- €23), museum entry is around 1,000kr (€7,50), and a fancy hotel room comes in at 30,000-45,000kr (€224-€335) a night. Looking for a good way to save money on both accommodation and travelling? Hire a campervan in Iceland with Indie Campers and you’ll be covered on both fronts!
Iceland has four seasons — and can pass through all four in a single day. But, despite its name, it’s not as icy cold as you might expect, thanks to the Gulf Stream that brings warmth from the Caribbean — although this is also a reason for the weather’s changeability and frequent high winds and storms. The warmest months for an RV rental experience in Iceland are July and August - also the time of the midnight sun.
Stereotypes of Icelanders abound. Independent, hardworking people, who are apparently always late. But most importantly, the country has recently been voted the friendliest in the world.
Icelandic is the official language but most people speak English as well. In fact, it’s not uncommon for Icelanders to be able to speak two or even three other languages.
There are plenty of local specialities for you to sample during you campervan road trip in Iceland; from the salty snack that is fish jerky to skyr yoghurt, rye bread cooked in the hot springs, and, of course, the notorious fermented shark. Finished off with a shot of lava-filtered Reyka vodka.
Sitting far from everything in the stormy North-Atlantic ocean, 168 miles from the Arctic Circle, Iceland is technically a part of Europe but feels a whole world away. No longer a secret, the country has been one of the hottest destinations around for at least a couple of years — and shows no sign of falling off our radars anytime soon. For good reason. Steaming hot geysers, looming icebergs, dramatic black lava beaches, and volcanoes always threatening to erupt — that’s just everyday life in Iceland. One of the least-densely populated nations on the planet, Iceland’s people are a resilient and tight-knit community with rich traditions — resourceful, creative, and daring. Once you see this winter wonderland for yourself, the dreamy icy landscape of some fantasy novel, you might be a little less sceptical of tales of fairy folk and supernatural beings. With an RV rental in Iceland, you’ll embark on a high-octane adventure just waiting for the thrill-seekers who can handle it. But equally if you just fancy a lounge in a geothermal pool or some award-winning art and design, this is the country for your next road trip.
What to discover
In and around the country
The LAVA Centre
Located, suitably enough, in the middle of Iceland’s most volcanically active area, and with a view of the currently active Mount Hekla, this museum offers an exhibition on volcanoes and how they affect Iceland on a daily basis. A huge map and screens show where activity is concentrated and how many earthquakes have happened in the last 24 hours (the short answer is: a lot). One of the best bits is the model of the enormous magma pool that lies, unseen, right under Iceland, ready to explode at any moment.
The Northen Lights
Iceland is a country where nightfall means the arrival of magical forces. One of the perks of such an incredibly dark winter is the Northern lights and Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see them. The elusive Aurora Borealis, a mystical natural light show of vibrant green dancing across the cold winter sky — could anything be better than stepping out of your campervan hire in Iceland and seeing such a display?
Hvitserkur, also known as the Troll of Northwest Iceland, really does resemble a monster. The 15-metre-tall piece of rock protruding from the stunning Húnaflói Bay was once the plug of a volcano but as the surrounding craters eroded, only Hvítserkur was left standing. Legend claims that the rock was once a troll who forgot to hide when the light came and turned to stone as the sun rose. Today, the rock also looks alive, a nesting ground for seabirds that make it seem as though it’s always moving.
Choose a campervan hire in the Westfjords and you will not be disappointed: these vast and almost untouched lands were designed to be driven through. This is the oldest part of Iceland — 16 million years old — and if you like your landscapes ancient and untamed, this is the place for you to head with your Indie RV. Little known but a place where legends were born, many Icelandic sagas are set here. Not surprising when you consider sites such as the 400-metres-high Látrabjarg cliffs, the westernmost point in Europe, home to millions of seabirds. 40% of the world’s razorbills nest here — although it’s the puffins that really steal the show. Then there’s the stunning Dynjandi Waterfall, resembling a natural staircase: green moss, grey lava, and torrents of white foaming water. Arctic foxes, seals, and white-beaked dolphins can be spotted in the isolated Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a peninsula accessible only by boat or foot. And, if you’re bored of Iceland’s famous black-sand beaches (it happens), Rauðasandur is the place to head, with sand that ranges from yellow, orange, and red through to pink and black. Kayak around the fjords. Get up to speed on your witchcraft knowledge with a visit to Hólmavík, an area with a history of witch-hunting and sorcery. Then there are the hot springs at the remote fjord of Mjóifjörður — difficult to reach, easy to love. And finally, the Fjords themselves. A landscape of giant proportions, remote and foreboding, these soaring peaks, home to Humpback Whales among other wildlife, redefine majestic.
The Golden Circle may not be a secret but it’s well-known for a reason: it’s incredible. Encompassing some of the most popular natural wonders of South Iceland — the Geysir geyser, the Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Þingvellir — it’s an exhibition of what makes the country so, well, Icelandic, and a great choice for an exciting portion of a campervan road trip in Iceland. The route is about 300 km long and starts in Reykjavik before heading to the southern uplands. Along the way, you’ll visit the belching and steaming Geysir Hot Spring Area, with its mud pits and exploding geysers. The most active is Strokkur with 30-metre-high-spouting jets. Boil some eggs, dig up the rye bread baking under the ground, and enjoy one of the most unique meals of your life. Next, drive your RV to Gullfoss, or Golden Waterfalls, a monumental two-tiered waterfall that freezes into waves of ice during winter and creates thousands of rainbows in summer. Onwards then to Thingvellir National Park, the site of the world’s first parliament — the Althing — by Viking settlers in the 10th century. Here you can walk along the mid-Atlantic ridge where North America meets Eurasia, tectonic plates that are slowly inching apart, creating a rift valley. It’s not everyday you get to stand between two continents. Finally, also worth a stop on your Icelandic campervan road trip are Skalholt Cathedral and the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.
Two hours from Reykjavik is Snæfellsnes peninsula. Often referred to as “Iceland in Miniature”, if you’re expecting a cutesy and quaint landscape, think again. The area is home to an ice-topped volcano, lava fields, caves, and spectacular waterfalls. Visit Eldborg Crater, a 50-metre-deep volcano crater surreally emerging from a lava field. Then there’s Landbrotalaug Geothermal Pool, which can only fit two or three people, making it a very romantic spot — providing there isn’t an awkward third-wheeler in there with you. The snow-capped Snæfellsjökull Glacier conceals a volcano and is where the hero of A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne finds the passage to the Earth’s core. Then there’s Grundafjörður which featured in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Check out the lava tube cave of Gullborgarhellir, around 670 metres long. And if you’re feeling thirsty, head your campervan over to Rauðamelsolkelda Well in the same valley, where you can drink naturally carbonated water straight from the earth. Then there are the stunning basalt columns of the Gerðuberg Cliffs where nature’s perfect geometry will astound you. And, for a winning Instagram shot, visit the minimalist Búðir Church, a small black church set in a majestic mountain landscape. Finally, there’s Rauðfeldsgjá, a gorge-like crack in the mountain of Botnsfjall where you can hike all the way down to the root of the mountain. Inside you’ll find a waterfall — naturally. The conclusion: taking your rental RV from Reykjavik to the nearby Snæfellnes Peninsula is a great idea.
Austurland (Eastern Region)
Drive from Reykjavik, where you’ll hire your campervan, to Austerland in East Iceland for a land of peaceful yet dramatic scenery; vast highlands, plunging fjords, stately mountains, verdant lowlands, and isolated villages. Home to the hiking utopia of Stórurð and Iceland’s second highest waterfall, Hengifoss. The area also hosts countless festivals, from Eistnaflug, known as “The World’s Friendliest Heavy Metal Festival” to Bræðslan music festival, held in a tiny fishing hamlet and attracting names such as Of Monsters And Men and Belle & Sebastian. Renting an RV in Iceland and driving it to Austurland, you’ll experience backlands that feel untouched by the tourism in the rest of the Iceland. Except, of course, for one of the of the country’s greatest treasures: a glacier lagoon filled with icebergs. Jökulsárlónm, known as the ‘crown jewel’ of Iceland, and the country’s deepest lake, is formed from melting glacial water and block of ices crumbling from the glacier. As the lake expands and the glacier shrinks, it’s a poetic reminder of the threat of global warming — and its impermanence just makes it more special. Nearby you’ll find the black-sand Breiðamerkursandur Beach with its huge, glistening ice-sculptures, earning it the nickname Diamond Beach. Die Another Day and A View to a Kill were both filmed here, as was Tomb Raider. And finally worth mentioning (and visiting along your motorhome road trip, for sure!) are the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the black beach of Reynisfjara, Mýrdalsjökull Glacier and Eyjafjallajökull Volcano.
Vatnajokull National Park
If you have been long considering to hire a campervan in Iceland and going for a road trip across the country’s coast, Vatnajokull National Park has probably caught your attention. Here you’ll find rivers, volcanoes, the volcanic table mountain Herdubreid - which Icelanders call the Queen of the Mountains - and the Vatnajokull Glacier. The latter is larger than all of Europe’s glaciers combined, around 400-600 metres thick, and conceals a number of mountains and volcanoes in its icy heart. Impossible, you think — until you discover its surface area is around 8,100 km2. Vatnajokull National Park is a place where fire can truly be said to meet ice, an assembly of volcanoes rubbing shoulders with the imposing Dettifoss Waterfall, which, with over 130,000 gallons of water cascading over the cliff every second, is the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. Then there’s the Asbyrgi Canyon, quipped to be Europe’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Asbyrgi translates as ‘Shelter of the Gods’ — and this is exactly where the gods might choose to hang out. This horseshoe-shaped canyon was believed by Viking settlers to be a hoofprint formed by Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse. Others say it’s the capital of the ‘hidden people’, or fairy folk. Scientists say it was formed by a disastrous glacial flood. All stories are equally thrilling, as are the views from the canyon cliffs. Also worth a visit is the green oasis of Skaftafell and the glass-black basalt columns of Svartifoss Waterfall.
Norðurland (Vestra & Eystra)
Despite its striking, brooding seascapes and seabird-filled shorelines, Norðurland goes unnoticed by many visitors. While there are those who flock to the town of Húsavík, Iceland’s “whale-watching capital” (there is up to a 99% chance of spotting a whale on a tour departing from the north) and the Jökulsárgljúfur section of Vatnajökull National Park, few continue on — a serious mistake in our eyes. With a campervan hire in Iceland’s capital and a not-so-long drive to Norðurland, you’ll discover an isolated and rarely visited region. Get well away from the crowds and experience raw and unfiltered natural beauty and wildlife just going about its business. The northeast of Iceland consists of three peninsulas: Tjörnes, Melrakkaslétta and Langanes. Tjörnes is a great start, with its lonely cliffs and Atlantic vistas. To see how Icelanders used to live, grab the wheel of your Iceland campervan and drop by the turf house at Grenjaðarstaður. At Hallbjarnarstaðakambur Beach, explore exposed fossilized seashells that are over 3 million years old. Then there’s the roaring winds, moody moorland, and the red ice-age volcano of Cape Rauðinúpur. Meanwhile, Langanes is the place for birdwatching — it is, after all, shaped like a goose's head. Explore Heiðarfjall where you’ll find the remains of an old NATO radar station from the Cold War. Drive your campervan through characterful Icelandic fishing villages to Lake Mývatn, with its hot baths, and stop by the pseudocraters at Skútustaðir. Also worth a visit are the rock pillars of Dimmuborgir. In the northern highlands are the Askja and Víti volcanoes, inaccessible until the middle of June. And, of course, Möðrudalur, the highest inhabited place in Iceland at 469 metres above sea level.