Camping in Iceland is one of the best ways to take in all that our lovely island has to offer. Sleeping in the Great Outdoors offers you the chance to experience the natural beauty and stunning landscapes that Iceland is so famous for. It’s also a great way to save money in an already expensive travel destination. Recent changes to Icelandic law placed restrictions on exactly where you can set up your tent or park your campervan or motorhome. So if you’re wondering if you can camp anywhere in Iceland, the short answer is no. But there are still plenty of places to go camping. Let’s look at what’s legal and what’s not as well as where you can go. Camping in Iceland is the ultimate adventure. We want to make sure you know all of the options and follow the rules in order to have the best time possible.
Can I Camp Anywhere in Iceland?
Up until a few years ago, you generally could. With Iceland’s tourism boom, some unexpected problems cropped up. The Icelandic government responded by putting some protections in place. A new law went into effect in November of 2015 outlining exactly where people could camp and stay overnight in Iceland. Starting with the new regulations, RVs such as campervans, tent trailers, vans, and motorhomes could no longer stay overnight outside of designated camping areas. In cities and urban areas, it was only allowed if the landowner gave their permission.
Here are some instances where you need to ask permission from the landowner while tent camping.
- You’re planning on staying close to a farm or nearby town
- You’re planning on camping in the same location for more than one night
- You intend to set up more than three tent at any point during your stay
- You’re trying to camp on farmland or otherwise cultivated land.
- You also want to bring your vehicle (campervan, motorhome, caravan, van, camper, etc.)
I really want to stress the fact that it’s much easier for everyone to just stick to camping at campgrounds. They were designed for this purpose and come well-equipped. You should also put yourself in the shoes of the owners of the land where people want to camp. Imagine if multiple people came to your door every day asking if you could make an exception for them to stay the night in your yard. You would probably tire of it very quickly. And because most of the terrain along the Ring Road is either farmland or inhabited with cities and towns, finding an open place where you can go without bothering anyone will be close to impossible.
So Where Can I Camp?
If you plan on tent camping, the new law provides these guidelines that you must follow:
- Due to the survival rule, you can camp for one night using a traditional camping tent on non-farmed land along the highways.
- You can’t set up more than three tents, even if it’s just for the night.
- There can be no campsites nearby and you need to make sure the owner of the land has not put up signs saying that access is restricted or prohibited. You’ll be able to see such signage as you approach either the driveway or paths leading to the property.
- You can also camp in a tent in uninhabited areas along state highways on private or national land.
- Tent camping is also allowed outside of the country’s highways. It can be on private property or property owned by the state, as long as there are no signs indicating otherwise.
Where Can I Not Camp Or Stay Overnight in Iceland?
The landowners have every right to deny use or restrict access. Many times there will be environmental reasons for this. They want to protect the fragile vegetation or flora and fauna in the area. If you see signs on the property that say no camping or no trespassing, please respect them. They can also charge you to stay on their land, so don’t think you can just give anywhere for free. They may also ask you to go to a nearby campsite.
Camping in Protected Areas or Natural Parks
There are some places in Iceland where you can stay such as famous waterfalls and Natural Parks. Places like Lake Myvatn and Skógarfoss waterfall have designated camping areas. Here is an updated list with restrictions pulled from Iceland’s Department of the Environment website.
- Álafoss – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Blábjörg á Berufjarðarströnd – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Bringur í Mosfellsdal – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Dimmuborgir – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Dynjandi – Camping and overnight stays not allowed. Hikers and cyclists have permission to camp for one night.
- Dyrhólaey – Camping and overnight stays only with the permission of the Environment Agency of Iceland.
- Fjallabak Nature Reserve – You may camp in marked camping areas. Hikers may camp alongside marked walking paths. Elsewhere, you may camp or spend the night only with specific permission from the Environment Agency of Iceland.
- Grábrókargígar í Norðurárdal – Camping and overnight stays only with the permission of the Environment Agency of Iceland.
- Herðubreiðarfriðland – You may camp in marked areas. Elsewhere, you need permission from the Environment Agency of Iceland.
- Hverfjall/Hverfell – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Ingólfshöfði – Camping and overnight stays only with the permission of the Environment Agency of Iceland and local supervisors.
- Kattarauga – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Kirkjugólf – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Mývatn – Camping and overnight stays not allowed outside marked camping areas.
- Seljahjallagil, Bláhvammur, Þrengslaborgir and surrounding areas – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Skógarfoss – Camping and overnight stays not allowed outside marked camping areas.
- Skútustaðagígar – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Snæfellsjökull National Park – Hikers and cyclists must get the permission of the ranger. Otherwise, camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Ströndin við Stapa og Hellna – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Teigarhorn – Camping and overnight stays not allowed.
- Vatnsfjörður – Camping and overnight stays not allowed outside marked camping areas.
- Þingvellir National Park – Camping and overnight stays not allowed outside marked camping areas.
- Vatnajökull National Park – With the park, visitors must use organized campsites for tents, tent trailers, tent campers, caravans and camper vans. Away from organised campsites, you may pitch a traditional camping tent for one night. Groups with ten or more tents, however, must seek permission from the ranger. When camping outside organised campsites, care should be taken not to cause any damage and to take all litter and refuse to an inhabited area.
Camping outside marked campsites in Vatnajökull is forbidden in the following areas:
- Areas of Askja under special protection.
- In the lowlands of Hoffellssvæði and Heinabergssvæði.
- Skaftafellsheiði, Bæjarstaðarskógur and Morsárdalur. Camping is, however, allowed in the Skaftafell mountains over 400 m above sea level and in the area at the mouth of the Kjós river. Travelers should get information from the National Park on camping in these areas.
Staying At Campsites in Iceland
You’ll want to take full advantage of the great campsites the country has to offer. Check out our Ultimate Iceland Camping Guide to learn more about the country campsites, the Iceland Campingcard and more.
Can I Camp Anywhere in Iceland?
While you can’t camp anywhere in Iceland, you still have a lot of options. An Iceland camping trip may not look exactly how you pictured it, but it will still be pretty great nonetheless. Stay informed, follow the rules, and get that tent ready.