Winter Camping in Iceland: An Guide to Enjoying Iceland in the Colder Months


Winter Camping in Iceland: An Guide to Enjoying Iceland in the Colder Months

Winter Camping in Iceland: An Guide to Enjoying Iceland in the Colder Months

By: Hulda Dís - Our CEO
Fri, 14 Jun 2024
Reading time: 7 mins

Imagine a land where glaciers meet the sea, where waterfalls freeze in mid-cascade, and the night sky dances with the mesmerizing Northern Lights. This is Iceland in winter—a breathtaking destination that transforms into a serene, snowy wonderland. 

For the adventurous spirit, winter camping in Iceland offers a unique opportunity to experience the island’s natural beauty in its most tranquil state. Whether you're seeking solitude, adventure, or the ethereal glow of the aurora borealis, winter camping in Iceland promises an unforgettable journey.


Winter camping in Iceland is not for the faint-hearted, but for those prepared to brave the cold, it rewards with unparalleled landscapes and experiences. From the rugged beauty of Vatnajökull National Park to the soothing geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, the country’s diverse attractions become even more enchanting under a blanket of snow. The roads may be icy and the nights long, but with the right preparation and mindset, winter camping in Iceland can be a truly magical adventure​

We'll delve into the specifics of winter camping in Iceland, including practical tips, recommended campsites, and the unique activities that make this icy paradise a must-visit for intrepid travelers. So bundle up, prepare your camper van, and get ready to discover the serene and stunning beauty of Iceland in winter.


Why Explore Iceland in Winter?

Exploring Iceland during winter offers several compelling reasons:

  1. Northern Lights: Witnessing the Northern Lights is one of the most magical experiences in Iceland. The long, dark nights provide perfect conditions for spotting this natural phenomenon.
  2. Fewer Crowds: Winter sees fewer tourists, allowing for a more peaceful and personal experience at popular attractions.
  3. Unique Landscapes: Winter transforms Iceland into a stunningly beautiful snowy landscape, with frozen waterfalls, snow-covered mountains, and icy glaciers.
  4. Winter Activities: Apart from Northern Lights, winter activities include glacier hiking, ice caving, snowmobiling, and soaking in hot springs like the Blue Lagoon.

Campsites Open During Winter

Iceland offers a unique and exhilarating camping experience year-round, including the winter months. Approximately 26 campsites remain open during winter, providing necessary amenities to ensure a comfortable stay despite the cold. Notable campsites include Egilsstaðir in East Iceland, known for its 24-hour facilities; Grindavik near the Blue Lagoon with hot showers and a small kitchen; and Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park, ideal for glacier hikes and ice cave exploration. Other options include Reykjavík Campsite, Djúpivogur, Hamragarðar, and Selfoss Guesthouse, each offering various amenities like electricity, hot showers, and Wi-Fi​.


Winter Months in Iceland

Iceland's winter typically spans from October to April. These months bring shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures, and snow, creating a magical winter wonderland. The average temperature hovers around 0°C (32°F) in Reykjavik, with colder conditions in more northern and inland areas​

Renting a Camper Van

Renting a camper van is a popular way to explore Iceland in winter. Companies like Wild Campers offer well-equipped camper vans that provide warmth and comfort, making winter camping more accessible and enjoyable. Winter camper van rentals are generally cheaper than in summer, as demand is lower. This cost difference makes winter an attractive option for budget-conscious travelers​.


4x4 Camper Van vs. 2WD Camper Van

When deciding between a 4x4 camper van and a 2WD camper van for winter camping in Iceland, it's important to consider the road conditions and weather challenges you might face.

  1. 4x4 Camper Van:
    • Advantages: A 4x4 camper van offers better traction and control on icy and snowy roads, which are common during Icelandic winters. It can handle off-road conditions and navigate through more remote and rugged areas, providing access to less-visited sites.
    • Disadvantages: The rental cost for a 4x4 camper van is generally higher compared to a 2WD van. Additionally, it consumes more fuel, which can add to the overall cost of your trip.
    • Recommendation: If you plan to travel extensively around the country, including remote and highland areas, a 4x4 camper van is worth the investment for the added safety and accessibility it provides​

Packing for a Winter Camper Van Adventure

Packing correctly is crucial for a comfortable winter camping experience in Iceland. Here are some essentials:

  1. Warm Clothing: Layering is key. Pack thermal underwear, wool sweaters, insulated jackets, waterproof outer layers, and warm hats, gloves, and scarves.
  2. Sleeping Gear: A warm sleeping bag rated for sub-zero temperatures is essential. Consider an additional sleeping pad for insulation against the cold ground.
  3. Cooking Equipment: While some campsites offer kitchen facilities, having a portable stove, cooking utensils, and a supply of food can be handy.
  4. Other Essentials: Include a first aid kit, rechargeable batteries, portable heaters, and personal hygiene items.


Weather and Road Conditions

Winter weather in Iceland can be harsh, with frequent snowstorms and icy roads. It's crucial to check weather forecasts regularly and be prepared for sudden changes. Roads, especially in rural areas, can be challenging to navigate. Always heed road closures and warnings, and consider equipping your camper van with studded tires for better traction on ice​.

Choose Your Parking Spot Wisely

When camping in Iceland during winter, it's crucial to choose your parking spot carefully to ensure safety and convenience. Here are some essential tips:

  1. Face the Wind: In windy conditions, always park your camper van facing into the wind. This helps to prevent strong gusts from damaging your vehicle, particularly the doors, which can be ripped off if the wind catches them from behind.
  2. Plan for Morning Departure: If you’re parking overnight, think ahead about the next morning's weather. Ensure you’re in a spot where you can easily drive away even if there’s been heavy snowfall or rain overnight. This might mean avoiding low-lying areas that could flood or become icy.
  3. Avoid Roadside Stops: Never park on the side of the road, especially when trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. This can create dangerous situations for you and other drivers. Instead, find a designated parking area or a safe spot off the road to enjoy the view and take photos. This ensures that you’re not obstructing traffic or putting yourself at risk​.

What to Expect

Expect cold weather, but also breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. The shorter days mean you’ll need to plan your activities around the limited daylight. Despite the cold, the warmth of Icelandic hospitality and the cozy interior of your camper van will make the experience enjoyable.


Why Winter Camping in Iceland is Fun

Winter camping in Iceland is not just an adventure; it's a chance to immerse yourself in a serene and spectacular environment. The combination of natural beauty, thrilling activities, and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights makes it a truly unique experience. Winter festivals and events like the Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival and Thorrablot, an Icelandic mid-winter festival, add to the cultural richness of the visit​

Iceland in winter offers a unique and adventurous camping experience, with numerous all-year campsites and activities to enjoy. Renting a camper van from companies like Wild Campers provides the flexibility and comfort needed to explore this winter wonderland. 

By following these guidelines, you'll ensure a safer and more enjoyable winter camping experience in Iceland. With the right preparation and packing, winter camping in Iceland can be a memorable and exhilarating adventure. For more about camping in Iceland, check out our Ultimate Guide to Camping in Iceland.

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