Camping is the cheapest option for accommodation in Iceland. Wild camping is tolerated under certain conditions in Iceland but remains strictly prohibited in national parks as they are protected areas.
Camping areas in Iceland are categorized from 1 to 5 stars and there are many to choose from. To plan your trip, you can consult this 2018 season List of campsites or the map below, which lists all the official campsites in Iceland in 2020.
This free guide is updated every year and lists all the camping facilities in the country, with something for every taste and budget. You can find your campsite by region or access the entire list.
Camping will be cheaper than just about any other type of accommodation in Iceland, but the other advantage is availability. You won't need to book to get a spot on a campsite, except maybe the more popular summer campsites near national parks like Skaftafell.
Please note, however, that many campsites are only open in summer, from May until September.
Camping in Iceland usually consists of a vast grassy space where travelers pitch their tents independently, with a large common room nearby with amenities. Some campsites don't even have a reception, instead the staff come to find you at your tent to collect your payment for the accommodation.
You can't bring camping gas canisters on the flight over, so if you want hot food in your tent, you'll need to pick some up on-site. You can buy them at gas stations, but it's quite expensive. The better alternative is to go to Laugavegur Street in district 101 in Reykjavík to the outdoor equipment store that offers brands such as Primus or Camping Gas, for example.
As a last resort, you can buy gas canisters directly at the campsite.
One item of equipment you should not forget is a tent that dries quickly, and if you are going on a trek, be sure to take a light tent. Light but very sturdy, as Iceland is a very windy country, so choose your model accordingly.
Also note that Icelandic campsites will have lots for camper vans but aren't always equipped for mobile home set-ups, so check with the campsite beforehand. Keep in mind the camping “season” starts around June 1 and ends in early September and that entrance is free for children under 13.
Here is an example of the 2018 rates for Reykjavik Campsite:
The “Camping Card” is essentially a pass which gives access to around fifty campsites on the island and costs €149 (2 adults and 4 children included) for unlimited accommodation for 28 days. The map with location of each campsite is available on their site.
Wild camping is allowed in certain areas, but since November 2015 it has very strict regulations, sanctioned with a fine in case of non-compliance.
Unless you have written permission from the owner of any private land, it is forbidden to camp there. Similarly, you can't camp in the wild just outside official campsites with a van, a caravan, or a motor home.
Camping along public roads in populated areas is allowed, and you can pitch a tent overnight on uncultivated land provided there is no campsite in the immediate vicinity and the owner has not restricted access.
In uninhabited areas and along public roads, you can set up a traditional camping tent overnight, provided that there is no campsite in the immediate vicinity and the owner has not restricted access.
Away from public roads, the rule is simple: you can pitch your tent unless otherwise indicated (see the exhaustive list of prohibited sites on the site below).
Here are some of the rules and requirements regarding camping, updated regularly: http://umhverfisstofnun.is/english/tourist-information/where-can-you-camp/
A few useful sites: