Renting a Go Camper in the Winter: The Essentials
With the onset of the dark winter months in Iceland, the country undergoes a remarkable transformation. The weather worsens as the days get shorter, and many think that a lot of the country is inaccessible. But with the proper precautions it‘s still entirely possible to enjoy Iceland during this time, which turns into a mysterious, wild and adventurous place under the cover of snow and darkness.
All of our campers are equipped with winter tires that are checked regularly, and almost all of our camper classes (except for the Go Smart Camper 2-pax) come with an automatic heating system to keep you nice and warm at night. With these two main concerns out of the way, read on to make the most of your Go Campers winter road trip in Iceland.
Camping in a campervan
During the winter months, there are quite a few campsites that have closed down. For a map of which are open during the winter, head over to Inspired by Iceland. There is also the Tjalda camping site which details when different campsites are closing. With some careful planning, you shouldn‘t run into any trouble when it comes to finding a place to rest overnight.
Staying outside of designated campsites with a camper is illegal at all times of the year. If you do intend to stay on private land, you must seek permission from the land owner, who usually lives inside the nearest farm house.
Route 1 can get seriously icy during the winter, and snow storms can close down parts of the main route leaving you stranded. Serious planning needs to be undertaken beforehand, and it‘s a good idea to have a backup plan in case of any road closures. It is always a good idea to keep watch of the road conditions on www.road.is, which let you know in real time of any road closures and where there is ice on the road. Be warned though, ´slippery conditions´ in Iceland could mean something entirely different to what is considered slippery in your home country.
The highway itself is challenging even in the summer, as it is very narrow and involves quite a few one way bridges, blind curves and hills as well as roads that cling to cliffs without any safety barriers. Only pull over in designated spots, and be careful of other camera-toting tourists who have dangerously pulled over on the highway to snap a quick photo.
Over in the east of the country, route 1 does turn into a dirt road for a while which isn‘t in the best condition. Watch out for reindeer as well, as they come down from the mountains to be closer to the coast during this time, and can often be seen dashing across the roads.
During the winter, it is true that Iceland experiences some very wild weather. It is especially important to keep tabs on what the weather is doing, and http://en.vedur.is/ is your best bet. Watch out for wind speeds that hit over 16m/s, which are getting too dangerous to be driving in. If you do get caught in a storm, your best bet is to make your way to the closest town to ride it out.
Always have a backup plan, incase the weather during your stay has closed down the roads of places you wanted to visit. It also pays to keep your camper well stocked with food and water in case you get stuck somewhere without a supermarket nearby.
On the other hand, there are actually quite a number of sunny days as well, and you might get lucky on your trip and have wonderful weather throughout. However, it is important to note that the days are short, and the sun hangs quite low in the sky which usually means that it is shining right through the windshielf into your eyes, so don‘t forget your sunglasses. And while it may sound cliche to say that the weather changes every 5 minutes in Iceland, it is completely true. That sunshine youre enjoying one minute could turn to snow the next, so always be prepared for everything.
You‘re going to want to do a few things to ensure that if you do run into any problems during your campervan trip, someone will always know where you are. Log your travel plans at www.safetravel.is, and also download the 112 Iceland app (also the National Emergency Line). Fill in your details in the app and it tracks your signal so that the rescue teams already know your coordinates. Check in every now and then to update the coordinates, so they can see how you‘re tracking and warn you if you‘re heading into any dangerous weather.
Opt to rent a wifi from Go Campers to also ensure that you‘re connected throughout the trip. This is especially important at this time of year so that you can actually keep tabs on the weather patterns and road conditions. Things do change quite rapidly.
But even with the wifi, it always pays to have a backup plan – in this case a hard copy map. Make sure to grab one before you leave the office, as the wifi signal can drop out while crossing mountains and in the remote edges of the country.
What to Pack
Winter is no joke in Iceland. And while the country doesn‘t get as cold as one might think for a country called Iceland, the wind whipping across the landscapes does it‘s best to make you miserable and freezing. Don‘t let it by bringing with you the following essentials.
Pack thin layers of clothing, as well as a base layer of thermal gear. A big weatherproof jacket is a must, as well as some waterproof pants. A warm woollen jumper goes a long way, as do a few pairs of thick woollen socks (you can pick up some Icelandic woollen socks at many stores in Reykjavik and around the country if you don‘t have any). Waterproof boots are essential for comfortably trekking across the snowy landscapes, and don‘t leave home without a beanie or some heavy gloves.
Even with a heater in the campervan, sleeping bags are a must. If you don‘t have any room in your luggage, you can rent them from us while you‘re booking or when you arrive.
The Best Time to Travel to Iceland and rent a campervan
Many people might be wondering when the best time to travel to Iceland is. Weather plays a big part in Icelander‘s lives, and over a lifetime the population here has learnt to live with the extreme weather conditions that the small island experiences, so when planning a trip it‘s important to know what you‘re in for at any given time of year. Each of the four seasons have their own pros and cons, so in truth there is no ´best´ time to travel in Iceland. But read on to discover the Icelandic seasons and to decide which time is best for you.
Autumn (September - October)
· Shoulder Season Camper Prices
· Good for: Hiking, Northern Lights, Picking Wild Berries, Whale Watching.
From the end of August as the Summer fades in Autumn, a riot of colour explodes across the entire country, the landscapes transforming as they‘re enveloped in rusty hues of red, yellow and orange. The weather can be quite unpredictable at this time of year; the roads glisten under frequent showers, cleared away into sunshine by strong winds that can also whip up fierce storms. But don‘t let that put you off - the weather changes so rapidly in Iceland that you‘ll likely see a lot of good days as well.
The onset of Autumn also means that you can go picking wild berries in the countryside, and you‘ll be able to find blueberries and crowberries in many locations across Iceland. It‘s also the time when the Northern Lights make their spectacular return to the skies over Iceland, and it‘s one of the best opportunites to spot them as even though the winter nights are darker for longer, it‘s during September and October when the skies are at their clearest. The beautiful combination of autumn colours in the day mixed with rain and dark nights gives you a well rounded experience of Icelandic weather.
Winter (November – Early March)
· Low Season Campervan Prices
· Good for: Northern Lights, Winter Sports, New Years Eve, Ice Caves
The dramatic snow-covered scenery in Iceland‘s winter time is like nowehere else – darkness sweeps across the country, the sun only hanging in the sky for 3-4 hours before dipping back beneath the horizon. And while many might be daunted by the Icelandic winter, there is absolutely nothing like checking out the behemoth glaciers of the south in their element, and exploring the ice caves beneath Vatnajokull is a once in a lifetime experience. The longer hours of darkness also means that there is a lot more time to see the northern lights, and while they‘re amazing in the autumn and spring, there‘s nothing quite like seeing them shimmer and dance over a tranquil snow-covered lava field or a waterfall encased in ice. Driving the camper through the magical snow-covered landscapes is an inspiring adventure in itself. And yes we do fit all our campers with studded winter tires during the winter season.
During the winter is when the weather is at it‘s most volatile; blizzards and fierce winds can overwhelm the country, hiding roads beneath snow and sheets of ice. But despite what many think, there isn‘t usually snow cover for the whole season. Rain can sweep in and melt away the snow, revealing a stark contrast of colours throughout the landscapes. Nature is right at the forefront during this time, and even the best of plans can get thrown out the window when the weather turns, so it‘s very important to stay flexible and have a backup. The good news is that it isn‘t all dark – Reykjavik during the Christmas period is a treat, and the locals enjoy the city underneath thousands of twinkling christmas lights, the cosy bars downtown spilling over with mulled wine and specialty Christmas beers. New Years Eve in Reykjavik is also amazing, the entire population getting their hands on some fireworks to let off all at once over the city when the clock strikes midnight.
For more tips and information about renting a camper in the winter, check out this article.
Spring (Late march – May)
· Shoulder Season Campevan Prices
· Good for: Puffins and Whale Watching, Hiking, Longer days for better exploring.
During the short Spring that Iceland experiences, the sun starts to linger for longer in the sky, warming the country and helping to melt the snow that covered Iceland in the winter. As the green slowly creeps back across the land and flowers begin to return, so too do the sea birds (including the puffins), flocking to the country in droves to nest on the cliffs along the coast line. Fields of lavender-coloured lupine burst across the fields, injecting colour back into the world and framing iceland‘s mountainous landscapes beautifully. Those snow-capped peaks help highlight and contrast the countryside as it approaches the summer.
However as always, the weather can be unpredictable, and there is always the possibility of snow even as late as May. Despite that, Spring is a great time to travel to Iceland; the longer days mean more daylight to explore, and when it does get dark there is still a good chance to see the northern lights until late April. Also during the spring months there is a great atmosphere about the country, with the whole population waking up after the long winter and getting excited for the oncoming summer and return of the sun.
Summer (June – August)
· High Season Campervan Prices
· Good for: 4x4 Highland Adventures, Puffins, The Laugavegur Trail, Festivals, the Midnight Sun, All campsites are open in Iceland
Summer time in Iceland is without a doubt the most popular time to visit the country. The long days means that there is endless time for exploring, and the golden light that falls across the country highlights incredible details in the mountains, glaciers and lava fields. The midnight sun can be seen around the Summer Solstice, which falls somewhere close to the 21st of June. The summer is also when the highland roads slowly open, allowing access to the wildly inhospitable interior of the country. It‘s here where you will truly find some of the most volatile and raw nature that Iceland has on offer, and renting a 4x4 camper to tackle some of the challenging F-Roads is a trip you will never forget.
Even though the country is more crowded during the summer, it never really gets dark meaning that you can reverse your clock and opt to visit the big attractions early in the morning or late at night, avoiding the crowds. But this is Iceland, so don‘t expect beautiful sunny days for your entire trip. Warm and sunny days can reach up to 25°C, but there are still days of rain and also intense winds. However, there are barely any road closures during this season and access to the entire country is readily available. Reykjavik also comes alive during these months, turning into a bustling cosmpolitan city that never sleeps, and you can find a number of great festivals and cultural events to attend during your time here.