Do I Need a 4x4 Campervan for Winter in Iceland?

Do I Need a 4x4 Campervan for Winter in Iceland?

James Taylor James Taylor
3. Aug 2023 ∼ 6 min. read

Winter in Iceland: The Pros and Cons of Renting a 4x4 Camper.

Winter in Iceland is cold, dark, and stormy, but traveling during this time is always an unreal experience. The snowy landscapes are magical, and the short days often provide some soft, pink-tinged sunsets, glinting off mountains, rivers, and frozen waterfalls. It’s a world apart from the rest of the year. 

For those who are planning a trip to Iceland during winter, there’s a lot to love. The northern lights dancing in the sky above; exploring the ice caves underneath Vatnajökull glacier; or soaking in a hot spring while snow falls around you. 

But before you get to that stage of planning, one of the most important things to consider on your trip to Iceland during winter is whether to rent a 4x4 or not. Let’s find out a few pros and cons of renting a 4x4 camper in Iceland during the winter.  

The Pros of Renting a 4x4 Campervan in Winter

Added Safety 

Winter in Iceland is a different beast than the rest of the year, with frequent storms, frosty temperatures, and seasonal snow. As such, you can often find that the roads during this time are icy, snowy, and slippery, so there are a few more safety factors to consider when thinking about what kind of vehicle you’re going to rent. 

This is one of the main advantages of renting A 4x4 campervan: the added safety. Our 4x4 campers have better traction on the roads, including when it’s icy, so there’s a far smaller chance that you’ll slip on the ice. 4x4s also have more clearance, which is important to think about when there’s snow on the roads. You’ll likely run into some snow at one point or another on your trip, whether that’s on the ring road, or if you’ve detoured off down a gravel track.  

Though, having a 4x4 camper doesn’t make you invincible in the wintertime. It’s still very important to drive carefully, check the conditions of the road online, and always keep an eye on the weather forecast. 

Stable in Strong Winds

Speaking of weather, that’s another advantage of renting a 4x4 campervan during winter – they’re more stable in strong winds. Wind in Iceland is no joke, with speeds reaching dangerous levels at the drop of a hat, causing weather warnings and alerts, and the authorities even to issue a “Do Not Travel” warnings. 

But even the regular winds in Iceland can catch you off guard. Add in icy roads, and you can start to see why having a more stable 4x4 is a good idea for driving in Iceland during winter.  

More Confidence on the Roads

Renting a 4x4 in winter in Iceland also gives you a lot more confidence, taking away a lot of stress. Having a smaller camper can sometimes feel daunting, especially when you’re not entirely sure what the road might look like as you get further from Reykjavik. But with a 4x4 camper, those worries mostly melt into the background, giving you some confidence knowing that whatever’s up ahead, it’s more than likely that your 4x4 is going to help you get through it. 

But again, it’s important to note that you should still drive cautiously. Driving in Iceland at the best of times can be different to what most travelers are used to. The ring road, the main highway that loops around the country, is a single lane in either direction, often with no room on either side to pull over. Add in bumpy dirt roads, mountain passes engulfed in strong winds, and icy conditions, and there’s a lot of things to consider. Be confident, but not over-confident. 

Better Access to the Countryside

When all is said and done, with a 4x4 campervan you won’t have to worry as much about whether you’ll make it down that road to a waterfall, a secretive hot spring, or to a viewing point. Of course, always check the condition of the roads at www.road.is to ensure it’s safe to drive, but with a 4x4, you’ll be in a good position to visit most of the sights on your list (within reason, of course). 

Campervan on the Highland in Iceland in Winter with Snow Around

Other Factors to Consider Before Renting a 4x4 Campervan in Winter

They’re More Expensive

One of the biggest factors to look at when thinking about renting a 4x4 in winter is the cost. These are some of the pricier campervans we offer, although it is important to note that winter is the off-season, when demand is low, and prices are at their cheapest. Renting a 4x4 for the same time in summer would cost a lot more. 

Fuel Efficiency

Another point to consider is that you might have to budget some more money for fuel when renting a 4x4 camper in Iceland. In general, 4x4s are less efficient when it comes to fuel usage than smaller, more compact cars. 

Where Are You Planning to Travel?

If you’re planning on doing the loop around the ring road in winter, then it’s probably a good idea to rent a 4x4. However, if you’re planning on sticking a bit closer to Reykjavik, touring places like the Golden Circle and the South Coast, you might get away with a more compact campervan since the roads are cleared of snow regularly. 

Is a 4x4 Worth it for the Icelandic Winter?

Yes, we absolutely think it’s worth getting a 4x4 for a trip in Iceland during winter. It might be more expensive than other campers, but you’re already saving a lot of money simply by traveling in Iceland during winter. Plus, we think it’s more than worth it for the added safety, stability on the roads, and access you’ll get to the country. 

Planning Your Icelandic Winter Trip

With the weather changing at the drop of a hat, it’s important to be more prepared for a winter trip in Iceland than if you were visiting at any other time of year. Plan your route carefully, but more importantly, have a backup as well. Roads can often close at a moment’s notice due to storms, heavy snow, or even avalanches. If it has stopped you in your tracks, having something to fall back on is invaluable. 

It's also important to note which campsites are going to be open when you’re in Iceland. A lot of campsites in the country close over winter thanks to the smaller crowds of tourists, but there are a select few that stay open year-round. 

For details on which campsites are open during winter in Iceland, check out this handy map we’ve created which lists them all. 

For more information on traveling in Iceland during winter, safety precautions, and tips on driving, don’t forget to check out our section of the website dedicated to camping in Iceland during winter.

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