Wondering when is the best time to visit Iceland? We get this question a lot since our recent Ring Road trip. It’s a hard question to answer because there is no “BEST” time to visit Iceland. Just a time that suits you and what you want to get out of your trip to Iceland.
I’ve been to Iceland twice now, once in July and October. Both were fabulous times to go to Iceland and I’m happy I got to see the difference between seasons. In the summer you will no doubt get to see the Midnight Sun, while in the winter your chances are high of seeing the Northern Lights. I’m going to break down each month for you and what exactly you can expect for all four seasons in Iceland.
The Best Time to Visit Iceland – Month by Month
Visiting Iceland in the Winter
Iceland in January
January is one of the quietest months in Iceland. It is great for those looking to get away from crowds of tourists. Days are short and the cold can be brutal, which may make many think it’s the worst time to visit Iceland. However, most landscapes will be covered in beautiful snow. If you are after an endless winter then Iceland in January is your calling. With almost 19 hours of darkness, winter is often the best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights, that is if the cloud cover breaks. Prices for accommodation and tours will be lower as it is the offseason. I don’t think this is a bad time to go to Iceland, just make sure you are prepared and pack well for the cold!
Some of the best things to embrace an Icelandic winter is to go snowmobiling, venture into ice caves, relish in the natural hot springs, and after all that is done you can go warm up in a Reykjavik bar with the locals! Just make sure you have a warm down jacket for the cold weather.
Iceland in February
Iceland in February is similar to January, except your days will be filled with a bit more daylight. Expect unpredictable weather, plenty of snow, and a high probability of catching the Aurora Borealis. The temperatures can range anywhere between -10°C and 8 °C, a good packable down jacket is a smart idea. Reykjavik can be busy at this time of year as the capital city plays host to a number of festivals including the Stockfish Film Festival, Rainbow Reykjavik, the Winter Lights Festival, and the Reykjavik Bar Summit.
Visiting Iceland in the Spring
Iceland in March
The winter fun is now winding down and snow begins to melt in Reykjavik. It’s not a Christmas wonderland and it’s not quite a summer bonanza this is one of Iceland‘s least visited months. Since the crowds are low and it’s still cold March is a good time to drive the Ring Road if you’re averse to crowds and on a budget.
Days are getting longer in March, but it still gets dark at night so your chance of seeing the Northern Lights is high! The chances of rain and snow are also still high, and you shouldn’t expect warm weather by any means. The average daily temperature of Iceland in March is between -3°C and 3°C. Pack warm clothes!
Iceland in April
Days grow longer and the Icelanders can almost smell the sweet summer air. Although the sun and warm weather are almost there, it still has a month to go. This means that some summer activities aren’t available, and a few winter activities may have stopped. It’s still possible to go on a brisk hike in April and take in some cool air of course. Another great thing to do is head to Southern Iceland around Skogafoss, Vik, and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Keep in mind that with daylight creeping in your chance of seeing the Nothern Lights start to drop, but it is still possible! April is the best time to visit Iceland for whale watching as it is the beginning of the whale season. There are plenty of whale watching tours departing from Reykjavik. You stand a great chance to see the minke whale up close! I should mention April brings puffin season too. Yup, April marks your chance to see those cute/funny looking birds in Iceland!
Iceland in May
It’s May in Iceland meaning it’s just about to hit summer and peak season. Now is the time to come if you want a semi-reasonable deal on travel (sorry guys, nothing in Iceland is cheap). The weather is temperamental and there is more daylight than night and you can get beautifully long sunsets. The Icelanders will be coming out of a long winter so the atmosphere of Iceland is joyous. The weather can still be unpredictable though, and I would still recommend packing like you are going to Iceland in the winter just in case.
Although you won’t see the Northern Lights, May in Iceland is when wildlife comes alive! The beautiful puffin bird returns to shores of Iceland in April so it’s almost guaranteed you will be able to see them in May. Whale watching tours will also be more pleasant under the May sun and they run often. Last but not least, you can go horseback riding without freezing in May! (Do it – it’s totally worth it).
Visiting Iceland in the Summer
Iceland in June
Long sunny days, less rain, heavy winds that turn into light breezes – It’s summer in Iceland! June is what many locals consider to be the best time of year to visit Iceland. June in Iceland has the longest daylight hours and on June 21st you will witness the longest day of the year. The Midnight Sun, or when the sun is still visible at midnight, will be a common occurrence now and can make for some stellar photos. This is a natural phenomenon that happens around the Arctic Circle so visiting Iceland in June is extra special and a reason in itself enough to go.
June in Iceland will yield 24 hours of daylight for a few weeks. If staying up all night and partying with the Icelanders is your cup of tea then summertime is when you will want to be in Iceland. Or if partying isn’t your thing the 24 hours of daylight will give you a huge advantage if you are driving around Iceland. More daylight means more time to see things and there is plenty to see in Iceland.
Iceland in July
Both July and August are great times to do warm(er) weather activities. Things like scuba diving in Þingvellir or hiking around the country are great this time of year. Of course, you can still do these activities in the colder months, but I think we can all agree it’s more enjoyable with some sunshine. It may be warmer and you’re guaranteed some beautiful green landscapes, summer in Iceland comes with a few issues. Because of all this July is one of the best months to visit Iceland for photography.
It’s peak season in Iceland so expect prices to be through the roof. Also, like most places around the world summertime is when most people take their vacations, especially Americans. And Americans LOVE Iceland so you can expect to find a lot more people in the country. That being said I visited Iceland in July and had a fabulous time. I hiked during the day, biked around Reykjavik, partied until the sun “set” at 2 am, and joined my Icelandic friends at the public swimming pools. People are happy in the summertime and you just can’t beat that vibe in Iceland.
Iceland in August
August is the warmest time of the year to travel the Arctic circle. In Iceland, summer temperatures averaging around 15°C. The summer days are the kind you’re likely used to in August, with the sun rising between 5am-6am and setting between 9 and 10. So you still get long days with the ability to sleep in darkness!
August is just a great time to make the very most out of Iceland. The land will be green and lush, the sun will be shining, and some of the most popular tours are running. It’s also a great time if you want to go on a hiking and camping adventure as the climate is ideal. August is the last month you will for sure see puffins (although there are stragglers hanging about in September).
Visiting Iceland in the Fall
Iceland in September
September is great everywhere in the world, and it’s no different for Iceland. It’s when the fall colors start to show off and the temperatures are comfortable. You may start to get a little rain, but nothing that should hold you back from visiting Iceland. Most tours run at least until the end of September and we found that every single big campsite was still open for campers and camper vans until the 30th. Days begin to grow shorter in September so you stand a chance to see the Northern Lights.
Snow is around the corner, but most roads should remain open. This leaves open the possibility for many visitors to still see some amazing places like the West Fjords, Landmanalauger, the Golden Circle, or Mount Hekla. If you’re a film geek you will want to head to Reykjavik for the annual Reykjavik International Film Festival as well.
Iceland in October
In my opinion, this is the best time to visit Iceland. I mean it’s October, and who doesn’t love that time of year when the leaves turn bright yellow, orange, and red! (Don’t worry – there is even a Dunkin Donuts in Reykjavik for a pumpkin spice latte). Fall is exactly what we found when we did a camping trip around the Ring Road. The weather was pleasant with only a few days of rain and a bit of sunshine each day. We were even able to go hiking with just a flannel and a hiking backpack!
It’s not only the weather that made this wonderful but because it was considered off-season in Iceland there were far fewer tourists than in the summer (although still a lot). This season is known for an influx of Chinese tourists. We were getting low season prices for things like our Happy Campers van, hotel stays, and even could stay at campsites for free as they were closed for the season. Most importantly, we saw the Northern Lights – twice! This time of year is simply amazing in Iceland, check out what it was like for us!
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Iceland in November
November is officially when you can say…”Winter is coming”. Expect cold weather, shorter days, and rain. Many roads will be shut down, with the ring road is still accessible. Just make sure that you are vigilant about the weather! The fall colors have mostly subsided, but snow is starting to fall which makes the waterfalls, mountains, and volcanoes even more beautiful.
Some of the most popular things to do in Iceland is November is a glacier hike, ice caving, and the Nothern Lights. Like many places in Europe, tourism is dwindling, so you will have the black sand beaches, geothermal areas, and hot springs to yourself!
Iceland in December
Do you love that snowy, Christmas filled, cheerful time of the year? Well, then the best time to visit Iceland for you is in December. This really falls under “Iceland in winter,” but I didn’t want to start this whole post with December and confuse everyone! Christmas is huge in Iceland so you will definitely not miss out on the holiday cheer if you choose to vacation in Iceland in December.
The whole city of Reykjavik will be lit with Christmas lights, Santa Clauses are scattered throughout the city and the snow will be in full force. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about December 31st when the city comes alive for the New Year celebrations. European Christmas season is fabulous, this is a great time to go to Iceland!
December is also the darkest time of the year. Days only last a couple of hours so you will really have to make the most of your sunlight. However, with long nights this is the best time to visit Iceland for Northern Lights. Average temperatures range from -1°C and -5°C so make sure to bring a jacket, gloves, scarf, boots, and a hat. I wouldn’t recommend waiting till you get to Iceland to buy them, as it will be double what you are used to paying.
Still wondering when go to Iceland?
In the end, you decide the best time to visit Iceland and what you would like as a traveler. Is it your honeymoon in Iceland or are you looking to take a break from the desk job? Would you like to see the leaves changing in the fall or does hanging out in a t-shirt in Downtown Reykjavik park suit your fashion?
In my opinion, the best months to holiday in Iceland are July, October, or December.
If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
Plan Your Trip to Iceland
Book a camper!
A campervan is the best way to get around Iceland on a budget. While a camper is slightly more expensive than a car, you can sleep and cook in it! Meaning you don’t have to search for any hotels or deal with expensive restaurants in Iceland. Plus you get to sleep in nature every night and still use a heater if you wish! If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should they are the BEST!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
Things to do in Iceland
There are literally so many things to do in Iceland I could write a book about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time so I’m showing you the ultimate Iceland bucket list here. Some things that are a must do are go to an Iceland swimming pool, soak in a natural hot spring, stand under a waterfall, and see the Northern Lights.
Photography Gear for Iceland
A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Iceland if you want some great shots while on your vacation. We travel with our Fujifilm Camera and 200mm telephoto lens. Drones have sort of taken Iceland by storm, and can capture fantastic footage as well. We had our DJI Mavic in Iceland, but make sure to use your drone responsibly as many locals are getting increasingly annoyed at the sight of them.
Whatever you do do not forget a tripod for Iceland – especially if you plan on photographing the Northern Lights. You’ll need one for the long exposures.
Is Iceland Expensive?
Iceland is mega expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world actually. Make sure that you plan accordingly and in line with your budget. It’s certainly possible to do Iceland on a budget of less than $100 if you are camping, cooking all your own basic meals, and traveling by public transport or score a good deal on a rental. The good news is that nature is free, and you’ll be able to see Iceland’s beauty without paying for it. So yes – it’s completely doable to have an affordable Iceland vacation.
If you plan on drinking be sure to pick yo duty free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!
Other items to pack for Iceland
No matter what you should definitely throw the following items in your Iceland packing list.
- A good jacket: Surprise! It gets cold in Iceland, even in the summer. I learned this the hard way when I went hiking there in the middle of July without a proper jacket. I love my Patagonia nano puff jacket because it’s one of the best packable down jackets on the market. This should be on any Iceland packing list no matter the season.
- Ear Muffs: I love wearing ear muffs so I don’t mess up my hair. I also wear my hair in a ponytail a lot so ear muffs ensure that I can keep my pony! If you wear your hair down then consider a nice knit hat.
- Flannel: No matter what climate I am traveling to I bring my Patagonia flannel everywhere and it has never let me know.
- Swimsuits: I decided to skip the Blue Lagoon and went to the local hot springs instead. If you plan on doing you will want to bring a swimsuit unless you want to go naked.
- Hiking Shoes: If you plan on doing any short hikes I would bring a good pair of hiking shoes. I personally travel everywhere with my Merrell Moab Ventilators.
- Adaptor: Remember that Iceland uses the Europlug. Make sure you find a good adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land.
- Waterbottle: We found the water in Iceland amazing to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Grayl.
- Towel: Unless you are only staying at hotels you will need a towel in Iceland. If you are camping or in a campervan, a lightweight travel towel is best. The Icelandic pools will also charge you to rent a towel so it never hurts to have a good one in your luggage.
- Backpack: I would suggest bringing a backpack to Iceland if you are going to be in a camper or are backpacking, they are much less of pain to travel with. Read more about our favorite backpacks here.
More helpful Iceland travel tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATM’s are found throughout the country
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive as hell? Well, it is! Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has strong internet infrastructure and you should be able to easily stay connected.
- To feel more at home we use Airbnb you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
- Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend Lonely Planet to get you through those wireless nights.
- Don’t Forget Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
Popular Tours to Take in Iceland
- Whale Watching Excursion in Reykjavik
- Dog Sledding!
- Whale Watching Excursion in Reykjavik
- Tandem Paragliding over Reykjavik
- Snowmobile excursion to Langjokull Glacier from Reykjavik
- Northern Lights Snowmobile Tour, from Gullfoss
- Snorkeling in Silfra near Reykjavik
- Nine Full Days Around Iceland!
- Experience the Best of Iceland in 7 Days
- Happy Campers Review: The Best Camper Van Company in Iceland?
- 15 Iceland Honeymoon Ideas That Make for a Memorable Experience
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