The Best Time to Visit Iceland (2019) • Month by Month Breakdown

best time to visit Iceland

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.

Black Sand Beach Iceland

When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?


When is the Best Time to Travel Iceland for Good Weather?

If you’re still wondering when the best time to visit Iceland for good weather is – it’s summer. You stand your best chance of good weather in Iceland between July and September. Temperatures range from 12°C-20°C. You’ll find locals enjoying the sunny weather in Reykjavik and it’s a great time to go hiking.

When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland for Northern Lights?

Due to its location below the Arctic Circle, Iceland is one of the best places in the entire world to see the Northern Lights. Your best chance of seeing them is between late September and late March when the weather is clear, cool, and crisp. You have less daylight, but a higher chance of spotting this phenomenon. The longer you stay in Iceland the higher chance you have of seeing the Northern Lights. Remember the further away from light pollution you go the better chance you have at a real good show!

All that being said we were able to see the lights really dance mid October when we were in Iceland!

When is the Best Time Visit Reykjavik?

Reykjavik is a fabulous city to visit any time of year. There is always something to do, be it winter or summer. If you want to sit outside and enjoy a beer without freezing, it’s best to visit Reykjavik during the summer months of June-August. September and October are still comfortable, but you will want a jacket to walk around.

When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland for Whale Watching?

Whale watching season in Iceland is from April to October. The best time to see the whales is in the summer (June, July, and August). You can find tours that run out of Reykjavik every day in Iceland. Other popular places to go whale watching are Akureyri, Dalvik, Husavik, and the Vestmannaeyjar Islands. Make sure to bring a camera and a windbreaker jacket. It gets cold on the boats – even in the summer!

When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland to See Puffins?

Puffin viewing season in Iceland is from late April to mid August. The world’s largest puffin colony is actually found in the Westman Islands where you can grab a ferry. Almost one million puffins live here during puffin season. However if you arrive after September you likely won’t see any puffins during your Iceland trip.

When is the Cheapest Time to Visit Iceland?

If you are trying to travel Iceland on a budget the best time to go is the offseason. Mid-November to April will provide you with lower car rental prices, lower prices on guesthouses, and cheaper tours. However keep in mind many businesses will close during these months. You can still find good weather and reasonable prices during the shoulder season.

When is the Best Time to See the Midnight Sun in Iceland?

The Midnight Sun is a period of continuous daylight in Iceland. From May to August it will be complete daylight at midnight, with the sun setting just before. The summer solstice is normally around June 21st and is peak Midnight Sun viewing time.

When is the Best Time to Drive Iceland’s Ring Road?

You can drive the Ring Road at any time of year. Weather-wise the best to drive the ring road is during the summer months. Crowd wise the best time to drive the ring road in Iceland is during the shoulder season months. May, June, September, and October will still provide you with good weather and fewer cars on the road.

When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland’s Golden Circle?

You can experience the Golden Circle anytime of year. Weather-wise you’ll find it most beautiful and sunny during the summer. Crowd wise the best time to visit is during the shoulder season. The Golden Circle will still be busy in May, June, September, and October, but not as crowded as the summer months.

When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland’s Blue Lagoon?

The Blue Lagoon is without a doubt one of Iceland’s most popular things to do. Crowding can be a huge issue here during the summer months between May and September. The best time to visit the Blue Lagoon is in the winter (besides holidays). Don’t worry about it getting cold as the Blue Lagoon is geothermal and warm. The earlier you go the better. If you want a Blue Lagoon experience without a lot of other people I would recommend arriving when they open at 7 am.


What is the Best Month to Visit Iceland?

Visit 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.


Visit 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.


Visit 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!

Best Time To Visit Iceland - godafoss waterfall in iceland

Visit 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!

Best Time to visit Iceland - Geysir on the Golden Circle

Visit 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).

Best Time to visit Iceland - Horses in Iceland

Visit 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.

Best Time to Visit Iceland - Beauty of Iceland

Visit 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.

Best Time For Hiking in Iceland
Yes, it got cold hiking in July!

Visit 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).


Visit 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.

Best Time in Visit Iceland

Visit 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!


Visit 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!

Watch the Moss in Iceland

Visit 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.

Best time to Visit Iceland

When is my Favorite Time to Travel 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.


driving in iceland

When is the Best Season to Travel Iceland?


High season (July-September): Like most places in Europe, Iceland’s high season runs from July to mid-September. This is when you will find the best weather, but it’ also crazy crowded. Days are longer, often the sun doesn’t set until 2am and you really never get “nighttime.” Weather is also warmer, but you will still need a jacket. Hotel and car rental prices are at their highest during the highseason.

Shoulder Season (May-June and September-November): We’ve traveled to Iceland in October and loved it. The weather is cool, the leaves are changing, crowds are few, and it’s very easy to get off the beaten path. In general, the whole vibe in the air is wonderful. We’ve also found better deals on car rentals, campsites, and guesthouses. We saw sunny days, but also had a lot of those overcast and gloomy days.

Low Season (Late November-April): Winter in Iceland is no joke. The weather is unpredictable and can be deadly. You likely won’t be hiking much, but you will probably see the Northern Lights. It’s quiet during winter and still just as beautiful as the summer! If you plan to travel to Iceland during this time you absolutely need a packable rain jacket, travel umbrella, and waterproof boots.

Things to do in Iceland

Fun Festivals in Iceland to Attend


Dark Music Days Festival (Late January into early February)

When the daytime becomes as dark as it does in Iceland, many of us would need something to lift our spirits a bit. The name of this Iceland festival says it all; The Dark Music Days Festival is a five-or-so-day festival spanning from the last few days of January into early February, taking place over the darkest days of the year in Iceland

Winter Lights Festival (February 6 – 9)

The Dark Music Days Festival isn’t the only gathering that revolves around the daylight situation (or lack thereof) of Iceland’s winters. The Winter Lights Festival, taking place in the first week of February every year, was conceived to celebrate the gradually increasing daylight (and therefore, longer-feeling days) that begins after many months of darkness. Among the features at this important festival are light installations, cultural performances, and outdoor activities (so dress warm, because it’s still cold!). 

Viking Festival (mid-June)

There are a ton of festivals in Iceland in June (including a Color Run, Sailor’s Day & Sea Festival, and a huge arts festival in Reykjavík), so it was hard to settle on just one. But we couldn’t pass up a chance to talk about the Viking Festival. This festival is pretty much what it sounds like: a celebration of Viking culture that will take you back in time a thousand years.

Reykjavík International Film Festival (Late September)

You’ve heard of the US Academy Awards, no doubt – well, the Reykjavík International Film Festival is the Icelandic equivalent. One of the largest and most culturally diverse events to take place in the whole country, this is an entirely volunteer-run event spanning 11 days. You can, of course, come to watch new releases in indie film, but there are also panel discussions, exhibitions, and even oddly-located film showings – like inside directors’ homes (how cool would that be?).

See the full list of Iceland festivals here

Festivals in Iceland

Plan Your Trip to Iceland


Iceland Camper Van Ring Road Tips

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.

Book your camper here!


Book a Tour

Sometimes it’s nice not to have to do all the travel planning and let someone else do it.

ViatorGet Your Guide


driving in iceland

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.


Iceland Honeymoon

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.


Tep Wireless Iceland Laptop

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!


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 hereOr 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.

What to Pack for Iceland


Travel Insurance

Nothing will ruin your Iceland honeymoon more than getting hurt and not having insurance. We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage

SafetyWing is perfect for digital nomads. See our full review here!

Check Rates


Accommodation Around the World

To feel more at home on your honeymoon in Iceland try Airbnb. You can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code hereOr just take this coupon for your first stay!

Get Coupon


Camelbak
Hiking/Daypack Backpack

You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:

Hiking BackpacksBest Photographer BackpacksBackpacks for EuropeBest DaypacksBest Travel BackpacksBest Backpacks for WomenBest Antitheft Backpacks


Beach Packing List Sunglasses
Sunglasses

Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.

We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.

See Sunglasses


Travel Shoes

If you plan on doing any short hikes in Iceland I would bring a good pair of hiking shoes. I personally travel everywhere with my Merrell Moab Ventilators.

I love my Merrell Moab Ventilators and Allbirds for travel, I’ve been going strong in them for two years! Check out my other recommendations on women’s shoes, and the best men’s travel shoes.

Allbirds


Best Down Jackets
Down Jacket

I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.

Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded JacketPatagonia Down SweaterREI Coop Down Jacket)

Feathered Friends


Packable Rain Jacket - Arcteryx Women’s Beta SL Gore-Tex Jacket
Goretex Rain Jacket

We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in October, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.

Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.

Arc’teryx


Kindle Paperwhite

I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!

Kindle Paperwhite


Best Travel Water Bottles
Waterbottle

Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!

Grayl Waterbottle


Travel-Adaptor
Adapter

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.

Travel Adapter


Best Travel Towel - REI Micro Lite towel
Travel 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.

Best Towels For Travel


Iceland Honeymoon
Reusable Bags

We don’t ever travel without our reusable bags that we can take grocery shopping. And this is no different for grocery shopping in Iceland. We love to save the world from yet another plastic bagplease consider picking some up!

Reusable Bags



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About the Author

Natasha

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Natasha is a five-foot blonde that believes she was made short so she could fit in air, train, car, and bus seats comfortably. She believes in watching every single movie nominated for an Oscar and loves all animals. Natasha has a passion for environmentally friendly and sustainable travel. Natasha recently made a move to Canada and resides near Banff National Park in Alberta and loves new adventures in the mountains. Natasha's favorite countries are Italy, Iceland, Greece, Japan, Mozambique, and South Africa.

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