When Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
Here's some good news you may not be expecting: it's always a good time to visit Iceland! It's all about deciding which is the best time for you. There are great reasons to visit any time during the year; each season comes with its own pros and cons. When you choose to travel will depend upon your intentions for your trip:
- How much time do you have? Is your schedule flexible?
- Do you want to see the Northern Lights?
- Would you rather hike or explore ice caves?
- Are you driving yourself? Are you comfortable with winter driving conditions?
- Do you want to visit the highlands?
- Travel the Ring Road? or do you prefer to keep a home base in Reykjavik?
- Like the majesty of winter? or would you rather have nearly endless daylight?
- Want nice weather for trekking?
Man trekking Vestrahorn mountain and Stokksnes in Iceland.
You can't go wrong with all that daylight! Summer gives you beautifully long days in which to explore, and many travelers choose to visit Iceland in the summer to take advantage of that. That doesn't have to mean big crowds, though: if your day-to-day schedule is flexible, the extra daylight means you can choose to visit certain sights in the evening or the early morning so your visit is a bit more private.
The warmer weather makes for more comfortable hiking, horseback riding, and bird watching, and the mountain roads are open if you'd like to venture to some of the more remote areas of the country. Whale watching peaks in the summer, though whale watching tours continue to run from Reykjavik all year long.
Trekking adventures are only available in the summer, so if a days-long hiking and camping trip is your main priority, you'll want to be here in June, July, or August. You may still see days of rain, fog, and wind, which can get chilly, so pack accordingly!
If Greenland is on your bucket list, you'll want to visit Iceland in the summer. Kulusuk, Greenland, is just a two-hour flight from Reykjavik, so you can take a day trip or spend a few days hiking, kayaking, whale watching, seeing the world's largest glacier, and exploring the beautiful Ammassalik area. A trip to Greenland is a unique and unforgettable experience.
Self drive tours
The best time for taking a road trip in Iceland is during the summer months. These tours offer freedom and flexibility to travel at your own pace and include sights and activities along the way the interest you. Iceland offers a wide variety of interesting activities like glacier walking, horse riding, whale watching, river rafting and lots more. So everyone should be able to find something fitting their interest.
Of course, the warmer weather and hours of daylight attract more visitors in the summer, which means prices are higher pretty much everywhere. It pays to note that many hotels and rental cars book up quickly in the summer, so plan your tours early.
Still, even with the extra people around, it rarely feels crowded. If you're taking a road trip, you'll go down long stretches of highway flanked by lava fields, striking mountains, waterfalls, and more, and you may not see another car for miles. Though more people gather at sites like Reynisfjara, Mývatn, and the many incredible waterfalls around the island, you'll still have opportunities to get phenomenal photos or claim a small area for yourself to sit and contemplate the wonder of nature.
In September, prices start to drop a little bit as many travelers conclude their Iceland trips. You can get better deals on hotels, tours, and rental cars, and you'll still enjoy temperatures that are warmer than the winter months.
However, in the fall the weather starts to get a little more unpredictable. Highland adventures are still possible in the very early autumn, but by mid-September, many of the mountain roads start to close for safety. It helps to have a more flexible mindset with your travel plans as we move into fall and winter since sudden storms can encourage you to stay put for a short little while.
See the Northern Lights
By this time of year, nights are getting longer, which means you may have an opportunity to see the Northern Lights! It's never a guarantee that they will show up during your trip, and it's more likely to happen as you get deeper into winter with those longer nights. Still, for those who would like to see them but can't travel in the winter (or have other travel priorities that bring you here in the spring, summer, or fall), September may give you the best of both worlds.
A dip in the Blue Lagoon is a fantastic way to start or end your trip. This incredible spot is popular throughout the year. However, as with elsewhere in Iceland, it starts to grow quieter as fall sets in. Let the naturally warm waters soothe you while the crisp fall air invigorates you. There are many natural hot springs and swimming pools all around the country. If you'd prefer a less-visited spot, you'll be able to find one.
Taking a rest in a glacier ice cave of Iceland.
If your main goal is the see the Northern Lights, you'll want to come to Iceland in the winter. These months provide the best opportunity to see the unforgettable Aurora Borealis, and you can combine it with a variety of unique winter adventures.
Take a guided glacier hike or race across the snow cap on a snowmobile or a dog sled! Winter is also the only time to explore the ice caves at Vatnajökull—Europe's largest glacier. Of course, Iceland's waterfalls are breathtaking no matter the season. The big ones like Godafoss, Gullfoss, and Dettifoss get all the attention, but you'll be delighted at how many beautiful foss you see all over the countryside. Many are visible from the Ring Road, and some have areas where you can pull off the highway and take a closer look.
During the winter, tour, hotel, and rental car prices are at their lowest. There's also more availability, so you don't have to book as far in advance. Want to read more about Ice Caves in Iceland. Read all about it here.
You do need to pack for cold weather, but the winters in Iceland aren't as extreme as people tend to think. The average temperature during the winter months (January tends to be the coldest) hovers right around freezing. There are many parts of the United States that experience more cold than that! You can also expect snow during the winter (again, January tends to see the most snowfall), and sometimes the winds can make it seem a bit harsher. That's a great time to explore Reykjavik's museums, restaurants, and coffee shops!
Spend Christmas in Iceland
Of course, Christmas is a special time in many areas of the world. Every city brings its own flavor and traditions to the holiday, and Reykjavik is no exception. If you're looking to spend the holidays in Iceland, consider traveling over Christmas to see the incredible decorations throughout the city combined with a few winter adventures within reach of Reykjavik, like a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull or a drive around the Golden Circle to see the the Great Geysir, Gullfoss, and more.
Some of the mountain roads are starting to open, and you won't face such unpredictable winter driving conditions if you're getting behind the wheel on a self-driving tour. The weather is starting to warm up, but the summer crowds haven't arrived yet. May is another lovely shoulder season in Iceland, even though it's not as warm—or as lush and green—as the summer months. May gives you a taste of those longer days along with an opportunity to enjoy lower prices and more flexibility in scheduling your tours and hotels.
Learn More About the Best Time to Visit Iceland
Which season is right for your trip? Let's sum it up. If you want to...
- ...see the Northern Lights, go snowmobiling, or visit the ice caves: Winter.
- ...experience 20+ hours of daylight, enjoy good road conditions and do a self-driving tour, go hiking or trekking, have warmer weather, or go to Greenland: Summer.
- ...avoid the coldest part of winter and the heaviest crowds and save some money on tours and accommodations while enjoying all of Iceland's most famous and inspiring sights: Spring or Fall.
We'd love to help you plan your trip to Iceland. From self-drive tours to private tours to long bus tours, as well as short day trips from Reykjavik, we can take care of the logistics so you can spend more time enjoying this incredible country. Contact us if you have any questions about when to visit Iceland or to schedule your best trip yet.