2022 Guide To The Best Time To Go To Iceland

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By surangastock/Depositphotos

With dramatic terrains, and moody weather, the best time to go to Iceland is quite ambiguous for first-time travellers. Get started with this practical guide.

Iceland- The Land of Changing Weathers!

Iceland- the land of ice and fire- has a distinctly varied landscape and equally varying climatic conditions. The topography ranges from glacier lakes to lava fields to black sand beaches. It is a place of ice and erupting fire, Viking mythology, and pristine landscape.

Here you’ll find that active and turbulent volcanoes exist alongside snow-capped peaks and glaciers. The sky lights up with not just stars but also the midnight sun and the Aurora borealis.

Forests and vibrant cities, well-constructed roadways connecting the island country, fjords and ice caves, whale watching and Icelandic horseback riding, local markets, delicious cuisine- Iceland has something to offer everyone.

Seasons play a significant role in deciding the kind of adventure a visitor enjoys. The face of Iceland changes drastically with the change in months across the year. The north ocean causes instabilities in the weather.

Here, in this article, we shall try to shed some light on these aspects. We shall discuss the best time to go to Iceland based on seasons and different months of the year. We shall also go over the best time for visiting Iceland to partake in the local festivals and events.

Seasonal Analysis Of The Best Time To Visit Iceland

Iceland undergoes four seasons- Spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Each has its specific attraction. You will encounter migrant birds returning to the coastal areas during the spring. Meanwhile, several hikes and expeditions attract people during the summer months.

Fall or the autumn months provide a perfect time to observe the Northern Lights. In contrast, powdery snow covers the land for epic adventures during the winter months.

We will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of different seasons in determining the best time to visit Iceland.

Spring (March-May)

By Alex Talmon/Unsplash

With the onset of spring and temperatures warming up, the days begin to get longer. The days lengthen up due to the movement of the Earth after the March equinox. This causes the snow to melt and reveals the lush green landscapes of Iceland. Innumerable migratory birds flock to the warmer coasts of Iceland, making this the best time to go to Iceland for bird watching.

This is also a period for increased geomagnetic storms in the Earth’s magnetic field. These disruptions induce the Northern Lights. Thus, an increased disturbance translates to better and clearer Aurora Borealis across the night skies. However, chances of good viewing are significantly reduced as the days increase.

Spring in Iceland is deemed the best time to visit Iceland as prices fall and the tourist population dwindles. It is also the festival season in Iceland with the Vaka Folk Festival Eve Fanfest. However, you may expect a light rainstorm along with moderate temperatures. It is indispensable to carry a fleece, a raincoat, and waterproof shoes.

Summer (June – August) 

By Josh Reid/Unsplash

The summer months are the best time to go to Iceland as it’s close to the arctic circle. Summers have extraordinarily prolonged daylight hours, warmer temperatures, and kaleidoscopic festivals. The drier, warmer weather also makes this season the safest for the journey. Hiking, camping, and other expeditions are open during the Iceland summer. Self-driven trips are also accessible in the summer.

The meadows turn into several shades of emerald, and animals meander through fields. Highland Road, which remains closed through the winter, also opens for travel. Summer is the ideal time to visit Iceland for hikers. Since it’s one of the best whale-watching seasons, the northern coast visits humpbacks, minke, and dolphins. Family groups also visit Iceland during the summer holidays.

Summers are not suited to those who wish to witness the Northern Lights, mainly due to its lit-up night skies. The Land of the Midnight Sun, Iceland, practically is lighted up all day during the summer months! The flowers are in full blossom, and birds flock around, making your stay charming in all aspects. During summer you can spend more time walking and enjoying the surrounding scenery.

Iceland summers are undoubtedly a peak season when the tourists surge, being the best time to go to Iceland. The weather is mild, and there is plenty to see and do that causes the prices to go up during this period. It is crucial to make reservations for hotels, tours, and car rentals. With the sun reflecting off the white ice, eyewear is a necessity.

Autumn (September – November)

By Nicolas J Leclercq/Unsplash

Autumn turns Iceland into a photographer’s utopia. Autumn adds a rustic charm to the island country of Iceland as it paints the landscape into the mellow earthy tones of browns and oranges. Fall is awash in colours and is considered one of the quickest and most accessible times to travel to Iceland to sidestep mobs. For those searching for peace, autumn is the best time to go to Iceland.

Autumn bathes the National Park in hues of red, orange, yellow, scattered with greens. The lava fields are dynamic just before the snowfalls come. The sun is still warm enough for most summer events, though the air is relatively cooler, and the tourist market is less expensive.

Autumn is also one of the best times to go to Iceland for whale watching. The night skies are more or less clear, opening up several prospects for watching the Northern Lights or aurora borealis.

Apart from the regular tourist activities of visiting the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle tours, day Trips to Vik, glacier lagoon diving, and horse riding, you may also experience some snowfall during an autumn visit to Iceland. Remember to pack a scarf and gloves while visiting Iceland during the fall season.

Winter (December-February)

By Lockenkopf/Pixabay

Winter in Iceland turns the landscape to that of the fictional world of Narnia! Everything is shrouded in a cloak of fluffy white and profound darkness. The extraordinary vista makes it the best time to go to Iceland.

Winters in Iceland are brutal, with temperatures dipping way below 0° centigrade. Weather phenomena, such as white-outs, frequently cause road closures and flight delays. This makes access to certain areas reasonably tricky. You can anticipate short days, nippy temperatures, and a blanket of snow. During the winter solstice, Iceland gets only three hours of daylight!

Low sunlight reflects soft light, perfect for photographs. However, with longer, darker nights, the possibility of witnessing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis increases in manifolds. Several ice cave treks are also open only during the winters. The frosty landscape in the backdrop of the warm hot springs is an experience of a lifetime. The possible winter adventures are endless, making it the best time to visit Iceland.

Monthly Analysis Of The Best Time To Go To Iceland

Iceland has a mild winter throughout the year, and hence, it is necessary to carry wind and water-resistant coats during every season. Let us discuss a trip to Iceland month by month to find out the best time to go to Iceland.

January in Iceland

  • Off-Season in Iceland

  • Lesser Crowds

  • Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis

  • Winter photography

 

By Jon Flobrant/Unsplash

January is one of the most discreet times to visit Iceland. There are fewer tourists, which unswervingly means crowd-free sites of attractions.

Short, dark days are what you can expect in Iceland during January. The sun typically rises around 11 am and sets at about 4 pm, with only four to five hours of daylight! However, this is a boon for those hoping to watch the Northern Lights.

With the days getting longer towards the end of the month, horse riding trips kick into full gear. The short, friendly Icelandic horses can be ridden and enjoyed by visitors of all ages, making it one of the best times to visit Iceland.

February in Iceland

  • Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis

  • Killer whales Photography

best time to go to iceland
By Ferdinand Stöhr/Unsplash

In February, the weather in Iceland is downright chilly, with sub-zero temperatures persisting inland. Most of Iceland remains obscured in a veil of snow and ice. However, the capital city of Reykjavik and the coastline areas, which are naturally warmer than the inland, start to thaw towards the end of February. 

With the coastal areas warming up, Killer whales or Orcas begin visiting, searching for food and breeding grounds. February is the best time to visit Iceland for watching whales and other magnificent marine creatures. Several boat tours and wildlife photography excursions resume into action during February to make the most of this spectacle. It is also an excellent time to witness the Northern Lights.

March in Iceland

  • Best for Northern Lights viewing

  • Killer whales watching tours

  • Snowshoeing

  • Ice caving

 

By Mark Olsen/Unsplash

The vernal equinox of March marks a crucial astronomical transition from winter to spring, and the consecutive weeks are filled with increased geomagnetic storms. This indicates additionally vibrant Northern Lights. There are periodic snowstorms and below-zero temperatures entangled with sunshine and clear skies. 

In March, you can enjoy winter activities like ice-caving and snow-shoeing, take a dip in a hot spring, and watch killer whales hunting their prey. The eagle, Brünnich’s guillemot (also known as thick-billed murre), is often observed on the various coastal islands. Barrow Goldeneyes migrate from the south coast to Malta for the breeding season in mid-March.

April in Iceland

  • Northern Lights viewing

  • Start of Bird watching season

  • Group tours commence

April brings forth spring in Iceland. The temperature starts warming up with the longer daylight hours. However, there may be some sudden snowfall hiding behind the clear skies.

Most group tours commence in April. The roads clear out for a road trip and travel from the West to East fjords. However, your prospect of witnessing the Northern Lights diminishes as the nights get lighter.

Late April is also appropriate for bird watching. Lovely puffins are seen in April. Multiple migrant birds also arrive in Iceland during early April. Arctic Terns and other seabirds nestled within the rugged landscape offer a beautiful vista for visitors.

May in Iceland

  • Cruise season begins

  • Whale watching

  • Bird watching

Iceland indeed emerges from winter in May. The locals are all out and about with bar terraces filled with people soaking up the cool sunshine. Events like the Myvatn marathon also kick off. With the onset of summers, May offers between 16-24 hour daylighting times. It is one of the best times for exploring Iceland with the long daylight hours.

Late May is ideal for spotting birds in their natural habitats. Whales move north to feed along the coasts of the calm seas. Geese in rivers and puffins nesting on sea cliffs are more accessible to bird watchers. With the defrosting of the coastlines, circum-navigation cruises also start this month.

Geothermal water plays a crucial role in the lives of the people of Iceland. These are typically not bigger than public swimming pools. The most famous is the Blue Lagoon, an impressive blue geothermal lake close to Reykjavik. You can enjoy the Blue Lagoon and other hot springs all year-round. Nonetheless, the best times to visit Blue Lagoon are May and September. The temperature remains warm, but the atmosphere is more tranquil.

Iceland is known for its charming, stout, miniature Horses. Multiple-day horse trekking tours become active during this period. The month of May offers a great time to trek and travel with the cooler weather, making the trips an enjoyable experience.

June in Iceland

  • Witness the Midnight sun

  • Experience Camping and hiking

  • Enjoy Wildlife watching

  • Exquisite Photography

  • Seaman’s Day Festival

  • Reykjavik Arts Festival

By Daniel Malikyar/Unsplash

Summer in Iceland commences in June. It is the month of the midnight sun, lighting up the night sky in a dull glow. The night sun provides 24 hours of daylight around the June summer solstice. It is the the best time to go to Iceland for expeditions, especially till late at night.

The West-fjords are still bustling with birds in June. Whale-watching expeditions might catch you glimpses of humpbacks and minke whales. The Blue Whale might correspondingly be noticed cruising around the coastline. Sea-kayaking, camping, and hiking in Iceland begin in June. It also is one of the best times for self-driven vacations, with most roads clear of ice.

Sjomannadagurinn or Seaman’s Day, observed on the first weekend of June, celebrates the significance of fishing to Icelandic life. Boats remain harboured across the coasts of Iceland. The sailors participate in maritime merrymakings, turning harbours into a melee of games. Traditional fishing songs, Mackerel feasts, and an abundance of alcoholic beverages pinnacle this Viking experience!

The Reykjavik Arts Festival, celebrated in June, lures visitors from all over the world. This extravaganza usually has a theme stringing together several exhibitions. The shows range from street performances to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra at the shard-like Harpa Opera House.

July in Iceland

  • Hiking and Camping

  • Nature Photography

  • Whale watching tours

By vpzotova/Pixabay

July is an exquisite time in Iceland. Longer days prolong till midnight, creating suitable conditions essential for hiking and camping. Most trails are open such as the Laugavegur trail and even the inaccessible Highlands.

The mysterious midnight sunlight, illuminating the exquisite Icelandic landscape, is tantalizing for photographers. Whale watching expeditions are in full swing during July. Back on land, all roads are snow-free for drivers and road trips such as Golden Circle Tour and Ring Road Tours.

August in Iceland

  • Peak tourist season

  • Hiking expeditions

  • Self-drive tours

  • Arctic circle tours

  • Several Festivals

By Cassie Boca/Unsplash

The Iceland tourist season pinnacles in August, when festivals, cruise ship arrivals, and summer breaks merge into a celebration of the island. Home to a million puffins each summer, they are most active in early August.

You may opt to go hiking and camping, or even sea kayaking before the days shorten with the increasing cold. You may also choose to go on a self-drive exploration of Iceland in August. It is an excellent time to integrate Iceland with Greenland for a full Arctic circle tour.

 Read about some more European cities you can visit. 

Verslunarmannahelgi or the Shopkeepers’ Weekend is the annual summer festival of Iceland. During this boisterous festival, the locals can be found frolicking about on the streets of Iceland or camping in the Westman Islands, soaking in alcoholic drinks. You can also party in downtown Reykjavik, indulging in music and food in a genial atmosphere. Being the peak summer season, mid-August is one of the favourite times to visit Iceland, depending on the budget.

September in Iceland

  • Landscape Photography

  • Northern Lights viewing

  • Whale watching

By Jonatan Pie/Unsplash

September is the time to visit Iceland for those hoping to witness the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. The Northern Light is more perceptible in Iceland in September as the sun sets at about 8 in the night. This is inherently due to increased geomagnetic storms around the autumn equinox in September.

Many roads are closed off from late September due to snow and ice. This is also the last season to venture on a round trip through Iceland and Greenland, as the wintery weather causes the crossing to be unpredictable.

Wandering on Iceland is truly enchanting. The mountains of Iceland are not only beautiful, but they also have numerous captivating trails. September is also an ideal season for watching whales in Iceland.

October in Iceland

  • Northern Lights

  • Autumn photography

  • Receding number of visitors

By Joshua Earle/Unsplash

October marks the end of the whale-watching season in Iceland and, consequently, winters. With thinning crowds, it is the best time to go to Iceland.

The crowd-free vistas, combined with myriad shades of browns and oranges, lure landscape photographers to Iceland in October. The temperamental weather, oscillating between snow, sunshine, and thunderous clouds, provides a diverse experience to visitors. October temperatures remain above freezing in and around Reykjavik. Most roadways are also generally clear for travelling.

November in Iceland

  • Northern Lights Viewing

  • Winter Adventures

  • Trips to Hot springs

November is one of the best times to visit Iceland for a Northern Lights tour. Late November starts to lack in daylight and warmth seriously. This month opens up better opportunities for those seeking the aurora borealis.

Winter adventures are the main attractions for a trip to Iceland in November. Exquisite activities like spa and baths in hot spring, ice-caving, and glacier hiking are some of the must-do itineraries. For a traveller who loves adventure, November is the the best time to go to Iceland.

Iceland Airwaves, the world’s most northerly music festival, is celebrated in November in Iceland. Gigs light up record shops, cafés, and bars of Reykjavik in the nights of November, offering travellers an experience unlike any other. The atmosphere in November is calm and serene, broken only by the musical festivals reverberating the frigid air.

December in Iceland

  • New Year’s Eve carnivals

  • Northern Lights viewing

  • Ice cave tours

As the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland, December is a spectacular time to visit Iceland. However, temperatures sometimes plummet as low as -10°C, specifically in northern Iceland.

December is one of the frostiest months in Iceland. Wind chill causes apparent temperatures to feel lower than they are in reality. You can visit the ice caves only during the cold months of winter. Head out in the cold for an adventure of extraordinary magnificence! There are opportunities to book an expedition to Katla Ice Cavern on the Kötlujökull glacier.

You may also opt to walk through some of the areas on Vatnajökull, the biggest glacier of Iceland. This glacier is incredibly exquisite, with a manmade tunnel that takes the visitors down into the depths of the glacier. You can also visit the glacier at Langjekull.

By Mike Swigunski/Unsplash

The celebration of the eve of New Year in Iceland is a sight to behold, lighting up the otherwise cold dark month of December. People huddle around bonfires while the skies illuminate with firework displays. Numerous firework stands raise money in every town for the Iceland Search and Rescue pop-up. The celebrations make it the best time to go to Iceland.

In preparation for New Year, you can witness several free-for-all shows of fireworks crackling on the horizon on the night of 31st December. It is generally followed by hearty feasts and drinks with friends and family. The crowd pours out onto the frozen streets for partying around bonfires all through the night. Reykjavik boasts of the biggest New Year celebrations in the island country and is the ideal destination for tourists.

Here is an overall weather chart for Iceland.

Month

Minimum Temp. (in °C)

Maximum Temp. (in °C)

Rain (in mm)

 

 

 

 

January

-3

2

100

February

-2

3

95

March

-1

3

100

April

1

6

75

May

4

10

70

June

7

15

65

July

10

16

63

August

8

15

80

September

4

11

90

October

3

8

120

November

-1

4

105

December

-2

2

100

 

Conclusion – The Best Time To Go To Iceland

Excluding the period impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of visitors to Iceland has consistently risen every year. The Icelandic government attempts to curb the peak season crowds (June-August) by considering a tourist tax.

There have also been comprehensive attempts at redirecting people away from the main sites of tourist attractions and advertising the lesser-known beauties of Iceland.

Regardless, tourism in Iceland is increasing in manifolds with a new spurt of film buffs visiting the filming sites of Star Wars and Game of Thrones. So join in the party before the trip becomes more expensive! Simply pick out your choice of activity and then travel to Iceland during the corresponding season/month. Here is a list of the 11 best things to do in Iceland.

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