A treasure trove of icebergs and geysers, volcanoes, and waterfalls, Iceland is a high-demand tourist destination and one of the leading eco-friendly countries in the world. These are not the only reasons Iceland is the best place to go.
Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean and is home to almost 400,000 people. Its territory spreads over 102,775 square km, which gives Iceland the 106th position in the list of countries by area. This country mostly has a subarctic climate, but it is different on each side of the coast.
Glaciers occupy more than 10% of Iceland's territory. Another natural wonder of Iceland is a beautiful natural phenomenon - Aurora Borealis, or the Northern lights. However, this is not the only time of the year when Iceland is worth visiting.
When is the best time to visit Iceland?
The dates to book your tickets depend on your wants and needs. One good thing about Iceland is that you can arrange your visit for any season. Because of the Gulf Stream, Iceland is one of the warmest popular tourist destinations during the year.
Summer is the high season. It has the warmest and the sunniest weather and the longest light days of the year. Most of the activities become available. One disadvantage is the high number of tourists.
From November to March, a low season lasts. Few tourists are visiting Iceland this time because it is cold, and there is a lot of precipitation (14mm as a monthly average). However, the low season is still a good time to enjoy Iceland without crowds of tourists. Prices are also low. Don’t expect too much daylight: in winter, it’s limited to 6 hours a day at best.
April-May and September-October are the shoulder months. Spring is a blooming time, and the climate is perfect for visiting local waterfalls and mountains. May is the period when the temperatures keep rising before summer. Despite being a low season, May is a suitable time to travel due to the sun, warmth, and nature. Average rain is only 63-70mm, and you get the longer days and affordable prices. The last thing also describes the two first months of autumn. The colder days in September and October become, the lower the price for your journey is. You should expect some rain and wind, so prepare warm clothes, but Iceland in fall is worth coming to. It has a few visitors, lower prices, and a beautiful change of the season when leaves change their color.
Iceland in winter
The least busy period in the country has become more popular lately. Winter is very comfortable for most visitors from abroad. South of Iceland is located across the North Atlantic Gyre, this is why the weather here is mild. You should also expect the longest and the darkest season, with just 7 hours of daylight.
December has the darkest days. The average December temperature in Iceland is -2°C – +4°C. In December, expect the most snowfall and ice on the streets.
You should be ready to face a variety of weather conditions in January. Rain and snow, sun and winds - expect this and more when packing your clothes. The average temperatures are -3°C to +3°C.
February is just as unpredictable as the previous month. Sometimes February turns out to be the coldest month of the year. There are days with the maximum precipitation, like snow and rains, especially in February. The average temperature is -2°C – +3°C.
Those who want to visit Iceland in winter love to look at the Northern lights and visit ice caves.
Iceland in spring
Spring is one of the best seasons in Iceland. Weather conditions can change rapidly during your stay in Iceland, but you can prepare for some repeating trends. Spring here is cold and has a lot of rain, so take waterproof clothes. Spring has more daylight and lower prices in comparison with summer. Spring is a middle ground between the warmest and the coldest seasons.
March is not a warm month yet, but the temperature constantly gets hotter. The highest temperature is 3,3°C, and the lowest is -2,3°C. Because of the Gulf stream, the water becomes warmer. In March, Reykjavik has the most moisture: you should expect more than 80 mm of rainfall.
April is the first warm month. With an average temperature of 1°C–7°C, Iceland in April has way less rainfall than in March—55–60mm.
In May, you can expect 3°C as the lowest and 12°C as the highest temperatures. The average day would feel 6-7°C. 45mm of the rainfall makes May the driest month of the year.
In spring, watching whales can become a memory for the rest of your life.
Iceland in summer
Summer here is a peak season, and you need to book accommodation before prices get too expensive.
It does not rain as much as in spring (only 50-52mm). 20-21 hours of daylight is what you need to explore Iceland – nights here are not dark in summer.
June is the coldest month of the season, but it’s still nice to visit. The average temperature in June is 5-10°C and higher. Rainfall in most areas, like Reykjavik, is 45mm, which is lower in June than at any other time.
If you want to travel in July, choose the beginning of the month for your trip when not many tourists are coming around. One popular thing to do in July is seeing the midnight sun. The weather in July is very comfortable: 10°C at the lowest and 15-20°C at the highest temperatures, and you get around 50-52mm of rainfall. Most hiking trails are reopening in July after a long winter.
August is warmer than July, and nature is blooming. Sometimes it may feel hot, and due to the peak of the season, everything is more expensive, but there are many advantages. The average temperature in August is 8-15°C, with 60-62mm of precipitation, and the beginning of the month is the warmest time of August. Some popular things to do during your trip in August include water rafting, sea kayaking, and camping.
In summer, Iceland has several festivals, such as Seafarer’s Day in June and Reykjavik Culture Night in August. At this time of the year, travel to glaciers and see whales and puffins.
Iceland in autumn
Autumn is mostly a shoulder season when everything becomes lower in price, and it is constantly getting colder. It can start snowing in the middle of autumn.
In September, expect winds and heavy rains. The average temperature in Iceland in September is 5-11°C. Reykjavik (6-10°C) is the warmest place. Reykjavik receives 71mm of rainfall (the average precipitation in Iceland is 67mm), but you can still enjoy Reykjavik if you wear warm clothes.
In October, the weather is slowly changing: the average temperature equals 3-7°C, and it rains a lot: 101-130mm in 2 weeks. October is perfect for exploring the glaciers.
November is the coldest autumn month. Westfjords is the snowiest and rainiest place (67mm), with an average temperature of 3-4°C.. Daylight hours are reduced by half an hour every two weeks, so you better wake up earlier to see most of Iceland. The average precipitation is 80mm in 10 days: don’t forget waterproof clothes.
In autumn, you can get to know the local nature. Thingvellir National Park in Reykjavik is the only UNESCO Heritage site on the mainland of Iceland, and it is beautiful in autumn. You can observe Reykjavik and the active volcanic area of Iceland from above. In half an hour of the geothermal helicopter tour, you will also see craters and Kristnitökuhraun, a lava field formed after the eruption.
When to see the Northern lights
You have a better chance of seeing the northern lights during your trip between September and April. Iceland is one of the best places to admire the Aurora Borealis because it is located on the southern side of the Arctic circle. Because Iceland has a latitude of 64 degrees north, it is the perfect place to observe the northern lights because of the magnetic poles.
In January, it becomes easier to see the northern lights because the nights are darker. A clear sky is a necessary condition for seeing the northern lights.
If you are looking for the best conditions for seeing the Aurora Borealis, make your plans in mid-afternoon: until noon on the next day, the Northern lights are very bright and beautiful. Some special tours are available only in winter because the Aurora Borealis lasts longer.
When choosing a day to see the Northern lights, make sure the sky is clear and there is strong activity of the sun by using a special forecast. The best place to watch the northern lights is in the countryside because it does not have distracting city pollution.
When to see ice caves and glaciers
You can travel to glaciers almost any season, but here are some recommendations. In summer, glaciers are accessible to everyone who wants to travel there because of the perfect weather.
You need to understand that it might be dangerous to climb the glaciers yourself. For your safety needs, you will probably need the assistance of a professional guide. We recommend Solheimajokull as the point to start. This glacier, located between Eyjafjallajökul and Katla volcanoes, is one of the most easily accessible glaciers in Iceland. Reynisfjara black sand beach, an outwash glacier pain, is the best place to visit during this tour. This black dune looks like the perfect setting for a science fiction movie.
Best time for whale watching
As we mentioned before, the period from late April to early September is a peak season for watching whales in Iceland. Did you know that 23 different whale species inhabit Iceland? The most commonly occurring species are humpback and minke whales.
In summer, choose a warm day with a moderate breeze for your trip to reduce the chance of tour cancellation. You will need warm clothes that will keep you dry aboard. A diversity of species stays near the poles.
You can also watch whales in winter when some species stay around the equator. Fewer people will join you on your trip, and many species can appear, attracted by possible prey. Belugas are the most popular species in North Iceland. They come to the waters of Iceland to escape the ice in their Arctic habitat.
Some say you have one chance in life to watch whales, and you can do it in Faxafloi bay between Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Reykjavik. You will adore the view of whales against the spectacular background of Reykjavik. If you’re looking for an experience that can happen once in life, book your place on a whale-watching tour.
When to walk the Golden Circle
The best scenic route in Iceland to travel, the Golden Circle begins and ends in Reykjavik and covers 230 kilometers of distance. You can cover it in 3 hours by car, or take a walking trip, which is a longer and more challenging path. It will take you around 64 hours to complete the route. The Golden Circle is the best thing to do in Iceland because of the abundance of beautiful natural sights and attractions. During a trip to the Golden Circle, you will learn about the best national sights of Iceland, including Gullfoss Waterfall in the Hvita River Canyon; Thingvellir National Park, a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Center; and the Geysir hot spring area. Litli-Strokkur and Strokkur are the most visited geysers in Iceland that you can cover during your trip.
The best thing about visiting the Golden Circle is that you can do it all year round.
When to go horse riding
There are many possible ways to explore Iceland. One of the best options is traveling on horseback. Icelandic horses are famous for being intelligent, patient, and the oldest breed. One interesting fact is that 366,425 people and 80,000 horses live in Iceland, meaning there is one horse for every four and a half people.
Traveling in Iceland on your feet may be exhausting because there is too much space to walk. Horse riding could be a pleasant addition to your journey. Imagine spending time with a lovely, friendly creature in the beautiful landscapes of Iceland. Birdwatching is also possible during your trip along Lake Myvatn, produced by the Krafla volcano eruption. Indeed, a horse riding tour will be your best opportunity to reconcile a pleasant horseback riding session with an excursion to one of the most beautiful places in Iceland.
Horse riding in Iceland is available throughout the whole year. Many people ride horses in June and August, but you can choose any season. Just pay attention to the weather forecast before booking your tour.
When to hike
Hiking is the best exercise that affects your health positively. In Iceland, hiking is the best way to see hot springs, valleys, and other local natural wonders.
July and August would be the best months for hiking because of the long daylight hours. July gives you a unique opportunity to hike under the midnight sun. If you come to Iceland at the beginning of summer, do not worry: June is also a good time for hiking. It may feel a bit colder in June than in other summer months. Winter is the season we do not recommend for hiking. A slippery surface is a dangerous thing.
May is another good month for hiking.
Before hiking in Iceland, check the map of the available routes. Some of them are too difficult to take if you have no previous experience, so always choose the route you will be able to walk. There are different travel routes for one-day hikes, longer hikes, et cetera.
Landmannalaugar, or People’s Pool, is the best place for hiking. You can find this hiking trail on the edge of the Laugahraun lava field, and this is a truly stunning place. The People's Pool is made of rhyolite mountains, which explains the colorful surface of the land you will walk on. To make the most of this hiking spot, you can walk and travel by car. The Hekla Volcano, a stratovolcano that is almost 1,500m high, is an impressive thing to see during the hiking tour. You can get tired of this walk, but do not worry: hot-spring bathing in Landmannalaugar will give you a second breath.