There’s something truly magical about a trip to see the ethereal landscapes, jagged edges of icebergs, sand that’s black as night, ancient waterfalls, and more. As you start planning your trip, you’ll want to decide what time of the year is the best time to go to Iceland. There’s almost no wrong time to go but when you go will impact what you’ll see, where you can go, and how you string together your itinerary.
So before you book that flight, here’s what you should know about the different seasons of Iceland and how they can impact your vacation.
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Here's what we're covering:
- Iceland’s Travel Seasons
- Best Time To Visit Iceland
- When is the best time to see puffins?
- When is the best time to see the Iceland northern lights?
- When is the best time to see whales?
- When is the best time to visit for weather?
- When is the best time to avoid rain?
- When is the best time for hiking?
- When is the best time to climb a glacier?
- When is the best time to explore ice caves?
- When is the best time for hot springs?
- When are there the fewest crowds?
- When is the cheapest time to go?
- When is the best time to go for sightseeing
- Worst Time To Go To Iceland?
- Iceland Weather By Month
- Special Holidays, Festivals and Events in Iceland
- Frequently Asked Questions
Iceland’s Travel Seasons
To tee things up, it’s worth breaking down the primary seasons in Iceland so you have a general idea of your options.
These seasons also play a big role in what to wear in Iceland.
Summer – High Season
Months: Mid-June, July, and August
This is by far the most popular time to go in volume which is why this is considered to be Iceland’s peak season. June to August, visits will enjoy pleasantly mild climate and the midnight sun, or close to it.
Long days means that you’ll have a lot of time pack in a lot of things into your schedule and the entire island will also be available for outdoor adventures.
The tradeoff of course is that you’ll encounter thicker crowds at the popular sights, and more expensive hotels and car rentals. You’ll also have to book things in way more advance so definitely don’t procrastinate in your Iceland trip planning.
Read next: Get to know all the ins and outs of renting a car in Iceland.
Winter – Low Season
Months: Mid-October to mid-May
In many places around the world, visiting in the winter isn’t desirable but that isn’t the case in Iceland.
While it does get cold, the surprising thing is that the average temperatures rarely go below freezing. What you get with winter climate are clear and dark skies, perfect for the aurora borealis.
Days are shorter (4-6 hours of daylight) but with that, you’ll be able to take advantage of hot springs, snow-based adventures, and nightlife. As the low-season, you’ll often have many places to yourself. Prices on everything are also lower.
What you should keep in mind is that much of northern Iceland will be inaccessible and smaller towns will be closed down during these months.
Spring / Fall – Shoulder Season
Months: Mid-May to mid-June and September to mid-October
We’ve also recommended travelling during shoulder season and for those that are a bit indecisive, this might be the best balance of both seasons.
If you manage to come during this short range on the calendar, you’ll enjoy smaller crowds, better prices, and wide availability of accommodations and rental cars.
In the spring, you’ll have a chance to see the thaw of winter and the landscape start to bloom. In the fall, you’ll see changing colors. In both, you’ll have chances to see northern lights.
The daylight hours are pretty “normal” by most standards and weather is comfortable as long as you are prepared with layers.
Ultimate Iceland Travel Guide
Read the 8 day Iceland itinerary that is packed with information.
Best Time To Visit Iceland
Let’s just cut to the chase. You want to go to Iceland to see and do things you’ve seen and read about. What’s on that bucket list of yours will have a big impact on what time of the year you go to Iceland.
My advice: Your FOMO (fear of missing out) will tell you that you want to do everything but the reality is that you can’t. There’s no real bad time go to Iceland, you just need to come back a couple of times to see it all.
When is the best time to see puffins?
Like on our 7 day Ireland itinerary and trip to Newfoundland, you might’ve heard that there is an 8-10 million population of puffins that make Iceland home. This is 60% of the world’s Atlantic puffin population!
The best time to see the puffin in Iceland between May and early August.
Curious where you should go to spot them? They’re mostly along the coast but more specifically, you should look at going to:
- Látrabjarg Cliffs in the Westfjords
- Nature Reserve Park of Hornstrandir
- Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands)
- Breiðafjörður (Breidafjord)
- Lundey (Puffin Island)
When is the best time to see the Iceland northern lights?
One common factor in planning the best time to go to Iceland is being able to see the aurora borealis aka northern lights.
The formula for northern lights is a dark sky, surge of solar activity, and no clouds. They’re quite elusive because you need all 3 variables to be present. Most likely, it will be cloud cover that will affect your chances to see them.
For the best chances of seeing the northern lights in Iceland, you’ll want long hours of dark sky on your side which his why mid-September to mid-April is when the aurora borealis start appearing.
If you want a high probability of watching this night light show, October to November is your best bet because there’s less chance of precipitation.
When is the best time to see whales?
For whale watching, you’ll be able to see them from April to October. However, the peak season is in the summer months of June, July, and August when they are in Iceland en-masse.
If you come in the winter, it’s technically still possible to see orcas. It’s just a matter of having good weather and making your way to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where they run tours that have you wearing thermal suits to keep you warm.
When is the best time to visit for weather?
If you’re looking for just the best overall time to visit Iceland where you don’t need a heavy jacket, waterproof gloves, and wool-lined boots, the summer months and in particular, July and August are the most comfortable.
The average highs hover around 13°C (55.4°F) although it can certainly climb up to 20°C (68°F).
These temperatures don’t sound that high but it’ll be just warm enough to maybe wear shorts!
When is the best time to avoid rain?
The months with the lowest average amounts of rainfall are in June and July. During these months, temperatures are around 10°C (50°F) to 12°C (53.6°F).
Our recommendation: Always travel with waterproof gear (these waterproof pants and a jacket like this) when going to Iceland because you never know when you’ll need it and you don’t want to have to be forced to make a panic buy when you’re there.
When is the best time for hiking?
If you’re looking to do a big hike such as going to the highlands of Iceland or the multi-day Laugavegur Trail, you’re going to want the best weather and daylight on your side.
As a result, it should be no surprise that all the summer months plus one of the shoulder months, so between June to September, are the best time to go hiking in Iceland.
Another factor to consider is that the harder-to-reach places like the Highlands and West Fjords are dependent on ferries and roads being open. Most of these don’t open up until mid-June. Some trails may still be covered in snow in May which makes that month a no-go as well.
When is the best time to climb a glacier?
The glaciers are more-or-less accessible all year round but only if it’s safe. Glacier hiking operators always make sure that the routes that are created are stable to traverse. Similar to ice caves, every season will give you a different look to the glaciers because it’s constantly moving and changing.
The other factor to consider is the accessibility of the roads. Most of the glaciers are in the southern part of Iceland on the mountains of Vatnajokull (near Skaftafell) or Solheimajokull which means that the roads should be open but in the deep of winter, none of that is guaranteed.
The best time to go for the most options is in the summer when they offer longer hikes, combo packages, and have more openings. Personally though, shoulder season is great because it doesn’t get as insanely hot hiking up there, and there are fewer groups up there. Winter is great especially when you can combine it with the caves but you won’t last as long up there because it is so cold.
When is the best time to explore ice caves?
While glaciers are accessible all-year round, ice caves only form in the deepest parts of winter. In the summer, these caves are actually fully under water.
The best months for ice cave excursions in Iceland are between mid-November and early March.
There are a couple of places you can do this. There’s the Katla ice cave inside Kötlujökull glacier, caves within the Vatnajökull glacier or Langjökull glacier with their Into The Glacier experience. For a full listing of ice cave adventures, make sure to visit Guide to Iceland.
If you’re in Iceland in the summer, and want to see what it’s like to be in an ice cave, there is an artificial one at the Perlan in Reykjavik, an attraction that has a replica of a real glacier and takes you through the first man-made ice cave in the world. The man-made ice tunnel inside Langjokull can also be accessed all year round.
What’s the difference between glacier caves, ice caves, and ice tunnels?
The main distinction you have to make in your search for an experience is the difference between glacier caves, ice caves, and ice tunnels. In reality, what you’re actually thinking of is a glacier cave and the natural ones can only be entered at the height of winter.
Glacier caves are the most impressive.
I recommend that you try to do a glacier cave located in Vatnajokull and this is the one to book.
When is the best time to see the active volcano?
This is an extremely new sight in Iceland as you might’ve seen in the news about the eruption of the volcano in Geldingadalir. Hot molten lava is continuing to spew from the fissure near Fagradalsfjall.
It’s a 6.6 km round-trip hike (Path B on the official map) so it’s not for everyone but also not difficult in any way. The key is to be as prepared as possible.
While scientists do say that there’s enough magma for the eruption to last awhile, it also won’t last forever.
As long as the weather conditions to drive there is good and the trail is accessible, you should be able to visit. That said, winter will make it much more difficult to get there.
When is the best time for hot springs?
It’s almost a rite of passage to do one of Iceland’s hot water baths – and not just Blue Lagoon.
What you need to know is that Iceland’s public hot springs and private ones where you need to pay an admission such as Blue Lagoon and Secret Lagoon, are open all year round (as long as they are accessible).
When planning your trip, make sure to consider some of the hidden gems such as Seljavallalaug Pool, Reykjadalur Geothermal River, and others. These are bathing areas that aren’t manned and maintained. Some require a bit of hiking to get to as well but they’re totally worth it because you’re able to soak in the middle of nature.
Read next: In-person experience of Seljavallalaug, Blue Lagoon, and Secret Lagoon can be found in the ultimate Iceland guide.
While you can go to the hot springs all year round, the best time is when the outside is starting to dip in temperature and mountain roads are still accessible. This means September and the first half of October are awesome. The tourist crowds also die down at this point.
When are there the fewest crowds?
As we’ve covered, summer is the busiest time of the year and crowds are the thickest. If you like avoiding crowds, come to Iceland pretty much any other time of the year.
Of course, the deep of winter (November to April) will be very quietest of months. It’s a magical time of the year for winterscapes and northern lights but there are fewer people that want to brave the cold so you won’t find a crowd anywhere you go.
The shoulder season is in the short fall or spring months and this is the best balance where you’ll encounter some tourists but it’ll never really be too crowded.
When is the cheapest time to go?
When planning your trip budget to Iceland, there are a couple of factors that come into play but the biggest ones are flights, accommodations, car rentals, tours, and food.
Overall, the best time to have the combined lowest costs while factoring good weather is in the shoulder months of mid-May to mid-June and September to mid-October.
There always seem to be flight deals to Iceland especially from North America and Europe. Your best bet is to set up alerts on Skyscanner and use their tool to find the cheapest months. You’ll find that the lowest prices are in the winter (except around the Christmas holidays).
When thinking about the best time to go to Iceland, start a search for hotel and B&B-type accommodations to get a feel for the differences between the high and low season. You’ll notice a big difference. In the summer, prices are high, and in the winter, they are much lower.
I recommend that you take advantage of Booking.com‘s large inventory of properties and also their discounts for Genius members. B&B rentals are also a great option throughout the island so make sure to look at Airbnb and VRBO (I’m liking them more and more these days).
When demand is high and stock is dwindling, rates shoot up. This is even more so an issue if you’re looking for an automatic transmission car.
Like everything else, summer is expensive and as there are less travellers from shoulder season and into winter, the prices start to drop.
Read next: When booking, make sure to take advantage of the Iceland car rental coupon codes.
I know I’m beating a dead horse here but when looking at the tours in Iceland, you’ll notice that you’ll see some price breaks in the winter.
That said, don’t expect the time of the year to soften the prices too much because it doesn’t change the fact that tours are one of the biggest expenses on any trip to Iceland.
Winter-specific experiences can be just as much as the summer ones.
There’s no getting around it, food is expensive in Iceland compared to other places you might travel to. Between the seasons and months, there isn’t too much that changes here.
When is the best time to go for sightseeing
Having a midnight sun on your side is a huge advantage for sightseeing because you’ll have many hours to plan your day to see all of the wonders of Iceland including the Golden Circle, the waterfalls to the south, northern Iceland, and the more remote islands and peninsulas as well.
That’s why high season (June – August) is such a great time to go to Iceland. While this is counter intuitive to much of what we’ve covered so far, something interesting to consider is that the daylight of early morning and late evening are fabulous times to go sightseeing because there will barely be anyone out there.
Weather during these months will typically be on your side and the entire island will be available to you.
Iceland is renowned for its numerous spectacular waterfalls, geysers, and volcanoes. In order to see as much as you can, you’ll want to have longer days, fewer crowds to interrupt the view, and weather that doesn’t make roads impassable. That means going in the weeks that frame either end of the high season, around the last week of May through mid-June, or anytime in September.
Worst Time To Go To Iceland?
There really isn’t a bad time to go to Iceland but if you’re very particular about certain things, here’s some food for thought.
If you hate crowds – The worst time to go to Iceland is in the summer (mid-June to August).
If you don’t like cold weather – While it certainly doesn’t get as cold as people imagine, the chill is not something you want to mess with.
If you have trouble sleeping – The midnight sun can really mess with your sleep with the constant light so keep that in mind if you’re sensitive and if you do go in the summer, pack an eye mask.
If you want to see the whole island – Many of the smaller mountain roads are closed late September into June since there is still snow and ice so if you plan on heading out to the highlands or want to circumvent all of Iceland, you should try to avoid those winter months.
Iceland Weather By Month
A constant throughout the year in Iceland is the unpredictable nature of the climate. Covered in our article on what to pack for Iceland, you need to be ready for everything.
Let’s jump into notable differences between the months if you were to travel to Iceland during that time.
Here are a couple of handy charts to give you an idea of what the weather is like in Iceland by month.
January in Iceland
This is the coldest month of the year but if you look at the numbers, it isn’t as cold as you think it would be. Winter in Toronto or New York City can easily dip lower than this in January.
That said, it’s the high speed winds that will make you feel very cold.
Average min: -3°C / 26.6°F
Average max: 2°C / 35.6°F
Precipitation: 105mm / 4.13 inches
Daylight: 11:19AM to 3:143PM (4.5 hours) to 10:11AM to 5:12PM (7 hours)
February in Iceland
Still deep in the winter and similar in temperature to January (hovering near freezing) except you start getting a lot more sunlight.
Precipitation wise, there’s slightly less but you can still expect to see snow almost everywhere you go.
Average min: -2°C / 28.4°F
Average max: 3°C / 37.4°F
Precipitation: 100mm / 3.94 inches
Daylight: 10:08AM to 5:15PM (7 hours) to 8:39AM to 6:42PM (10 hours)
March in Iceland
The temperatures will remain largely the same again in March but you’ll continue to enjoy increasing daylight.
There’s a small uptick of precipitation but snow will transition to more rain. There’ll also be a lot more sunny days over
The mountain roads and anywhere outside of the capital and southwestern Iceland will be largely closed or only accessible by 4×4.
Average min: -1°C / 30.2°F
Average max: 3°C / 37.4°F
Precipitation: 105mm / 4.13 inches
Daylight: 8:35AM to 6:45PM (10 hours) to 6:49AM to 8:16PM (13.5 hours)
April in Iceland
Locals will rejoice as this month marks the end of winter in Iceland where you’ll see a steady climb in temperatures although by most standards, it’ll still be cold.
While precipitation amounts fall, be prepared for a random mix of rain and snow.
Additional gains are made in daylight hours to the point when you’ll get more sun than most northern hemisphere countries will get at the height of summer.
Average min: 1°C / 33.8°F
Average max: 6°C / 42.8°F
Precipitation: 80mm / 3.15 inches
Daylight: 6:46AM to 8:19PM (13.5 hours) to 5:03AM to 9:48PM (16.75 hours)
May in Iceland
May is the start of the fantastic shoulder season in Iceland. Days are already incredibly long and evenings don’t dip below freezing anymore.
Precipitation is lower than in April but you can still expect to see a few wet days while you’re here.
Average min: 4°C / 39.2°F
Average max: 10°C / 50°F
Precipitation: 75mm / 2.95 inches
Daylight: 5:00AM to 9:51PM (17 hours) to 3:25AM to 11:27PM (20 hours)
June in Iceland
You might be surprised to hear that June has the longest days of the year as opposed to July. You’re basically looking at a sun that skips the ocean horizon and swings back up.
June in Iceland brings on pleasant warm temperatures and halfway through the month you’ll start seeing more travellers to the country. While the average maximum is at 13°C / 55.4°F, you might be lucky enough to see 20°C / 68°F.
Average min: 7°C / 44.6°F
Average max: 13°C / 55.4°F
Precipitation: 70mm / 2.76 inches
Daylight: 3:23AM to 11:30PM (20 hours) to 3:04AM to 11:57PM (21 hours)
July in Iceland
High-season is in full swing. The weather is the warmest in this month. For the most part it’ll feel like spring weather back at home but it could touch up to 20°C / 68°F or higher.
You still have the advantage of incredibly long days but that shrinks towards the end of the month.
Rain is at a minimum.
Average min: 10°C / 50°F
Average max: 14°C / 57.2°F
Precipitation: 67mm / 2.65 inches
Daylight: 3:05AM to 11:56PM (21 hours) to 4:31AM to 10:34PM (18 hours)
August in Iceland
You’re still in high-season here but the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. Temperatures drop slightly but it’s still quite pleasant, midnight sun is behind you, and you’ll see a bit more rain.
Expect a bit more of a chill to run through Iceland especially towards the end of the month.
Average min: 8°C / 46.4°F
Average max: 13°C / 55.4°F
Precipitation: 86mm / 3.39 inches
Daylight: 4:34AM to 10:31PM (18 hours) to 6:07AM to 8:47PM (14.7 hours)
September in Iceland
Shoulder season is back. Crowds disappear after Labour Day and temperatures remain comfortable although you’ll definitely want to bring your layers and jacket. Precipitation can also be quite erratic here so definitely prepare for wind, rain, and perhaps even snow.
This is also the start of conditions of being able to see the northern lights.
Daylight wise, September will feel quite “normal”.
Average min: 4°C / 39.2°F
Average max: 11°C / 51.8°F
Precipitation: 94mm / 3.7 inches
Daylight: 6:09AM to 8:43PM (14.5 hours) to 7:33AM to 7:00PM (11.5 hours)
October in Iceland
Winter is creeping in and autumn is a quickly fleeting moment in Iceland. A brisk chill fills the air and you’ll see your fair share of cloudy days and rain.
This is the rainiest month of the year.
Average min: 3°C / 37.4°F
Average max: 8°C / 46.4°F
Precipitation: 119mm / 4.69 inches
Daylight: 7:36AM to 6:56PM (11.5 hours) to 9:07AM to 5:13PM (8 hours)
November in Iceland
Winter isn’t coming anymore. It’s here. Sunlight drops down to 5 hours by the end of the month and evenings will likely be near or below freezing.
You’ll likely see rain, snow, and fog so be prepared for anything.
Average min: -1°C / 30.2°F
Average max: 4°C / 39.2°F
Precipitation: 110mm / 4.33 inches
Daylight: 9:10AM to 5:10PM (8 hours) to 10:42AM to 3:49PM (5 hours)
December in Iceland
Cold and dark pretty much describes Iceland in December but for those that are hunting northern lights, snow blanketed landscapes, and glacier caves, there’s definitely something for you here.
With limited hours, you’ll need to take advantage of what daylight you can.
Precipitation wise, you’ll see definitely see some combination of rain and snow.
Average min: -2°C / 28.4°F
Average max: 2°C / 35.6°F
Precipitation: 105mm / 4.13 inches
Daylight: 10:45AM to 3:47PM (5 hours) to 11:20AM to 3:41PM (4.5 hours)
Special Holidays, Festivals and Events in Iceland
Without listing every single special date in Iceland, here’s a breakdown of notable holidays, festivals, and events that you should either try to make or avoid.
- [January] New Year’s – This is a 2 day holiday so things don’t open up again until January 3.
- [February] Winter Lights Festival – This is usually the first weekend of February with Reykjavik decked out in lights, shows, and activities.
- [April] Easter – Marking the end of winter, locals will get 5 days off so expect that shops will be closed around this time.
- [June] Iceland National Day – An official public holiday on June 17.
- [June] Secret Solstice Festival – A huge music festival over multiple days in June under the midnight sun.
- [June] International Viking Festival – One of the largest events in Iceland held in Hafnarfjörður at Viking Village over five days in mid-June
- [August] August Bank Holiday – First weekend of August is long weekend called Verslunarmannahelgi.
- [August] Gay Pride – The Pride Parade and other festivities happen over the second week of August.
- [August] Reykjavik Marathon – A huge full marathon and other shorter runs that brings in ton of international runners as well.
- [August] Menningarnótt – Right after the marathon’s end is a “Culture Night” where the streets clear and you’ll find all sorts of cultural events throughout Reykjavik.
- [September] Reykjavik International Film Festival – This is a 10 day film festival that features world premieres and award-winning movies.
- [October] Iceland Airwaves – Another big indie/alternative music festival that has grown in popularity in recent years.
- [December] Christmas – Christmas is quite a magical time to visit Iceland with plenty of holiday lights and all the Christmas traditions. In Iceland, the most important night of celebration is Christmas Eve so expect things to quiet down on that day.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best time to go to Iceland is in September.
It is always a good idea to book well in advance whether it comes to accommodations, flights car rentals, and activities.
The best website for Iceland border measures is on Island.is. All travellers are welcome to Iceland as long as you can show a certificate of full vaccination or previous COVID infection. PCR or antigen tests are required 72 hours prior to departure.
The low season is during Iceland’s winter which is from mid-October to mid-May.
The high season is during the short months of summer between mid-June to August.
Iceland’s shoulder season is mid-May to mid-June and September to mid-October.
February is cold and daylight is at a minimum but if you’re hunting for winter experiences such as snow activities, ice caves, and northern lights, it’ll be a great and quiet time to go to Iceland.
The low season of mid-October to mid-May is when it’s cheapest to go to Iceland.
August is a pleasant time to be in Iceland where the days are still long, the weather is fair but you’ll see a bit more rain compared to July. You’ll still encounter crowds because it’s high season.
For the best weather and plenty of time to explore the Golden Circle are the summer months mid-June to August.
As long as the weather, road conditions, hike trails, and lava flow is safe, you should be able to visit. Currently, lava is still flowing. During the winter, conditions will become less optimal to visit.
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