When is the Best Time To Visit Iceland? High season or off season? Summer or Winter? Let us give you a run down of the pro’s and con’s of visiting Iceland for every month of the year to help you plan the perfect trip.
If you are wondering when is the best time to go to Iceland, you’re not alone. Visiting Iceland has been a bucket list destination for thousands of people since it’s emergence at the top of Lonely Planets Top Places to Visit list all the way back in 2012. But it’s not cheap and it’s not somewhere you go on a whim.
In planning your trip, it is totally understandable that you want to visit Iceland at the right time to make sure you see and experience everything that is on your list. And that’s why we’ve put together this guide – it’s a month by month breakdown of the best time to visit Iceland depending on your interests and weather conditions.
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In This Post
- 1 Best Time To Visit Iceland: A Guide to Visiting Iceland in Winter (December-February)
- 2 Best Time to Go to Iceland: A Guide to Visiting Iceland in Spring (March – May)
- 3 Best Times to Go To Iceland: A Guide Visiting Iceland in the Summer (June – August)
- 4 Best Times to Visit Iceland: A Guide to Visiting Iceland in Autumn (September – November)
Travel Updates & Entry Requirements: Non-Europeans (with the exception of US and UK Citizens) must ensure they have a valid Schengen Visa to visit Iceland.
Best Time To Visit Iceland: A Guide to Visiting Iceland in Winter (December-February)
If visiting Iceland in Winter, expect short days, cold (but not as cold as you would think) temperatures, a blanket of snow and a high probability of being able to see the aurora borealis (the northern lights).
During the winter months there are limited daylight hours – and on the winter solstice (around 21 December each year) there is as little as 3 hours of daylight! This is great for those on the hunt for the northern lights, and provides a ‘golden hour’ effect for the whole time the sun is in the sky. (It’s also why winter is the best time to visit Iceland for Northern Lights 2023)
When it comes to travel around the country in winter, visitors may find smaller, highland and mountain roads impassible and driving conditions quite challenging, with weather patterns unpredictable.
For those who are not comfortable driving in Iceland in these conditions, there are plenty of organized day tours available to help you see everything and enjoy those winter landscapes as much as possible during the low season.
Things to do in Iceland in Winter:
- Glacier Hiking;
- Visit one of the Ice Caves;
- The Blue Lagoon (one of the most famous geothermal pools in Iceland);
- Chase the Northern Lights (book early, the Northern Lights tours sell out fast!); and
- Hire a car & self drive the Golden Circle – the roads are well maintained on the 300km loop throughout the year, but there are driving tours running if you don’t want to get behind the wheel yourself.
OUR TOP PACKING TIPS: Pack Thermals! Make sure you have the right travel gear with our guide to what to pack for Iceland (a guide for every season) and be prepared for the winter weather. Iceland in December can be very very cold.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN ICELAND WINTER: Celebrate the winter world and the end of a long period of Iceland winter at the Winter Lights Festival.
Hours of Daylight: 5 – 4.5
Average Low: -3ºC/27ºF
Average High: 2ºC/35ºF
Hours of Daylight: 4.5 – 7
Average Low: -3ºC/27ºF
Average High: 2ºC/35ºF
Hours of Daylight: 7 – 10
Average Low: -2ºC/28ºF
Average High: 3ºC/37ºF
Best Time to Go to Iceland: A Guide to Visiting Iceland in Spring (March – May)
Whatever the question, Spring in Iceland might just be the answer. As the days get longer, the snow starts to melt revealing Iceland’s lush green landscape for the first time each year.
A contender for the best time to visit Iceland, Spring is shoulder season when prices are lower and tourists are fewer. But for that privilege, expect rain, wind and the occasional sunny day alongside moderate temperatures. (It’s easy to see why Spring is one of the best times to visit Iceland, right?!)
You’ll need a fleece and a rain jacket – and a good pair of waterproof shoes. But with that, there are plenty of opportunities to explore Iceland, gorgeous light for photography, and the opportunity to see the puffins returning to the Iceland coast between mid April and Mid August, and the lambing season in full swing.
There is also a chance to see the Northern Lights until early April, and to experience the waterfalls in Iceland picking up in intensity as the ice melts into the streams and waterways.
Spring is a great time to drive Icelands ring road – not to be confused with the Golden Circle which only takes a few hours to circumnavigate.
The Ring road is a 1300km loop that takes you through some of Iceland’s most spectacular scenery and gives you a great overview of the island. Hire a camper and take a week to drive it. You’ll love camping in Iceland.
Things to do in Iceland in Spring:
- Go on a Puffin Watching Tour and see these beautiful birds in their natural habitat (be sure to add this to your Iceland itinerary if visiting in Spring!);
- Go hiking;
- Play golf;
- Take a dip at Myvatn Nature Baths;
- Go out onto the seas – its a great time for whale watching tour, (there are plenty of boat tours on offer this time of year to see whales);
- Dive between the continental plates at Silfra;
- Go Horseback riding (on Icelandic Horses);
- Go Kayaking;
- Visit the lava fields; and
- get in on the action for the last snowmobiling and glacier walking of the season.
OUR TOP TIP: Pack layers. Thermals, jumpers, t-shirts, light jackets and be prepared to peel them on or off depending on the Iceland weather at the time you get out of the car! (That gulf stream can just jump up on you!)
Ultimately, Spring is a popular answer to the question ‘when to visit Iceland’ and is the best time to visit Iceland for whale watching.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN ICELAND SPRING: Spring is Festival Season in Iceland with the Vaka Folk Festival, Eve Fanfest, and three of the top music festivals in Iceland happen in Spring – don’t miss Aldrei For Eg Sudur, Secret Solstice, and Tectronic.
Hours of Daylight: 10 – 13.5hrs
Average Low: -2ºC/28ºF
Average High: 3ºC/38ºF
Hours of Daylight: 13.5 – 16.75hrs
Average Low: 0.5ºC/33ºF
Average High: 5.5ºC/42ºF
Hours of Daylight: 16.75 – 20hrs
Average Low: 3.5ºC/39ºF
Average High: 9.5ºC/49ºF
Best Times to Go To Iceland: A Guide Visiting Iceland in the Summer (June – August)
Iceland is your (and everyone else’s!) oyster in the Summer months – and is definitely peak season where visitor numbers swell. The weather is mild (for an arctic circle country), heaps of attractions are open and accessible – and prices soar as tourist season gets into full swing and people visit in droves.
Summer (June and July and August) is easily the most popular time of year to visit Iceland and comes with the best weather. The long days and in particular, the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year boasts 21+ hours of daylight make for some perfect conditions for Iceland photography! (They don’t call it the midnight sun for no reason!) and has a range of natural beauty to discover. Summer is the answer to most peoples question about when to go to Iceland.
Things to do in Summer in Iceland:
All of the outdoor adventures, however, make a note that temperatures average 7-12 degree Celsius.:
- Midnight golf (yes, it’s a thing & a great way to experience the midnight sun!);
- Visit Jokularson Glacier Lagoon (an iconic view in Iceland and a great place to be when the sun sets);
- Tour the Golden Circle;
- Road trips on the Ring Road;
- Go Horse Riding;
- Visit the Black Sand Beaches on the South Coast;
- Go Waterfall Hopping;
- See The Geysers;
- Snorkel Between the Eurasian & American Tectonic Plates;
- The Blue Lagoon;
- Secret Lagoon;
- Take on some of the best hikes in Iceland;
- Lake Mývatn Nature Bath and Nature Reserve;
- Volcano Hiking;
- See the Puffins (Until August); and
- Visit the waterfall at Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
And pack an eye mask. Iceland isn’t famous for it’s block-out blinds and the midnight sun can have a negative effect on anyone’s body clock.
Oh, and get in on the Ice-cream action. (A favorite Icelandic pastime is to go for an ice-cream drive (ísbíltúr) to the nearest town.)
FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN ICELAND SUMMER: Seamans Day / Sailors Day is celebrated on the 1st Sunday in June; National Day is celebrated all around Iceland on 17 June; The Great Fish Day happens in Dalvík in August (and is a haven for seafood lovers!); There is the Bræðslan music festival in East Iceland in July and Gay Pride and Culture Night in Reykjavík fall in August.
Hours of Daylight: 20 – 21hrs
Average Low: 7ºC/44ºF
Average High: 12ºC/53ºF
Hours of Daylight: 21 – 18hrs
Average Low: 8ºC/47ºF
Average High: 13ºC/56ºF
Hrs of Daylight: 18 – 14.5hrs
Average Low: 8ºC/47ºF
Average High: 13ºC/56ºF
Best Times to Visit Iceland: A Guide to Visiting Iceland in Autumn (September – November)
Iceland in the Fall is awash with color and it is thought of as one of the best time of year to go to Iceland to avoid the crowds.
The National parks are bathed in red, orange and yellow interspersed with patches of green moss across the lava fields which is most vibrant just before the snow arrives. There is still enough daylight for most summer activities but temperatures are slightly cooler and there are fewer tourists with lower prices.
There is also the possibility to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) from mid November onwards – however, be warned – to catch them you’ll have to be out late into the night (or very early morning!) and away from any sources of light pollution for any chance to see some aurora activity.
Fall is also classed as off-season and is a great time to visit away from the busy summer crowds and you’ll also benefit from cheaper prices. We’d say that November could be considered the best month to visit Iceland because you have the opportunity to see the Lights and whilst paying slightly cheaper prices.
Things to do in Iceland in Autumn:
Apart for the usual activities (The Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, Day Trips to Vik, Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, Diving Silfra and Horseriding etc) you can also
- swim in the many natural pools and hot springs; and
- possibly witness a round up – when the farmers start to gather the sheep and horses before winter sets in.
OUR TOP TIP: Pack a scarf and gloves, whilst temperatures remain above freezing, the weather in Iceland can change on a dime and it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Hours of Daylight: 14.5 – 11.5hrs
Average Low: 5ºC/41ºF
Average High: 10ºC/50ºF
Hours of Daylight: 11.5 – 8hrs
Average Low: 2ºC/36ºF
Average High: 7ºC/45ºF
Hours of Daylight: 8 – 5hrs
Average Low: -1.5ºC/29ºF
Average High: 3.5ºC/38ºF
So there you have it – hopefully, this month by month breakdown of the best time to travel to Iceland has been super helpful for trip planning. And you have realized that there is no worst time to visit Iceland as there is plenty going on throughout the year.
Personally, our vote for the best months to visit Iceland goes to Spring or Autumn as the best season to visit Iceland, but after reading this we’ll let you make up your own minds!
What would be your ideal season? Let me know in the comments below.
Oh, and if you enjoyed this guide to the best time of year to visit Iceland, please, tweet pin or share on Facebook – I’d really appreciate it! (click the P in the left-hand share bar to see the hidden pin!)
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