When is the best time to visit Iceland?

There’s a long list of questions that I get asked more frequently than others and somewhere on the top ten of that list is the question: When is the best time to visit Iceland. For many different reasons this is a difficult question to answer. For example, if you can only get time off in February then February must be the best month to visit, right?

In this series of posts about when to visit Iceland I discuss things you need to consider for each month of the year but below I’ll give a general oversight over the different seasons in Iceland and what travelers need to keep in mind.

Visiting Iceland in autumn

Lovely golden sun

Lovely golden sun

I love Iceland in the autumn. I love the golden light, the colorful trees, the crazy storms (only if I can stay inside though) and the coziness that comes with the darkness. From a visitor’s standpoint the autumn should also be a good time to visit because the prices are lower and there are fewer travelers around so most places are not as crowded as during the summer months. On the downside the weather is pretty unpredictable, as it any time of the year actually, and you could end up having some crazy storm alter your travel plans. If you take care and make sure you follow advice about the weather and travel conditions there’s no reason why your autumn trip to Iceland can’t be awesome.

Þingvellir in its autumns colors is one of the beautiful things ever.

Visiting Iceland in Winter

Winter adventure (7 of 33) copy

I’m obsessed with light in all shapes and forms. Pink, yellow and orange sunsets and sunrises get me all worked up and I oohh and ahh like most of you probably oohh and ahh over the northern lights. I also love the snow, mostly when it’s brand new and it hasn’t frozen, rained and frozen again and I haven’t fallen on my butt a million times. I also adore the Christmas time:  the Christmas lights, the mulled wine and Christmas beers.

I’m not sure I’d plan to travel all over the country in winter, despite the fact you usually can, since you might get stranded somewhere due to the weather. That’s OK when you have plenty of time but if you’re on a short winter break  your boss might not appreciate you loosing your flight because it was too windy in Ísafjörður.  Visitors that don’t have a sunset/sunrise fetish like me can enjoy the amazing northern lights and the chilled atmosphere of the city.

Visiting Iceland in Spring

Ahhh… spring. Who doesn’t love spring? The smell of something new and exciting is in the air and the days are getting longer. The spring in Iceland is more like 5 minutes between winter and summer than a whole season but while it lasts it’s absolutely lovely. You’re going to love it because you get to benefit most of the things that make the Icelandic summer great minus the crowds and high-season prices. That means long bright days (although not as long as in June and July), decent weather (it’s still Iceland though) and traveling with more ease.

A video we made during our trip in May 2013. As you can see we had all kind of weathers.

Visiting Iceland in Summer

A pensive sheep enjoying the summer

Visiting Iceland in summer has its pros and cons. The things to look forward to are the long summer days, midnight sun, better weather and everything being more green and lush. The highland roads usually open mid summer too which will give you access to the raw and somewhat untouched part of Iceland. The downsides are more crowds, higher prices and difficulties finding reasonably priced accommodation in certain areas (or any accommodation at all for that matter).

So if you are going with the flow kind of traveler, unwilling to book your summer holiday in January, and your idea of Iceland is desolated vistas barren of human kind then you’re probably in for a bit of a disappointment.  Unless you come in winter or you go to areas like Langanes. If your fear of the cold persuades you to adjust your expectations and you manage to look at sharing Gullfoss with 40 buses as a chance to meet new friends, then the Icelandic summer is definitely worth checking out.

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81 thoughts on “When is the best time to visit Iceland?”

  1. Gwen says:

    I have been to Iceland in November and December 1986 and February 2013 and loved the light, the coziness and the warmth of my lopapeysa but I’m looking forward to coming this July for two weeks. My husband and I have decided to spend most of our time in the North and Northeast to avoid most of the crowds. Do you think that will work? And we’ve also booked a five-day horseback trek to avoid people!

  2. mm Auður says:

    Gwen, there are still areas where you can escape the crowds but the most popular places like Mývatn and Goðafoss etc are always busy. Make sure you check out Ásbyrgi (and the little store there that has a surprisingly decent Thai section). A five day horse trip sounds lovely!

    1. Gwen says:

      Thanks for the tip and we will definitely check out Langanes!!!

  3. I love this post! My husband and I are visiting March 24th – April 4th and it seems like we can mostly expect winter-like climes with longer days. Is that about right? We are both photographers and so excited for our journey. I follow your blog religiously!

  4. Heather Linnett says:

    Thank you for this. Interesting. Summer, Autumn, winter, spring, . I have seen Iceland in Early June, most of July, and most of August., and some (short just for the N.L. of November. I had been in the Faroes, and took a short journey to Iceland. North, North east, Westfjords, South, South east. Eastfjords, South west. wherever I don’t care as long as I go every year. Planning my 5th, hoping to stay away for the 3 months (90 days the most I can be away from Australia, and to stay in Iceland, and in your Winter. I have already been told I am out of my mind. But then I don’t listen to all that. See you in December/January 🙂
    But I do know it will not be easy for me, all I need to do is keep my ‘bum off the ground, and my pride in tact,’ then ‘she’ll be right mate” (Aussie slang for no worries)

  5. Fred Kaijser says:

    Ah yes, I plan to come to Iceland in Mid April, for the first time.
    Reading all those enthousiastic posts I look forward to the changing weather and the beautiful surroundings.
    See you!

  6. Amy says:

    Thanks for this! I’m coming to visit this March (mostly because that’s the best time for me to get off of work). I’m so excited, hopefully the weather will cooperate!!!

  7. Susie says:

    Hi, thank you so much for your wonderful blog. My friend and I are coming to iceland for 10 days in mid may. We are planning to spend a few days in Reykjavik and then travel around for a bit. I was thinking to drive northeast (no further than husavik) with lots of stops for hiking, and eating, whatnot, along the way sounds like a good idea. We would be on the road for 6 or 7 days. But then I keep reading my guide book and I see all these other great places in the south. Now I am torn and can’t decide. It’s our first time in iceland and I don’t want to cram everything into our trip (we’ll come back for seconds and thirds for sure). Any recommendations for 10 days in May?

    1. mm Auður says:

      I did a ten day round trip around Iceland last May – maybe it can give you some ideas: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/category/road-trip-2/

      As for whether you’ll be missing out by not going to the south: no, you’ll just see different equally amazing things and you can see the south next time.

  8. Susie says:

    Thank you, I feel better about my trip planning.

  9. Sarah says:

    I just found this blog, and I’m so happy I did! I’m visiting for my honeymoon from June 29-July 7. I was trying to find appropriate clothing to pack in your blog, but so far, I only found the winter clothing post. I don’t want to look TOO much like a tourist! Do you have a blog post about summer clothing? THANKS!

    1. mm Auður says:

      No, sorry, not yet. But maybe I’ll manage to squeeze it in before the summer 🙂

  10. laura says:

    Hi
    Myself and a group of students are visiting your beautiful country in April. We plan to spend a day in Reykjavik sightseeing shopping etc…have you any suggestions on what not to miss?!! Also we are in the city on Easter Sunday for dinner…do you think wewill we have problems finding restaurants that are open?
    Thanks !! I love your blog 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Laura,

      Well, first of all I think you and your student friends should take my walking tour to really get a feel of the city – If you send me an e-mail I can give you a group offer (depending on how many you are of course).

      I’m not entirely sure about the Easter Sunday dinner – I would think there are some restaurants open but you can probably find information about Easter on the Visit Reykjavík website closer to easter.

  11. Aht says:

    Wow, what a travel blog! Well done. We just finished trip in one country and looking forward next trip to another country already and it may be in winter holiday (December). My son want to see snow and i want to see aurora plus we are love geothermic bath, BUT how harsh is weather at that time i wonder.

  12. Ned Kelly says:

    Great blog, no fluff just the good stuff. 🙂

    We are going in July. Is it true that you cannot do ice caves in summer or dont the exist that time of year?
    Also are there black sand beaches in summer with large ice blocks melting away in July or has that all gone as well?

    wish me luck 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      You know, I just don’t know about the ice caves. I would imagine that’s right since the warmer it get the more the ice melts and maybe they become unsafe and possibly full of water in the summer.

      There are less ice blocks in the summer but I think there are some around Jökulsárlón – I’ve only been there in the off-season for the last few years so I really am not sure.

  13. Farul Ghazali says:

    Great blog. I’ve been planning for a winter vacation for the family sometime in late November and Iceland’s definitely on top of the list. We’re coming from the tropics so it’ll definitely be a big change for us. Thanks for the very useful info!

  14. Heather says:

    This is such a helpful post! I am finally starting to plan a trip to Iceland and now I know exactly what season is best for me…thank you!

  15. Lise says:

    Hi — Great blog, lots of useful info. Thanks! I’m coming to Iceland with my mom (age 75) in early September — is that more autumn-like or summer-like? About what time does it get dark and light? We’re flying to Akureyri then driving the Ring Road back to Reykjavik. She has limited mobility (can’t do steps or steep inclines) — any recommended places to avoid? Thanks for any advice.

  16. IDA ANIDA says:

    Hi,
    Do you operate tour in Iceland?
    If yes, could you please send us quotation for 5 days tour in Iceland?
    If not, do you have recommended tour operator there?

    Thank you,
    Ida

  17. Travis says:

    Hello,

    My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to visit this beautiful country. We love to rock climb and backpack and are curious to get your opinion of the best time to visit so we can enjoy the rock and back country. I thinking summer time. But your the expert. Also if you know of some areas to climb that would be helpful too.

    Cheers!!
    Travis

  18. Orla says:

    Hi, we have a chance to visit Iceland in either mid February or early April. I am very excited. Thing is our daughter is snow mad and we live in a very temperate climate. Will there be any *guarantee* of snow in April (first two weeks)? Thank you.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Short answer: No 🙂

      You have a better chance of seeing snow in the North than here in Reykjavík so maybe include a trip to Akureyri and the surroundings to you trip?

  19. Cassy says:

    Your blog is a wish come true! My fiance and I (set to wed late October 2015) have it on our hearts to visit Iceland for our honeymoon. We’d heard conflicting reports of really bad weather in Autumn, but this post just re-inspired me to stick to our guns. We’d like to avoid most of the tourist spots and instead fold ourselves into the hum of the city and surrounding areas – so it sounds like we picked the perfect time. You can expect a couple of Texans signing up for one of your Glacier Walks at the end of October! Really looking forward to it.

    Warmly,
    Cassy

  20. Tally says:

    What would you recommend 2 women to see/experience within a 2 week window? We both love photography, nature, and exploring the hidden treasures. Could you give us some suggestions please?
    Thank you.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Seeing that this blog is an attempt to answer questions like yours I would suggest you start here: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/archives/ 🙂

  21. Daniel says:

    Hi, my name’s Daniel. I’m from a country named Singapore. We are intending to travel to Iceland end of February’15. We are starting our journey over at Finland and should take a flight to Iceland in between. Saw your wonderful blog and was thinking you could advise the nice places for my short time in your wonderful country!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Daniel. This blog is an attempt to answer what you can do in my wonderful country so I suggest you start here: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/archives/

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Audur! Thank you a million times over for your very informative and enjoyable blog! But I was wondering, can you please clarify which months fall into which season? For example, is March considered spring in Iceland or is it still winter? When does autumn start? September/October? Thank you!!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I can’t really clarify that because we kind of go by the weather here. If the weather is good in March then March is spring, if it’s still snowing and terrible then it’s definitely winter. You know it’s spring when the first flowers start to pop up and there’s a special smell in the air. The official first day of summer according to the calendar is the first Thursday after April 18th. It often snows on this day though.

  23. Jutta says:

    Winter is my favourite season for visiting Iceland (OK, each season is beautyful): Hunting the Northern Lights, visiting frozen waterfalls, going ice caving … it’s all just awesome! Cheers, Jutta

  24. Bruce says:

    Thanks for the blog … it’s giving me a lot to think about … don’t have a plan yet … have been thinking of visiting in the summer (to get out of the hot weather where I live) but now I’m not sure it’s a good idea … I’m inclined to travel without plans and making things up as I go along … maybe the summer time will prove to be a problem for me to do that … will reconsider … thanks to everyone for thoughts that I will consider seriously

  25. Rhian says:

    I am thinking about Iceland for a few days either October or December. When’s best? I really want to go to blue lagoon and worried we couldn’t in December.

  26. Fredy says:

    Thanks for the blog.. It is a great website, plenty of info. I am planning to visit Iceland End June – begin July for at least three weeks. I have just started looking for info and places. My main interest will be visiting volcanos, rocks, waterfalls.. Currently, I am in a very good physical condition and ready for long walks and days.. Could you suggest me places and itineraries!!! However, I can read for previous comments that will be better to rent a car for saving time and getting stops in the cool areas without loosing anything. I really appreciate your help. Thank you.

    1. mm Auður says:

      I suggest you read through the blog, especially the Drive-it-yourself posts (http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/tag/drive-it-yourself/). There’s lot of information already here, you just have to read through the blog to find it.

  27. Asma Khalid says:

    Hi there! I found your website very inspiring journey, matched with my dreams to have my honeymoon vacation coming january 2016 in iceland. Im so fond of this country with all natural environment. Can you advice what will be the weather on january? Love from Malaysia. 😀

    1. mm Auður says:

      Actually I can’t, there’s no way saying what it will be like: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/2013/11/whats-the-weather-like-in-iceland-in-winter/

  28. Trupti Pandya says:

    Hi, I am planning to visit Iceland in December last week or in March last week. is this good time to visit?
    can anyone please guide me on this?

  29. Susie says:

    We are thinking of visiting Iceland for the first time this October for 5 days from the 8th through the 13.
    What can we expect weather-wise? and Any suggestions as to what to do and where to stay?
    Thank you !

    1. mm Auður says:

      Susie, I would suggest you go through the archives of this blog as it’s all about what to do and such: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/archives/

  30. Kelly Barron says:

    As a botanist I would like to visit when the wildflowers are in their peak, when would that be?

    1. mm Auður says:

      The season is very short – it’s just the summer months.

  31. Ted says:

    When do the summer crowds begin to thin? And when do the northern lights begin to return after the summer? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      The season is always getting longer so it’s difficult to say but it’s very busy in June, July and August. The northern lights usually start showing up late August.

  32. Daniel says:

    I want to come to iceland and experience the social structure since the outting of bankers etc. I also want to meet some girls from icelandnas i find their beauty captivating. What time of year wpuld you suggest and what parts?
    Cheers
    Daniel from Australia

    1. mm Auður says:

      I thought I was answering that question in this post 🙂

      I think the women look the same all year round 🙂

  33. Shalini says:

    Hi, We are planning to visit mid April, arriving around April 18. I believe it will be the spring season. Do you think there are any chances of seeing Northern Lights? If yes, are there any northern light tours that still operate post April 15 or do we have go hunting for northern lights on our own. Thanks for the help..

    1. mm Auður says:

      There might be some smaller companies that still offer them as private tours but all the big ones stop at April 15th because it gets increasingly more difficult to see them the brighter it gets. It’s not impossible around that time, just more difficult.

  34. Lilly says:

    Hi, im planning to visit mid August/early September.. Im young so id love to know of the best places to meet new young people my age.. Are there any hostels in particular that are popular? Im really interested in doing a northern lights hunt tour, would i need waterproof pants and shoes for that sort of thing? Im planning on staying for around a week but unsure of just how much il need in terms of food, activities (blue lagoon, the main popular tours/sights) and accomodation (hostels).. Just an roundabout estimate would be awesome! Thanks:)

    1. mm Auður says:

      You will have to make your own budget but if you go through this blog there’s a lot of information and links here that can help you along. Like the price of tours: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/

      Here’s everything I’ve written on what to pack: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/tag/what-to-wear/

      And where to stay: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/hotels-in-reykjavik/

  35. Matko says:

    I want to do a trip with Helga!!

    As long as shes not aussie :))

  36. Jodi says:

    Hi,
    My friend and I are planning to travel to Iceland mid May and are looking at travelling the ring road in an anticlockwise direction (over 14 – 16 days). Travelling from Australia we want to see as much as we can. Are there any local highlights we shouldn’t miss? We are also in debate around timing as we like to hike, yet would like to miss the peak season to save some $$. Do you think mid May to June is a reasonable time to visit?
    Thanks

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you read this blog you will find answer to all your questions!

  37. Jen says:

    Hi,
    I am planning to go to Iceland this year.
    I want the summer view where it is green and all but i will also want a little of winter experience for example walking in glaciers, and northern lights. Is there any specific month where they can overlap each other? The summer and winter experience? Thank You!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Jen,

      You can do a glacier walk year round and you can see northern lights as soon as August. It’s usually pretty green until maybe beginning of September. The fall is better for this than the spring since the spring often arrives quite late and by beginning of May it’s too bright for northern lights.

  38. Thanks for your post. Iceland it definitely on our list. I can imagine it would be nice in all seasons, but we were thinking about a May trip. Might work out good! Thanks again.

  39. Nicole says:

    Hi there,

    what about bugs? Are there a lot of mosquitos/black flies in Spring/summer/autumn?

    It shouldn’t matter but I hate getting trapped in bug season.

    1. mm Auður says:

      no, there are no bugs to speak of in Iceland. Midges around Mývatn and a few other lakes but nothing to worry about.

  40. Megha says:

    Hie
    I am megha and we are travelling from india.We are planning to visit iceland in late June. Wanted to know the highlights during that time as in how many days to stay??which are the must city to visit?? Special attractions???festivals??? Majorly what to expect at that time of the year..
    Thanks you

    1. mm Auður says:

      I would suggest you read some more posts on the blog – a lot of your questions are answered there.

  41. Sharma says:

    Hello, thank you for the wonderful information you provide. We are planning a trip in the beginning of September. We hope to see some northern lights but also to do some trekking. What are the daylight hours like at this time of year? Is it too cold to trek? Are roads still open/drivable for some road trips?

  42. Amit says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article. I wish to experience Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Iceland. Please suggest me the best time to visit there so that may enjoy seeing Northern Lights. Also please tell me whats the expected tentative temperature that time.

    Regards
    Amit Pathak (India)

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hi Amit,

      I suggest you read these posts about the northern lights: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/?s=northern+lights

  43. miled bou rahhal says:

    hey thanks for the lovely article.
    My friends and I are planning to Visit Iceland sometime between September 8th and 14th. I read somewhere in your blog that northern lights tour starts again in September 15th. Is it possible to see them (If the weather and the sky clearness help) during this week (8 – 14 September)
    I know that you consider every season to be unique and has its own activities but do you think the time we are visiting is considered as a dead period between summer and autumn.
    Thanks,
    Miled (Dubai)

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can see the northern lights earlier in September but it’s still not quite dark enough then for the companies to offer tours. But you can see them, I’ve seen them as early as around August 20th.

      September is not considered a dead period. In fact, it’s a great time to visit Iceland.

  44. Sara says:

    Our family of 10, including 2 grandparents, 6 adults and 2 children ages 11 and 13, are daydreaming about a trip to Iceland. It seems to me that hiring a van and a tour guide/driver might be the best for us. We will probably not come in the summer. We want to see the ice caves and other cold-weather sight/sites. Maybe late April or mid-October. Any advice you might have would be helpful, including info on where to find a tour company that does individualized tours.

    1. mm Auður says:

      A private tour could be a good option for 10 people but 10 is a bit of a difficult number because most cars either have 8 or 9 seats or 15-20 and the price is based around that. Also, if you want to do a multiday tour with a driver/guide it could be quite expensive since you need to pay for the accommodation and such for the driver as well. It will probably cost you less to use Reykjavík as your base and do day tours.

      Ice caves are only accessible from November til March so you won’t be able to do that in the time period mentioned.

      You are welcome to send us an e-mail when you know a bit more about when you’ll be coming and we can help you put something together for you.

  45. Scott Hastie says:

    Hiya, Very interesting and useful blog, Audur – thank you so much… I have a question for you – having already been lucky enough to seen the Northern Lights, my outstanding dream is to be able to get close to and see and photograph ice formations and glaciers in azure waters, spectacularly set against a sunny blue sky…

    Can this be achieved easily enough in Iceland – without having to make the very long and expensive trek to the Antarctic? And if so, what season in Iceland and what locations in Iceland give me the best chance of me enjoying this experience?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Just to avoid any confusion, the Antartic is on the other side of the world – Iceland touches the Arctic circle however.

      You should look at the ice cave tours. Like this one: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/partner-tours/ice-cave-tour-in-vatnajokull/

  46. Noke says:

    Hi – When is the best time to go to the Blue Lagoon Spa and which city is it at in Iceland? Does the Blue Lagoon Spa open all year around? Which area to stay in Iceland?

    1. mm Auður says:

      There’s no time better than other for the Blue Lagoon – just whenever you can get tickets for it. The Blue Lagoon is not in any city but the closest town is in Grindavík.

  47. Carl says:

    We are visiting march 21 / 24. Thinking of hiring a car, staying close to the airport KEF. Where do you recommend to go for the beautiful sights?

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can basically drive in any direction if beautiful sights is what you are after 🙂

      1. Carl says:

        Thank you, I’m hearing so many stories warning us off hiring a car because of the bad weather?. Don’t know what to do?

        1. Jamal Hashim says:

          My wife and I were in Iceland from January 19 through 22 and we rented a car through Sixt. Everything went smoothly UNTIL we returned the car. They accused us of causing a scratch on the passenger side front bumper. We showed them the contract that listed scratches in that area along with several other places. They refused to accept that and said that the other scratches were there from before but we caused one new scratch right next to the old scratches. We had some time before our flight so we tried to talk to their Manager etc. to show them that our contract mentioned the scratches but they told us that we should have taken detailed pictures of all the pre-existing scratches on the car when we accepted the car (we were not told to do that when we picked up the car on January 19th).

          They charged us EUR 395 for the damage and while we were trying to explain our case to the different Managers at Sixt, we saw them doing the exact same thing with two other customers who were returning their cars.

          If you end up renting a car, please make sure to take detailed close-up pictures of the car or buy the expensive insurance plans offered by the rental agency.

          1. mm Auður says:

            If you rent a car through this blog from Budget their SCDW now come with zero liability so you wouldn’t have had to pay anything. So the advice about buying the extra insurance is definitely good!

            And I would always recommend you take photos – just in case.

        2. Gwen Van der Zyppe says:

          The Icelandic roads are very good so don’t be afraid. Just listen to the hotel about when and where to drive. We went for 2 weeks in February 2014 and only had one down day due to snow. And there are many beautiful sights everywhere but maybe consider getting a bit away from the airport? Iceland is peaceful but the airport noise could ruin your experience.

          1. Carl says:

            I’m hoping to do the golden circle, blue lagoon and of course go in search of the lights. I think the car will give us freedom and not to mention be lighter on the wallet.

  48. Emma Zielinski says:

    During the Fall does anyone know if the highland roads are open? I’d love to see the “Raw and somewhat untouched part of Iceland” without having to share it with all the people who come visiting in the summer.

    1. mm Auður says:

      They are often open till September-October, depends a little bit on the road and the season.

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