A few things to keep in mind when traveling to Iceland this autumn

Autumn leaf

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, especially if you are packing your bag to come to Iceland right now and all you have in there are shorts and flip flops (because summer is not over til you say it’s over), but summer in Iceland is officially over. We’ve had our first autumn storm, the leaves are turning and I saw someone wear a parka yesterday. My parka is still in the “winter clothing” section of my wardrobe, waiting patiently for the time to resume its duty.  I personally think it’s still way too warm for a parka but obviously this someone disagrees.

At this point you may be thinking to yourself “I knew we should have done Bermuda this year, who goes to Iceland in autumn?” but I am here to tell you that you made an excellent choice. If you own a pair of rain pants, that is. I kid. Not really. But still.

Horse in the Icelandic autumn

I love the Icelandic autumn. I have to put a disclaimer on this though and let you know that I’m a bit of a seasons slut, I love them all in their own way, but I really love the autumn. I love the storms, they are cozy, and sideways rain makes me feel like I’m on some crazy expedition when I do my tours. Like I’m the leader of the 12 souls that follow me and it’s my job to get them to back to the safety of cozy cafés and swimming pools. I love when it gets a little bit darker and you can start lighting candles again that make your home look extra homey and warm and nice. I also love my parka, like seriously love it to an extent that if I was asked who I would have want to have with me on a deserted island I would seriously consider it over the boyfriend. I probably would end up choosing the boyfriend, I’m not a monster, all I’m saying is that I would have to think about it.

I also love the golden autumn light that makes everything extra magical, especially just after the rain. The moss literally glows and you just want to roll around in it and laugh hysterically because you don’t know what is appropriate in the presence of such beauty. I love seeing the kids all bundled up with their backpacks that are bigger than them, embarking on that eternal journey that will make them wiser and better individuals. All while they learn cope with the embarrassment of their parents gushing how grown up they look on their first day of school and all the things they find to humiliate them with in front of their school mates from that day forward. And I love the return of the northern lights.

Northern Lights 7

So Iceland can be magical in the autumn and it’s not like it’s always raining. Just most of the time. You can chose to sulk about getting a little wet while you marvel at the wonders of Icelandic nature or you can chose to take it for what it is: a part of this amazing experience. I mean, you’re on vacation, damn it. Also, if you join one of my tours I can tell you about bars that have happy hours all day so you don’t have to deal with the weather. After a beer or three you don’t care anyway. Win-win if you ask me*.

With that in mind, here are a few things that are good to keep in mind for your autumn trip to Iceland

The Weather

The weather in Iceland is unpredictable at any time of the year but even more so in the autumn and winter. If you are going to be driving around the country you should be prepared for anything and you should check saftetravel.is, vedur.is and road.is often. More importantly you should follow the instructions there and not be all “I’m the king of the world and look how good I look on Instagram“, throwing caution to the wind.

What to wear

You know, I sometimes feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record but dress in layers. Lather rinse repeat. Although, as I mentioned, we often get a lot of rain in the autumn we also get a lot of beautiful calm sunny days that seem to go on forever but you still want to be prepared for the rain. Especially the infamous sideways rain. So my suggestion is that you leave the umbrella at home (you’ll understand why when you get here) and bring a rainproof jacket, rain pants if you intend to go out of the city and be outside for extensive periods of time and waterproof shoes if you have them. I discovered last year that although there is usually a correlation between Gore-Tex and unimaginably ugly, you can find cute shoes that are waterproof too.

The new goritex shoes

I know there are a lot of ladies out there that have fancy Hunter boots that are great in the rain but in my experience, and this is just my experience, boots like that are not great when it comes to hiking in the rain. They’re kind of slippery and stuff. But if you just plan to be in the city and maybe do the Golden circle and such then by all means bring your cutest yellow raincoat and Hunter boots.

You also don’t need your Uggs or ski pants. It’s not that cold. Just wet.

The Northern Lights

You can often see the northern lights as early as the middle of August and this year we’ve seen some spectacular shows already.

I’ve written a lot of posts about the aurora and I can’t be bothered to repeat everything they say but all you have to know is that, yes,  you can see them outside of the “aurora season” (Nov-March), you don’t have to leave Reykjavík to see them but the further out of the light pollution you can get the better and then finally the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and they cannot be turned on for your convenience. I know it can be frustrating not to see them but you have to try to not allow it to ruin your trip. Come here for the nature, the friendly people and the good beer and if you see the northern lights too – that’s just an extra special bonus.

*This post is not promoting misuse of alcohol in any way – please drink responsibly. And please responsibly drink one for me too. 

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21 thoughts on “A few things to keep in mind when traveling to Iceland this autumn”

  1. I love Reykjavík in the fall (I’m coming back in October for the 6th time!) As you mentioned, there are days in the fall that are absolutely gorgeous. The swimming pools aren’t so crowded (I love the afternoon light in Vesturbæjarlaug). The rain can linger but usually comes in squalls which you can usually see coming—I duck into a coffee shop, store or other shelter till it blows over. Merino wool underwear really makes a difference for me and doesn’t get as ‘funky’ the way polyester can. My circulation isn’t the greatest so I use hi-tech neoprene gloves under regular gloves to keep my hands warm. A good woolen scarf helps a lot and can be worn in a variety of ways depending on the conditions. And, of course, a good hat. The temperature is never real cold, but that wind can get to you in a hurry.

  2. cecilia says:

    Hi, my boyfriend was really impressed with the video of the aurora, and asked me to ask you what settings did you put on the video camera?

    thank you! 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      I didn’t shoot it – I’m pretty sure I saw the person who shot it talk about this was him taking his new Sony (alpha something maybe) for a spin with the northern lights for the first time.

  3. debbie deb says:

    Rain pants? Really? Oh boy. My mom and I are flying out from NYC on Saturday and arriving on Sunday for a short 3-day stay before continuing on to Holland. Thought i had us covered with a sort of down jacket-y thing. rain pants. Do you wear those over regular pants or ARE they your pants? And do you need them for walking around town? Sounds like you do. drats.

    1. mm Auður says:

      You don’t REALLY need rain pants but they are good to have if you are caught in really rainy weather or a storm. They are basically pants you just put on top of your regular clothes and can be bought here for not a lot of money if you need them .

    2. cecilia says:

      Definitely take something waterproof. I went in May, and rain pants were an absolute God-send. The wind can be very strong, so forget umbrellas as they will be no use. Rain pants are also very good as an extra wind protection outer layer, help stop the polar wind from blowing a draft through your normal clothes.

  4. Rhea says:

    Thanks, Auďur. All of your info is interesting and helpful. We leave in two weeks to visit through all of Oct. Our short visit in mid-May showed us what Professor Batty said: not so cold but oh that wind.

  5. Amanda says:

    Thanks for the info! I leave in 14 days and I am so excited I can hardly stand it! This post was super helpful, I was debating what kind of jacket to bring. I have a rain coat, rain pants and some base layers. My friend just took me shopping to get some cute fallish clothes for going to dinner. Thanks so much for the helpful info, I’ll be sure to have a beer for you! <3

  6. Hello Audur,
    I love your post! Very helpful. We are coming to Iceland and will be staying in Hafnarfjordur. But we’ve rented a car and also love to walk. We plan to drive around and see the landscape and we love small towns. Also plan to be in Reykjavik a few days and evenings. We arrive end of October and staying 10 days. I know about having to wear layers, I’m Canadian living in Ottawa, where weather can change drastically from morning to afternoon. I will definitely get some rain pants, thanks!. My question is, how heavy/warm of a jacket should I bring. How cold does it get end of October early November?
    Any help is welcome.
    Lisa 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s difficult to say – it might be fairly warm and it might also be really cold. If you have a good outer shell and a primaloft jacket or a good middle layer that might be better as you can mix and match depending on weather.

      This last winter I didn’t buy a parka until after Christmas and just wore my primaloft and wool sweaters until then and was fine.

      1. Lisa Christinidis says:

        Great! Thanks. Counting the days. Looking forward to seeing it all.

        Lisa

  7. Thank you so much for this blog and especially this text. I’m going to Reykjavik next week (5th of november) and I’ve read much on your blog. I’m going all by myself and I really needed to have this blog for my trip. Sorry to miss out the good beer but I don’t think I can manage to go out to a pub by myself. Anyway, I’m looking forward for this trip so much now.

    1. mm Auður says:

      You’re welcome – I think you should go out for a drink even though you are alone. You never know, you might meet some new friends 🙂

      1. Rhea says:

        I agree about going out. The town will be buzzing with Airwaves. My sons were here last week. One is a nightowl. He met some locals and had a great time bar-hopping (even on his tight budget) and learning about Iceland. I’m an old woman but never hesitate going out on my own in Reykjavik. If I were a beer fan, I would go to bars on my own. Enjoy your visit. Ours ends (after 33 days) on Monday. We’re trying to adust to our return to the heat!

      2. I did! Or, I was on Tinder and meet two guys from there. Came home yesterday from Reykjavik, missing it already. Amazing city and an amazing country. I sure will come back!

        1. mm Auður says:

          Glad to hear you had a good time 🙂

  8. Deborah says:

    Hi Auður , finding your blog about Iceland has been such a great gift, all the information I will ever need, I love it!
    I am travelling to Iceland in september for the first time and I was wondering if a light down jacket would be neccesary in autumn.

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s good just to dress in layers – what kind of layers is up to you. Autumn is also relative, I usually don’t start wearing my parka for example until October or November.

  9. Herminia says:

    Hi Audur, many thanks for all those details, very useful!!!!  In fact, I am planning a trip to Iceland this year by end of Sept and beginning of Oct.
    I am targeting to go to Reykjabik, Akureyri, Egilsstadir and Hofn. I believe that for these places it is better to take additional layers and even maybe snow pants, what do you think?
    By the way, it seems that many roads are closed during this period. Do you know how to arrive to Akureyri from Reykjabik? Are you making tours during this period (End Sept, beginning Oct)?

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I doubt that you’ll need snowpants in September – good rainproof pants would be better. What you are describing is basically driving the whole ring road in which case make sure you have enough time for it.

      The only roads closed in September are highland roads. The main roads are all open.

      1. Herminia says:

        Thanks a lot for your reply :-). In fact I will be in Iceland from Sept, 29th to Oct 8th, so it will be mainly in Oct. I think that 9 days might be enough to visit these places… what do you think?
        Do you know whether there is a specific bus network active in Oct? I have being looking for it but not easy to find clear information…… what would be your recommendation? Thank in advance, I appreciate it so much 🙂

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