Sometimes I feel like I should have studied meteorology. Or that I should have weather-specific psychic powers like Mean Girl Karen Smith who had a “fifth sense” about these things.
You see, a big part of what I do in my life is answering questions about Iceland. These questions may include questions about the tours we offer or where you can buy a pink undergarment with roses on it in Reykjavík (the questions are often very specific) but about half of the time, the questions are about the weather. And/or the northern lights and consequently how the weather will affect the chances of seeing them.
I’ve tried to answer questions about the weather in Iceland in multiple posts, like this post about how to plan your trip to Iceland around the weather and that time when I wrote about what the weather is like in Iceland in winter. I also wrote a post that included detailed statistic about snow in Reykjavík which I was quite proud of (I mean, it included a graph in the colors of my logo and everything) and a post about having a little faith and letting go of having to control everything, including the weather. But because I saw that these post didn’t quite quench the weather-related thirst of my readers, I also started a series about what to expect when traveling to Iceland during each month of the year where I dig into this topic based on my experience as an Icelander that has lived in Iceland most of my life.
Yet somehow, people still have more questions.
Before we go any further, just in case you haven’t read any of the posts above (or anything on this topic in general) there are three things you need to know about the Icelandic weather:
- It’s completely unpredictable, which makes the weather forecast a good party game at best
- It can change very quickly so even though the forecast says today that the weather tomorrow is supposed to be great that may change three hours from now.
- Although we often have nice weather by Icelandic standards, it’s never Southern-Europe-in-summer nice or even a winter-day-in-SoCal-nice.
So, let’s just be real here for a moment. The weather in Iceland is actually pretty shitty most of the time by most standards. The summers are cool and wet enough that you still have to wear a jacket most evenings and the winters are full of storms and rain and darkness. A light jacket but still a jacket. We can’t even promise that we’ll have snow in the winter – something that people often mention wanting to experience – because every year is different. Some winters we have a lot of snow while others (like this winter, for example) we have practically none.
I happen to think that this is one of the charms of Iceland. It’s completely unpredictable and you cannot get away with disregarding nature here because it’s there all the time, practically screaming in your face. A winter storm that cancels your tour is part of the Icelandic experience, just like the beautiful clear days are, because that’s what Iceland is really like. Which is why if you stay here long enough, you develop a profound appreciation for the good days when they come and you don’t complain when the days are not that great because you know it could always be worse.
But what does this mean for you as a traveler? How can you plan your trip around the weather?
The point that I’m trying to make here is that you can’t. When you ask me What will the weather be like the last week of March? or I see that the weather forecast says it’s going to be raining a lot in three weeks, should I pack rain pants or maybe postpone my trip? and I answer I don’t know it’s because I really don’t know. No one knows!
There are a few things you can kind of count on, though. June to August are usually the best months weather wise. It can still snow in July but it happens rarely. November to March are the worst when it comes to storms and such. September tends to be wet while statistically, May is the driest. It doesn’t mean you won’t see any rain if you come in May, you might be here the year where it snows in May or you may be here the year that the temperature goes over 20°C three days in a row. There’s no way to know beforehand which one, if either, you will experience.
Looking at the weather forecast more than a week in advance is completely useless. Things will have changed at least seven times before the day actually arrives. At times even the short-time forecast can be completely wrong. Just prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Iceland is just one of those countries where you have to let go of control and take things as they come. I understand that this is difficult, I’m a complete control freak myself (being an adult child of a (recovering) alcoholic, control issues and codependency are in my DNA), but you are going to make yourself crazy trying to plan everything to the tee. And you’re going to make me crazy by constantly asking me questions I don’t have any answers to. That’s just too much crazy for one trip!
In the end, the weather doesn’t actually matter that much and you can absolutely enjoy Iceland even in the worst of weathers. All you need is the right gear and the right attitude. In my experience, our guests in general should teach seminars on having a positive outlook in life because they’re such good sports about everything. So I know you can do this! Just relax and pack some rainpants. You’ll need them, or you won’t. You probably will, though.