Real Talk: what will the weather be like in [insert month] in Iceland?

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:

  1. It’s completely unpredictable, which makes the weather forecast a good party game at best
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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8 thoughts on “Real Talk: what will the weather be like in [insert month] in Iceland?”

  1. Parker says:

    Oh Auður, I love your blog, your posts and your wonderful way with words. Thank you! I think you really do everyone a huge gift when you say to treat the unpredictable weather as just part of the Iceland experience and to let go of having things planned and carried out perfectly. My husband and I visited in October and experiencing the vastly changing weather as we traveled around the south was incredible! It rained, there was fog, then the sun would burst through and there would be rainbows, then it was raining again. Honestly, it was pretty magical. So much so that we’re bringing our 3 sons to Iceland in April! I think without your encouragement Auður, we might have lamented some of the weather, or at least not had the attitude we did, of enjoying all hte changes and unpredictability. In some ways, it takes pressure off, believe it or not! So, thank you very much, you are so appreciated! (PS- do yall still offer the dinner with an Icelander “tour”?)

  2. sherry verstraete says:

    Thanks for the weather info. You made me laugh out loud when you said weather is pretty shirt but I understand the unpredictability. We’re coming the last week in March with our rain pants 🙂

  3. Hanne says:

    Nice article.
    That last paragraph says it all (for me) : the good gear and the right attitude!!!
    When did my roadtrip around Iceland I weared or carried in my backpack: gear for 4 seasons. (4 seasons in 1 day, was my experience over there) and this did it well.
    Important, aside rain gear is windproof clothing too. We are not used to wind every day or such strong and freezing wind on the continent.
    Most people have good gear, but the attitude… (when I hear family/collegues: Iceland??? Are you nuts? Holidays in bad weather!” :-)) (Well, stay away then, so WE have MORE space and silence/rest/…. :-))

  4. John Nixon says:

    Just got back from Iceland yesterday. Was there from Feb. 6 to Feb. 12 on a group tour. It was raining and blowing sideways when we arrived. Rained every day but one, but that one day was sunny and spectacular. Blowing so hard on the Golden Circle tour that it was hard just to stand upright, but we persevered. Was told that other tour groups canceled out that day. Only had one night when it wasn’t raining that we could go out and look for the Northern Lights. No such luck in seeing them but a few of us still had a good time. Many on our tour were bitching about how the tour was billed as “Iceland’s Magical Northern Lights”, but they didn’t get to see them…like the tour guide should flip a switch to turn them on.

    Would I do it again? You bet! Folks, prepare yourself for all kinds of weather and have a positive attitude and experience Iceland as it is!

  5. vicky Frieberg says:

    I am coming Friday..so excited I cannot get off this blog! I have my -25 coat and muk luks, my regular walking shoes..rain coat, wool socks, swimming suit..I have never in my life packed so much for such a short journey! My camera gear alone should kill me in the airport lol! I hope we get to meet, your blog is awesome, but your tours are booked while I am there! ):

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes, unfortunately (or, actually, fortunately) our tours are very popular and often book weeks in advance. We’ve added two extra tours on Friday but they are all booked out.

  6. Donna says:

    So happy to have found your blog! We will be arriving on 2/26 and I had been worrying about the weather forecast. You’re absolutely right: no matter the weather, we’ll be experiencing a wonderful country and will simply go with the flow! I can’t wait! ? (The Mean Girls gif made me laugh!)

    1. mm Auður says:

      That’s the spirit! 🙂

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