What is actually the best time to travel to Iceland? If you would like to go on a trip to Iceland and you are not sure when to go, here is the best time to go. In summer you can discover the largest volcanic island in the world by hiking, in winter the colorful spectacle of the aurora borealis beckons. In this post you will find tips& Info on the best time to travel to Iceland, so you can choose the period that best suits your interests.
Best time for Iceland
1. The best time to travel to Iceland
Iceland's unique natural spectacles attract travelers all year round. Active volcanoes, geysers, thundering waterfalls and harsh glacier landscapes provide variety and excite nature lovers.
When is the best time for you to travel to Iceland depends on your preferences. If you don't mind the cold and you want to see the northern lights, you should travel to Iceland between mid-September and early April. This is the only time when it is dark enough to see the Aurora Borealis in the sky.
If you prefer warm temperatures, whale watching, hiking in the highlands, or driving a rental car on ice-free roads, then the summer months are the best time to go.
The summer months from June to August are the main travel season for Iceland. Temperatures are mild, roads, including the so-called "F-roads" in the highlands, are open, and the Westfjords region, which is a bit off the beaten path, is easily accessible. So you have a wide range of tours to choose from. Enthusiastic campers can pitch their tents and flexibly go where they want to go. Sheep and horses graze on the wide meadows and the midnight sun illuminates the country almost 24 hours a day.
2.1 The weather in summer
Temperatures: It gets hot – temperatures can climb up to 15°C in summer. Mostly they are between 10 and 15°C. In the south, however, the temperature has been measured as high as 30°C. Likewise, in the summer of 2015, the temperature in the East Fjords once dropped to 1°C. So it's best to find out what the weather is going to be like before your trip and pack your clothes according to the onion principle.
Rain: Summers in Iceland are relatively mild, but when a low-pressure system passes through, it brings heavy rains and violent storms. The rain jacket should be in the luggage as well. Summer is the time when it rains the least, but that still means ca. 10-12 rainy days per month. There can also be (hail-) storms and heavy rainfall. Especially in the highlands, where the weather is very unpredictable, sunglasses, rain gear, warm clothes and windbreaker should not be missing.
- June: 12°C, 5h sun, 11 rainy days (daylight: 20 – 21 hours)
- July: 13°C, 6h sun, 10 rainy days (daylight 21: – 18 hours)
- August: 13°C, 5h sun, 12 rainy days (daylight: 18 – 14.5 hours)
2.2 Travel in the high season
Summer is the busiest time for tourists to visit Iceland, as it is the best time to visit the country and many countries are on vacation. In these months, therefore, there are longer waiting times for transfers, car rentals or at sightseeing attractions.
Many buses with tour groups are on the road, so you have to share the best photo spots with some other people. Prices are also very high during this period. Accommodation capacities are sometimes so full that boarding schools are converted into hotels with shared bathrooms.
Start planning your trip early and book the desired accommodations and excursions well in advance.
2.3 advantages and disadvantages of traveling in summer
Traveling in the summer makes sense, because then you have a free choice of activities and can really take advantage of the daylight. Below, you'll find an overview of the pros and cons for traveling to Iceland in summer.
- long daylight hours (activities can also be done in the evening)
- Roads are open and free of snow
- better weather& warmer
- Variety of activities possible (whale watching, hiking, etc).)
- Everything easily accessible by rental car
- Highlands are passable
- Overnight stay in the open well possible
- high prices
- Ice caves of the glaciers can not be visited
- long waiting times& Many tourists
- accommodations are very crowded / overcrowded
- no northern lights
3. Iceland in winter
Once to marvel at the dancing auroras in the sky, that is the dream of many people. For those who don't mind cold and darkness, the winter months from October to February are also suitable. The following applies: Never underestimate the Icelandic winter! Especially if you want to rent a car, you should expect visibility of less than 3m, storms and huge snowdrifts. Get a suitable four-wheel drive vehicle and only drive if you are used to such conditions, otherwise you could end up in a ditch with an elegant pirouette.
Polar lights can be seen under good conditions between mid-September and early April. In the article Aurora Borealis in Iceland: 4 tips to hunt the northern lights you will find detailed information about it.
3.1 The weather in winter
Temperatures: It gets cold – temperatures are often between -10 and 5 °C. However, the perceived cold, also called wind chill, can be far below these temperatures. In addition, there are often icy gusts, which only the locals are used to.
Rain or. Snow: The deepest winter, from November to February, usually shows up with lots of snow, ice and storms. in between there are always sunny days with very clear view. Temperatures can rise and fall abruptly, and on the same day snowstorms, rain and clear skies can alternate. Snow is less common in winter than in other Nordic countries, but due to constant climate fluctuations, some areas can be cut off by it, while others don't even have snow.
Daylight: the sun rises only a few hours a day and lights up the sky. You do not really see it. In the depths of winter you get only a little over 4 hours of sunshine, while in Germany at this time you still get well over 12. when the sky is covered by clouds, it often stays very gloomy.
- October = 11.5 – 8 hours of daylight
- November = 8 – 5 hours of daylight
- December = 5 – 4 hours and 20 minutes of daylight
- January = 4.5 – 6.5 hours of daylight
- February = 7 – 10 hours of daylight
Weatherproof clothing: Warm, rainproof clothing is essential in winter. This makes even the worst storm an exciting adventure. At the latest when the storm whips the umbrella to the side and the rain pelts against your knees or when you want to go behind the waterfall at Seljalandsfoss, you desperately wish for a pair of waterproof, warm trousers. Spikes are also useful. These can be strapped under all kinds of shoes and they give secure grip on ice and other slippery surfaces.
3.2 A trip to Iceland in winter
Due to the few hours of sunshine and the unstable weather, activities and tours are quite limited. It can always happen that the itinerary has to be changed at short notice and you have to adapt to the conditions.
On the country roads (especially in the east and along the Westfjords) only experienced drivers should venture, who have experience with difficult, unstable winter weather conditions and icy roads.
Nevertheless, a trip to Iceland in winter is worthwhile, especially if you want to see the northern lights. It also offers a contrasting picture of bone-chilling ice and snow alongside hot lava and sulfur steam and pleasantly warm natural springs.
Winter is the best time to visit the region from Snaefellsnes Peninsula to Skaftafell National Park in the south of Iceland, as there is usually not so much snow. Experienced drivers can (depending on weather conditions) also take a rental car for this trip.
In winter you can do the following activities:
- Aurora tour by car or boat
- Taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon or other geothermal baths
- Visiting the sights at the "Golden Circle
- Glacier hiking& Visit ice caves
- Ride a snowmobile
- Snorkeling or diving between the continental plates in Thingvellir National Park
- Boat trip with sightings of orcas, etc.
3.3 advantages and disadvantages of traveling in winter
If you want to travel to Iceland in the depths of winter, you will experience the harsh nature first hand. Below you will find a brief overview with the advantages and disadvantages of an Iceland trip in winter:
- Winter sports from ice climbing to ski touring are possible
- Northern Lights
- lower prices, because of low season
- Ice cave visit is possible
- there are frozen waterfalls& unique landscape formations
- Some regions are inaccessible
- Storms and heavy snowfall can change travel plans on short notice
- winter road conditions
Reading tip: In the article Hiking in Iceland in February – a travelogue you will get detailed insights into the hiking trip Iceland under the Northern Lights in February.
4. Iceland in spring& Autumn
Spring and autumn are good times to travel for those who want to avoid the peak season. If you travel to Iceland in March or April, you still have the chance to see the northern lights, but there are also more hours of sunshine, which you can use for other activities.
If you want to discover as much of the nature as possible, we recommend to travel from the beginning of May to the end of June and from the middle/end of August to the middle of October. The prices are significantly lower, so you can stay a few days more in Iceland for the same money than in the high season. In addition, there is much less crowding at the well-known sights of Iceland.
Conclusion on the best time to travel in Iceland
As you can see, it's hard to say exactly what the best time to travel to Iceland is. If you want to travel to Iceland because of the auroras, you should of course choose the winter months. If you are flexible with the travel time and you don't want to go to the highlands it is recommended to rather not go in the high season, d. h. not to travel in the months of July to August, but in May, June or between mid-August to mid-October.