Best Time to Visit Iceland: Month by Month Breakdown

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Iceland is a land of extremes, a land where tumultuous natural forces have shaped the landscapes over thousands of years, and a land where the extremes can be both beautiful and deadly.

The weather is no exception and being located so far north, and so close to the Arctic Circle, the weather in Iceland can be as extreme as the volcanoes and the geothermal energy.

Winter is almost perpetually dark, the weather is bitterly cold and storms can smash through the country at a moment’s notice.

Summer though is beautifully sunny, with the midnight sun allowing locals and visitors to enjoy the outdoors long into the night, while fall and spring can see both sunshine and snow in equal measure.

Deciding the best time to visit Iceland can be a challenge because the seasons dictate not only the weather but when you can see the Northern Lights, when the best time for whale watching is and of course, when you, personally, are going to make the most of it.

To help you to plan your trip to the land of ice and fire, here’s our guide to the best time to visit Iceland.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Iceland (Travel Guide)


Best Time to Visit Iceland: Month by Month Breakdown

Best Time to Visit Iceland - Northern Lights in Iceland

Spring in Iceland

Spring can be the best time to visit Iceland if you don’t mind a little unpredictability but are looking for the opportunity to experience everything that the country has to offer.

Spring in Iceland roughly begins mid-March and ends in June, and you can experience the cold weather disappearing, as the snow melts and life returns after the long winter.

But anytime through the season, you can expect the weather to turn for the worse, and although the skies might be clear in the morning, by the evening you could be caught up in snowstorms, particularly if you are traveling further north.

March and April are the most unpredictable months in Spring, and if you are road tripping around the island, while it’s very doable, you’ll need to be flexible because many roads can still be snowed in, and you might find driving to be treacherous if you aren’t used to the conditions.

May and June become much better in terms of driving, with longer days and less snow to contend with when you are on the road.

Many travelers want to see both whales and the Northern Lights when they are in the country, and Spring can be the best time to visit Iceland if you want both of these experiences. The whale watching season begins in April when the waters begin to warm up and the whales begin migrating.

In Husavik, in the north, the season begins as early as March when you can find these beautiful animals in what is for good reason called the Whale Watching Capital of Iceland.

The Northern Lights are best seen during winter when the skies are at their darkest, and conditions are optimal, but being located so far north, you can, in fact, see the Aurora Borealis well into Spring as well, if you have a spot of luck.

In late March and early April, if you are in remote locations, with dark skies, then you still have the chance to see this natural light show in the sky. If you want to catch both the whales and the light show, then March and April are great times to try your luck.

But just be warned, although you might leave happy, you could equally leave empty-handed.

Our Top Recommended Tours for Spring:

Iceland in Summer

Summer in Iceland

Summer is usually considered to be the best time to visit Iceland because this is when the weather is at its best and when the days are at their longest.

This is the liveliest season to be in the country, and from June through to September, you’ll experience excellent weather and will find the country is booming with festivals and events.

Summer begins officially on June 21st, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, and you’ll be able to experience the unique phenomenon of the Midnight Sun through June. The further north you are, the longer the days are, and as you get closer and closer to the Arctic Circle, the sun almost never sets through summer.

Summer is the best time to visit Iceland if you want to go hiking, horseback riding or even just road tripping. The weather is perfect for enjoying the great outdoors, and you can even go walking under the Midnight Sun.

If you are road tripping, conditions are perfect, particularly if you don’t want to experience the icy road conditions of other seasons.

Whale watchers will want to visit in summer too because from May to September, the whale watching season is at its peak. You can join tours from Reykjavik, or better yet, from Husavik in the north, and you’re almost guaranteed to see whales during this season.

Things to note about visiting in summer though, are that this is the busiest time of year in Iceland, and prices can be much higher than in the shoulder seasons.

Accommodation and car rentals in the country are limited too, particularly outside of Reykjavik – this is a small country after all! – so make sure to book things in advance if you have a particularly itinerary you want to stick to.

If you are looking to see the Northern Lights, then obviously, summer is not the best time to visit Iceland!

Our Top Recommended Tours for Summer:

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Waterfall in Iceland

Fall in Iceland

Fall is generally considered to be from early September until late October or early November, but towards the end of the season, you might well already believe it to be winter, given the cold weather and abundance of storms.

The start of fall can be the best time to visit Iceland if you are looking to avoid the crowds, enjoy lower costs and still have great weather.

The days in September are still relatively long, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors still, while the roads are yet to be snowed in by fierce weather, and you can drive in safety across the country.

The further north you go, the colder it gets in fall, but if you are still looking to see whales on the open ocean, then in Husavik the whale watching season is still in full swing in September, although you’re much less likely to see these marine mammals.

Towards the end of fall, when the days begin to get shorter, then you might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights too. If you head north, and go remote, to areas devoid of light pollution, then you’ll maximize your chances of seeing this natural phenomenon in the night sky.

As you reach November, the weather will begin to be consistently cold and snowy, and you’ll find that the country begins to prepare for the long winter ahead.

Our Top Recommended Tours for Fall:

Iceland in Winter

Winter in Iceland

Winter can be the most challenging time of year to visit Iceland, but it can also be the most rewarding. This is when the weather is at its most extreme, and when the days are at their shortest.

Even in the capital, Reykjavik, during December there are on average only 4 hours of daylight, while Akureyri, the largest city in the north, sees just 3 hours of daylight.

The weather is generally bad too, with snowstorms and low, low temperatures consistent throughout the season, with averages being mostly below freezing across the country.

Winter lasts from November through to March, but if you’ve never seen such extremes, and been so close to the Arctic Circle in the coldest months of the year, then visiting during this season can be a memorable experience in itself.

Winter isn’t all bad though, and for many, it is, in fact, the best time of year to visit. As well as being the quietest and least touristic season, winter is also the best time to catch the Northern Lights.

For many, this is a once in a lifetime experience, but being a natural phenomenon, you can never predict exactly when and where the Aurora Borealis will appear, and you’re at the mercy of luck.

You can, however, maximize your chances of seeing this natural light show, and the biggest way to do that is to time your visit to Iceland right. Winter is the best time to see the lights, and as long as you can endure the cold nights, then you will also have the darkest skies.

Between November and February, conditions are absolutely optimal, and even just driving outside the capital, you are likely to see the Northern Lights.

Traveling further north and getting remoter in winter will give you the chance to see the lights at their most dazzling though, but of course, beware of the weather, because storms can obscure the night sky too and leave you disappointed.

For adventure travelers, winter can be the most exciting time of year to visit Iceland, but you’ll need to be prepared for the bad weather and be able to deal with extreme cold to be able to make the most of what can be, an incredibly unique experience.

Our Top Recommended Tours for Winter:

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA



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