When is the best time to visit Iceland?

There’s a long list of questions that I get asked more frequently than others and somewhere on the top ten of that list is the question: When is the best time to visit Iceland. For many different reasons this is a difficult question to answer. For example, if you can only get time off in February then February must be the best month to visit, right?

So instead of trying to tell you what is the best time to visit Iceland I thought I’d rather tell you a little bit about each season, what I like about it and what obstacles (if any) you might face during it. Now how does that sound?

Visiting Iceland in autumn

Lovely golden sun

Lovely golden sun

I love Iceland in the autumn. I love the golden light, the colorful trees, the crazy storms (only if I can stay inside though) and the coziness that comes with the darkness. From a visitor’s standpoint the autumn should also be a good time to visit because the prices are lower and there are fewer travelers around so most places are not as crowded as during the summer months. On the downside the weather is pretty unpredictable, as it any time of the year actually, and you could end up having some crazy storm alter your travel plans. If you take care and make sure you follow advice about the weather and travel conditions there’s no reason why your autumn trip to Iceland can’t be awesome.

Þingvellir in its autumns colors is one of the beautiful things ever.

Visiting Iceland in Winter

Winter adventure (7 of 33) copy

I’m obsessed with light in all shapes and forms. Pink, yellow and orange sunsets and sunrises get me all worked up and I oohh and ahh like most of you probably oohh and ahh over the northern lights. I also love the snow, mostly when it’s brand new and it hasn’t frozen, rained and frozen again and I haven’t fallen on my butt a million times. I also adore the Christmas time:  the Christmas lights, the mulled wine and Christmas beers.

I’m not sure I’d plan to travel all over the country in winter, despite the fact you usually can, since you might get stranded somewhere due to the weather. That’s OK when you have plenty of time but if you’re on a short winter break  your boss might not appreciate you loosing your flight because it was too windy in Ísafjörður.  Visitors that don’t have a sunset/sunrise fetish like me can enjoy the amazing northern lights and the chilled atmosphere of the city.

Visiting Iceland in Spring

Ahhh… spring. Who doesn’t love spring? The smell of something new and exciting is in the air and the days are getting longer. The spring in Iceland is more like 5 minutes between winter and summer than a whole season but while it lasts it’s absolutely lovely. You’re going to love it because you get to benefit most of the things that make the Icelandic summer great minus the crowds and high-season prices. That means long bright days (although not as long as in June and July), decent weather (it’s still Iceland though) and traveling with more ease.

A video we made during our trip in May 2013. As you can see we had all kind of weathers.

Visiting Iceland in Summer

A pensive sheep enjoying the summer

Visiting Iceland in summer has its pros and cons. The things to look forward to are the long summer days, midnight sun, better weather and everything being more green and lush. The highland roads usually open mid summer too which will give you access to the raw and somewhat untouched part of Iceland. The downsides are more crowds, higher prices and difficulties finding reasonably priced accommodation in certain areas (or any accommodation at all for that matter).

So if you are going with the flow kind of traveler, unwilling to book your summer holiday in January, and your idea of Iceland is desolated vistas barren of human kind then you’re probably in for a bit of a disappointment.  Unless you come in winter or you go to areas like Langanes. If your fear of the cold persuades you to adjust your expectations and you manage to look at sharing Gullfoss with 40 buses as a chance to meet new friends, then the Icelandic summer is definitely worth checking out.

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17 thoughts on “When is the best time to visit Iceland?

  1. Gwen

    I have been to Iceland in November and December 1986 and February 2013 and loved the light, the coziness and the warmth of my lopapeysa but I’m looking forward to coming this July for two weeks. My husband and I have decided to spend most of our time in the North and Northeast to avoid most of the crowds. Do you think that will work? And we’ve also booked a five-day horseback trek to avoid people!

    Reply
  2. Auður Post author

    Gwen, there are still areas where you can escape the crowds but the most popular places like Mývatn and Goðafoss etc are always busy. Make sure you check out Ásbyrgi (and the little store there that has a surprisingly decent Thai section). A five day horse trip sounds lovely!

    Reply
  3. Suzanne Price

    I love this post! My husband and I are visiting March 24th – April 4th and it seems like we can mostly expect winter-like climes with longer days. Is that about right? We are both photographers and so excited for our journey. I follow your blog religiously!

    Reply
  4. Heather Linnett

    Thank you for this. Interesting. Summer, Autumn, winter, spring, . I have seen Iceland in Early June, most of July, and most of August., and some (short just for the N.L. of November. I had been in the Faroes, and took a short journey to Iceland. North, North east, Westfjords, South, South east. Eastfjords, South west. wherever I don’t care as long as I go every year. Planning my 5th, hoping to stay away for the 3 months (90 days the most I can be away from Australia, and to stay in Iceland, and in your Winter. I have already been told I am out of my mind. But then I don’t listen to all that. See you in December/January :-)
    But I do know it will not be easy for me, all I need to do is keep my ‘bum off the ground, and my pride in tact,’ then ‘she’ll be right mate” (Aussie slang for no worries)

    Reply
  5. Fred Kaijser

    Ah yes, I plan to come to Iceland in Mid April, for the first time.
    Reading all those enthousiastic posts I look forward to the changing weather and the beautiful surroundings.
    See you!

    Reply
  6. Amy

    Thanks for this! I’m coming to visit this March (mostly because that’s the best time for me to get off of work). I’m so excited, hopefully the weather will cooperate!!!

    Reply
  7. Susie

    Hi, thank you so much for your wonderful blog. My friend and I are coming to iceland for 10 days in mid may. We are planning to spend a few days in Reykjavik and then travel around for a bit. I was thinking to drive northeast (no further than husavik) with lots of stops for hiking, and eating, whatnot, along the way sounds like a good idea. We would be on the road for 6 or 7 days. But then I keep reading my guide book and I see all these other great places in the south. Now I am torn and can’t decide. It’s our first time in iceland and I don’t want to cram everything into our trip (we’ll come back for seconds and thirds for sure). Any recommendations for 10 days in May?

    Reply
  8. Sarah

    I just found this blog, and I’m so happy I did! I’m visiting for my honeymoon from June 29-July 7. I was trying to find appropriate clothing to pack in your blog, but so far, I only found the winter clothing post. I don’t want to look TOO much like a tourist! Do you have a blog post about summer clothing? THANKS!

    Reply
  9. laura

    Hi
    Myself and a group of students are visiting your beautiful country in April. We plan to spend a day in Reykjavik sightseeing shopping etc…have you any suggestions on what not to miss?!! Also we are in the city on Easter Sunday for dinner…do you think wewill we have problems finding restaurants that are open?
    Thanks !! I love your blog :-)

    Reply
    • Auður Post author

      Hi Laura,

      Well, first of all I think you and your student friends should take my walking tour to really get a feel of the city – If you send me an e-mail I can give you a group offer (depending on how many you are of course).

      I’m not entirely sure about the Easter Sunday dinner – I would think there are some restaurants open but you can probably find information about Easter on the Visit Reykjavík website closer to easter.

      Reply
  10. Aht

    Wow, what a travel blog! Well done. We just finished trip in one country and looking forward next trip to another country already and it may be in winter holiday (December). My son want to see snow and i want to see aurora plus we are love geothermic bath, BUT how harsh is weather at that time i wonder.

    Reply
  11. Ned Kelly

    Great blog, no fluff just the good stuff. :)

    We are going in July. Is it true that you cannot do ice caves in summer or dont the exist that time of year?
    Also are there black sand beaches in summer with large ice blocks melting away in July or has that all gone as well?

    wish me luck :)

    Reply
    • Auður Post author

      You know, I just don’t know about the ice caves. I would imagine that’s right since the warmer it get the more the ice melts and maybe they become unsafe and possibly full of water in the summer.

      There are less ice blocks in the summer but I think there are some around Jökulsárlón – I’ve only been there in the off-season for the last few years so I really am not sure.

      Reply

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