What is the best time to visit Iceland?

Summers from June - August is the best time to visit Iceland because of the warm, balmy weather and the phenomenal Midnight Sun. It is indeed a spectacular time, with pleasant temperatures and prolonged daylight hours that enable you to see as much as you can.
Despite the unpredictable weather, Iceland has four distinct seasons. The country of mystical landscapes and awe-inspiring vistas has a somewhat misguided image of being a constantly freezing destination. In reality, it experiences a much milder climate, with no drastic changes between the summer and winter temperatures. Iceland is situated on top of one of Earth’s many hot spots, owing to which, the country boasts of phenomenal geothermal activity. It has an abundance of hot springs, mud pools, geysers and volcanoes. If you’re looking for a combination of moderately good weather and lesser crowds, then you can consider early spring or late fall. Guaranteed darkness and cold, clear nights during winter make Iceland an ideal place to see the aurora borealis. The best time to catch the Northern Lights would be from late September through late March. This is the time when most music and arts festival takes place in Reykjavik.

Iceland Peak Season (May to mid-September)

The peak season for tourism in Iceland coincides with the peak of summer (May to mid-September). Among these summer months, July and August are the busiest time for the country’s thriving tourism industry. The pleasant weather conditions and extended hours of daylight enable travellers to take part in the wide array of outdoor activities. Expect lots of crowds at all tourist attractions, increased prices and difficulty in finding accommodation.

Iceland Shoulder Season (April to mid-May and mid-September to November)

Iceland has an abridged shoulder season, from early April to mid-May and then again from mid-September to early November. These months are when the snow starts thawing paving way to the vibrant greenery. It sees fewer tourists and occasionally lower prices. You can also expect to find a wider range of available accommodation. Plan a trip to Iceland in the shoulder season if you wish to avoid large crowds and also save up on the money.

Iceland Off Season (mid-November to mid-March)

Iceland experiences an offseason for tourism from mid-November to mid-March. A specific section of visitors prefers to travel to Iceland during this time to experience the winter activities and hot springs. But overall, it is a reasonable period to avoid large tourist crowds. You can expect to find increased availability in accommodation and reduced prices on airfares, car rentals and hotels. Travellers are, however, advised to keep in mind that specific routes will be shut down during these months. Tourist attractions, especially outside the capital city, will also be shut down.

Iceland Weather in January

Winter in Iceland promises snow and ice, most days lacking in sunlight. The average high temperature is 2 degrees Celsius, and the average low temperature goes to -3 degrees Celsius. The month of January is the coldest, having the best chance for snow. An average low temperature of -3 degrees Celsius sounds mild, but the frosty winds make the weather seem much colder. The days see four hours of sunlight during the first half of January. Towards the end of the month, you can expect it to go up to 7 hours. Some of the roads might even be closed owing to excess snowfall. It is not unusual to hear about nationwide storm alerts when everyone is advised to stay indoors. Regions in and around Reykjavik experience warmer temperatures and frequent rains.

Events and Festivals of Iceland in January
  • New Year’s Day is a national holiday in Iceland. Most public places and shops are shut down after a night of festivities. The subsequent day, however, is ideal for shopping holiday sales.
  • Thorrablot, an ancient Viking tradition, is celebrated mid-winter which usually falls in the latter half of January.
  • January is also an ideal time to take part in glacier hiking, visiting ice caves, snowmobiling and other thrilling snow activities.
  • If you’re looking forward to the Northern Lights, you might want to book the tours well in advance as they sell out fast in this month.

Iceland Weather in February

The low temperatures continue into February but the number of daylight hours sees significant improvement, enabling you to rejoice in the scenery. The average high temperature is usually about 3 degrees Celsius whereas the average low temperature reaches -2 degrees Celsius. The precipitation, rain and snow, decreases. Lush gardens in some places replace the snow-covered roads from the previous month. You can expect a majority of the tourist attractions and streets in southwest Iceland to be open and functioning, unless in the event of any significant storms. Another advantage is that most of the places will be delightfully crowd-free.

Events and Festivals in February
  • February is considered to be one of the best months to view the Northern Lights. Apart from the Northern Light tours, specialist companies also conduct photography excursions and boat tours.
  • The Winter Lights Festival is held around the first weekend of February. This event aims to lift the people’s spirits and brighten the winter darkness. The whole of Reykjavik is dramatically lit with beautiful light-art installations.
  • The Food and Fun festival usually takes part towards the end of February. This four-day event sees world-renowned chefs collaborate with local restaurants and to prepare dishes using only Icelandic ingredients.

Iceland Weather in March

March sees an average high temperature of about 3 degrees Celsius and an average low temperature of -1 degree Celsius. Despite a good chance to spot the Northern Lights, March is one of the least visited months in Iceland. With little change in temperatures and improved amount of daylight hours, this month marks the beginning of Spring in Iceland. You can expect to see the snow melt and pave the way for a lush green landscape and wildlife. The duration of daylight hours is about 13 hours in March. However, the chances of rain and snow remain high.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in March
  • National Beer Day is celebrated on 1st March. It is an unofficial holiday that honours the anniversary of the legalisation of beer (with an alcohol content above 2.2%) in 1989. Icelanders are known to indulge in a beer spree, celebrating in pubs, restaurants and clubs throughout Reykjavik.
  • The DesignMarch event is held over four days in mid-March. Several workshops, exhibitions and talks are held while primarily showcasing the Icelandic product design, furniture, architecture, interior and graphic design.
  • The Reykjavik Folk Festival is a three-day music event that is organized around mid-March. Several folk artists come together to celebrate Icelandic folk music.

Iceland Weather in April

There is an increase in temperature and a decrease in precipitation with the advent of April. The average high temperature reaches 6 degrees Celsius, and the average low temperature comes up to 1 degree Celsius. The duration of daylight increases to about 16 hours towards the end of the month and Iceland goes deep into spring. The lowlands, however, continue to experience precipitation in the form of rain.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in April
  • April is the month of Easter, the festival that marks an end to the long and cold winter. Schools and the majority of offices shut down for a five-day vacation during this festival. Depending on the year, Easter can sometimes fall in late March.
  • The First Day of Summer is celebrated in the latter half of April. Expect to see parades, street entertainment, sports activities and lots of gift giving. 
  • April is also an ideal time to consider fishing and golfing activities. You can also head to any of the remote hot springs that are spread across the country. It truly makes for a unique experience.

Iceland Weather in May

May is a phenomenal month to visit Iceland. The average high and low temperatures rise to 10 degrees Celsius and 4 degrees Celsius respectively. This month experiences long days, with more than 20 hours of sunlight. The crowds are generally lesser, and so are the prices. The chances of rain drastically drop, paving the way for plenty of sunny days. However, the weather in Iceland is relatively unpredictable. Travellers are advised to be prepared for any unexpected weather conditions.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in May
  • The Reykjavik Art Festival takes place once in two years, over 16 days starting mid-May. A variety of national as well as international theatre is displayed throughout the capital city along with design, art and dance. 
  • The Rite of Spring Festival, focussing on jazz and folk music, is held in the first half of May.
  • May is optimal for whale watching tours and puffin tours. Another popular activity in this month is horseback riding. Travellers can also plan a visit to the Blue Lagoon which is one of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions.

Iceland Weather in June

June is a perfect month to delve in all outdoor activities. The temperatures steadily rise with an average high temperature of 13 degrees Celsius and an average low temperature of 7 degrees Celsius. You can expect rising temperatures that result in long, sunny days. The frosty winds turn into light breezes, and there is much lesser rain. June is the month of the midnight sun when you get to witness 24 hours of daylight. It is also the month of peak tourism in Iceland, leading to larger crowds and higher prices. Expect to see horses and sheep roaming freely in the backdrop of vibrantly green countryside. All sites of tourist attraction are open and accessible. Travellers are, however, advised to book their accommodation and activities well in advance.

Events and Festivals of Iceland in June
  • Iceland’s National Day is celebrated on June 17. It is an official public holiday that commemorates Iceland’s complete independence from Denmark in 1944. The streets of the capital city are filled with parades, theatrical performances, traditional dancing and street performances.
  • The International Viking Festival is held in Hafnarfjourdor around mid-June. It is one of the oldest and most significant festivals in Iceland. Locals in Vikings costumes sell handmade goods at the Middle Age Market. There are staged battles, dance performances and various other events for the entertainment of the visitors.
  • The Secret Solstice Festival is held on the longest day of the year, June 21. Rock bands and singer-songwriters from Iceland and beyond, get together to perform over four days under the Midnight Sun. There are numerous other local celebrations held on this day.
  • The Seafarer’s Day and the Festival of the Sea take place on the first weekend of June. It honours the fishermen’s contribution to Iceland’s culture and economy, while also remembering those who were lost at sea. There are rowing and swimming competitions held for fishers, along with several other cultural events and lively parties.
  • Travellers can choose to indulge in various summer activities such as midnight golf, visiting black sand beaches, horseback riding, waterfall hopping, swimming in crystal clear mountain lakes, visiting the natural geysers, visiting the Blue Lagoon and hiking around the gorgeous landscape. 

Iceland Weather in July

July sees a continuance of warmer days and lush green landscapes. The weather conditions remain pleasant, although interestingly, July records the warmest temperatures in Iceland. The average high temperature recorded is 14 degrees Celsius, and the average low temperature comes up to 10 degrees Celsius. It is another favourite time to visit this country and is also known as one of the best months for photographing Iceland’s beauty.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in July
  • Innipukinn Festival is held in late July in the downtown area of Reykjavik. This small, annual music festival brings together some of Iceland’s favourite bands along with a music market and a variety of food trucks.
  • The month of July offers optimal weather conditions to take part in scuba diving and swimming activities. There are several public swimming pools that you can visit. Travellers often choose to hike around the country as well. The Blue Lagoon sees the largest crowds in this month.

Iceland Weather in August

August marks the end of the short summer season. So, expect temperatures to decline towards the end of the month gradually. The average high and low temperatures for this month are 13 degrees Celsius and 8 degrees Celsius respectively. August is considered to be one of the driest months in Iceland. You can still expect to see lots of daylight, amounting to about 16 hours of sunshine per day.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in August
  • Iceland observes a bank holiday weekend on the first weekend of August. Majority of the Icelanders leave town and take part in Hiking activities. Some even gather at campgrounds and light up bonfires while listening to live bands.
  • The second weekend of August is when Iceland’s most prominent gay pride event is held. There are concerts, all-night parties, parades and even theatre. Thousands of people pour in to express their solidarity and to celebrate with the country’s gay community.
  • The Reykjavik Marathon is an annual event that is held on the third weekend of August. It sees participation from over 10,000 people from Iceland and abroad. The participants get free access to the city’s public pools and thermal baths after the marathon commences. A Culture Night is held when the Marathon ends. One of the most significant events of the year, cultural events are held throughout, and it ends in an impressive display of fireworks.

Iceland Weather in September

September witnesses a considerable decrease in the number of daylight hours. The average high temperature comes down to 11 degrees Celsius and the average low temperature to 4 degrees Celsius. The crowds start disappearing by this time, and hence, the prices start to drop. The weather conditions continue to remain pleasant. The temperatures tend to decrease towards the latter part of the month. You can also expect to catch the Northern Lights, given that the conditions are right.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in September
  • The Reykjavik International Literary Festival takes place in early September. This annual festival is regarded as one of the most prestigious literary events in the whole of Northern Europe. It hosts distinguished Icelandic and international authors. The festival has seen the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Seamus Heaney in the past editions.
  • The Reykjavik International Film Festival is held over ten days in late September. A diverse array of dramatic and non-fiction films from more than 40 countries are screened at this event. Several photo exhibitions and concerts are also held as a part of this film festival.
  • You can also book a tour to catch the Northern Lights.

Iceland Weather in October

October is a month of transition from fall to winter. The average high and average low temperatures of this month are 8 degrees Celsius and 3 degrees Celsius respectively. Expect wet and cold weather conditions. The temperatures take a dip, and so do the number of daylight hours. The majority of Iceland, however, remains accessible to tourists. October sees lesser crowds and thus reduced prices.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in October
  • Iceland Airwaves is a festival held over three days in mid-October. This event showcases the best of Icelandic indie and alternative music scene. Big names like Of Monsters and Men and Bjork take part in this festival along with several other international artists and DJs. Iceland Airwaves has been named the “hippiest long weekend on the annual music festival calendar” by the famous Rolling Stones magazine.
  • Halloween is a relatively new festival in Iceland, but it is catching up. There is no common trick or treating but the local restaurants and bars host costume parties and live music events. Most places also give away the best costume prizes.

Iceland Weather in November

The temperatures fall to about an average of 3 degrees Celsius in November. The average high temperature is recorded about 4 degrees Celsius and the average low temperature around -1 degree Celsius. Iceland experiences only approximately 6 hours of sunlight, with the lower temperatures reaching freezing point. There is also a high likelihood of rain or snow, depending on which destination you visit. On the plus side, there will be lesser crowds, and you’ll be able to find lots of things to do. Many roads are usually shut down, but the ring road remains accessible. Travellers are advised to stay cautious regarding the weather conditions.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in November
  • Iceland’s Horror Film Festival, Frostbiter, is the highlight of November. Hosted in the town of Akranes, the festival screens horror films and filmmakers from all across the world. Several other events and after-parties are also a part of this event.
  • November is a great time to participate in snow-related winter activities. You can choose from among glacier hiking, ice carving or visiting ice caves. Travellers often also go on the Northern Lights tour. The dark and chilly nights offer the highest odds for viewing the aurora borealis.

Iceland Weather in December

Despite being cold and dark, December is one of the most beautiful months to be in Iceland. The average high temperature drops to 2 degrees Celsius and the average low temperature to -2 degrees Celsius. The dazzling holiday lights in the backdrop of snow-covered landscapes lighten the darkness and spread festive cheer. The days get shorter and when you do manage to see daylight, you’ll be awestruck by its iridescent and dreamlike characteristics. You’ll also get to experience the surreal “long blue”, which is a lingering blue light before the sunrise. Iceland is not very crowded at this time of the year. Hence, you can easily find reduced prices and greater availability of accommodation.

Events and Festivals in Iceland in December
  • Christmas Eve is an important night of celebration in this country. A plethora of holiday lights brighten up the winter darkness and actively spread festive cheer. One of Iceland’s oldest holiday traditions is the Annual Icelandic Christmas concerts. The locals usually attend mass and follow it up by Christmas dinner with their family.
  • New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik is considered to be one of the most impressive celebrations in the world. It is also the only time when the private use of fireworks is legal in Iceland. People light up waterside and neighbourhood bonfires to signify the burning away of troubles from the previous year. The nightclubs and pubs remain open after midnight and celebrations go on till the morning.
  • Locals are known to head over to the hot springs on the following day to cure the previous night’s hangovers.

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