Best Time to Visit Iceland

One of the world’s most stunningly beautiful countries, Iceland is an amazing destination that can be visited year-round. With every season offering something unique of its own. That said, for your first trip (and odds are there will be more), you’ll want to think about what you’d most like to experience. Which means considering the weather and availability for various tours and attractions.

To help you determine the best time to visit Iceland, we’ll take a more in-depth look at every season.

Vik, Iceland
Myvatn, Iceland

Summer is the busiest tourist season of the year and it also brings the midnight sun. Meaning hiking and other activities can be enjoyed long into the night. While waterfalls tend to be flowing at their most powerful. The weather will be at its best in June, July and August. Which means daytime temperatures averaging around the mid-50s Fahrenheit.

High Season: June through August

If you’re looking for the best weather of the year, you’ll want to come during the summer months. The days are long providing plenty of time for exploring. The hiking trails will all be open and backcountry mountain roads accessible. Of course, as this is the busy season, many other tourists will be enjoying Iceland too. Popular destinations like the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle are likely to be jam-packed with visitors. By planning it right, however, you can still enjoy a tranquil experience by heading to less-visited regions like Northern Iceland. Or take advantage of the midnight sun for late-night hikes and visiting popular attractions. Tour busses won’t be unloading dozens of passengers if you go after around 8 p.m. And you’ll still have plenty of light to enjoy them.

Summer is also the best time to for whale watching excursions, with tours available from Reykjavik, Akureyri, Dalvik and the Snaefellsnes Penninsula. If you don’t want to come in summer, however, whale watching is still possible from the village of Grundarfjordur on the Snaefellsness Peninsula, provided a storm doesn’t blow in. By visiting in mid-June, you can enjoy colourful parades, street performances, traditional dancing and free outdoor music concerts for Iceland National Day which celebrates the country’s independence from Denmark. There are many festivities celebrating the summer solstice too.

Reykjavik, Iceland
Akureyri, Iceland

Shoulder Seasons: May, September/October

While May is the start of the tourist season, it’s more like a “shoulder” season as it’s unlikely to be too crowded. It can be an ideal time for visiting Iceland, with 20 hours of sunlight and the weather not too chilly. While it will still be cool, usually in the upper 40s. There are likely to be plenty of sunny days. This is a great time for sightseeing, with fewer crowds to interrupt the view and weather that won’t make roads impassable. The exception of snowfall in some of the country’s mountainous interior.

In Reykjavik, the city’s long-running art festival will be taking place over 16 days. Starting in mid-May, featuring a variety of national and international art, design, dance and theater.

The second “shoulder” season is early fall, September and October when temperatures are often cool and crisp. Afternoons in the 40s or low 50s while bringing golden light and changing colours on the trees. The tourist crowds will have diminished, and if you arrive later during this period, you’ll have a decent chance for watching the northern lights.

Aurora Borealis, Iceland
Skaftafell, Iceland

For viewing the northern lights and exploring ice caves, you’ll want to visit Iceland in the winter which is generally the low season. However, with more and more discovering just how stunning Iceland is, you’re unlikely to score any significant discounts on accommodation like you mind find in other countries.

Low Season: November through April

While winter in Iceland will be cold, it’s not as frigidly cold as one might think despite being close to the Arctic Circle. In fact, most of the time, temperatures hover right around freezing. When blizzards roll in, however, many roads can be impassable. And most interior mountain roads will be closed. The biggest downside may be the lack of light as winter brings long, dark days with just four to six hours of daylight. Major roads are regularly plowed, including Ring Road that circles the island, although it can close during a severe storm. Some attractions may be closed, but with the country becoming such a popular destination in recent years, most are open year-round. This is the perfect time for watching the northern lights, touring ice caves, and enjoying other winter sports. You can even ride Icelandic horses in the snow!

If you’re here on New Year’s Eve, you can enjoy one of the world’s most impressive celebrations in Reykjavik. This is the only time of year when private fireworks are legal and you’ll see many individuals putting on their own unique displays, setting the skies ablaze.