Thinking about planning a vacation to Iceland? Awesome! The best place to start is to think about setting dates for when you want to go and attractions you want to go see. When thinking about the best time of year to visit Iceland, there are a few different factors you should consider, depending on what you want to do, what you want to experience while you are there and how much you’re willing to spend. In this post, we outline each season and the various pros and cons to help point you in the right direction.
Most people feel that summer is the best month to visit Iceland – and they wouldn’t be wrong. It is definitely the most popular time of year to visit and there are many reasons as to why it’s considered peak season.
Iceland is known to be magical in the summer. The weather is significantly better compared to the rest of the year and doesn’t change as erratically, with temperatures ranging from 7°C (44°F) to 25°C (77°F). Also, due to Iceland’s geographical location, there is more daylight to work with and gives visitors a chance to see more in any given day. During the longest summer days, the sun stays visible in the sky for more than 21 hours! Given that the days are longer and the weather is nicer, it leads to more attractions and hiking trails being open – some of which aren’t open during the winter months.
Another exciting reason to visit Iceland in the summer is to go Puffin watching! Puffins spend most of their lives out at sea, but they come ashore for a few months to lay their eggs in May and leave in late August. All About Iceland provides some very helpful information about where and how to see Puffins in Iceland.
Since Iceland is a popular destination in the summer, that means there will be more visitors over these months and everything will be more expensive. From flights to car rentals to accommodations, there is a clear bump up in pricing, as Iceland sees an influx of people. If you’re looking to save some money, but still want to see as many attractions as possible, we would recommend visiting during one of the shoulder months in either the spring or fall. One other thing to note is that you also won’t be able to catch the Northern Lights during the summer months due to the amount of daylight, so if you’re looking to plan a trip around seeing them, avoid visiting in the summer!
Book everything in advance! Flights, accommodation, car rentals, tours / tickets – all of it – you should book it as far in advance as possible. We recommend at least 3-6 months in advance. There will be plenty of things that will either sell out or become more expensive the longer you wait. You should also pack an eye mask and jump over to our Iceland packing list to get a sense everything you should think about bringing for your summer visit.
Fall is considered a great time to visit Iceland, since it’s classified as being off-season, and we personally believe this is the best time of year to go. While the weather isn’t as nice as the summer, there are less crowds and plenty of other advantages as to why you should consider visiting Iceland in the fall.
The weather, although not quite as nice as the summer, is still decent compared to the rest of the year, with temperatures ranging from 0°C (32°F) to 10°C (50°F). There can be a decent amount of rain and the weather can be a bit erratic at times, but, as the famous Icelandic sayings goes, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes!” Don’t let the weather hold you back from booking a trip during these months.
The amount of visitors also drops in the fall and attractions aren’t as crowded, which provides a better experience for the areas with less tourists around. Being able to experience Iceland’s attractions on a more intimate level is a priceless factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. You also get normal daylight hours in the fall, usually seeing the sunrise around 7am and sunset around 8:30pm, depending on when you visit.
The prices for flights, accommodation and car rentals are also much more affordable. For example, we’ve seen average car rentals sit around $70-$80 per day in the fall, compared to $110-$120 per day in the summer. With such a disparity, you could save a lot of money by choosing to visit Iceland in the fall over the summer.
Additionally, while it’s not guaranteed, there is the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights in the fall. Our team happened to get extremely lucky and caught them in early September on a clear night as we stayed at Campsite Ólafsvik on Snæfellsnes peninsula near Kirkjufell. Usually, it’s more common to see the Northern Lights later in the fall or during the winter months, but don’t rule it out and keep your eyes to the sky on a clear night!
As you move into the fall shoulder months, it’s likely you’ll start to see certain campsites and attractions closing, depending how far into the season you plan on visiting. Make sure to do your research beforehand and review our Iceland attraction pages to get a sense of which attractions are open around what time of year.
Although reservations are a bit easier to come by in the fall, we still recommend booking everything as far in advance as possible. While our rule of them is to book your essential trip details (flights and accommodation) at least 3-6 months in advance, you should be able to get by booking 2-4 months out for the fall season. You should also plan to pack waterproof gear and jackets during this time of year, but you can find a list of our Iceland packing essentials to get a sense everything you should think about bringing for your fall visit.
Winter in Iceland is a wonderland and photographers often take advantage to visit during this time to boost their portfolios with epic shots of the northern lights. While it’s not the most popular time for tourists to visit, mainly due to the colder weather and shorter days, that is also a great reason to come and explore this amazing continent without all the crowds.
While the weather certainly is cold, it’s not as bad as you might think, with temperatures ranging from -10°C (14°F) to 10°C (50°F). Certainly, this can (and will) be considered a downside as well, but there is a good chance you may get favorable weather for a few days during your visit. There are also plenty of winter activities you are unable to do at other times of the year, such as snowmobiling, as a result of the colder weather.
There are significantly less people visiting at this time of year too, meaning that you will likely have attractions mostly to yourself. Winter is also the cheapest season to visit Iceland, so if you’re not looking to spend too much during your trip, this would be the time to do it!
One of the biggest draws to Iceland in the winter is the northern lights! This is peak viewing time and there is a chance to see the aurora borealis on any given night. Photographers come from all over the world and set up camp at Iceland’s most renowned attractions, such as Kirkjufell, with a tripod to capture an unforgettable moment. The snowy landscape also lends itself to some stunning pictures and capture Iceland in its element at any time of day.
While the colder weather does have some advantages, it doesn’t change the fact that the weather can easily drop below zero during the peak winter months. There is also much less daylight and the days are much shorter. During the shortest days, the sun only stays visible in the sky for less than five hours!
There are also attractions that are simply not open to the public during the winter, such as the incredibly beautiful Glymur Waterfall, as well as others that pose significant risk to visit during extreme weather conditions. There can also be closed roads that are inaccessible and we would always recommend opting for a 4×4 car rental option during winter travel. Plenty of lodging areas and campsites also shut down some time in the early to late fall, so there aren’t as many places to stay either once winter rolls around. If you want to see as much of Iceland as you can, you’ll likely want to visit when the weather is nicer.
Book everything, especially tours, in advance! Accommodations and car rentals will be more limited at this time of year, so you should book them as far ahead as possible. We recommend at least 3-6 months in advance to get the prime reservations and time slots – you’ll regret it if you don’t! You should also pack plenty of warm winter gear and head over to our Iceland packing list to get a sense everything you should think about bringing for your winter visit.
Springtime in Iceland is very similar to the fall, but the main difference is that the landscape is changing and beginning to shed its winter coat, rather than putting it on. There are a lot of similarities between the two seasons and, while we believe spring is a great time to visit Iceland, fall slightly edges it out in advantages.
The weather tends to be the same as the fall, with temperatures ranging from 0°C (32°F) to 10°C (50°F), and the weather is similarly rainy and windy. This type of weather is easy to get used to, and should be expected, during your visit. As long as you pack the right gear, you shouldn’t have any problems. The weather also changes fairly frequently, so it’s not likely that you will see it rain all day and ruin a full day’s worth of activities.
The amount of visitors is at a lower point in the spring, possibly even lower than the fall, and attractions aren’t as crowded. Being able to experience Iceland’s attractions on a more intimate level is a priceless factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. You also get normal daylight hours in the spring, usually seeing the sunrise around 7am and sunset around 8:30pm, depending on when you visit.
The prices for flights, accommodation and car rentals are also much more affordable. We’ve seen average car rentals sit a bit lower than the fall months at around $65-$75 per day, which is a definite advantage and will likely play a factor in budgeting your trip. If you’re looking to rent a campervan, the prices also tend to skew lower and this is a great opportunity and time of year to consider that as an option.
Additionally – just like the fall – while it’s not guaranteed, there is the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. In the spring, it’s more common to see them before mid-April, but remember to not rule out a sighting closer to May. Keep your eyes to the sky on a clear night and you might get lucky!
Unlike fall, springtime in Iceland starts with snow and transitions into slowly showing its lush green landscape, however, it’s not as vibrant because the vegetation is only starting to grow back. For this reason, it is far more picturesque to visit in the fall, and we prefer the fall shoulder months over the spring shoulder months. There also tends to be more more unpredictable rain and wind that can make it still feel like the winter winds haven’t quite left yet.
Also, as you move into the spring months, it’s likely you’ll start to see certain campsites and attractions start opening, but not until much later in the season as summer approaches. Make sure to do your research beforehand and review our Iceland attraction pages to get a sense of which attractions are open around what time of year.
Reservations are a bit easier to come by in the spring, however, we still recommend booking everything as far in advance as possible because it’s likely there aren’t as many reservations available. We would still aim to book our reservations at least 3-6 months in advance, though you should be able to get by booking 2-4 months out for the spring season. It’s important to note that the earlier you book, the better options you have!
You should also plan to pack wind and waterproof gear, as well as jackets during this time of year, but you can find a list of our Iceland packing essentials to get a sense everything you should think about bringing for your spring visit.