Best time to visit Iceland

Best time to visit Iceland

temperature & rainfall

Iceland's far north ocean location makes for fluctuating weather! May to September is peak whale season, while June to August offer endless days, low 20s warmth plus summer festivals. Dry weather inland makes this prime hiking season.

Snow comes as early as September (and can linger to May) but Iceland can look good too in autumn. Winters can be brutal – but offer Northern Lights for the long dark hours. Winter road closures make access to some areas difficult.

When to visit Iceland & when not to

a month by month guide

While winter can be a spectacular time to visit, temperatures can plummet as low as -30°C, particularly in northern Iceland, with December to February the iciest months. Wind chill can make apparent temperatures feel even lower. Don't avoid Iceland in winter – but pack proper thermal gear!

The Northern Lights appear from September until April – but February to March, and September to October – particularly around the equinoxes – are the best months to see them.

Late November through December and January are seriously lacking in daylight – not an issue for aurora seekers, but frustrating for photographers or outdoor adventurers.

June and July are the months of the midnight sun, which may sound wonderful but expect a few nights of troubled sleep as your body adjusts to the constant Arctic light. And pack an eye mask! By August, the nights begin to darken.

If you want to drive bear in mind that many minor roads – especially in the mountains – are closed from late September to June (and sometime early July) due to snow and ice. Even when open you need a 4WD for most of them.

Orcas visit the Iceland coast in February and March; specialist companies run boat tours and wildlife photography excursions to make the most of this magical spectacle.

What happens when in Iceland

Our recommendations

Tom Wilkinson of our supplier Exodus Iceland speaks up for winter as the best time to visit Iceland:
“The weather in Iceland is fickle throughout the year. Midsummer for 24 hour daylight is an experience, but the drama of a snow-covered volcano or a waterfall encased in ice makes winter pretty special too. There are also far fewer tourists in winter so the main sites are less crowded.”
Emmanuelle Bluman from our supplier Equipe Alkemia offers insights into the best time to visit Iceland for different kind of activities – and different kinds of people:
“Iceland is unpredictable for its weather so there is no good or bad time. In winter you have the Northern Lights - but there is likely to be snow on the road. In summer, there's midnight sun and the temperature gets a little hotter! But if you want to hike, the best season is July and August.”
David Philips of our supplier Astronomy Tours shares his tips on the best time to visit Iceland:
“February, March, September and October are typically best for the Northern Lights. Late May/June is great for bird life, with lakes and rivers filled with wildfowl and sea cliffs full of nesting sea birds. And in December, although the days are short, for those few hours the low angle sun bathes the snowy landscape in a beautiful pinky-blue light.”

Festivals & events in Iceland

Our cultural pick from the iceland calendar

Did you know about...?

Sjomannadagurinn (Seamans' Day) on the first weekend of June celebrates the importance of fishing to Icelandic life. Every boat remains in harbour so the island's sailors can have the day off to take part in maritime festivities, turning harbours into a melee of rowing and swimming contests plus mock sea rescues. Shore fun includes herring and mackerel feasts plus traditional fishing songs – and plenty of drinking, of course.
Photo credits: [Skorradalur: Axel Kristinsson] [Puffins: Anita Ritenour] [Northern Lights: Ben Husmann] [Frozen waterfall: Tony Warelius]
[Sjomannadagurinn: jenny downing]
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