Iceland short breaks travel guide


The test of a top notch shortie is when you come home feeling as if you have been away for a fortnight. And the timeless nature of short breaks in Iceland has that effect. If you travel during summer, you enter the realm of the midnight sun, when it’s best just to leave your watch at home and let the universe guide you. Or in winter months, when the Aurora abounds, you may be whisked off in the middle of the night if she decides to come out to play. Whatever time you decide to go, do explore beyond the tourist trail and into the mountains or fjords. Or go on a foray into the island’s lava fields and crater lakes, where you enter timeless landscapes touched by myths and magic. These aren’t just short breaks. In Iceland, they are mind boggling and all consuming short stories.
Read our Iceland short breaks travel guide for more details.

Is an Iceland short break for you?

Responsible Travel recommends

Go on an Iceland short break vacation if…

… you need just a quick dose of living the dream. Iceland is as close to waking up on another planet as you can get on a short European break.

… you want to see the Northern Lights. New Year and Valentine’s Day trips are popular for seeing the Aurora too.

… you want a half term trip with a difference for your children. Iceland is one big outdoor classroom, with a lot of fun on the agenda too.

… you want to rock out in Reykjavik, one of the coolest capitals right now. You can rock out in all the geological gorgeousness on its doorstep too, of course.

Don’t go on an Iceland short break vacation if...

….you don’t like being outdoors. It’s volcanic and vibrant. It’s a landscape that is always on the move, and so are most people who vacation here.

… you aren’t flexible about plans if the weather doesn’t turn out good. This is Iceland, not a Caribbean island. You need to be a bit hardy.

… you want a cheap getaway. Like all Nordic vacations, they come at a price. But their landscapes are priceless.

… you only have a weekend. It may only be a three-hour flight away, but you’ll need a good five days to experience Iceland.

Best time to go on an Iceland short break


The majority of short break vacations to Iceland are aimed at seeing the Northern Lights. Small group vacation companies are experts at timing these to enable a good chance of catching the Aurora, with February, March, September and October the best times, when the equinox is doing its thing and there are still plenty of daylight hours. For tailor made trips, go anytime, with summer months glorious for those long midnight sun days giving extra time to catch as much as you can on a short trip. New Year and Valentine’s Day special trips are available, too.
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Iceland in winter can be spectacular – short breaks to see in the New Year or celebrate Valentine’s Day run now – but temperatures can plummet as low as -30°C, particularly in the north, with December, January and February the iciest months. Wind chill can make apparent temperatures feel even lower, so it’s essential to pack proper thermal gear. Winter road closures make access to some areas difficult. By late January, there is daylight for about seven hours.

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

The Northern Lights appear from September until April, but February and March are two of the best months for seeing them at their most dramatic (September and October are also excellent) and lots of short breaks run at this time and with this aim. Cloud can be an issue, though, particularly in February which is the snowiest month, with over 30cm falling.

April can still be snowy, with average temperatures around 3°C, but by May the days are stretching, from almost 17 hours of daylight at the start of the month, to 20 hours by the end.

Conditions are usually suitable for small ship cruise expeditions from May until September. Short break cruises to see whales, catch the Northern Lights and visit remote corners of the island running in September and October.

June, July and August are great times to be active in Iceland. Short breaks to go walking, cycling and exploring make the most of the endless daylight from June to August and temperatures in the low 20°Cs.

Snow comes as early as September (and can linger to May).
Photo Credits: [topbox: Bailey Zindel] [Temp box: Taylor Leopold]
Written by Catherine Mack
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