When is the best time of year to visit Iceland?
The best time to visit Iceland is between September and March to see the Northern Lights, or between June and August for summer activities. While travel to Iceland may depend on your desired itinerary, generally, the best time to visit is during the summer. During this time, you’ll experience warmer temperatures and long days of sunlight, known as the spectacular midnight sun. While the summer boasts green countryside and animal spotting, the winter is the best time for the Northern lights and the country’s famous geothermal spas when they may not be as busy!
However, if you’re planning a trip to see something specific, such as the puffin or whale migrations, you’ll need to visit during a specific time of year. We've broken down some main factors to consider before choosing when to travel to Iceland.
When to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights
The phenomenal cosmic light show, known as Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights, is a natural event that occurs from late September to late March. The long and dark winter nights make it an ideal time to visit, however, because it is a sporadic event, a definite sighting can't always be guaranteed. You may be more likely to see the lights during the equinoxes that occur around the 21st/22nd of March and September.
Learn more about the Northern Lights
Best time to visit Iceland for the Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s famous blue lagoon is a year-round natural geothermal pool that is said to have healing properties and is situated among a scenic Icelandic landscape. This mineral-rich seawater contains a mix of silica, algae and other bioactive elements that can be particularly beneficial for certain skin conditions.
While the lagoon is open all year, if you’re hoping to visit with slightly warmer weather, you may want to visit in the summer months (May to August). That said, many travellers love to visit the springs in the winter months to be surrounded by the beautiful snowy hills of the region while they relax in the outdoor lagoon.
Best time to visit Iceland for whale watching
The Icelandic coastline is famous for its whale activity due to the cold waters and favoured feeding grounds of the local marine life. Between April to September is the best time to visit Iceland for whale watching as this is when the whales migrate north for the summer months. Keep a look out for humpback, minke, fin, sperm or even blue whales! You might even see other marine species such as orcas, dolphins, seals or harbour porpoises.
When to visit Iceland - a monthly guide
Best for: Reykjavik International Games, Dark Music Days Contemporary Music Festival, Þorrablót Mid-winter Festival, ice caves
While mid-winter weather and short days may deter some travellers, the colder months are also perfect for ice cave exploration and catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. However, if you’d like to stay out of the weather, catch the world-renowned music festival Dark Music Days or partake in the honouring of the Icelandic ancestors during the Thorrablot festival. Partake with locals on a historical Icelandic food tour including foods such as hangikjot (flavoured smoked lamb) or brennivin (a local distilled beverage).
Best for: Winter Lights Festival, Food & Fun Festival, Northern Lights
February is one of the best times to visit Iceland for some exciting food and cultural events. The two festivals, Winter Lights and Food & Fun are hosted annually by the capital Reykjavik and can add spark some joy in the coldest and wettest months of the year! But keep a watchful eye out for the Northern Lights.
Best for: Northern Lights, winter sports, Iceland Winter Games, Annual Beer Festival, DesignMarch
The longer and brighter winter days of March make it an advantageous time for winter sports. If you’re looking to downhill or cross-country ski, snowboard, snowshoe or hike the terrain, the nearest mountain is only a 20-minute drive away from Reykjavik.
Best for: puffins and golden plover migration, The Golden Circle, Reykjavik International Literary Festival
April marks the start of the spring season in Iceland and the breathtaking return of several local bird species, including the world-renowned puffins and golden plovers. While the locals celebrate the first day of summer shortly after April 18th, this month is a perfect time to visit for lower off-season prices and fewer tourists. Keep in mind that there may still be an assortment of rain, snow, hail or shine, so pack accordingly.
Best for: whale watching, nature adventures, Vaka Folk Arts Festival, Stockfish Film Festival
May in Iceland sees the end of the cold winter months, however, temperatures still sit between 1-11 degrees Celsius although there is less chance of snow. Towards the end of May, there can be up to 20 daylight hours which makes it a great time to do some fun outdoor adventures. Why not take a tour through the lava caves, hike your way across a glacier, snorkel or scuba dive in Icelan's pristine waters or even horseback ride along the countryside?
Best for: midnight sun, Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, National Holiday of Iceland, Fisherman’s Day, RUSL Sustainable Design Festival, The Arctic Open, the opening of some highland roads
Summer has arrived! With summer comes longer days and the peak travel season so prices are higher and attractions are busier. June is one of the best times to explore the natural wonders of the Icelandic countryside. However, with a great array of cultural, music and environmental festivals, there’s something for every interest. The end of May to the start of June is also the best time to see the famed midnight sun phenomenon in Iceland so make sure you bring a good sleeping mask!
Best for: Fringe Festival, Lunga Arts Festival, Folk Music Festival, Laugavegur Ultra Marathon, Braðslan, nature photography
July is the busiest tourist month of the year for Iceland. With sunshine, greenery and longer days, it’s a perfect time to engage in the bustling city life or explore the vibrant natural scenery. If you’re looking for a slightly less crowded time, try to book in for the start of the month before the local schools are on break.
Best for: Reykjavik Pride, Reykjavik Culture Night, National Festival, Verslunarmannahelgi, Þjóðhátíð
Visiting Iceland in August usually ensures full access to the country’s wilderness as inaccessible areas in winter are now fully open. As one of the hottest months, the weather in August - while still unpredictable at times – is best for exploring the rugged and idyllic terrain of the glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs and waterfalls of the Icelandic wild. If nature isn’t your thing, the local scene has plenty of events and attractions to fill your itinerary.
Best for: Reykjavik International Film Festival, The Night of Lights, Reykjavik Jazz Festival, Icelandic Blues Festival
September marks the end of the busy summer months but temperatures can still fall between 5-10 degrees Celsius. With the bulk of tourists on their way home, you’ll find lower prices and smaller lines for attractions. This is a great time to go if you’re looking to surround yourself with great music or film. Note that some highland roads will be closed by the end of the month for winter.
Best for: Northern Lights, berry picking, Cycle Music and Art Festival, Hvammstangi International Puppet Festival
See the vibrant autumnal colours that blanket Iceland during October as the temperatures lower and leaves drop. As the colder months set in, plan for the Northern Lights as they can easily be seen at this time of year, especially when away from city areas where there is no cloud cover.
Best for: hot springs, Iceland Airwaves, ice caves, Northern Lights
November brings winter into full steam with a drop in temperatures and daylight hours. Winter is often the most scenic time to visit one of Iceland’s many hot springs and relax in the white-blanketed scenery. With the drop in temperatures comes the reformation of the ice caves making November a perfect time to transverse the chilly blue caves and stunning glaciers.
Best for: New Year’s Eve, frozen waterfalls, glacier exploration, Christmas villages and lights
Looking to party into the new year? Iceland’s eclectic music scene and picture-perfect Christmas villages can provide you with day-to-night entertainment. While December is known as one of the coldest and windiest months, the Northern Lights are often viewable during this time. Just note that some hotels, services and attractions are closed during the winter.
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