When is the best time to visit Iceland? Here’s your season-by-season guide
Pinning down the best time to visit Iceland is an almost impossible task. This destination serves up surreal landscapes year-round, so your travel dates simply come down to which wonders you want to see more: the northern lights streaking across an ink-black winter sky, or the midnight sun illuminating the lush summer landscape.
If you’re thinking of booking a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice, our guide will help you pick the best time to go. Read on to start planning your ideal Iceland adventure. (But, if you’re skimming, the best time of year to visit Iceland is… anytime, really!)
What is the weather in Iceland like in each season?
Iceland sits just south of the Arctic Circle, which means you won’t find overly hot weather no matter when you’re planning a trip to Iceland. In fact, Iceland’s year was historically separated into just two seasons according to the Old Icelandic Calendar, or lunisolar calendar—winter and summer—and Icelanders still observe some of the traditional holidays (like the first day of summer in April).
While the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are shorter and make less of a splash, there are remember-this-forever moments to be found in every season. Here’s the best time of year to visit Iceland depending on what you want to experience.
Winter is the best time to visit Iceland to see the northern lights & ice caves
Months to experience winter in Iceland:
November, December, January, and February (but winter weather in Iceland sometimes starts as early as October, and runs as late as March)
Think winter trips aren’t your thing? Get ready to have a change of heart once you see surreal snowy landscapes on a winter trip to Iceland, especially on our Iceland: Reykjavik & the Northern Lights tour. In fact, Iceland has earned a spot on our list of top places to visit in the winter that will make it your favorite travel season.
One of the best parts of traveling to Iceland in November, December, January, or February is getting a better chance to see the aurora borealis lighting up the dark winter sky. Our experts can help you figure out where to see the northern lights on tour, but one thing is for sure: You won’t see them during the extra hours of sunlight in the summer months, so a winter trip to Iceland is a must. Other perks of traveling to Iceland in the winter? Seeing glaciers floating in lagoons, walking through ice caves, watching waterfalls tumble from frozen landscapes… should we go on?
Winter events in Iceland:
- Visit Iceland in February on our Iceland: Reykjavik & the Northern Lights tour to experience the Winter Lights Festival in Reykjavik, which celebrates the start of longer, sunnier days with art and light installations.
- Experience the cultural festival of Thorrablot from mid-January to mid-February, which honors the country’s pagan roots. Icelanders mark the mid-winter festival by eating traditional foods like hákarl (fermented shark meat) and svið (boiled sheep's head), washed down with strong Brennivin schnapps. It’s not a menu for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.
Weather in Iceland in November, December, January & February:
Average temperatures are between 28°F and 38°F.
What our staffers say about winter in Iceland:
“I went to Iceland in January and saw the most beautiful display of northern lights dancing across the sky,” said staffer Bridget. “It really does look like they’re dancing! Our tour guide said it was the best display he’d seen in the last five years—absolutely worth the colder weather.”
Spring is the best time to visit Iceland for thundering waterfalls
Months to experience spring in Iceland:
March, April, and May
While winter and summer are the longest, most distinguishable seasons in Iceland, springtime brings its own charm. Daylight starts to stick around longer, lambs are born (cute!), and new blooms pop up as the snow starts to melt. These are just a handful of things that make our Iceland: Reykjavik & the Golden Circle tour so unforgettable.
But, it’s the reinvigorated waterfalls that make seeing Iceland in April or exploring Iceland in May a real treat. This is when the icy landscapes start to thaw and the water really starts to flow. Watch the thundering water as you go from Skógafoss waterfall on the South Coast to Gullfoss on the Golden Circle, which are just a couple of the top-rated Iceland waterfalls you simply cannot miss. If you plan to travel to Iceland in the spring and want to snap a few photos of Icelandic waterfalls, keep this tip in mind: Take care to keep your camera dry—the mist coming off the falls can lead to technical difficulties.
Spring events in Iceland:
- Touch down in Iceland on the first Thursday after April 18, and you’ll be just in time to celebrate Sumardagurinn Fyrsti (the first day of summer). Sure, April may not technically be the first day of summer. But this festival got its start in ancient times when Icelanders used the Old Icelandic Calendar and only had two seasons. Today, Sumardagurinn Fyrsti is marked by sports matches, parades, and the collective enthusiasm of a country that can’t wait to see the summer days arrive.
Weather in Iceland in March, April & May:
Average temperatures are between 30°F and 47°F.
What our travelers say about spring in Iceland:
"Absolutely speechless,” said traveler Stephanie after her time on our Iceland: Reykjavik & the Golden Circle tour in May 2022. “I did not know what to expect when I booked my tour of Iceland other than it was a destination I have had on my bucket list for a long time. The tour looked relaxed and so I gave it a shot. I am so glad I did. If you do not book this tour you are truly missing out on some of the most breathtaking sights you will ever lay your eyes on. The entire island is filled with people with a fierce love of their country and pride in their history. The landscape is like nothing I have ever seen in my life, it is wild and left untouched. I have never been in a place where people are so respectful and responsible for their land. Every tour was worth going on and I never once felt bored or uninterested in what I was seeing and learning. If you are debating between tours and this is one of them PICK THIS TOUR (especially in the spring/summer). You will not regret it!!”
Check out our Iceland tours
Summer is the best time to visit Iceland for endless sunlight & whale sightings
Months to experience summer in Iceland:
June, July, and August
Icelandic winters may give the aurora borealis a spotlight, but Icelandic summers have sunshine in spades. That’s because the sun never fully sets thanks to a phenomenon called the midnight sun. Yes, you read that right: Icelandic summers lay claim to 24 hours of daylight.
At this point, you may be imagining all the adventures you could have in a dream destination where the sun never fully sets, and the answer is a lot. Icelanders also take full advantage of the longer summer days, and visiting Iceland in June, July, or August means immersing yourself in the sun-drenched outdoors alongside locals. Just be sure to bring a sleep mask along for the trip—you’ll want one on hand when you lay down at night and there’s still sunshine streaming through your window.
Summer is also the warmest time of year in Iceland, which means roads that were blocked by snow and ice in the winter will be clear for all your adventures—especially if you want to set off on our Iceland: The Golden Circle & Ring Road tour. That’s a good thing, since you’ll have even more opportunities to see whales and puffins during the summer months, and getting to the best spots to look for them will be a cinch.
Summer events in Iceland:
- Swing through Iceland in August to experience Reykjavík Pride, which is a six-day festival that highlights love, support, and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Check out more of our favorite LGBTQIA+ friendly cities around the world →
Weather in Iceland in June, July & August:
Average temperatures are between 45°F and 56°F.
What our staffers say about summer in Iceland:
“The endless summer sun was, hands down, the best part of my trip to Iceland—especially when we headed to the South Coast,” said staffer Erin. “There’s nothing like trampling around the lush terrain above Skógafoss at 1am in full daylight. It’s like you’ve landed on another planet where time doesn’t exist.” Want to soak in the sun at Skógafoss for yourself? Explore our Iceland: The Golden Circle & Ring Road tour →
Fall is the best time to visit Iceland to see colorful foliage
Months to experience fall in Iceland:
September and October
Picture Iceland’s sprawling fields, black-sand beaches, and crashing waterfalls—which are all the things that make our Iceland: The Golden Circle & Ring Road tour sing. Now, imagine those stunners being surrounded by the oranges, yellows, and reds of fall foliage, and you’ll have an idea about how pretty Iceland is in the fall. This short-and-sweet shoulder season is when summer’s warmth and sunshine starts to fade—but not to fret, the darkening nights mean you might just have the chance to see the northern lights as winter creeps up. Dreaming of Iceland in September? Want to put a trip to Iceland in October on the calendar? You won’t be disappointed by an autumnal adventure, that’s for sure.
Fall events in Iceland:
- September plays host to the annual sheep roundup called Réttir, when herders bring the sheep from the surrounding mountains back to their farms. It’s a fitting event to celebrate while visiting Iceland, considering the fact that the country has over 800,000 sheep!
Weather in Iceland in September & October:
Average temperatures are between 38°F and 50°F.
What’s the best time to visit Iceland? Any time, no matter the Iceland weather. Whether you have your heart set on Iceland in July or Iceland in November, you’re sure to be wowed. Start planning your Iceland tour →