What is the best time of year to travel to Iceland? This is probably our most frequently asked question. Closely followed by, when should I book? Both questions are great but often more difficult to answer than you might think. Believe it or not, Iceland is a year round destination! So read on to learn about the Midnight Sun, Northern Lights, Blue Ice Caves, Glaciers, Volcanoes, Atlantic Puffins and lots more.

The question of ‘when is the best time to travel’ is a surprisingly complex one. It can also be quite a personal one too.

Over the years, we’ve found that although there are many reasons to travel to Iceland, our guests tend to have one big dream that they want to fulfil while in the country. It is only once an itinerary has been created (and the guests have chatted to us) that they realise there is far more to see and do, at any time of year.

So the question, ‘when is the best time to travel to Iceland?’ should really be ‘when should I travel to Iceland so that I’m able to achieve my dream?’

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will know when the best time of year for you to travel to Iceland is and when you should start planning (and booking).

A Brief Overview Of The Seasons

Each season has its own unique traits that should be considered before starting to plan your trip. Read beyond this to get a more comprehensive understanding of when you should travel to Iceland and to know how far in advance you should book your trip.

1. Springtime tranquility | April & May
Springtime is the quietest time of year to travel. Whales, puffins and other migratory birds start to appear across the country, and the free-roaming sheep with their new-born lambs are let loose into the wilderness. It tends to be a little more affordable too, based on hotel prices.

2. Summer under the midnight sun | June, July & August
In summer, you are treated to the warmest time of year and up to 24 hours of daylight. The average temperature sits around 14 Celsius (57 Fahrenheit) so you’ll never be retreating for the shade after a long glacier hike or nature walk. This is a very family friendly time of year. The highlands open up to adventure, and basking under the midnight sun is something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

3. Autumn Northern Lights hunting (September and October)
Autumn brings with it an increased chance to see the Northern Lights. It’s still (relatively) warm compared to winter and you get plenty of daylight to match evening Northern Lights hunts with invigorating daytime activities like glacier hikes.

4. The long winter with newly discovered ice caves (November to March)
Shorter days, colder temperatures and plenty of snow turn this dark time of the year into a winter wonderland. The average temperature sits around 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), thanks to the Gulf Stream, though we are prone to the odd very cold snap too. The biggest draw is the mighty blue ice caves that become safe to visit at this time of year.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Travel To Iceland?

1. Spring | April & May

The quietest (and most affordable) time of year

Springtime is the quietest time of year. Even the Easter holidays don’t bring as big an influx as you might think, with hotels in Reykjavík tending to have space even quite late in the planning process. That’s not to say the rest of the year is overcrowded but if you’re really looking for solitude with good levels of daylight, then coming at this time of year is spot on. Although many services remain the same price all year round, hotels and car rentals do tend to drop their prices quite dramatically in some cases.

Warmth and sunlight

By mid-April the days are already long, with the sunset not being until around 9pm. By the end of May, you are treated to 24 hours of daylight. It’s also warmer than winter as you can imagine, but you are still likely to be treated to snow capped peaks and the odd dusting of snow. You can still technically see the Northern Lights in the first few weeks in April too, though this shouldn’t be the sole reason to travel at this time of year since there’s less nightime to enhance your chances.

Wildlife re-emerges

Especially in April, the wild reindeer can still be spotted at sea-level, near the Jökulsarlón glacier lagoon in the south east (summer is a little too hot for them, so they migrate into the mountains). Twenty different whale species return to Iceland to mate. Athough the Atlantic puffins are spotted in spring too, the bulk of them don’t arrive until late May. The flora re-emerges with plenty of colours popping up across the landscape. But the big draw in terms of wildlife is the birthing season of the lambs. There are more sheep than people, so you’ll have a pretty high chance of seeing the odd new-born lamb.

Best activities to do at this time of year

There are lots of great activities you can take part in at this time of year. From an adventurous glacier hike to whale watching to tranquil horse rides. However, the one activity that works best at this time of year is snowmobiling. The glaciers (where you do the snowmobiling) are truly covered in thick snow all the way down to the edges of the ice. Sure, the dead of winter works too in terms of snowfall, but in springtime you’re more likely to get clear skies and nicer weather (pivotal for those breathtaking panoramic views).

When should I book?

Around 3 months in advance is generally fine, even for private tours. This is one of the few times of the year that you can book relatively last minute and still have a high chance of us being able to help. The earlier the better is always safest of course, but in general if you request a tour for April and May, more than a month in advance should be able to provide something wonderful for you.


2. Summer | June, July & August

Midnight sun and warmth

Witnessing the midnight sun is an experience unlike any other. From late May until mid-August, nighttime disappears…literally. This gives you unlimited amounts of time to exlore the country. The sun will still set, but only briefly, making sure any encroaching darkness is held at bay. Don’t worry though, most hotels have black out curtains to help you sleep. Watching the sun set around midnight only to rise again shortly after is something only Iceland and other arctic regions can offer. All of this direct sunlight brings warmth with it too which makes this a great time of year for multi-generational families.

Life is flourishing

In stark contrast to winter, summer is bursting with life. The vibrant Alaskan Lupine bloom across much of Iceland’s flat lands, temporarily turning the landscape purple. Over 10 million Atlantic puffins call the Icelandic cliff sides home and over 20 different whale species come to the shores to mate too. Add in the release of the 480,000 or so sheep into the wild and you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you are on an isolated island on the edge of the arctic circle.

Best activities to do at this time of year

The warmth and sunlight of summer allows you to do most things that Iceland has to offer but the defining activities that are best in summer are puffin tours, glacier hikes and travelling into the highlands. This is also the best time to travel around the ring road, whether that’s on a private tour, guided by us, or a self-drive itinerary, if you prefer to have more flexibility.

When should I book?

At least 6 months in advance to be safe. A request any later than January/ February can still be planned, but accommodation becomes a bit of an issue on certain dates in some locations. Summer is the busiest time of year for sure, but with the entire ring road, highlands, and islands opening up to tourists, there is certainly plenty of room to spread out. Last minute requests for summer travel is possible but is often relegated to making Reykjavík your base and potentially asking you to join our small group tours.

3. Autumn | September & October

Northern Lights

By autumn, nighttime has truly returned! And with it – the Northern Lights. Sure, you can see the Northern Lights all through the winter and even into early April. But, nearer the Equinox it is statistically the most likely time for you to see them. The reason for this anomaly is not fully explained but a mix of slightly more particles entering the atmosphere and a higher chance of having clear skies and you won’t care ‘why’, only that you get to see the light show for yourself.

Not ‘too’ cold yet

These months are quite funny in terms of weather. You can get days warm enough to wear a t-shirt and other days where there’s a big dump of snow. That’s half the fun of autumn. This is the time of year where the trope, 4 seasons in one day, is most obvious. Most activities are still achievable in these months and you can even get around the island by car without too much worry in terms of ice on the roads, until around mid-October.

Sunsets and rainbows

Our Guide & Safety Manager lovingly refers to autumn as rainbow season. The sun drops low in the sky early at this time of year and gives rise to plenty of chances for rainbows. Especially when visiting one of the many waterfalls Iceland has to offer. If you aren’t lucky enough to see a rainbow, one thing is for sure – those autumn reds, oranges, yellows and mossy greens, really make the landscape pop.

Best activities to do at this time of year

Northern Lights tours are of course number one here, though not in the way you would expect. The sun still doesn’t set until around 8pm, meaning full darkness doesn’t arrive until closer to midnight. So the best way to see the aurora is not to join a late-evening tour but rather to join an overnight tour where you sleep in secluded locations around the country (our specialty). Then you can just step out of your hotel at any time in the night and look up.

When should I book?

Early September can still have plenty of sold out hotels in the more remote parts of the country early in the year, so aim to book 4 or 5 months in advance just to be sure. October is less of a problem and can actually be requested relatively last minute depending the dates. Just be aware that luxury accommodation isn’t as prevalent outside of Reykjavík, so if you have your heart set on all luxury accommodation trip, then get in touch as early as you can just in case there are some sold out nights.

4. Winter | November to March

Winter Wonderful

You will notice that this ‘season’ is longer than the rest. It would seem Iceland’s winters can last a long time. Obviously, some might say. But actually, thanks to the Gulf Stream, the temperature skates around the 2 Degrees Celsius mark most of winter (with plenty of cold snaps and warm fronts keeping us on our toes). This means you will still likely get a winter wonderful but not the constant sub-zero temperatures that you might have expected.

Ice Caves

In fact, the reason this season is so lengthy and well defined is for one the activities that we consider a must see – the ice caves! Effectively, from November to March (and even into April) it is considered safe to enter these beautiful blue ice structures. They can range from snake like tunnels to mighty cathedrals. Every season is a little different from the last.

Northern Lights

Despite autumn being the ‘best time’ to see the Northern Lights, winter is also a phenomenal time too. Aside from the Festive period, it tends to be quite a quiet time too. Even though you’re slightly less likely to see them than in autumn, it does get dark as early as 3:30pm on some days, so there’s plenty of nighttime to play with. This is the time of year where your dinner time can often get interrupted by an excited tourist shouting that they’re ‘right outside the window’.

Best activities to do at this time of year

It’s already been said – ice caves and Northern Lights. But actually, sitting in a warm hot pool with snow surrounding you is also a favourite of many of our customers too. The contrast between the hot and cold is just as breathtaking as seeing the aurora, though maybe in a slightly more visceral way.

When should I book?

Excluding the festive period (20th of December to 10th of January), you can be quite relaxed with this. November and January are the quietest times (similar numbers to spring) but even in February and March, which are considered key ice cave times, we’re likely to be able to be able to say yes to most requests as late as 3 months out. Last minute request are welcome too, though we might just need to be a bit creative with the order, hotel choices and activities.



Activities that can be done all year round

Still undecided? Here is a run down of some of the activities that can be done all year round:

  1. Glacier hikes can be enjoyed all year round. The pristine blue ice in winter makes for some great pictures but the crunchy white ice in summer allows for more adventure. The temperature has little effect on the enjoyment of a glacier walk.

  2. Horse riding is great fun regardless of whether you are trotting through fresh snow, black sand or volcanic lava fields. The horses are lovely and warm regardless. Just don’t call them ponies, they get offended.

  3. South Coast sights. This area is the least affected by the changing weather of the seasons. Although the rest of the country is open year round, with the exception of the highlands, the south coast tends to get less snow and ice on the roads. Thankfully our award winning 2 day tour to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is also in this region.

  4. The Golden Circle and Snaefellsnes are must see locations. Snaefellsnes has the most photographed mountain in the country (Game of Thrones anyone?) and the Golden Circle has a geyser that erupts every 10 minutes. Both are easily accessible all year round, each possible as a day trip from Reykjavik.

Have you decided when is the best time to come to Iceland yet?

Hopefully, one of these seasons has stuck out a little more than another for you. If you now have a preferred time of year in mind or want even more details you can get in touch any time. Let’s start planning the perfect itinerary together.

Check out our private tour page for a custom planned itinerary.

Ryan Connolly | Marketing Manager, Guide, Co - Owner | Hidden Iceland

Hi, I am Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.

I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. My passion for the outdoors, science, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about Iceland. I have been interviewed in ForbesConde Nast Traveller and Travel Pulse on various subjects.

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