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One of the more common questions we get is “When is the best time to visit Iceland?“. The right answer lies in the idea you have about what you want to get out of your trip. Here we have listed the best times to see each phenomenon or attraction in Iceland.
WHAT ARE THE BEST MONTHS TO GO TO ICELAND?
Summer vs. Winter
Iceland is pretty much a country of two seasons, Summer and Winter, and the difference is truly mind-blowing. Visit Iceland in July and again in January will not only give you the experience of visiting two different countries but many describe it as two different planets. The difference in landscapes around Iceland are great, to begin with, but add to it the full snow and darkness in winter or the green and brightness you will find in summer and you have yourself incredible opposites.
Still, the question remains, when is the best time to visit Iceland? So, we will simply split it up into categories depending on what it is that you wish to see. Are you visiting Iceland for the Aurora Borealis? Are you joining a specific Music Festival? Or, are you possibly looking to save some money and visit during the shoulder season? This article will help shed a light on the best optimal time to visit with any of these factors in mind.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR ACTIVITIES
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR NORTHERN LIGHTS?
The darker period – winter months
Iceland is a country of great extremes. During summer we have constant light and in winter we have almost none. The winter months might sound quite harsh, and in some ways they are but we have the Northern Lights to make up for it!
Bright Northern Lights in Iceland
They are first visible in late August in the highlands and are often spotted by those hiking the Laugavegur trail. For the people who are staying on lower land the light hit in September. As the nights get darker and the rainy clouds turn to snow or vanish the sighting gets more kelly and the auroras shine brighter in the sky. From September to about mid-April the lights are likely to be seen. The strongest lights are often at the beginning or the end of the season but your safest bet is somewhere in between!
Here your answer lies in the cave you are looking to visit. The Crystal Ice Cave or the Into the Glacier (glacier hiking and ice cave exploring) is only operated in mid-winter when the weather is cold enough for the caves to be safe to visit. If you are looking to find an Ice Cave at other times or you will be staying in Reykjavik for the length of your stay your options are The Ice Cave Under the Volcano and the Langjokull Ice Cave Experience, sometimes also called Into the Glacier (confusing we know!).
BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND IF YOU WANT TO SEE PUFFINS
From May to September
When asked when it is best to see puffins in Iceland the answer is “up to the Puffins” but, thankfully, they keep a strict schedule and arrive in May and leave in September. The puffins can be seen in different spots all around the country ranging from the capes of the South Coast to the cliffs of the Westfjords. You can join a Puffin sightseeing tour at the back of a hay wagon on the central South Coast or you could mix puffins and whales together on an excursion in the North of Iceland. If you are visiting Iceland between the months of May and September to see them is kind of a must!
Oh the Midnight Sun, Iceland’s answer to the dark winters. The Midnight Sun is a wonderful phenomenon Icelanders have enjoyed since the arrival of the Vikings and now you can too!
Pink sky in Reykjavik during the Midnight Sun, Iceland
The Winter Solstice will take place sometime during the period from the 20th of December to the 23rd of December and is the darkest day of the year. The good thing about it is that immediately after, the day will start to lengthen again, as Icelanders like to phrase it. We will start to see more light and the light which will only continue to increase until the 20th-22nd of June when we have the Summer Solstice marking the height of lights. The days surrounding the dates will, therefore, be the ultimate brightest and your best time to experience the Midnight Sun.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR HOT SPRINGS
The best time to visit a natural hot spring in Iceland is definitely in the summertime when the weather is warm enough to change outside and take road trips to the places they are found. That is not to say that the hot springs cannot be visited in winter. There are plenty of options to visit them in winter you will just need to plan ahead and preferably get a guide or sign up for a tour to stay safe.
Hot spring at Hvita river in Iceland
BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR THE BLUE LAGOON
All year round, or maybe winter. Let’s find out!
The Blue Lagoon is open all year round and the water temperatures stay the same so it really doesn’t matter when your trip to Iceland is scheduled you can always stop at the Blue Lagoon.
Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland
Winter pros and cons:
You are likely to get to enjoy the lagoon for a lower cost.
Winters at the Blue Lagoon also mean fewer people.
The downside to visiting the Blue lagoon off-season (not in summer) is the weather, which can get quite crude.
More darkness, worse for photo opportunities.
Summer pros and cons:
The summer at the Blue Lagoon brings better weather.
You are more likely to be able to fit more into your day with increased daylight.
The opening times are longer.
The downside to summers are Blue Lagoon is that there are more people visiting.
Another con is the pricing which often goes up in summer.
Pro Tip: If you are visiting the Blue Lagoon in summer you can assure your price of tickets by purchasing them beforehand from Arctic Adventures. See options for Blue Lagoon Tours.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR HIKING
May - September
Hiking in Iceland is an unforgettable experience with amazing trails and beautiful mountains. Hiking is an activity highly dependent on the weather since some of the trails might now be accessible at certain times of the year.
Hiking tour in Laugavegur trek, Iceland
The hiker's season begins in May and lasts through September. Summer is the best time for hiking in Iceland because the trails are easily accessible, and the daylight allows you to explore the beauty of Icelandic nature.
Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands is another story. The access to the highlands is often closed after winter and only opens in mid-June. To learn more about hiking in the highlands, check out our blog post on trekking vs. sightseeing in the Icelandic Highlands.
Year-round (or depending on what kind of landscape you're looking for)
Icelandic landscapes are extremely photogenic at any time of the year. During the winter months, photographers can make the most out of the snowy landscapes and mountain tops. Another advantage of winter photography is the blue and golden hours happening during the day! The sun doesn't get really high in Iceland during winter, which is why, at a certain time, the golden hour occurs for the duration of daylight.
Beautiful landscape on the Stokksnes during summer, Iceland
During the summer months, there are plenty of opportunities for nature photography as well. You can take advantage of the contrasting landscapes, which are now covered in green. You can even catch some wildlife with your camera if you are lucky!
BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR WHALE WATCHING
The summer months are the best time to go whale watching in Iceland. The whale-watching tour usually takes up to four hours and is a perfect addition to your Iceland trip. You can book whale-watching tour options from Reykjavik and Dalvik in North Iceland.
Although these beautiful Nordic countries can be visited year-round, the safest choice is to visit them during the summer. The flights to Greenland from Iceland might be restricted due to the bad weather during winter, so if you want to combine the two countries in one trip, you should keep that in mind.
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon during midnight sun in Iceland
Another reason why it is better to choose summer for your trip to Iceland and Greenland is extended daylight hours and better weather! You can admire the glow of the midnight sun while still being able to explore the glacier, icebergs, and other arctic attractions.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND FOR FAMILIES
Iceland is a perfect playground for the whole family's fun. The best time to come here with your family depends on the activities you'd like to do. Come during winter for the Northern Lights, and during the summer if you're in for the Midnight sun.
Hello honeymooners! Iceland is a perfect place for romance at any time of the year. Cozy up together and watch the Northern lights in winter or hike the beautiful Landmannalaugar in summer. Iceland has plenty of opportunities to get the most out of your honeymoon.
To get more ideas on what to do in Iceland on your honeymoon, check out our blog post on honeymoon in Iceland.
WHAT IS THE CHEAPEST MONTH TO VISIT ICELAND?
The offseason for Iceland would be the inbetweeners, the one or two months that don’t really pass for summer or winter. These months are April-May and again September-October. During these times you can definitely visit Iceland for a lower price. Operators of flights, accommodation and tours will lower the pricing and your trip to Iceland can get more budget-friendly.