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Ultimate Guide to Iceland in Spring

What You Should Know Before Visiting Iceland in Spring

|January 26, 2024
Anhelina is a travel writer with over five years of experience specializing in Iceland. With a background in foreign languages and translation, she conducts in-depth research to provide readers with detailed insights into Iceland's landscapes, culture, and hidden gems.

Experience the best of both worlds in Iceland during spring. Enjoy the extended daylight and milder weather without the summer crowds! Here is a full travel guide to visiting Iceland in spring.


When you think of Iceland, spring might not be the first season that comes to mind. And you would be right because Iceland has two recognized seasons - winter and summer. But the time between March and April is still known as Icelandic spring, or the 'shoulder season.' During this time, the snow begins to recede, and days become longer, pushing away the darkness of winter nights. 

If you're planning a spring visit to Iceland, remember that it's a unique time that requires some research to know what you’re in for. Despite the increasing daylight, it's still quite cold during this season. You might also be surprised to learn that Icelandic summer officially begins on the first Thursday after April 18th!

So, is spring a good time to visit Iceland? Let's find out.

When Is Spring in Iceland?

Seljalandfoss Waterfall In Summer Time, Iceland

Spring in Iceland is from late March to May. But nature doesn't follow the calendar, and the transition from winter can start earlier or extend into June, depending on the year's weather patterns. 

One of the most anticipated signs of spring is the return of the golden plover. Usually, it arrives during the last week of March. This migratory bird's arrival is so iconic that many Icelanders consider it the true messenger of spring!

During these months, the country experiences a drastic increase in daylight, with nearly 24 hours of light by the end of May, setting the stage for endless adventures outdoors. The melting snow feeds the rivers and waterfalls, ensuring they're at their most spectacular, and the landscape starts to bloom with life.

Reasons to Visit Iceland in Spring

Due to the colder climate and unpredictable weather, Iceland's spring season is not very popular among tourists and is actually quite underrated. During this time, you have a rare opportunity to travel around Iceland in privacy, away from the typical crowds. So, while it might differ from the conventional seasons, spring in Iceland is worth considering.

So why visit Iceland in spring?

Beautiful Landscape And Sunset Near Blue Lagoon Hot Spring Spa In Iceland

Fewer Crowds

Enjoy Iceland's famous attractions without the peak season tourist crowds. This means more space for you at popular spots like the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss, and Thingvellir National Park. And even more freedom and choice in planning your accommodations and tours!

Fantastic Sunrise Scene Of Powerful Godafoss Waterfall

Powerful Waterfalls

In Iceland, the waterfalls are at their best during springtime. As the ice melts, the water flows stronger and faster, making the falls more powerful and impressive. You definitely don't want to miss Gullfoss, Skógafoss, and Dettifoss (the most powerful waterfall in Europe!).

Night Sky Illuminated by Northern Lights In The Mountains

Northern Lights

Northern Lights, also known as the aurora, are most active during the winter. However, with its longer nights, early spring still provides a decent opportunity to catch a glimpse of this mesmerizing natural spectacle. It’s recommended to join a guided Northern Lights tour to increase your chances of seeing them.

Atlantic puffin in Iceland in Spring on a cliff

Puffin Season

Want to see puffins? Late April to early May is the ideal moment for it! These adorable and comical birds come back to the seaside cliffs for breeding, which means you're likely to encounter a whole bunch of them during this season. To make the most of your puffin encounter, hop on a puffin-watching tour that will take you to the top spots to observe these charming birds in their colonies!

Woman Tourist Near The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall During The Sunset, Iceland

Value for Money

If you've ever wondered when it's cheapest to visit Iceland, here's the answer: go during the off-season. That means winter and spring. During these times, everything – flights, places to stay, renting a car, and booking tours – costs a lot less than when lots of people visit. So, if you want to save money and still have a great trip, consider checking limited off-season tour deals.

Things to Do in Iceland in Spring

Stunning Eruption Of Strokkur Geysir In Iceland During Sunset

Golden Circle Tour

This classic tour is even more magical in spring, with fewer tourists and more lively natural features. Don't miss the erupting geysers, the thundering Gullfoss waterfall, and the historical Þingvellir National Park! Find your preferred variation of the Golden Circle tour.

Tourist watching from the boat breaching humpback whale

Whale Watching

Spring marks the return of many whale species to Icelandic waters. You can join whale watching tours in Reykjavik or North Iceland to see these animals, often splashing right near your boat. It's a great experience for everyone who loves sea animals or wants a special adventure with their family.

Man relaxing in the natural hot spring pool in Iceland

Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools

While spring in Iceland can be chilly, it's a great time to relax in one of the many hot springs or spas. So, if the weather doesn't cooperate during your trip, you can always take a dip in a geothermal pool. You will take part in Icelandic traditions while staying warm and rejuvenated! Whether it's the famous Blue Lagoon or a secluded natural hot spring, there's no shortage of options.

Tourist in red jacket standing inside the blue ice cave in Iceland

Glacier Hiking & Ice Caves

If you find yourself in Iceland in spring, consider adding glacier hiking or ice cave exploration to your itinerary. You can go on glacier hikes throughout the year on different outlet glaciers and try climbing, easy walks, or challenging hikes. And while most ice cave tours are available until April, some remain accessible year-round, too! One of these exceptions is the Langjökull Ice Tunnel, which you can add to your visit no matter the season.

Month-By-Month Guide to Spring in Iceland

March in Iceland

Iceland in March is a wild mix of winter and spring. Snow covers the land, but daylight increases by 6-7 minutes daily. The days become longer, so you have more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities.

Rainbow Over Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

March, along with October, is considered one of the most interesting times to visit Iceland. It’s the best of both worlds – you can see the snowy landscapes and potentially catch the Northern Lights while still having enough daylight for other activities. With fewer tourists, rental prices are more reasonable, and attractions are less crowded.

Here are some must-dos in March:

April in Iceland

April in Iceland marks a clear transition from the icy grip of March. The snow gradually melts on the coast, but it’s still considered a cold season. The days stretch out, offering up to 16 hours of light by the end of the month, giving you more time for exploration.

Picturesque Autumn Sunset Dyrholaey Cape And Rock Formations View From Reynisfjara

April is typically a drier month, and although the weather can change rapidly in Iceland, this period is generally mild. This is the last chance to witness the Northern Lights before the arrival of summer, making it an ideal time for a winter outing. Additionally, rental prices are typically lower in April due to the relatively low number of tourists.

By the end of April, wildlife becomes more active. Puffins start to return, marking the approach of Iceland's official summer – the first Thursday after April 18th.

Here are some must-dos in April:

  • Sail out to see whales from Reykjavik or North Iceland’s Dalvik.

  • Try your luck (especially in the first half of the month) to catch the last Northern Lights of the year!

  • Enjoy the most famous Ring Road route, as the roads start clearing up from ice by now.

Visit the legendary Katla ice cave or take a tour inside a glacier tunnel, even if the other caves become inaccessible.

May in Iceland

May is a pleasant month in Iceland that will give you a full-on spring experience. The landscapes are alive with blooming flowers, and nature wakes up after the long winter. Days are long and bright, with over 17 hours of daylight, offering plenty of time for exploring.

Kayaks At Glacial Lake In The Cold Mountains, Iceland

During this month, Iceland is already transitioning into summer, opening a new selection of activities to try. The snow has mostly melted in the lowlands, though you can still find it in the highlands, in contrast to the blooming scenery.

Here are some must-dos in May:

  • May is a great time for wildlife watching. Puffins, known for their colorful beaks and quirky behavior, are especially active near their nesting cliffs.

  • It’s also the earliest month to go kayaking! Near Kirkjufell or in the glacier lagoon - the Icelandic landscape is your playground!

  • Take a boat tour! With the ice melting, boat tours become popular. Whether whale watching or exploring the fjords, you’ll get a totally different perspective on the Icelandic landscape.

Driving in Iceland in Spring

Spring is an excellent time to hit the road and explore Iceland by car, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Here's what you should know to have a great road trip.

Aerial view of the mountains and a road in Iceland

Weather and Road Conditions

In Iceland, the weather in spring is unpredictable and can change quickly, especially in March and early April. One moment it could be blue skies and the next, a snowstorm. May is generally milder, but it's still good to keep an eye on the weather forecast for sudden changes.

Road conditions can vary depending on the location. While main roads such as the Ring Road are well-maintained, secondary roads may still be affected by winter conditions, especially in more remote areas. Always check www.road.is for real-time updates on road conditions, especially if you plan to drive in rural or mountainous regions.

Driving Tips

  • Be prepared for all weather. Ensure your car has suitable tires for snow and ice if visiting in early spring.

  • Drive cautiously and respect the speed limits. Conditions can change quickly, and roads can be slippery or icy.

  • As spring comes, the days get much longer, but it's still best to avoid driving late at night, especially in remote or unfamiliar places.

  • F-roads leading to the highlands are typically closed until late June. If you're planning a trip to the highlands, it's better to schedule it for the summer months.

  • Consider buying full coverage rental insurance. This way, you're safeguarded against weather-related damages, offering you peace of mind as you explore.

  • In Iceland, winter tires are mandatory for driving during snowy seasons, from November 1 until April 15. They become illegal after mid-April, when spring starts.

What to Pack for Iceland in Spring

If you plan a trip to Iceland in the spring, it's important to pack the right items to ensure your comfort no matter what the weather throws at you.

Driver standing by the car in Iceland

Here's a standard clothing list to help you pack:

 

  1. Rain Jacket and pants - the weather can change in a heartbeat, and you'll be thankful for waterproof layers.

  2. Packable winter jacket -  a lightweight but warm jacket that can easily be packed away when unused.

  3. Scarf, winter hat, and gloves - crucial for chilly mornings and evenings.

  4. Long underwear tops and bottoms are recommended if visiting in early spring when temperatures are still quite low.

  5. Fleece jacket or hoodie - perfect for layering. Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, and layers are your best friend!

  6. Sweater or down vest - another layering option for extra warmth.

  7. Pants/leggings - comfortable and versatile for any activity (jeans are not recommended!).

  8. Long-sleeved top - it's still too early for short sleeves, so choose warmth and comfort.

  9. Warm sleepwear - nights can still be cold, so cozy sleepwear is a must.

  10. Bathing suit - a must for enjoying Iceland's famous geothermal spas.

  11. Microfiber towel - compact and quick-drying, perfect for hot spring stops.

  12. Waterproof hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes - essential for exploring Iceland's rugged terrain.

  13. Moisture-wicking socks - help prevent blisters and keep your feet dry during long walks.

Spring Weather in Iceland

Iceland's spring months, March, April, and May, are part of the colder half of the year. However, because of the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys relatively mild temperatures for its latitude. Typically, the temperatures range between 0 and 5°C (32-41°F), making it chilly but bearable.

In Reykjavik, the weather can be a mix of snow, sleet, and rain, but you also get some bright sunny days. The average temperature hovers between 0-10°C (32-50°F), with southern parts of the country experiencing wetter conditions and the north being drier (and colder). The highlands, colder than the coastline, are usually closed to traffic during this period.

However, remember that spring weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. One day might bring a snowstorm or hailstorm, and the next could have clear blue skies—or you might experience both in one day!

Young Couple Standing In The Crater Of Hverfjall Volcano In Myvatn Area, Iceland

As May arrives, things heat up, with temperatures averaging around 9.4°C (48.9°F) for the high and 3.6°C (38.5°F) for the low. This month is generally sunnier and less windy than previous months. In May, the snow starts to thaw, especially in the mountains and highlands, allowing flowers in Reykjavik and along its coastline to start blooming.

Daylight Hours in Iceland in Spring

In simple terms, spring in Iceland is a time of rapidly increasing daylight. Each day gets noticeably longer as the season progresses from the start of March to the end of May. 

In early March, you can expect around 10 hours of daylight. But by the end of May, the day stretches out impressively to about 20 hours of daylight. This means that each day in spring gets longer by several minutes, giving you more and more time to explore and enjoy Iceland’s attractions in natural light.

Sunrises and sunsets shift dramatically during these months, too. At the start of March, the sun rises around 8:30 AM and sets before 7:00 PM. But by the end of May, the sun rises very early, around 3:30 AM, and sets close to 11:30 PM late at night. 

So, during spring in Iceland, you'll move from relatively balanced day and night lengths to very long days, perfect for all your adventures!

Final Thoughts

Spring is a great time to visit Iceland if you're looking for a quieter experience. The weather is not perfect, but since there are fewer tourists, you can take in the stunning landscapes in peace. Additionally, it's a good time to travel on a budget, as prices are lower.

With increasing daylight hours, spring is the perfect time to explore Iceland. You can witness the return of migratory birds like puffins and even catch a glimpse of the northern lights. 

If you're thinking about visiting Iceland this spring, you should be ready for the weather and keep a positive attitude - then your trip can be great!

Couple hugging in the mountains in East Iceland

FAQs About Spring in Iceland

Is spring a good time to visit Iceland?

Absolutely! It's a fantastic time to experience this country with fewer tourists and lower prices.

Is March or April better to go to Iceland?

Both months have their advantages. In March, you will have a higher chance of seeing the Northern Lights, while April brings more daylight and the start of warmer weather.

Is April a good month to see the Northern Lights?

If catching the Northern Lights is high on your Iceland bucket list, you might want to think twice about choosing April for your trip. While it's not impossible to see them in early April, your chances are much smaller compared to the peak season. For the best shot at witnessing the magical Northern Lights, visit Iceland between September and March.

What does Iceland look like in the spring?

Spring in Iceland is an affordable and less crowded time to visit. You can enjoy thundering waterfalls and rivers overflowing with glacial meltwater. Snow becomes patchy, and days are slightly sunnier, but still, be prepared for unpredictable weather (like sideways rain!).

Can you hike in Iceland in spring?

If you like hiking, some trails may be available in the spring when snow begins to melt. However, it's important to check local advice as conditions may change. Highland trails and mountain roads are typically closed due to snow and only open in late June. Therefore, the summer months are the best time for hiking.

Is it safe to drive in Iceland in April?

It should be generally safe, but you must take the necessary precautions. Check weather forecasts and road conditions for a safe journey, no matter where you're headed in Iceland. This way, you can adjust your plans accordingly and stay safe.

Is it a good idea to drive in Iceland in April?

Absolutely! April is a good time for a road trip, as the weather starts to improve and most roads are clearing from ice and snow. You will enjoy more sunny days, awakening wildlife, and some greenery showing up. But always remember to check the weather forecast alerts! You can do that on road.is

Do you need a 4x4 in Iceland in April?

Whether you need a 4x4 depends on your travel plans. For short distances around Reykjavik or the Golden Circle, a 4x4 might not be necessary. However, if you're heading north, even on the Ring Road, a 4x4 is recommended. The weather in the north can be especially unpredictable, and remote areas require the stability and safety of a 4x4.

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