The Weather in Iceland and How to Dress for it?
Aah trying to predict the weather in Iceland, you are just as likely to guess the numbers in the lottery. We can tell you approximately what to expect but most of the time this will mean all sorts of weather. Still, we are here to help and I will try my absolute best to guide you through the Icelandic weather.
We often talk about the Icelandic wind as Kári or Kuldaboli e. Cold Bull. Both of which are very appropriate in the sense that they are almost humanlike or beastly. It often seems as if the weather in Iceland has a temper and quite a big one if I may add.
The same view summer vs. winter
I will in this section refer to the Icelandic weather as The Beast.
The Beast is untamable, it’s ruthless and takes no prisoners but sometimes The Beast is in a good mood and oh the joy that follows. The Beast is also quick to change its mind.
In Iceland, a common saying is “if you don’t like the weather just wait a couple of minutes” as the weather is sure to change. This is great if the weather is bad, wait a little bit and it gets better but when the weather is good you might need to make the most of it when an opportunity is presented. It might not last for long.
So basically, love and enjoy when The Beast behaves, keep calm and carry on when it doesn’t. The Beast will change its mind soon enough.
The weather in Iceland in January
January is dark and cold but don’t be scared it’s also stunning!
Our winter days might contain limited sunlight but they also bring us the beautiful Northern Lights and crispy glistening snow. The average temperature in Reykjavík is about 0° Celsius or somewhere around 30 in Fahrenheit. BUT note that It can vary, quite a lot, so be prepared for 10°celcius up and down. It’s usually colder the further you go out of the capital. Especially up in the Westfjords and in the North.
About 4,5 – 7 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between -3°c (about 27 Fahrenheit) and 2°c (about 35 Fahrenheit)
Good to know
The darkness is caused by the fact that Iceland is located very far up North, close to the Arctic circle. This means that in wintertime are days and sunlight are short and our nights and darkness long. But don’t be afraid, Icelanders have been living here for quite a long time so we have fully mastered cozy by now, the snow helps to bring lights and we leave all of our Christmas lights on for a very long time to help with the dark. Also, almost every cafe, restaurant or dining facility of any sorts offers hot chocolate to keep in rhythm and warm you right up.
Good to know vol 2. – Driving in Iceland in January
Driving in January can be a challenge, especially if you aren’t used to driving in snow or on slippery roads. For anyone who is feeling nervous about this I would always recommend joining a tour where an experienced driver will take care of the whole thing and you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the Icelandic nature show.
If you are up for the job of driving in Iceland remember the www.road.is website. They are quite to update info on all of the roads in Iceland. Which ones are accessible and which ones aren’t. Be on the lookout!
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in January
The key is also, like with every season in Iceland, layers! Start with a thermal layer, then active pants and possible some wind and/or rainproof pants on top. Then on top, you should again wear a thermal shirt, a fleece or a similar sweater and then the top layer a thick coat or a wind/waterproof layer. Thick, good, warm socks and good sturdy shoes. Keep in mind that you can always take off a layer but if you are don’t have an extra layer it’s difficult to add it on.
Wool is great for winter in Iceland, it has gotten us through ice ages and it sure will get your through winter travels in Iceland.
Note: Jeans get wet and cold VERY easily. We don’t recommend wearing them for outdoorsy activities.
The weather in Iceland in February
A little less cold and dark.
Happy to tell you that February is brighter than January and the days a little longer. Still, they are dark enough for great Northern Lights possibilities, gorgeous snowy sights, and winter activities.
We have light for about 7 hours, between 10 am and 5 pm, plenty of time to explore and enjoy the awesomeness of Iceland. It’s quite likely to snow and rain, the streets are usually coated with snowdrift and it can get pretty windy.
About 7 – 10 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between -3°c (about 27 Fahrenheit) and 2°c (about 35 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in February
Dressing for February can be a bit challenging. You pretty much have to be prepared for everything. You can skip bringing shorts and t-shirts but that’s about it. Warm things should fill your suitcase and again layers is key!
Thermal underwear is necessary and warm socks. Good shoes, if you are planning on going anywhere out of Reykjavík and sunglasses, are great for when the sunlight hits the snow. It’s surprisingly bright!
The weather in Iceland in March
Now on to March, the last whole month of Northern Lights and decent snow. Here you are likely to experience all sorts of weather. It’s less snowy, rainier. The Wind is high in March and temperature is about 0-5°. Although the temperature is going up don’t expect it to be warm. It’s still wintertime in Iceland even though the days are getting longer fast. You will probably spot the difference just in days as the difference between sunrise and set is about 10 hours in the beginning of the month and over 13 hours at the end of it!
About 10 – 13 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between -2 °c (about 28 Fahrenheit) and 3.3°c (about 38 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in March
March does not mean spring in Iceland. It’s still winter so again the same rules apply with how you want to dress. I might be starting to sound like a broken record but LAYERS, and layers on top of your layers and then some more layers. More is more when it comes to layers. The main difference here is that you might want to have more rain clothes.
Just remember wool means warmth!
The weather in Iceland in April
Now we are reaching spring (which is quite ironic as April is the month that we celebrate Sumardagurinn fyrsti or The First Day of Summer). Unfortunately, in Iceland spring can mean rain. April is probably though one of the most unpredictable months. April can mean still, mild weather with sun and nice temperatures around 10° but also a snow storm. There is something we like to call Páskahret, which basically means Easter cold spell with heavy snow or rain which usually comes from nowhere put into one word. English sure is missing words for a lot of the Icelandic weather types.
The daylight will be bright when you wake up and the sunset after dinnertime so this is the perfect month for a full day of exploring before heading out to explore the Northern Lights in the evening but now later, around midnight, unlike Dec-Jan when you can see them at 9 pm.
About 13 – 16 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between 0 °c (about 32 Fahrenheit) and 5.7 °c (about 42 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in April
Now you can see that my guide is starting to look a little less like you are about to climb Mt. Everest. Now you can relax a little bit. We will have good days and you will be able to button down a shirt or two. I will still emphasize that thermals are great and will be sure to keep you warm. Hiking shoes are every season’s essential in Iceland and buff goes a long way. You can put it around your neck or use it for your head if you get warm easily.
Windbreaker is a good idea and even though not in the photo: Swimsuit + sunglasses are a must!
The weather in Iceland in May
Now we will start seeing signs of summer. The grass will start to get greener, the plants will start to grow and Icelanders will start to come out from their hibernation. Temperatures will be around 5°-10°c (about 40-50 in Fahrenheit) and the daylight is probably going to make sleeping in difficult for those who aren’t used to having sunlight long into the nights and again very early in the morning.
About 16 – 20 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between 3.6 °c (about 38.5 Fahrenheit) and 9°c (about 48.9 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in May
Finally, the light jacket can be used. Now you should be packing a t-shirt and possible some shorts. This does though depend on where you are from. If you are used to an average 30-35°c you might want to leave the shorts at home. May is the month we start seeing Icelander’s skin again after being covered inside their huge parkas and coats throughout the winter season. This is when the swimming pools get busier and you should 100% pack a swimsuit to join in. Sunglasses again and a pair of woolen socks, just not as many as in Dec-Jan.
BUT don’t get overconfident if the weather Best gets in a bad mood a thick coat will come in handy. So again, yes you guessed it, LAYERS!
The weather in Iceland in June
It’s officially summer in Iceland or at least what we call summer. This might not count as much of a summer to those of you traveling from a warm country but it sure is different from the dark and snowy wintertime. June is the third warmest month of the year so that’s a good reason to be merry. This is the month of Solstice a full day with absolutely no darkness.
June is pretty much the month of bright days and bright nights. It’s the ultimate time of the Midnight Sun.
Another great thing about June is that it is the month with the least rain here in Iceland. So overall pretty warm and pretty dry.
About 20-21 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between 6.7 °c (about 44 Fahrenheit) and 11.7 °c (about 53 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in June
June, you beautiful month you!
Now we are serious on the t-shirt front. We are switching the jacket out for a vest and a swimsuit is necessary. June can mean wind so still, you will need to have layers so you don’t get cold.
I will suggest packing all of the light clothing displayed in the photo mainly because you might need to use them, but I am not making any promises, we have seen snow in June
Basically, in Iceland, you always need to be prepared for everything at all times.
The weather in Iceland in July
The light reached the max in June but don’t worry you will have plenty of light in July the shortest day contains about 18 hours of light. But in July the light will decrease rapidly. In July we are seeing the highest numbers in heat in Iceland. The average high temp is around 14°c or 57 in Fahrenheit. This isn’t exactly beach weather but very welcome for Icelanders and people who have been here through the winter. Keep in mind though this is just on average and Icelandic weather does play around going up and down a lot.
About 18 hours of daylight
The average temperature is between 8.3 °c (about 47 Fahrenheit) and 13.3 °c (about 56 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in July
June, July, and August have quite a similar dress code. It’s necessary to have something warm but not over the top, a couple of thin layers goes a long way in July – even better than one thick one. I mean you never know, it might be around 20°c but also 5°c. Whoops, sorry, I might be repeating this quite a lot but the weather varies and so should your dressing.
The weather in Iceland in August
Now, this is a tricky one to predict. I have seen it all in August, snow, sun, rain and strong winds BUT thankfully the most common weather is quite good. This is my favorite time to camp for example and during this month it starts to get dark and cozy again. August is actually when we start to see the first sightings of the Northern Lights again. Especially when in the highlands, like when hiking the Laugavegur Trail. The daylight time shortens quickly during July and by August we start to see fully dark nights again but no worries, August is Iceland’s second warmest month. With an average temperature of 8-19°c or 47-55 Fahrenheit. August is a little rainier than July.
About 14 – 18 hours of daylight
Average temperature is between 7.9 °c (about 46 Fahrenheit) and 13 °c (about 55.4 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in August
Here you might have a little more use for your raincoat and since it’s starting to get dark at night a warmer overcoat for the evenings and night time. This is usually the last month that we see some serious sun so don’t forget to bring light clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses just in case the weather gods are in a good mood.
The weather in Iceland in September
Hello, rainy days.
Now we start to see a drop in temperature and increase in rain but like with anything else when it comes to Icelandic weather this varies. One of the cool things about September is that the gold stream brings in the warmest ocean at this point and sea swimming, surfing, and other ocean activities can be done in the warmest water possible in Iceland. This is a great time to visit, the crowds get smaller, the weather isn’t too cold already and if you are lucky like in 2016 you might get weeks of sun and nice weather.
About 14 – 11 hours of daylight
Average temperature is between 5 °c (about 41 Fahrenheit) and 10 °c (about 50 Fahrenheit)
Good to know
Here you might need to start thinking again about driving in unusual circumstances. September can, for example, be very foggy and when driving over mountains and such it’s quite common that thick fog slides in and you have to slow down a lot. Roads might also start to get slippery especially the further out of the capital you go, especially north, east or into the west fjords.
If you plan to drive to these parts of the country, we definitely recommend an AWD or 4×4 vehicle.
Good to know
This is, at least in my opinion one of the most stunning times to visit. HELLO Fall colors! Photographers don’t forget that extra memory card, you are going to need it!
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in September
Rain clothes, boots, warm thermals, warm sweater. You can most probably go without a thick parka but you will need wind/rainproof jacket and a thick good sweater underneath. You should 100% bring a swimsuit. Bathing in a hot pool when the rain drizzles down on your face. O wow! There is no real way to explain this. Expect quick changes in weather this is the month where the weather is the most undecided. Check www.vedur.is religiously.
The weather in Iceland in October
Now we are in that month that is somewhat fall, winter, and summer at the same time.
Here we will have the most stunning sunrises and sunsets. The daylight time is dropping quickly about 6,5 minutes a day. It hasn’t gotten too dark during the day BUT the nights are dark enough for Northern Lights. This is one of the coziest months and with the right dressing outdoor activities will be a breeze.
About 11 – 8 hours of daylight
Average temperature is between 2.2 °c (about 36 Fahrenheit) and 6.8 °c (about 44.2 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in October
Shoes that will keep your feet dry are important in October. The weather is wetter so rainproof clothing is very helpful. October is a little tricky you are somewhere in between the wet and the cold month. Here you I definitely recommend thermal for all outdoor activities and a good hat to keep your ears warm. The photo below shows good signs of what to expect. Dress warm and keep dry waterproof clothing! I would recommend having a scarf or a buff, the winds can cool you down quickly.
The weather in Iceland in November
The numbers might look mild and not too scary, but keep in mind Iceland is an island and we only live on the coastline. Your travels are also most likely only on along the coast SO this makes for wind, breeze, whatever you wish to call it. This makes -1 °c feel like -15 °c and this is important to remember. The hours of daylight are also getting shorter but this means Northern lights so we can’t really complain. Here you need to prepare for snow, rain, slippery roads and wind.
About 8 – 5 hours of daylight
Average temperature is between -1.3 °c (about 29.7 Fahrenheit) and 3.4 °c (about 38 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in November
In November it’s very important that you dress warmly. Keep those layers at hand and make sure your shoes are waterproof. You will also need to pack plenty of socks. Socks are a very important factor and I would ALWAYS recommend having socks from wool or something, not cotton. There is a reason the saying cotton kills is common in the outdoorsy wilderness culture.
Go for wool, thermals, thick sweaters, keep your head, feat, neck, and hands warm. It’s better to have more and take it off than it is to be shaky cold and not have anything to put on. Look at December’s clothing photo for inspo.
The weather in Iceland in December
The temperature itself is probably warmer than you expected given that we named the island Iceland but again then the weather gods at the cold wind and temperatures drop fast. Look for the beautiful sunsets and enjoy the little light when it’s there. Be prepared for a quick dark night and again with the driving. If you aren’t used to driving in snow, heavy winds and slippery roads then join a tour where a tour guide is well trained for these circumstances. Rain or snow is common so be prepared. The best days in December is when it’s super cold, the ground is covered with crisp snow and every house is decorated with Christmas lights. Winter Wonderland really!
About 5 – 4 hours of daylight
Average temperature is between -2.8 °c (about 27 Fahrenheit) and 2.2 °c (about 36 Fahrenheit)
How to dress for the weather in Iceland in December
As you can see by the photo, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Sunglasses are important especially if it snows. When the (little) light hits the snowy ground and the light reflects it can be pretty hard on your eyes. Make sure you have warm socks and waterproof shoes. For in town matters make sure you have something warm around your neck. When the Kuldaboli wind strikes it usually goes for the neck blowing winds inside and around your whole body. Be prepared and protected!
Facts about the Icelandic Weather
- It changes a lot and quickly
- You pretty much have to prepare for anything
- The temperature is surprisingly mild – it’s the wind that gets you
- Layers is KEY when trying to dress for Icelandic weather
- NO NEED for umbrellas. They will just get ruined in like 5 minutes. Don’t even bother!
Icelandic Weather Records
|Highest temperature||Teigarhorn||30,5°C||22. June 1939|
|Lowest temperature||Grímsstaðir og Möðrudalur||-38°C||21. January 1918|
|Highest temperature in Reykjavík||Reykjavík||25,7°C||30. July 2008|
|Lowest temperature in Reykjavík||Reykjavík||-24,5°C||21. January 1918|
|Kvísker293,3 mm10. January 2002|
|Most 10 min wind speed||Skálafell við Esju||62,5 m/s||20. January 1998|
|Strongest wind||Gagnheiðarhnúkur||74,2 m/s||16. January 1995|
|Strongest wind in Reykjavík||Reykjavík||59,4 m/s||15. January 1942|
|Highest air pressure||Reykjavík||1058,5 hPa||3. January 1841|
|owest air pressure||Vestmannaeyjar||919,7 hPa||2. December 1929|
Conclusion about the Icelandic weather
- Layers are key!
- Don’t take chances when driving in winter
- Sunglasses and sunscreen are essential for all seasons!
- Waterproof shoes are important.
- Thick wool socks are going in your bag (no matter what season)
- Swimwear is needed for the full Icelandic experience (also no matter what season)
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