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.
Iceland is pretty much a country of two seasons, Summer and Winter, and the difference is truly mind-blowing. To 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 to 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.
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!
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!
Looking to book a Northern Lights tour? Find out your perfect fit on the Northern Light tour page.
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!).
Not too long ago the answer would have been, unquestionably, in winter but with the recently found ice cave under the volcano and the man-made one in Langjokull you can now safely enjoy the wonderfulness of a glacier ice cave in any season.
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!
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 marks the height of lights. The days surrounding the dates will, therefore, be the ultimate brightest and your best time to experience the Midnight Sun.
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.
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.
Winter pros and cons:
Summer pros and cons:
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.
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.