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Backpacking in Iceland

Iceland is known for its vast and diverse landscapes, glittering glaciers, impressive canyons, and waterfalls. The beauty of the country’s nature is simply enchanting. Highlights that shouldn’t be missed are the northern lights and going whale watching. These unique experiences are impossible to forget. Though, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also explore the canyons and magnificent waterfalls. Regardless of may have piqued your interest so far, if you are looking to find out the best time to visit Iceland, this climate guide will assist you in picking the perfect time for your trip. 

Highlights

Two hours away from Reykjavík, you can find Iceland’s largest waterfall, Gullfoss. It is truly a sight to behold! Near Gullfoss, you’ll encounter yet another unique natural phenomenon known as the Golden Circle. This is a shorter tour that covers two major sights: Geysir Strokkur and Thingvellir National Park. For the Golden Circle, you will need at least one day to get the full experience. Though, it will definitely be an unforgettable time. Even if you can’t make it to Gullfoss, there are two other, beautiful waterfalls that are also worth a visit: Seljalandsfoss, and the more hidden Gljúfrabúi.

In a beach mood? Then, Reynisfjara beach is the perfect place for you! Located in the south of the country, this beautiful black sand is made from old lava. The impressive waves can be up to 20 metres high here and will take your breath away. From the beach, you will be amazed by the stunning rock formations rising out of the water.

For our mountain lovers, the southwest is home to a colourful mountain world near the volcano Hekla. Known as Landmannalaugar, you can discover all the facets of this vibrant natural wonder for yourself through hikes and guided tours.

Reykjavík

The cultural life of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík and the small, picturesque fishing villages are also worth experiencing if you’re in Iceland. Among the greatest sights in Reykjavík are Hallgrims Church, which is the largest church in the country, and the Harpa concert hall. You can also just stroll through the city and admire the famous museums and sculptures like the Sun Voyager. What’s more, the capital is known for its exciting nightlife. All bars are open from Friday to Sunday until the wee-hours of the morning. You’ll find everything from live music to exciting musicals and poetry slams.

At a Glance:

 Peak Season June to August
 Off-Season September to May
  Northern Lights October to March
 Whale Watching June to August
  Hiking June to August
 Glacier Tours March to May
  • Peak season: June to August
  • Off-season: September to May
  • Northern Lights: Mid-August to April (Primetime: September/ October and February/ March)
  • Whale Watching: June to August
  • Skiing: March to May
  • Glacier tours: March to May

What is the Climate like in Iceland?

Iceland is the northernmost island in Europe and is not far from the Arctic Circle. Given the country’s location, there is a cool oceanic climate with temperate summers and mild winters.

The reason for the fairly mild climate is the Gulf Stream, as it brings warmer temperatures. The influence of the Irming Current also creates higher temperatures, especially on the south coast. Meanwhile, the north-east and south-west coasts experience cooler conditions due to the Greenland Current.

Temperature
During the summer, the temperature ranges from 12 to 15 °C (53.5 to 59 °F) and during the winter it fluctuates between 0 and 3 °C (32 to 37.4 °F). In winter, the north and the interior of the island are covered in snow. However, the average temperature only falls slightly below freezing. On the coast, it is generally warmer all year round than inland. Here, it does not get much warmer in summer than in winter. The highest summer temperatures will reach around 15 °C (59 °F) on the south coast.

Precipitation
Regarding precipitation, there are only small regional differences. Near Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, you can expect the most precipitation. The south and the interior of the country are characterised by significantly less rainfall. The north in the plateau receives the least rainfall. Precipitation generally falls in autumn and continues into the summer months. The weather is variable throughout the year, especially in the transition period between winter and summer (May to June). Rain showers, snowfalls and sudden changes in the weather are not uncommon, even in summer.

Climate in Reykjavík

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Maximum Temperature in C°

2

3

4

6

10

12

14

14

11

7

4

2

Minimum Temperature in C°

-2

-2

-1

1

4

7

9

8

6

3

0

-2

Hours of Sunshine

1

2

4

5

6

6

6

5

4

2

1

0

Days of Rain

20

17

18

18

16

15

15

16

19

21

18

20

Climate in Akranes

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Maximum Temperatur in C°

2

3

4

6

10

12

14

14

11

7

4

1

Minimum Temperature in C°

-1

-2

-1

1

4

7

10

8

5

3

0

-2

Hours of Sunshine

0

2

4

5

6

7

6

5

4

2

1

0

Days of Rain

20

17

18

18

16

15

15

16

19

21

18

20

Climate in Hafnarfjörður

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Maximum Temperature in C°

2

2

2

5

8

12

14

13

10

6

3

1

Minimum Temperature in C°

-1

-1

-1

1

4

8

9

8

6

3

1

-2

Hours of Sunshine

2

3

4

5

7

4

7

8

5

4

3

3

Days of Rain

13

11

11

15

14

15

17

14

17

14

12

10

Seasonal Climate Guide for Iceland

Off-Season (September to May)

Given Iceland’s location, you might not expect autumn and winter to be as mild as they are. Though, starting in September, the coastal region is still warm, while inland it can already be snowing.

In autumn, storms can be even stronger than during the rest of the year and the days start to get shorter. By this point, most tourists have already left and from September onwards, there are fewer bus trips around the island. In winter, you should expect only around 4 hours between sunrise and sunset.

If you prefer the colder winter months, then winter is the best time to visit Iceland. The land is cloaked in snow, the waterfalls are frozen, and the glaciers glisten in the winter sun. It’s the perfect time for snow hiking and glacier tours. The absolute highlight at this time of year, though, is the northern lights. This natural phenomenon attracts thousands of visitors every year. Viewing the northern lights can start as early as the end of August, but you’ll have a better chance at seeing them between October and March. Unfortunately, they are not visible when the sky is cloudy, so watch out for clear nights!

If you’re feeling too cold, you can relax and warm up in a hot spring. One of the world’s most famous hot springs is the Blue Lagoon. Here, the light blue and mineral-rich water has a temperature of 38-39 °C (100-102.2 °F). Other hot springs include the Mývatn Nature Baths, the Secret Lagoon, and the Geoseas Geothermal Sea Bath.

It’s important to note that travelling to Iceland in spring may be difficult. Due to heavy snowfall, many roads are often closed, and some parts of the island are inaccessible. During this time, temperatures are around freezing, but the days begin to get longer. Beginning in April, the snow starts to melt, and transport becomes a little easier.

 

Peak Season (June to August)

Summertime is considered the best time to visit Iceland due to its warm temperatures and low rainfall. In the early summer months, the days are the longest. Because of this, the island is covered with many flowers and plants. More specifically, late June to early July is the flowering season, so you have the chance to admire the island covered in blossoms.

The warm weather is also ideal for hiking and trekking and will last until about the beginning of September. The greenery and blossoms will make for many fantastic views and photo ops. During this time, you can do several outdoor activities such as glacier tours in the south or cycling from one town to the next. Mountain biking or exploring the island in a kayak are also interesting alternatives during this time if you want more of an adrenaline rush.

Summer is also the best time to go whale watching. These clever animals return from the south to live in the Northern Hemisphere during this time. So, from June to August, you will have the unique opportunity to see blue whales in the wild. We highly recommend the organised whale-watching tours where you can see whales and other sea creatures such as dolphins, orcas, humpback and minke whales.

You can also watch this unique experience from land. In The Snæfellsnes peninsula to the west, cities like Reykjavík and Húsavík are great spots for whale watching. As there’s a lot to do in the summertime, there will be larger crowds of tourists visiting the island from June to August. It’s also notable that this will lead to higher prices. But taking in all the wonderful nature makes it all worthwhile.

The Best Time to Visit Iceland

Summer is considered the best time to visit Iceland because of the warm and drier days. However, there are great things to experience all year round. All in all, the most suitable time to visit depends on your interests and preferences. Whatever you choose, one thing is for sure: Iceland is worth a visit.

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