Worst Time to Visit Iceland (& When to Go Instead)

So, you’ve finally decided to tick Iceland off your bucket list – an epic adventure filled with cascading waterfalls, breathtaking glaciers, the mystical Northern Lights, and quaint little towns that’ll make you believe in magic!

But wait, did you know there’s a ‘worst’ time to visit this Nordic paradise? A season when unrelenting weather patterns and shorter daylight hours could really put a damper on your otherwise perfect getaway.

But don’t fret! By the end of this article, not only will you know when not to book your flight, but you’ll also be enlightened about the absolute best time to witness the charm and allure of Iceland in all its glory.

Get ready, as we take you on a weather-guided journey through ‘the land of fire and ice’ and help you plan a trip that you’ll remember for a lifetime!

Dramatic landscape of Haifoss Waterfall in Landmannalaugar canyon Iceland
Dramatic landscape of Haifoss Waterfall in Landmannalaugar canyon Iceland

When is the Best & Worst Time to Visit Iceland?

The best time to visit Iceland is during the summer months, specifically in August. With the warmest weather, least cloudy days, and standard daylight hours, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy Iceland’s incredible sights.

Expect the sun to rise around 5 AM and set around 9 PM. It’s also a fantastic time for avid hikers since all the mountain roads and famous trails are open. Just be ready for the crowds since it’s also peak tourist season.

On a side note, the best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights is between September and March.

The worst time to visit Iceland is the month of February. It’s the coldest month in many parts of the country, with only seven to eight hours of daylight per day.

Sipping hot cocoa wrapped in layers while admiring Iceland’s winter beauty is definitely appealing. However, sleet, ice, and limited daylight hours may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Iceland’s shoulder season (May to June, or September) is also a great time to visit; you’ll find a better balance between mild weather, daylight hours, and lesser crowds, without sacrificing any of the awe-inspiring natural wonders.

kirkjufell mountain iceland
Kirkjufell Mountain Iceland

Worst Time to Visit Iceland

Iceland may be on your bucket list, but there are certain times that may not be ideal for visiting this stunning, otherworldly landscape.

Limited Daylight Hours

During the winter months (November to February), Iceland is notorious for its limited daylight hours.

The sun becomes a rare guest, offering as little as 4 hours of daylight during December. It’s like that fashionable friend who always arrives late to the party and then leaves too soon.

Limited daylight hours may affect your sightseeing, photography, and overall experience in this land of fire and ice. But, if you’re a fan of dark, moody vibes, winter might just work for you!

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Harsh Weather Conditions

If you think “harsh weather conditions” sound like an adventure, you might want to rethink that.

Although Icelandic winters are not as cold as you might imagine (averaging around 0°C or 32°F), the unpredictable nature of the weather might leave your jaw dropped and not just from awe.

Storms, snow, and sleet can sneak up on you and turn your delightful day trip into a wild windblown experience.

Pack those layers and waterproof gear, because Iceland doesn’t joke around when it gets moody.

Road Closures and Inaccessibility

Iceland’s ever-changing weather can lead to some icky situations. One moment you’re driving down Route 1, singing your favorite tunes, then BAM! Road closure.

Many roads, including the popular highland tracks, are closed during winter, limiting your access to some of the country’s most awe-inspiring attractions.

Precarious roads and sudden closures might halt your magnificent journey like a surprise visit from your in-laws. So when planning your trip, consider the accessibility factor.

people relaxing and bathing in the stunning Geothermal Area of the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik
Stunning Geothermal Area of the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik

Best Season to Visit Iceland

Oh, Iceland! The land of fire and ice, boasting dramatic landscapes and stunning natural wonders.

Each season in Iceland holds its unique charm and natural beauty. Take your pick between endless daylight in summer, mild escapades in early autumn, or the awe-inspiring Northern Lights in late winter.

So, when should you visit this mesmerizing destination? Let’s dive into the ideal seasons to make your Icelandic vacation the stuff of dreams.

Summer for Midnight Sun

If you’re seeking the ultimate Icelandic experience, summer is the way to go. Between May and August, the Land of Ice and Fire transforms into a wonderland of endless daylight.

With the sun shining almost 24/7, you’ll have plenty of time to explore jaw-dropping scenery and witness the beauty of the Midnight Sun.

Hike through lush valleys, marvel at sparkling waterfalls, and let your spirit of adventure run free!

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Early Autumn for Milder Weather

Visiting Iceland during early autumn, specifically in September, gives you a taste of cooler temperatures without sacrificing too much daylight.

This is also a great time to avoid the crowds, as the high tourism season winds down. Enjoy trekking through the vibrant foliage, and indulge in the surreal landscapes this enchanting island has to offer.

A cozy sweater and a warm cup of hot chocolate await you after a day of exploring!

Late Winter for Northern Lights

Where else can you find such a dazzling display of the aurora borealis? When it comes to the best time to visit Iceland for Northern Lights viewing, late winter is the answer.

As the nights get longer, between late September and late March, your chances of catching a glimpse of these celestial wonders increase.

Just imagine witnessing the sky dancing to a symphony of bright, vivid colors. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss.

Aurora Borealis over Kirkjufell
Aurora Borealis over Kirkjufell

Factors to Consider When Planning Your Trip

Seasonal Activities and Attractions

When planning your trip to Iceland, it’s essential to consider what seasonal activities and attractions are on your must-see list. Different seasons offer unique experiences that can impact your adventure.

In the summer months of July and August, you’ll enjoy Iceland’s warmest weather and endless daylight. These months are perfect for exploring the great outdoors – hiking, horseback riding, and discovering picturesque waterfalls.

However, if you desire to witness the magical Northern Lights, plan your visit between late September and late March, when clear, cool, and crisp weather offers a higher chance of spotting this awe-inspiring phenomenon.

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Budget and Accommodation Options

Another vital factor to keep in mind is your budget and the available accommodation options.

The high season, which includes the summer months, typically sees a spike in hotel rates and flight costs because of the increase in tourists.

You might want to consider visiting during the shoulder season (May, June, or September) to find some sweet deals on accommodations while still enjoying decent weather.

Doing so will also expose you to Iceland’s picturesque landscapes without breaking the bank.

Crowds and Local Events

Though Iceland might not seem like a bustling spot, certain times can be rather crowded.

The summer months – especially June to August – witness a large number of tourists flocking towards the island.

If you are someone who prefers less crowded spaces, consider visiting in the off-season or shoulder season.

Lastly, don’t forget to factor in local events or festivals when planning your trip. These events can influence crowds and accommodation availability, and they may even present exciting cultural experiences.

For example, the Reykjavik International Film Festival in September or the DesignMarch event in April.

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Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions

Don’t just stick to the mainstream hotspots – Iceland is full of off-the-beaten-path attractions waiting to be discovered.

Ever thought about visiting the Westfjords? These serene fjords are a traveler’s haven, where you’ll see untouched nature and mesmerizing landscapes.

Or perhaps you’re an adrenaline junkie who’d love to embark on a glacier hiking tour in Skaftafell? Nothing compares to standing on top of an ancient glacier, marveling at the surrounding vistas.

And if you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, take a stroll around the picturesque villages and towns sprinkled across the country.

Ásbyrgi Canyon, a less-visited marvel, should also be on your list! It’s a fascinating sight to behold, with its unique horseshoe-shaped canyon and lush greenery.

Reykjavik the capital city of iceland in winter view
Reykjavik the capital city of iceland in winter view

Where to Stay in Iceland

So, you’ve decided to explore this magical place, and now it’s time to figure out where to stay during your unforgettable adventure.

First (and only) our list is none other than the cozy and charming capital, Reykjavik. Perfect for first-timers, Reykjavik gives you all the modern comforts you crave while still being incredibly close to Iceland’s mesmerizing nature.

Plus, most attractions are within walking distance – how convenient is that?

Kick off your shoes and sink into comfort at the Radisson Blu 1919, a luxury hotel just 10 minutes from Reykjavik’s historic center. With simple yet modern rooms, you’ll be feeling right at home in no time.

For the incurable romantics among us, the Hotel Borg by Keahotels is an absolute must-visit. This enchanting art deco property offers gorgeous suites overlooking the Austurvöllur in the very heart of Reykjavik. You’ll surely feel like you’ve stepped into a magical world.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

When is Iceland Most Crowded?

If you’re not a fan of crowds, you might want to avoid visiting Iceland during the summer months (June – August). That’s when the Land of Fire and Ice becomes a hot spot for eager tourists.

When is the Rainy Season?

Iceland’s weather is known to be pretty unpredictable, but the rainiest months fall between October and February. If you prefer staying dry during your adventure, it might be a good idea to visit during the drier months of June and July.

Best Time to Visit for Northern Lights?

Oh, the enchanting dance of the auroras! You’ll have better chances of witnessing this mesmerizing spectacle during the darker months between September and April.

Ideal Months for Whale Watching?

Grab your binoculars and brace yourself for an incredible encounter with these gentle giants. The best time for whale watching in Iceland is from April to September, with a peak in June and July.

Just a friendly tip: it can get quite chilly on the boats, so dress warmly!

When to Visit the Blue Lagoon?

Ah, the Blue Lagoon, a therapeutic haven of geothermal magic. While it’s a treat all year round, you might find the winter months to be extra soothing as you bask in the warm waters surrounded by snow. It’s the perfect way to relax and unwind, don’t you think?

Final Thoughts

The summer days in Iceland are when the sun barely sets and the rolling hillsides turn into an artist’s palette of greens and blues.

That’s when the Land of Fire and Ice truly flirts with your senses, offering you the intoxicating cocktail of dramatic landscapes, unparalleled wildlife, and cultural delights.

If your wanderlust is tingling like a tickled troll, we’ve got just the cure. Come join us as we dive into the Highlands of Iceland.

It’s going to be an epic journey through vast lava fields, multicolored rhyolite mountains, and the whispering secrets of hidden hot springs!