Whilst Iceland has no trouble in giving travellers a reason to visit all year round, the seasons vary hugely due to how north the country sits. Iceland's geographical position not only affects the weather, but also the hours of daylight that you will expect to have. These, alongside the best times to see the Northern Lights, are crucial factors deciding when to go to Iceland. Read on to find out the best time of year to travel to Iceland.
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When to go to Iceland
When it comes to visiting Iceland for the first time, the chances are that you've got one of two things on your mind: seeing the Northern Lights or experiencing the Midnight Sun. These two natural phenomenons are a huge draw for visitors to the country. And both, unsurprisingly, are not possible to see at the same time of year.
Major natural phenomenons aside, Iceland is covered in dramatic natural landscapes and makes the perfect adventure playground for hikers, horse riders and those who love exploring the great outdoors. So when deciding when to visit Iceland, pick out what you really want to see, and then research the best time of year to experience those natural treats.
Weather in Iceland
It just so happens that the weather in Iceland is notoriously unpredictable.
In summer there’s a fair chance of bright and sunny days, and temperatures can reach 17°C, but good weather in Iceland is often interspersed with wet and misty spells when the temperature can plummet to a chilly 10°C.
Winter weather in Iceland is a frosty and dark affair with temperatures fluctuating at 7–8°C either side of freezing point.
Average temperature and rainfall
We’ve put together an average temperature and rainfall chart to give you a rough idea of what to expect of the weather in Iceland in any given month. We’ve looked at the weather in Reykjavík, the capital, as it's where many people choose to base themselves and so provides a good basis to help you decide when’s the best time to visit Iceland.
The best time to visit Iceland
In a nutshell, when to go to Iceland depends on what you plan to do:
Are hiking and outdoor activities the main items on the itinerary? Want to spot a whale? Then you'll benefit from the long days of summer. Best time to visit: June to August.
Keen to experience cosy Nordic interiors, snowy landscapes and catch a glimpse of the magical Northern Lights (no promises)? Best time to visit: September to mid-April.
No matter when you decide to visit, prepare for rain and wind and hedge your bets with plenty of layers and sunscreen.
When thinking about the best time to visit Iceland, it's also worth bearing in mind that most museums and attractions are only open from late May to early September, and it’s at these times, too, that buses run their fullest schedules.
When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
Between September and January the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights can often be seen throughout the country, although it's never guaranteed to actually show up. Daylight in wintertime is limited to a few hours – in Reykjavík, sunrise isn’t until almost 11am in December; the sun is already sinking slowly back towards the horizon after 1pm.
When is the best time to see the Midnight Sun in Iceland?
In actual fact, almost all of Iceland lies south of the Arctic Circle and therefore doesn’t experience a true Midnight Sun. But nights are light from mid-May to early August across the country, and in the north, the sun never fully sets during June.