Are you planning a trip to Iceland soon?
With its vast mountain ranges, hot springs, and incredible coastal landscapes, it’s no wonder why this Northern European country has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in recent years.
If you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Iceland for your particular travel needs – whether that includes taking advantage of beautiful weather or fully experiencing Iceland’s unique lifestyle – you’re in luck.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at when exactly is the optimal time for visiting all of what this majestic land has to offer – so read on to find out more.
Iceland Seasonal Patterns
Iceland’s seasonal patterns are distinct and offer unique experiences for travelers.
The country’s location near the Arctic Circle and its diverse geography create a dynamic environment with changing conditions throughout the year.
Here’s an overview of the seasonal patterns in Iceland:
Winter (December – February):
Weather: Cold temperatures, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Snowfall is common, especially in higher elevations.
Daylight: Short days, with only a few hours of daylight. This is the time to witness the ethereal Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) if conditions are right.
Activities: Winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are popular. Ice caves become accessible for exploration.
Spring (March – May):
Weather: Gradual warming, but still chilly. Snow begins to melt, revealing the lush landscapes underneath.
Daylight: Longer days as spring progresses. The Midnight Sun phenomenon starts to become noticeable by late May.
Activities: Early spring might be a bit slow for tourism, but as the weather improves, more outdoor activities become feasible.
Summer (June – August):
Weather: The warmest and most pleasant time to visit, with milder temperatures across the country. Coastal areas are cooler due to ocean breezes.
Daylight: Peak of the Midnight Sun, with nearly 24 hours of daylight in the northern regions. Longer days provide ample time for exploration.
Activities: Popular time for tourists. Hiking, exploring the countryside, festivals, and wildlife viewing opportunities abound.
Fall (September – November):
Weather: Cooling temperatures and increasing rainfall. Fall foliage in September adds vibrant colors to the landscape.
Daylight: The Midnight Sun ends in late August, and days start to shorten again.
Activities: Fewer tourists compared to summer, making it a quieter time to visit. The Northern Lights can become visible again.
The best time to visit Iceland
There is no doubt that the best time to visit this stunning Nordic island nation is during the summer months, specifically between June and August.
During this time, the days are long, and the sun barely sets. It provides enough daylight hours to explore Iceland’s natural attractions, including the magnificent waterfalls, black sand beaches, and hiking trails.
You can witness the glacial lagoons, spot puffins, and even enjoy adventure sports like kayaking, glacier hiking, and whale watching.
Additionally, the weather is mild, with temperatures ranging between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is plenty of greenery covering the landscape.
Why summer the best time to visit Iceland?
Summer is considered the best time to visit Iceland for several reasons. Here are some key factors:
Pleasant Weather and Comfortable Exploration:
Mild Temperatures: Experience comfortable weather with average temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 20°C), making outdoor activities enjoyable without the extreme cold of winter.
Comfortable Exploration: With the pleasant temperatures, you can explore Iceland’s diverse landscapes without the need for heavy winter gear, enhancing the overall travel experience.
Ideal for Adventure: Summer’s milder climate is perfect for various outdoor adventures, from hiking and glacier treks to kayaking and horseback riding, allowing you to fully engage with the breathtaking Icelandic environment.
Extended Outdoor Hours: The longer daylight hours of summer give you more time to explore and make the most of your daily activities, ensuring that you can take in all the beauty that Iceland has to offer.
Road Accessibility: Most roads, including those leading to popular attractions, are open and easily navigable during the summer months, making it convenient for road trips and self-guided exploration.
The Midnight Sun Phenomenon:
Continuous Daylight: Experience the mesmerizing Midnight Sun, where the sun remains visible above the horizon even during nighttime. This phenomenon is most prominent in June and July, creating a unique and enchanting atmosphere.
Extended Exploration: The Midnight Sun extends your opportunities for adventure and sightseeing into the late evening and early morning, allowing you to witness stunning landscapes in an ethereal light that’s truly one-of-a-kind.
Photography Paradise: Capture breathtaking photographs under the enchanting Midnight Sun, with the soft, golden hues creating a magical backdrop for your imagery, providing an unparalleled opportunity for stunning visuals.
Natural Wonder: The Midnight Sun is a captivating natural spectacle that’s a hallmark of Icelandic summers, adding an extra layer of wonder to your travel experience and creating unforgettable memories.
Vibrant Festivals and Cultural Immersion:
Festival Season: Summer is the peak of the festival season in Iceland, with numerous cultural events, music festivals, and local celebrations taking place throughout the country. This lively atmosphere allows you to engage with the local culture and enjoy entertainment and activities unique to this time of year.
Music and Arts: Attend music festivals that showcase Icelandic and international talent, providing an opportunity to enjoy live performances against the backdrop of stunning landscapes, creating a truly memorable experience.
Interaction with Locals: With the influx of tourists during the high season, locals are more available for interactions, providing chances to learn about Icelandic customs, traditions, and daily life, enhancing your overall cultural experience.
Cultural Exchange: Engage with both locals and fellow travelers at these festivals, fostering meaningful connections and gaining insights into Iceland’s creative spirit, local artistry, and rich heritage.
Abundance of Outdoor Activities:
Hiking and Nature Exploration: Summer is the ideal time for hiking and trekking in Iceland. Well-maintained trails lead you through awe-inspiring landscapes, from lush valleys to volcanic terrains, providing opportunities to immerse yourself in the country’s natural beauty.
Adventure Variety: Summer offers a wide range of outdoor activities tailored to the season. Engage in thrilling pursuits such as kayaking in serene waters, glacier hiking to observe ice formations up close, horseback riding through picturesque scenery, and rejuvenating in the soothing waters of geothermal hot springs and spas.
Accessible Highland Adventures: Discover the highland regions, which are often closed or challenging to traverse during winter due to snow and adverse conditions. This unlocks opportunities to explore hidden valleys, pristine wilderness, and majestic vistas, adding excitement and adventure to your journey.
Land of Waterfalls: Summer showcases Iceland’s numerous waterfalls in their full splendor. The melting snow and ice contribute to the flow of these cascades, creating a picturesque scene of glistening falls surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant wildflowers.
Wildlife Encounters and Natural Wonders:
Puffin Watching: Witness adorable puffins during their breeding season as they nest along coastal cliffs. This prime opportunity for birdwatching allows you to observe and photograph these charming seabirds in their natural habitat.
Whale Watching: Summer welcomes the migration of various whale species to Icelandic waters, offering incredible whale watching tours. The higher chances of sightings during the summer months make it an excellent time for this thrilling and memorable activity.
Breathtaking Landscapes: Experience Iceland’s landscapes at their most vibrant, with lush greenery creating a stunning contrast against the country’s dramatic volcanic features and glaciers. The addition of colorful wildflowers and blossoming flora adds an extra layer of beauty to the scenery, making it a feast for the eyes.
Photography Opportunities: Capture the beauty of Iceland in all its glory during the summer. The vivid colors against the backdrop of glaciers, black sand beaches, and geothermal areas create visually captivating scenes, providing you with unforgettable photographs and cherished memories.
Geothermal Delights: Summer allows you to fully enjoy Iceland’s geothermal wonders, from relaxing in hot springs to exploring geysers and bubbling mud pools. The pleasant weather makes these experiences even more enjoyable and invigorating.
Lively Atmosphere and Longer Opening Hours:
Peak Tourist Season: Summer is the peak tourist season in Iceland, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere. This is an ideal time to explore popular attractions, join guided tours, and experience the energy of fellow travelers from around the world.
Extended Opening Hours: Many tourist facilities, attractions, and services operate extended hours during the summer months to accommodate the higher number of visitors. This means you’ll have more time to explore museums, landmarks, and other attractions, ensuring you get the most out of your visit.
Diverse Dining Options: Enjoy a wide range of dining options, from local cuisine to international flavors, with many restaurants and cafes open late into the evening. This culinary diversity allows you to savor the flavors of Iceland and indulge in delicious meals after a day of exploration.
Easy Accommodation Availability and Campsite Experience:
Wide Accommodation Selection: Summer provides a wide variety of accommodation options, from boutique hotels and cozy guesthouses to luxurious resorts. This abundance of choices ensures that you’ll find the perfect place to stay, tailored to your preferences and budget.
Campsite Opportunities: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or prefer a more immersive experience, the milder summer climate provides comfortable conditions for camping. Numerous campsites are open, allowing you to connect with nature while enjoying essential amenities.
Scenic Camping: Camping in Iceland during summer allows you to enjoy breathtaking scenery, whether you’re setting up camp by a tranquil fjord, near a picturesque waterfall, or in a lush valley. The extended daylight hours create magical moments in the evening and early morning, making camping a memorable part of your Icelandic adventure.
Close to Nature: Camping provides a unique opportunity to be close to Iceland’s natural beauty, listen to the soothing sounds of nature, and witness the changing colors of the landscape. It’s an immersive way to experience the country’s pristine wilderness while still having access to basic facilities.
Connecting with the Outdoors: Camping in Iceland lets you truly connect with the outdoors, appreciating the tranquility of the environment and the vastness of the starry night sky, creating a sense of solitude and relaxation that’s rejuvenating for the soul.
Things to Consider While Visiting Greece During the Best Summer Months:
When planning a trip to Greece during the best summer months, there are several factors to consider that will enhance your experience. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
Weather and Climate:
High Temperatures: Be prepared for hot weather, especially in July and August, with temperatures often exceeding 90°F (32°C) or more. Pack lightweight, breathable clothing and stay hydrated to stay comfortable.
Sun Protection: Greece experiences intense sunlight during the summer months, so bring sunscreen with high SPF, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and protective clothing to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.
Avoid Overexertion: The combination of high temperatures and physical activities can be challenging. Plan your outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon, and take breaks to rest and stay cool.
Crowds and Popular Destinations:
Peak Tourist Season: The best summer months (June to August) are the busiest in Greece. Popular tourist destinations, such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens, can become crowded. Plan your itinerary and accommodations well in advance to secure your preferred options.
Avoid Main Tourist Hours: Visit popular attractions early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed experience. Consider exploring lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path destinations to escape the masses.
Accommodation and Reservations:
Book in Advance: Due to the high demand during the summer, make accommodation reservations well ahead of your trip to ensure availability and secure the type of lodging you prefer.
Consider Location: Choose accommodations strategically. Staying near the beach allows you to enjoy convenient access to the sea, while staying in the city center offers proximity to dining, shopping, and cultural attractions.
Air Conditioning: Confirm that your chosen accommodation has reliable air conditioning, as it’s essential for a comfortable stay during the hot Greek summer.
Local Customs and Etiquette:
Respect Dress Codes: When visiting religious sites or more conservative areas, dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees. In beach towns, it’s acceptable to wear swimwear on the beach, but a cover-up is recommended when walking through town.
Tipping: Tipping is customary in Greece, especially in restaurants and for excellent service. A 10-15% tip is generally appreciated, but check the bill to see if a service charge has already been included.
Greet Locals: Greeks are friendly and appreciative of polite gestures. Learn a few basic Greek phrases, such as “kalimera” (good morning), “efharisto” (thank you), and “parakalo” (please), to show respect and engage with the locals.
Transportation and Island Hopping:
Ferry Reservations: If you plan to island-hop, book ferry tickets in advance, as popular routes can fill up quickly, especially during the summer. Consider flexible travel dates to accommodate any changes in the ferry schedule.
Traffic and Transportation: In tourist-heavy areas, traffic congestion can be challenging. Use public transportation when possible, such as buses and the metro in Athens. If renting a car, research local driving laws and parking regulations, and consider using a GPS or navigation app to navigate unfamiliar roads.
Explore Beyond the Islands: While the Greek islands are beautiful, consider adding some mainland destinations to your itinerary. Places like Thessaloniki, Delphi, and the Peloponnese offer rich history, culture, and fewer crowds compared to the popular islands.
What is the best month to see northern lights in Iceland?
The best months to see the Northern Lights in Iceland are typically from September to April, with October to March being the prime period. During these months, you’ll experience longer nights and clearer skies, increasing your chances of witnessing this breathtaking natural phenomenon.
What is the cheapest month to visit Iceland?
The cheapest month to visit Iceland is generally during the shoulder seasons, which are late spring (May) and early autumn (September). During these months, you can find more budget-friendly accommodations, flight deals, and fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season.
What are the best and worst months to go to Iceland?
The best months to visit Iceland are June, July, and August, offering pleasant weather, extended daylight for exploration, vibrant festivals, and accessibility to highland regions. The worst months are typically November through February due to the colder temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and higher chances of inclement weather, making some attractions less accessible.
How many days is best to visit Iceland?
A recommended duration for a visit to Iceland is around 7 to 10 days. This timeframe allows you to explore the popular attractions, experience the unique natural beauty, and have some flexibility for unexpected weather or road conditions. However, shorter trips of 4 to 5 days can still offer a glimpse of Iceland’s beauty if you focus on specific regions or the iconic Golden Circle route.