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When is the best time to visit Iceland?

So a visit to Iceland is on your radar? Maybe you’ve got some dates in mind for your adventure vacation, and haven’t quite settled on a destination, but Iceland makes the shortlist? Well this is a great place to start to find out more. Let us tell you all about the best time to visit Iceland, and what you can expect from a visit at different times of the year.

This page is the ultimate guide to the best time to visit Iceland, consider it a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about planning an Iceland adventure. We’re covering the seasons in Iceland, when it’s 24-hour daylight and when you can expect to see the sun at midnight (yep, that’s a thing in Iceland!) We’ll also talk about whether you’ll need a visa, things to do, how to choose a guided tour operator, booking flights, and pronouncing Icelandic words. So ‘velkominn’.

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Skip to: Iceland's 4 seasons | Do I need a visa to visit Iceland? | What to do in Iceland | How to choose a guided tour operator | Booking your flights | 5 tips for pronouncing Iceland words


Seasons and weather in Iceland

Grasping the seasons in Iceland, and what each season comes with, is crucial to planning your Iceland vacation, and more importantly, to enjoying every minute of it. Iceland is very similar to New Zealand in that it’s famous for having four seasons in one day. In fact the local saying goes "If you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes and you’ll get something different." Another important thing to consider is daylight hours in Iceland – in December for example, there’s only around 4 hours of daylight per day, whilst you can see the sun at midnight between late May and July, when it never gets completely dark! Let’s get stuck into Iceland’s seasons in detail.

iceland weather conditions table


Spring - March, April, May

The seasons in Iceland follow the norm for the Northern Hemisphere, and so spring is generally considered to be March, April and May. Weather conditions are still pretty chilly, although with the right gear these months can be a great time to get out hiking whilst there are a few less tourists on the more popular routes. Temperatures during spring average 1⁰-5⁰C (34⁰-41⁰F), with an average monthly rainfall of around 35mm.

If the Northern Lights are your reason for visiting Iceland, then March is one of the best months of the year to see them, around the equinox. Another reason to visit Iceland, at any time of year, but particularly in spring, are its waterfalls. As the winter gives way to the warmer temperatures of spring these natural beauties really get going, and thunderous falls such as Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Kvernufoss are in full flow with glacial meltwater – a sight to behold.

Seljalandfoss waterfall iceland

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

The light conditions in spring are perfect for amateur (or professional!) photographers. The combination of the unique landscapes, and the striking light combine nicely for some show-stopping photography.

Discover our Spring Trips


Summer - June, July, August

Summer is the best time to visit Iceland – temperatures are warmest, the weather is at its most stable (although for Iceland that doesn’t always mean an awful lot!), and all roads, even the quietest ones accessing the most out-of-the-way places, are open for access.

If, like us, hiking is your main reason for visiting Iceland then look no further than the summer months of June, July and August. Temperatures average 8⁰-13⁰C (46⁰-55⁰F), and average rainfall per month drops to just 23mm – perfect conditions for getting out on the hiking trails of the East-Fjords, on our ‘Stelkur’ adventure.

If you’ve travelled to New Zealand in the spring/summer you’re probably familiar with the wildflower lupin? It’s a beautiful purple-blossoming plant – and Iceland is covered with them! You’ve may have seen the striking photos of quaint churches on hillsides surrounding by purple lupins – and they’re a great reason to make summer the season to see Iceland, particularly if you’re an aspiring photographer.

iceland visit lupins

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

Aside from the purple lupins, the national bird, the Puffin (or ‘Lundi’ in Icelandic) returns to the shores of Iceland from the ocean from mid-April right through until mid-August. Our trips get you to some of the best viewing spots, including the headland of Ingólfshöfði, and the Vestmannaeyjar Islands.

Our favourite thing about the Icelandic summer though, is that all access roads are open, which allows us to reach the East-Fjords, where we’ll go hiking for 3-nights-4-days between cosy backcountry cabins, taking in a quieter, off-the-beaten-track route into the real natural beauty of Iceland. Check out the favourites album for our 'Stelkur' trip for an idea of what the East-Fjords are like.

Discover our Summer Trips


Autumn - September, October, November

If you’re travelling to Iceland independently, as opposed to with an organised tour group, then Autumn is a great time of year to visit. The cost of rental cars and hotels go down as the main summer tourist season has passed, and you’ll find it easier to find accommodation. During the autumn months of September, October and November the average temperatures are 3⁰-7⁰C (37⁰-45⁰F), with an average monthly rainfall of around 35mm.

Aside from those logistical reasons to visit Iceland in the autumn, it’s the best time of year to visit for Northern Lights. By late November the daylight hours have shortened to only around 4 hours (roughly), and with the November equinox comes a great opportunity to see the Northern Lights, in arguably the best country to view them in the world.

northern lights iceland

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

With autumn comes another unique opportunity for an activity you might not get to do at home – animal roundups (or ‘dýrahestur’). Local farmers hike into the hills to gather their animals and bring them in to shelter before the harsh winter arrives, and they’ll always welcome a helping hand from family members and tourists! You can find out more information on where the roundups are happening at a local tourist office, it’s a lot of fun!

Discover our Autumn Trips


Winter - December, January, February

Iceland in winter is beautiful. However, it’s important to consider that some areas of the country are not accessible during this season as many roads close – such as the route to the East-Fjords area. It’s crucial to be flexible if you’re going to travel to Iceland independently in winter – expect delays and road closures - at least if you’re planning to stray far from the capital city Reykjavik.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not permanently dark in Iceland in winter – although the daylight hours are short (around 4-5 hours). Guess what though – that means that for those 4-5 hours the sun is either rising or setting, which means the light for photography is stunning, another good reason for an Iceland visit in winter.

Iceland is a geothermal island, covered with volcanoes and constant geothermal activity. With that activity comes natural hot springs, and what better time of year to experience them than when it’s chilly outside, the sun is rising (or setting) and there are far less tourists around?!

hot pools iceland natural

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

If you’re travelling independently rather than with a guided tour operator, then winter is a great time of year to visit Iceland if doing it cheaply is your priority. Flights, rental cars and accommodation prices are slashed as much as in half – careful though, if you want to spend what you saved on a few drinks, the tax on alcohol in Iceland is very high!

On average, the winter temperatures in Iceland are -2⁰-3⁰C (28⁰-37⁰F), with an average monthly precipitation of around 45mm.


Do I need a visa to visit Iceland?

Iceland is a party to the Schengen Agreement, which means that citizens of the USA, Australia, Europe and others, can travel to Iceland for up to 90 days without a visa. If you’re from the UK, as it stands you too are able to travel without a visa, for up to 90 days – although at this stage it is unclear how those rights will be affected as the Brexit process progresses. We’d advise you to seek the most up to date information by calling your country’s passport authority around the time of booking.


What to do in Iceland

Iceland is one of the most unique landscapes on earth, and so activities such as hiking, ice-hiking, photography, and ornithology are amongst the most popular ways for visitors to spend their time. If you’re travelling with a multi-day tour operator, you’re likely to be partaking in a series of hikes, viewing many of Iceland’s stunning waterfalls, its coastal islands, volcanoes and glaciers.

If you have time on your Iceland trip, we’d strongly recommend spending a few days hiking in the East-Fjords region, it’s a long way from the capital city where most tourists spend their time, the landscapes are absolutely stunning, and with cosy backcountry cabins to stay warm in each night, it’s a special experience not to be missed.

hiking east fjords iceland

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

Another must-do near the country’s capital city is Blue Lagoon. The huge natural hot pools between the international airport and the city-centre are a great place to relax after your international flight, and a really good indication of the relaxed, luxurious experiences available in this beautiful and unique, but expensive country!


How to choose a guided tour operator

If, like so many others who love adventure travel, you prefer to leave the details of the itinerary to a guided tour operator, then choosing the best experience with the most reputable operators is crucial. If you can’t relax knowing you’re in the best hands, or you’re constantly second-guessing what’s in store day-to-day on your trip, you won’t get the most fulfiling experience from your adventure.

That’s where we come in. We’ve been running adventure vacations for 22+ years – we started in Queenstown, New Zealand (the adventure capital of the world!), where most of our office-based team is still located. Since Active Adventures began in 1996 we’ve expanded to run trips all over New Zealand, as well is in Peru, Patagonia, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, the Himalayas, and most recently – Europe.

Our recipe for creating the perfect trip starts with a carefully personalised customer service experience. Our belief in creating this personal experience passes all the way to our guides on all our adventures – they really are incredible. Our guides are the number one thing our delighted guests comment on when they talk about their adventure – head over to our Europe reviews to find out more. Or if you’d prefer to see reviews from an independent site, check out our TrustPilot feed below.

Add to our exceptional customer service, and outstanding guides, our carefully researched itineraries, and you’re starting to see something special in the making. We always try to make our adventures multi-sport – although the focus is generally on hiking. On our Iceland trips for example, we’ll also do some kayaking for a unique perspective of one of the country’s many glacial lagoons.

Finally, we always make sure our trips are all-inclusive – we want you to relax knowing we’ll take care of everything. You won’t need to worry about where, when, or what you’ll eat, or whether you’ll be able to find accommodation – we’ve got it covered. So all you need to do is arrive, enthusiastic and ready to engage with like-minded people on an adventure of discovery, and your amazing guides will take care of the rest.



Booking your flights to Iceland

Iceland is an expensive country to visit once you arrive, but getting there, particularly from the USA and the UK, is very reasonably priced. We have a good relationship with a company called New Zealand Travel Brokers, and wherever you’re travelling from and to in the world, these guys can help you get a great deal, and make the process as hassle-free as possible. If you’d like us to put you in touch with them just let us know.

We can give you all the information you need for what time of day to arrive and depart in order to join our trip, as well as advice on airport transfers and places to stay pre and post trip.


5 tips for pronouncing Icelandic words

  1. Most consonants are pronounced as they are in English.
  2. J in Icelandic is pronounced like the ‘y’ in ‘you’.
  3. An Icelandic ‘a’ is pronounced like the ‘a’ in ‘bar’, but an Icelandic ‘á’ (with an accent) is pronounced like the ‘ou’ in ‘about’.
  4. Icelandic ‘I’ and ‘y’ are pronounced as in the ‘I’ in ‘thin’ but ‘í’ and ‘ý’ (with accents) pronounced as the ‘ee’ in ‘feet’.
  5. Icelandic characters ‘Þ’ and ‘Ð’ pronounced like the ‘th’ in ‘these’.

Related Trips:

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16037 reviews)

    IT’S THE GUIDES

    Mt Blanc is a giant rock. And this trip is essentially you walking around it. Doesn’t sound too FIVE star does it? Well, as rocks go it’s pretty spectacular. And you get to go through three countries where they speak a bunch of non-English languages that I’m sure I was supposed to learn in high school and use TWO currencies … (Really Switzerland? With the Franc … Get over yourself). Although there are other trips and other providers that will guide you around this rock, the Active trip is better because the people that work for Active are awesome at what they do. We worked with Lynette in NZ to book the trip and although we never met, we are pretty much best friends now. I can think of no better indication of a good business than return customers. Of the twelve people in our group, ALL of them were return Active customers. Why? The Guides.

    For this trip, we had three French guides from Companie des guides de Chamonix and one Kiwi from Active. The French guides were enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and fun. I would recommend all of them without hesitation, especially Jean-Marie our driver (see below). But Kiwi Nick from Active was the Difference Maker. He is so incredibly nice that you know he has a wonderful girlfriend back in New Zealand. And they do all these wonderful couple activities that are super cool. Like paddle boarding. And you can’t wait to hang out with them because they’re awesome. And they booze, of course, because couples that DON’T booze should not be trusted #lifelesson. And you may say, ‘Well Neil that’s not appropriate saying that about a guide’s personal life’ ... but whatever. Lynette is not going to take it out of this review because we are best friends. Nick handles all his guide responsibilities extremely well but it feels like he is a part of the group. He’s experiencing and sharing this trip along with you rather than just showing you Mt Blanc. Rarely will a guided trip like this go EXACTLY to plan. Weather, injuries, construction, conflicting personalities among the group, etc. are just some of the problems the guides need to be prepared to deal with quickly. Thankfully we had few of these issues, but Nick was always attentive to our enjoyment. I’m still not sure how he put up with me. I know how horrible I am. I live me every day.

    Beyond the guides, the trip is strong.
    ACTIVITIES: Although you are hiking in a relatively compact area the hikes are varied and challenging enough to make that post-hike beer taste awful nice. The kayaking day was beautiful but marred by our decision to use a double kayak. Or as they should be known, “Murder Boats”, because after about 5 minutes in a double kayak you want to bludgeon each other to death. Get the single. The last day we did the rafting option because the rope course was rained out. Not only did we not die, we ended up having a lot of fun cruising on glacial water through downtown Chamonix. On the free day in Courmayeur, I did the via ferrates up Mont Chetif, which was fun. The hike to the top was the toughest hiking of the trip. I would recommend planning your off day before the trip rather than on the fly. The via ferrates does sell out.

    MEALS: There was cheese LITERALLY everywhere. If you don’t like cheese like me, just keep quiet about it. Those French obsess over cheese like there is alcohol in it. The lunch spots were transcendent. That’s when you could feel truly present in the Alps. Whatever crap you had waiting back home, like say … Ellen in HR who is pretty much just the worst (don’t worry, she’ll never read this. I bet she drowns kittens on vacation. She. Is. The. Worst.), all that stuff melts away. The dinners were local and delightful.

    HOTELS: The accommodations are essentially ski lodges. We had hot showers, warm beds and beers. A few places had pools & hot tubs. They were all close to our hikes which cut down on van time, which I’m sure disappointed my trip mates because they probably enjoyed my daily dissertations on the importance of hair metal in American culture #Cinderella.

    Overall, these Active folks know what they are doing and you will have fun on this trip. Maybe I’ll get to meet you on one of their other trips I’m sure we’ll be signing up for in the future … Patagonia hmmm? I’ll be the one talking about David Lee Roth.

    Best,
    Neil C
    ~~~
    Jean-Marie (Driver): I think they based the “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign on this guy. If he is a part of your group, sit next to him during meals and buy him wine. Get him to talk, his life is amazing. We had a guy on our trip that did 28 marathons, 33 triathlons, was a licensed pilot, spoke French, played hockey … ON ICE and that dude wanted to hear more from Jean-Marie. I shouldn’t even be allowed to read his biography (and there was a rumor he was going to write one)! He’s THAT interesting. One of the day off options should be, “Go drinking with Jean Marie”. I’d do the trip all over again if they added that. It was an injustice that he carried my bags. At least my bag was light #manpacking
    Neil Crossan Review Image
    – California, United States
    Tour du Mont Blanc, October 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16037 reviews)

    Dolomiti

    This active adventure was wonderful for me. In fact, one of the best trips I have ever taken. I loved the trekking, fellow trekkers, guides, food, history, etc. All of it. What an amazing, beautiful, fun vacation. I feel so fit!
    Jenny Wada Review Image
    – Hawaii, United States
    Dolomiti, July 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16037 reviews)

    Lean Review

    What an incredible trip! The itinerary has the perfect balance of activities to keep the trekking exciting but not too exhausting, and provides flexibility in the case of unexpected changes that may come up. The food was one of the highlights of the trip; there is nothing quite like setting up a picnic on the side of a mountain full of cheeses, meats, and other delightful treats. But what truly made this an exceptional adventure were our guides Phil, Andy, Jean Marc, and Jean Marie. Their energy, enthusiasm, and flawless teamwork provided the signature of an ACTIVE Adventure, and continues to make these trips stand miles apart from any other travel company. Though we started as 10 individuals, we quickly became 1 family. Thank you for another unforgettable journey; we look forward to the next one!
    Georgina Lean Review Image
    – California, United States
    Tour du Mont Blanc, July 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16037 reviews)

    Dolce Vita 2016

    We have taken many trips in our 60+ years to places across the United States, Canada, South America, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. Our trip with Active Adventures to the Italian Lakes District and our extended visit in Italy has to be in our top three if not our favorite trip of all time! It was definitely Dolce Vita, the SWEET LIFE. The Italian Alps and the Lakes, the hikes and the paddling were certainly up to Active Adventure’s high standard. The beauty of the mountains and the Lakes and the invigorating way we experienced them were fantastic! The things that set this trip apart and put it over the top were the culture, food, and history of the region. Having the combination of Andy, our New Zealand guide, and Enrico, our native Italian, was awesome. Enrico helped us understand first-hand the Italian people and their way of life and gave us insights and access to more than we could imagine. It seemed everywhere we went, they all knew Enrico. The food experiences were unbelievable. The small size of our group and the relationship we built made it seem as if we were family and friends completing a once in a lifetime adventure. I can’t give enough kudos to Active Adventure these two guides for this marvellous experience.
    Ernest Alphin Review Image
    – North Carolina, United States
    Dolce Vita, October 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16037 reviews)

    Stunning

    Stunning is the first word that comes to mind. This was my 4th trip with Active and as usual it was 5 stars across the board. When I first heard about the trip I called Phil to learn more. He told me the Dolomites were the most stunning, picture perfect landscape he's seen and he wasn't exaggerating. I've never said WOW so many times before. Every turn would lead to a breathtaking scene.
    The trip was managed very well as are all Active trips. The guides were great, within days feeling like long time friends. The food and accommodations were excellent, luxury mountain hiking with 5 course meals, electricity and plumbing to be found at every stop!
    The Dolomites are a must visit and I can't think of a better group to do it with than Active Adventures. Looking forward to my next adventure with them.
    Boris Diskin Review Image
    – New Jersey, United States
    Dolomiti, October 2016

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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