Iceland is undoubtedly an incredible holiday destination, owed in part to the stunning sights and unique climate. Even so, many believe that Iceland is a scarily cold place all the time, with visions of endless snowfall and icy temperatures all year round, which could put some would-be travelers off from visiting this Nordic gem.
The reality is actually far more diverse, with a range of different weathers, temperatures and climates to experience as the seasons come and go. In fact, the weather is so temperamental in Iceland that you can expect to experience a gamut of conditions on a day-to-day basis - enough to keep you on your toes during your stay!
So when should you think about visiting? We’ve written this guide to discuss the different seasons in the year, what to expect weather-wise and how it might impact your trip.
Each of Iceland’s seasons comes with it’s own average temperatures and dominant weather patterns, so we’ve broken them down individually to give you an idea of what to expect during your trip and whether to pack the thermals or not.
As the most obvious choice for a holiday, we’re happy to say that summer is a wonderful time of year to make your trip over to Iceland. Whilst the temperature never really gets to an uncomfortable level, it typically will range between 40F (5C) and 58F (15C), so you’ll be comfortable as you explore the breadth of nature and activities to explore.
F-roads are all generally open and there are a number of incredible sights to see, including the Northern Lights at the very tail-end of summer and the Midnight Sun - a phenomenon where it is daylight nearly 24 hours in a row. With that said, tourism is at its height during this season, so if you’re keen to get away from the crowd and step off the beaten path, this might not be the time for your visit.
Given the location of Iceland to the earth’s axis, you can expect up to 21 hours of sunlight on some of the sunniest days of the year, with sunrises and sunsets at times such as:
The general temperature drops as we head into fall, leading to a wider range of weather patterns - the famed erratic Icelandic weather will start to show and you’ll experience the full range of what’s on offer. For this reason, we recommend packing a good selection of clothes suitable for all types of weather - sun, rain, snow, wind - and be ready to adjust your plans should the weather have other ideas.
Temperatures do range between 30F (0C) and 50F (10C), gradually getting colder as December approaches, and many of the cultural events that pause for the tourist bustle begin to reopen, so you can get a real taste of true Icelandic culture if you set your sights on a fall holiday in Iceland. For this reason, we recommend coming to Iceland in the Fall if you’re into:
The days start to shrink quite quickly as we exit summer, with day lengths ranging from:
Undoubtedly, winter brings in the coldest temperatures Iceland has, dropping to approximately 30F (-1C) over the season. Depending on where you go, temperatures will drop to even further extremes, so be sure to pack warm and protect yourself from windchill. The weather is surprisingly mild when compared to winter months across the globe - don’t be fooled, however, as snow and wind can still arrive at a moment's notice.
Daylight is a luxury, with only around 5 hours per day of daylight. For this reason, many F-roads are closed off and a number of entertainment features are unavailable. Don’t be put off, however, as some of the most amazing natural sights can only be seen during the winter season. The Icelandic ice caves are one such experience, with entire caves formed from ice itself! These are completely closed during summer months, so do consider a winter holiday if you’re visiting to make the most of the natural sights.
Winter naturally has the shortest days you’ll see, with December and January only experiencing around 4-5 hours of total daylight and day lengths ranging from:
Don’t let that deter you from considering a visit in Winter though; come prepared and it can be a truly magical experience.
Spring brings the rebirth of nature, when flowers bloom, birds return from their migration patterns, and the entire country flourishes with an array of greenery. As the full brunt of tourism has yet to arrive and the temperature is beginning to warm up considerably, spring can be one of the best times to visit Iceland and get the most out of your stay.
Prices are typically a little lower than the summer months and a number of exciting activities - from fishing and hiking to whale watching - are on offer for the would-be traveller. If you’re unsure about the exact experience you’re after, spring offers a little bit of everything Iceland has and is a fantastic choice.
Spring is the ideal middle ground between all of Iceland’s extreme weather spectrum, offering comfortable mild temperatures, decent and (mostly)reliable weather, and even good day lengths, with recorded lengths as follows:
Iceland has a unique climate for a number of reasons. Its global location lies directly south of the Arctic Circle - with a very small portion of the landmass actually within its borders - and is completely surrounded by water, with the North Atlantic Sea to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north.
With so many factors affecting incoming winds and weather patterns, it’s not surprising that there is such a fluctuation throughout the year. Furthermore, the weather, precipitation, and overall climate are even slightly different between the north and south of Iceland; the south experiences marginally warmer temperatures and higher average volumes of rainfall throughout the year, whilst the north is generally cooler year-round.
We hope this information has been helpful in planning your holiday to Iceland. For additional information about your journey to Iceland, including driving guidance, please see our guides below.