When’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Iceland?

Terri Marshall Avatar
The best time to visit iceland is when you can see the skogafoss waterfall.
Skogafoss Waterfall Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland beckons to adventure-seekers year-round. The best time of year to visit Iceland depends on your traveling style and the type of adventures you enjoy. For those in search of the northern lights, schedule your travel between September through April to maximize your chances of spotting this bucket list experience.

Although the coldest time of the year, winter months are ideal for exploring ice caves, warming your hands by bonfires, cultural and music festivals in Reykjavik and celebrating the magic of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  

As spring arrives, migratory birds return including the always adorable puffins. Spring is also the perfect time for whale-watching tours. Of course, the summer months bring the midnight sun, summer solstice and sightseeing tourists from around the world. And the brief but beautiful autumn season yields a blanket of color and fewer tourists traveling the Golden Circle. Truthfully, the best time to travel to one of Europe’s most unusual destinations is really anytime!

The best time to visit iceland is when you can see rainbows over the landscape.
Rainbows of Iceland. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Year-Round Iceland Experiences

As with many destinations, Iceland features several year-round experiences. Awe-inspiring waterfalls captivate tourists any time of year. Sure they may be partially frozen in winter months, but that’s just another type of beautiful! Hot springs and geothermal pools bubble year-round from the Blue Lagoon to remote hot springs found throughout the Icelandic landscape.

Outdoor activities can be enjoyed in any season. The famed Icelandic horses are available year-round for horse riding adventures. And hikers also have plenty of year-round options. No matter when you visit Iceland, you can count on the Iceland weather to deliver a variety of experiences from sunny days to whipping winds to rain and back to sunny days. It’s unpredictable and packing layers is the key to managing whatever comes your way.

Road trips provide another year-round adventure option. Even in winter weather, driving the Golden Circle is possible. The Ring Road through the south coast of Iceland is also an option. But for those hoping to road trip through the entire country on the Ring Road, winter months can present some challenges due to potential road closures on mountain roads in Iceland’s more arctic regions. So if traveling the full distance of the Ring Road is on your bucket list, save that for the shoulder season or an Icelandic summer.

the best time to visit Iceland is when you can go horse riding.
Icelandic Horses. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Iceland’s Peak Season

There’s no question that the months of June through August are Iceland’s peak season. During this popular time, you’ll be bumper-to-bumper with other tourists on road trips along the Golden Circle and other popular destinations. Of course, the summer months typically bring more sunny days. And, the midnight sun arrives for the summer solstice in June.

The advantages of traveling to Iceland during the peak tourist season include more hours of daylight which means more time for hikers to hit the trails along with more time for horse riding. In Iceland’s westfjords, you can enjoy all the benefits of traveling to Iceland in the summer months with fewer tourists as most focus their travel time on the Golden Circle and the south coast.

Also, as mentioned previously, summer months are best for a full road trip along the Ring Road as mountain roads are open and ready for exploration.

the best time to visit Iceland is to see the black sand beach on the south coast.
Black Sand Beach on Iceland’s South Coast. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Visiting Iceland in the Winter Months

Despite its arctic reputation, Iceland’s winters are relatively mild. Temperatures average around 32 degrees. Of course, weather conditions in Iceland change continuously and the same is true for winter months. Winds can be strong and winter storms with snow and ice are possible. Hours of daylight shrink in the winter months to as low as four hours per day. But once winter solstice comes, daylight extends by a few minutes each day.

One big advantage of visiting in the winter months is the possibility of seeing the aurora borealis. Although the northern lights can be seen from September through April, the darker days of winter provide more opportunities for you to experience this natural phenomenon.

The winter months also bring cultural events – especially in Reykjavik. Here you’ll have the opportunity to participate in the Reykjavik International Games and the Dark Music Days Music Festival. Also, during the old Norse month of Þorri, which runs from mid-January to mid-February, Icelanders toast to the old gods with a mid-winter feast known as Þorrablót.

If an ice cave tour falls on your list of adventure priorities, the winter months might be the best time to visit Iceland. However, as long as the ice caves haven’t melted, you can still squeeze this in through April.

Frozen waterfalls, magical Christmas villages and New Year’s Eve bonfires add to the lure of a winter visit to Iceland.

the best time to visit Iceland is to see an ice cave tour
Ice Cave Tour. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Shoulder Season in Iceland

There’s something to be said for visiting Iceland in shoulder season. Fewer tourists, lower costs and those year-round adventures noted previously all add to the appeal of an off-season trip. And, as luck would have it, Iceland has two shoulder seasons – spring and autumn.

As winter fades away, those choosing to visit Iceland in April are treated to the last days of the northern lights season. From April to May, migratory birds make their way to Iceland for nesting season. If seeing puffins ranks high on your list, this may be the best time to visit Iceland. Spring also kicks off whale-watching season as humpback, minke, orcas and even blue whales migrate north for the summer months. Book a whale-watching tour and take in this wildlife wonder.

A visit to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula during the off-season means outdoor activities with fewer tourists. Glacier hiking is also possible in the shoulder season.

For that second shoulder season from September through October, the fall colors blanket the mossy landscape. Hikers can add berry picking to their experiences and the northern lights begin to dance across the skies again!

the best time to visit Iceland is to go Hiking on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Hiking on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula Photo credit: Terri Marshall


There’s so much wonder to Iceland with its fire and ice landscape and stunning natural beauty that no matter when you choose to visit Iceland, it’s a trip you’ll never forget. Of course, you can always return to check out another season. The Icelandic treasures will be waiting for you!

Based in New York City, Terri Marshall is an award-winning writer covering cultural travel, multi-generational travel, road trips, soft-adventure, camping, cars and characters. From hanging out with penguins in Antarctica to fishing for piranhas in Peru to road-tripping through the jungles of Belize, Terri’s always up for an adventure. Drop her into a landscape filled with mountains, towering evergreens, waterfalls and a glacier or two and she’ll be in heaven. But what thrills her most of all is traveling with her teenage grandkids. Terri serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee for the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA). She also serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Eastern Chapter for the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Terri’s publication credits include AARP, Island Soul, Girl Camper Magazine, A Girls Guide to Cars, CHILLED, World Footprints, North Hills Monthly, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Contractor and more. Follow her on Instagram at TrippingWithTerri.
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *