The climate in Iceland
Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the Arctic Circle. Due to its location, Iceland has a temperate climate which leads to chilly summers and mild winters. The Gulf Stream is the main reason for warmer temperatures as well as the Irminger Current. The Irminger Current warms Iceland on the south coast which makes it warmer compared to the other regions. The northeast and southwest coast are colder because of the Greenland current. If you travel to Iceland in summer, you can expect daytime temperatures between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius. The winter temperatures are between 0 and 3 degrees. Basically, it’s warmer if you travel to the coasts than further inland.
There are small regional differences regarding precipitation. The chances of rainfall around the region of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, are much higher than anywhere else. The amount of precipitation decreases in the south and it rains the least in the north of the country. The beginning of the summer months are the driest months of the year. Have a look at the climate table below to see the weather conditions for each month of the year. This gives you a great overview of the best time to visit Iceland.
Climate data for Iceland (Reykjavik)
|Max. temperature in °C||2||3||3||6||9||12||13||13||10||7||3||2|
|Min. temperature in °C||-3||-2||-2||0||4||7||8||8||5||2||-1||-3|
|Hours of sunshine per day||1||2||4||5||6||5||6||5||4||3||1||0|
|Rainy days per month||13||13||14||12||10||11||10||12||12||15||13||14|
The best time to visit Iceland
Furthermore, June, July and August are the best months to travel to Iceland because the days are much longer. Look forward to 5 up to 6 hours of sunshine per day. That’s much more than during the winter months. Another reason why you should visit Iceland during the summer months is that you will have less rainy days. The average number of rainy days in the summer is a maximum of twelve. Due to the good weather conditions June, July and August are considered as peak season in Iceland, meaning you’ll find the largest amount of tourists in Iceland during this time. However, if you travel during the summer, you won’t be seeing the Northern Lights – it’ll be much too bright for that unfortunately!
- June: 12°C, 5hrs of sunshine, 11 rainy days
- July: 13°C, 6hrs of sunshine, 10 rainy days
- August: 13°C, 5hrs of sunshine, 12 rainy days
Alternatively, consider travelling in May and September as well. In May, spring is slowly ending and temperatures start to heat. September marks the beginning of autumn, but temperatures are not too cold yet. If you don’t mind colder temperatures, then the winter months will be perfect for your Iceland holiday. The temperatures are much milder than expected and usually, temperatures do not fall under -3 degrees Celsius. Just keep in mind that there will be more rainy days during these months, as I showed you in the climate table above. If you’re planning to visit Iceland in winter or spring, just be aware that certain roads may be closed due to snow, especially when roads cross highland terrain. You may have to resort to a proper 4×4!
If you go during the summer, you have the perfect conditions for truly beautiful walks and hikes – the vegetation will be in full bloom and you’ll be greeted with beautiful views of Iceland at its greenest! Alternatively, explore Iceland by bike or in a kayak. Another option is to take glacier tours. The summer in Iceland offers many activities which are ideal to get to know the country and its people.
The best time to see the Northern Lights
Perhaps the most famous natural phenomenon in Iceland is the Northern Lights. Even though the summer months June, July and August are considered as the best time to visit Iceland, you won’t be able to catch sight of the Northern lights during this time. The best time to see the Northern Lights are actually the winter months from October until March. You will have better chances to see this natural phenomenon during this time of the year. But there’s never a guarantee that you’ll see the Aurelia Borealis. Perfect conditions for the Northern Lights are cold, dark and clear nights with no cloud cover at all. Keep your eye on those aurora forecasts and keep those fingers crossed – the efforts are well worth it!
The best time for whale watching in Iceland
In summer, when the northern regions become warmer, the whales will be returning from the south, hence why summer is the best time for whale watching. June, July and August in particular are perfect for you to see whales in their natural environment. It is also possible to book whale watching tours in May, September and October to spot these impressive sea creatures. But you need to be lucky enough because there’s no guarantee to see whales on a tour. You may have the chance to see humpback and minke whales as well as fin whales and dolphins. And if you are very lucky you may catch sight of blue whales. Reykjavik and Húsavik are the best places for whale watching.
Winter as best travel time
Not everyone likes warm temperatures during an Iceland holiday. Many people prefer that refreshing chill during the winter months. At this time of the year, the temperatures drop to just below degrees Celsius, but it never really feels too bitingly cold. And you’ll experience a unique landscape! Many parts, especially the highlands, are covered in snow. Waterfalls are frozen and the glaciers sparkle in the wintry sun. If you love snowy and stunning landscapes you need to visit Iceland in winter. Take glacier tours or snow walks and get mesmerised by the wonderful views. If it gets too cold on your tours, warm up in the thermal baths. The Blue Lagoon in winter is a proper experience.
The best time to visit Iceland – my verdict
What applies to many destinations, applies as well to Iceland: the best time to visit Iceland depends on your preferences! If you’d like hiking to explore the landscape you should go in the summer months. If you love snow and wintry landscapes, and if you wish to see the Northern lights, then you will have to go during the winter months. Nevertheless, June, July and August are considered the best time to visit Iceland since these months have the best weather conditions, however you’ll have to be prepared for much higher prices and more tourists. If you prefer to avoid peak season, pick a different month of the year. Spring, for example, is lovely for a holiday in Iceland because the weather gets milder. Autumn has its benefits because the landscape boasts beautiful autumnal colours and there are fewer tourists.
Feeling that wanderlust?