Vestfjarðavegur near Dynjandi

When to go to Iceland

Quick summary on when to go

Do you want to see everything in the best weather possible for the cost of more tourists and higher prices? Go in July, August or first half of September.

Do you want to see most of the places with fewer tourists and you don’t care much about highlands? Go in the second half of April, in May, June or second half of September.

Do you want to see Iceland covered in snow with northern lights and little tourists? You don’t care about cold weather and not seeing Highlands? Go anytime from October to March.

Weather seasons in Iceland

There’s no perfect period. Period 🙂 You should choose one according to your priorities.

Some argue that the best time to go is Junenot so many tourists, the weather gets warmer, BUT most of the F-roads are usually still closed.

Some argue that the best time to go is September – tourists start to disappear, weather is still fine, F-roads should be open. BUT weather tends to deteriorate quickly and the same applies to F-roads – you are leaving accessibility of beautiful places more to a chance.

thingeyri campsite sunset

Picturesque sunset at Þingeyri campsite

Weather-wise you may choose from the 3 basic options for your trip:

  1. Full season (15th July – 15th September)
  2. Shoulder season (April – 15th July, 15th September – October)
    • +much fewer tourists
    • +good prices
    • some F-roads may be open
    • chance to see northern lights (April, May, October)
    • -several beautiful places may be inaccessible
    • -much colder weather (especially outside June/July)
  3. Winter season (November – March)
    • +no tourists
    • +northern lights
    • +best prices
    • -F-roads closed
    • -Cold as in… Iceland
    • -many beautiful places inaccessible

When did we go and why

We decided to travel from 1st of August until the 13th of August. The weather was supposed to be the best (or in Iceland better said – the least bad). Days were supposed to be long. Last but not least, due to Covid-19 still harming a big part of the world significantly it was also supposed to be less touristy than usually. All of these were true in reality. And most importantly – all of the F-roads should be accessible.

We were lucky with the weather, having only 2-3 rainy days, and even during these days, the rain was only mild, not heavy. We had some 2-3 nights with really heavy rain, (one resulting in our tent getting wet due to our mistake), which is still better than a heavy rain throughout the day. Rest of the days were cloudy or sunny or a combination of those, which was just perfect. I’ve created several backup plans in case of bad weather (i.e. heavy rain or heavy fog) but luckily, I didn’t have to trigger any of these.

Sveinstindur near Langisjor

The upper part of the hike on Sveinstindur near Langisjor lake on a foggy day with slight rain

What to be prepared for in summer

The rule of thumb for Iceland is simple. Weather can be ANY. Cold. Sunny. Windy. Rainy. Foggy. Clear. Cloudy. Snowing. Yes, in summer. We had many nice days, but, when it rained, it rained A LOT. We both had waterproof clothes which were wet anyway after more than 30 minutes of Icelandic rain, so be prepared for this. Either buy a really, really high-quality waterproof stuff (and even then trips under heavy rain aren’t very comfortable) or adjust your plans accordingly. To help you with that, for each place of interest mentioned in this blog I noted whether the experience is worth visiting even when the weather is bad or whether I recommend waiting for better weather to enjoy it to the fullest.

F208 Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri north

F208 road from Landmannalaugar towards F26 on a cloudy day

Next thing to be prepared for is the cold weather. Iceland is a cold country. During nights temperature occasionally reached 4-5°C even in August and in mountain areas it even slipped below 0°C, so be prepared for that! No thin and cheap sleeping bags or tents. Temperatures are supposed to peak at the turn of July and August (you may look it up on many sites like this one) and the sooner (or the later) you go, they will only be lower.

The same applies for a rainfall, just the through is in June and the sooner or the later you go it will only increase. The next big advantage of a summer visit is long days. Both when going to sleep at around 11 pm and when waking up at around 6 am we still had daylight on (although in the evening it was a bit darker but still the visibility was OK). This may be very important, because you can arrive at your sights of interest even in the evening and still experience all of their beauty, maybe even all by yourself.

Kirkjufell on a rainy day

Kirkjufell in Snæfellsnes peninsula on a rainy day

When to go? It’s all about the balance

Choosing a time to visit Iceland is all about balance. Everybody knows the weather patterns, so logically, the biggest number of tourists come when the weather is the best (from June to August). At the end of the day, it’s up to you to find a balance between a potential number of tourists and favourable weather. Our situation was slightly different due to Covid-19 changing the situation with tourism in the summer of 2020, so we were lucky to see the island in the high season with a reasonable number of tourists.

Posted by epiciceland

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