Do you want to visit Iceland but can’t decide when to go? Let us help you with a few pointers! High season is usually in the winter, when Iceland is a snowy wonderland and also during the summer, where the sun never sleeps. But don’t overlook the off-season! Autumn in Iceland means fabulous colors, incredible landscapes and maybe even Northern Lights! It’s exciting and glorious.
Here is why you should visit Iceland in autumn.
Iceland’s Mild Weather in Autumn
With a cool breeze and a slight chill in the air, Iceland flourishes in autumn by transitioning its summer’s tepid climate into a mild, pleasant season. With some rain, wind, and often fairly unpredictable days, the weather in autumn is generally suitable for all kinds of activities from light hiking trips to multi-day family adventures.
Iceland’s autumn months start in August, at the end of summer and continue to October. Early August in Iceland can still be quite warm and sunny, but as the weeks progress the days get colder, and from September onwards, it cools quite rapidly and so begins the fresh autumn air to take us all the way to early November.
The weather in August in Iceland is the most pleasant in the entire fall season. In the Capital Region, the highest temperatures in August reach around 14°C (58 Fahrenheit) with a daily average of around 11°C (51 Fahrenheit), perfect weather for a hike into the expansive Icelandic nature, or a stress-free stroll in downtown Reykjavík.
Iceland’s weather in September is slightly colder, with a daily average of around 8 °C (46 Fahrenheit), with the highest temperature on record reaching 18.5 °C (65 Fahrenheit).
The weather in October in Iceland starts to descend into winter territory, as temperatures drop to 4.5 °C (40 Fahrenheit) as a daily average.
Layering up is a necessity to enjoy the range of temperature, especially if you are planning on partaking in any outdoor activities. To sufficiently prepare for your trip to Iceland in the fall, packing the right outfit is key.
Here is a compact list for the essentials:
- Light breathable inner layers
- Thermal base layers
- Fleece jackets or light wool sweater
- Waterproof jacket and waterproof pants
- A sturdy pair of waterproof hiking shoes
- Light down jackets
- Multiple pairs of wool socks
- Hats, gloves, and scarf (good on a windy day)
- Sunglasses (all seasons)
- Swimsuits (always)
It’s best to wear non-cotton fabric, preferable woolen or fast-dry instead. Functioning ventilation and effective insulation keep your body warm and dry, so you can feel free and comfortable on the road.
As there is so much rain in October (and potentially in other autumn months – we told you it’s often unpredictable!) you might be wondering why we didn’t suggest packing an umbrella, we also have umbrellas in all our vehicles. Put simply, once you experience a windy day in Iceland it will all make sense! The Icelandic wind can be forcefully strong and your umbrella won’t stand a chance! It will become an annoying burden rather than a useful tool.
The Glorious Autumn Colors
You may be wondering if the “autumn colors” we are talking about match up with the same autumn foliage you are used to, even considering the fact that there aren’t many trees in Iceland. In short, yes – but better! Iceland’s autumn is even more charming!
The landscape in Iceland is a magnificent combination of volcanic lava fields and polar flora – something quite special and unique. When the vegetation reaches its fullest and richest autumn shades, the soft green moss blends its summer colors into deep, warm shades of red, gold and yellow. With myriad streams of rivers and waterfalls running through the multi-layered sceneries of colorful trees, shrubs and moss, the landscape is particularly captivating.
Areas like the Thingvellir National Park on the Golden Circle route, Thorsmork valley in the south, Hraunfossa– the Lava waterfall, located on Iceland’s popular sightseeing route Silver Circle, are especially exceptional for autumn sightseeing in Iceland, as you can appreciate Iceland’s most famous natural attractions amidst the mesmerizing autumn foliage. The best locations with perfect timing make for a phenomenal vacation.
Autumn in Iceland is short and so is the magnificence of the autumn layers. To make the most of this experience, be sure to visit Iceland with a professional local guide , as they know the best places and the best times to see Iceland’s autumn, making sure you make the most of your dream holiday!
Less Crowded and Quiet Season
Winter and summer are both high seasons in Iceland’s tourism, making many popular tourist attractions very crowded. Luckily, this makes autumn a quieter season for traveling to Iceland. With fewer people around, you will be able to enjoy the quintessence of Iceland’s nature in peace. When it comes to planning a trip during an offseason, there are many great benefits including an increase of available accommodation options offered at competitive prices.
The most popular, must-visits destinations may still have many tourists at peak times, but for many other attractions and regions, this is the optimum time of the year to travel with ease. North and East Iceland are especially beautiful during autumn, and before September the cute puffin birds are still around before they migrate to the sea.
As the tourism season starts to slow down in autumn, you can think about planning your trip more extensively, and your visit to each attraction is less likely to be impacted or rushed by other people on their holiday. Autumn is the best time to travel at your own pace, with countless, splendid and sensational attractions scattered around the island, time is the essence and space is the key.
Taste of Authenticity With Local Experiences
Autumn is the time of a year for the locals to celebrate. It’s a lesser-known fact that autumn is the best time to experience the authentic Icelandic culture with the locals. The welcoming nature of Icelanders are more than happy to encourage visitors to join them for these festivals. Be sure to mark these events on your calendar!
As summer’s tail, August ranks as the highest celebratory mood in the Capital Region, Reykjavik’s Gay Pride event takes place in mid-August and Reykjavik’s weekends are filled with music and party crowds during the Culture Night festival in late-August. A side of Iceland you must see. In South Iceland, the fireworks night at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is August’s highlight.
As an island where sheep outnumber humans, Iceland has something unique arranged for the herds. Every September, local farmers host an annual sheep herding festival called Rettir. It is Iceland’s oldest ranching tradition and an important cultural heritage. The sheep in Iceland graze freely in the vast nature and farmers will bring them together every autumn to prepare for the coming winter.
Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) happens around October, and is perfect for a one-day experience to watch some independent movies.
Early November is dedicated to the Iceland Airwave music festival. As well as two main stages for performances, many cafes, bars, and restaurants turn into live music houses to celebrate local musicians and artists. Nature starts to quieten down in autumn, as the cheerful sound of Icelandic culture life gets louder. If you love celebrating cultural festivals you will love visiting Iceland in autumn.
Normal Daylight Hours Are Back
The Midnight-sun in summer is a spectacle, but it also causes a common problem for visitors who are not accustomed to 24-hour daylight. This will not be an issue in autumn, as the standard daylight hours are back! Icelanders are used to this seasonal change which occurs twice a year, in spring and autumn. In Autumn, daylight resets and brings that normalcy back. What’s more exciting about it is the miraculous natural phenomenon that can only be observed in the dark night – the Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights Season
One of the most spectacular highlights in autumn and winter is the Northern Lights. When the night gets dark, the miraculous aurora borealis can be seen at last! The Northern Lights start showing from September through to the winter.
Autumn’s mild weather greatly increases our chances of experiencing the green bliss. The sky is less cloudy, and the outdoor temperatures aren’t too cold, making the waiting time for the exciting moment more tolerable. Although we have to say that naturally the erratic Icelandic weather won’t always go the way we expect, so we recommend taking a Northern Lights tour with a professional guide, get updates for the weather forecast early, and wear layers!
Many visitors are fortunate to see the Northern Lights multiple times as they travel along the island. Checking in a countryside hotel certainly increases the odds, especially in Southern Iceland, where there is a lot less light pollution to hinder visibility. We recommend to travel from Reykjavik to South Iceland and back on a multiday trip, taking advantage of crisp autumn weather to hunt for the breathtaking Northern Lights.
Pack Your Suitcase and Visit Iceland in Autumn
Autumn is an excellent time to visit Iceland without the crowds and with all the natural benefits! The fall foliage is as impressive as it’s charming, you have more opportunities to mingle with locals in their autumn celebrations and events and get a taste of the authentic Icelandic culture. Also, you will feel no strangeness to the normal daylight hours and be satisfied with the mild autumn weather. On top of all that, the Northern Lights season just begins. Isn’t it just one of the best seasons to visit Iceland? We are surely positive that it is.
If you have any further questions, just ask our travel experts and start preparing for your vacation to Iceland in autumn now!