Given its outstanding unspoiled natural beauty, Iceland has become one of the best and most enticing travel destinations in the world. Each year, around two million visitors choose to explore the stunning open spaces of this special country. From spectacular waterfalls and unforgettable Northern Lights shows, to impressive glaciers and idyllic lagoons, Iceland is a land perfect for adventurers, people who love the vast enchanting landscapes filled with breathtaking treasures. Yet one question remains for all who dream of traveling to this remote northern island, wondering what is the best time to visit Iceland. The answer is not as simple as it would seem, as each traveler might want to discover another part of this great story that is Iceland. While most will certainly choose the warmer days of summer, there are some places and experiences which truly come alive during the winter cold months.
Knowing when to visit Iceland can greatly improve any trip to Iceland and there are certain things to consider. Iceland is a solitary island located in the far reaches of the North Atlantic Ocean, far from the greater land masses. As such, the weather tends to be completely different and rather unpredictable, when compared to other continental destinations.
Nevertheless, considering its remote location in the north, it is not completely frozen, as some might imagine. Oceanic currents and geothermal activity have created a rather mildly weathered country, with only about 10% of its territory covered in glaciers. During the winter it is usually covered in snow while the summer months completely change the scenery, creating an endless ocean of green hills. The weather of Iceland is truly unpredictable. Therefore, choosing a best time to visit Iceland can prove daunting. However knowing what you want to see or do can help anyone make a good decision.
As a general rule of thumb, most travelers will find summer to be the best time to visit Iceland. Generally, the months of May to August and most of September have long days where the sun never sets and pleasant temperatures (4-140C). The landscapes of Iceland go green during the summer and most attractions can be reached with ease. This is also the best time for a whale watching adventure that Iceland is so famous for. There are plenty of hiking tracks leading to some exceptional sights, including famous places like Tingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall or the Blue Lagoon. During July and August, there is practically eternal sunshine. This can create an opportunity to explore the country for as long as possible, yet good sleeping might become difficult. One thing to constantly keep in mind is that even the summer can have chilly days and sudden storms, so preparing in advance can be a good idea.
Winter, on the other hand, brings cold days (temperatures around 00C). Strong winds that can make it feel even colder. It is also the time for shorter days, with long periods of darkness, when exploring the countryside is not possible. In the northern parts of the island the temperatures can even go down to -300C and the months of December to February being the coldest. One of the highlights of any trip to Iceland is definitely the spectacle of the Northern Lights and they usually occur during the winter months, from September until April (mainly September-October and February-March, close to the equinoxes). Winter also means a lot of snow and while the landscapes can take on a magical look, some of the roads become impracticable and some attractions cannot be reached. Winter in Iceland can be a unique travel experience. However, only for those people prepared to battle the weather and explore the frozen scenery of this stunning destination.
Overall, one could argue that anytime is best time to visit Iceland, with each month and season bringing something authentic and spectacular. Nevertheless, for most travel purposes the middle of summer is adequate for the great majority of travelers. Winter can offer the unforgettable spectacle of the Northern Lights and the amazing frozen landscapes, but it also means extremely cold temperatures and very short days. Regardless, it is important to choose the right time for you, as each traveler has different interests and purposes. It is also of utmost importance to be prepared for anything as weather is quite unpredictable. Lastly, there is also the matter of the crowds, as most people will flock towards the most famous landmarks of Iceland during the mid of summer, making spring and autumn to also be a good alternative.