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The Best Time to Visit Iceland: Summer or Winter?

The Best Time to Visit Iceland: Summer or Winter?

Iceland has a concentrated tourist season pretty much any time of the year, especially due to the high popularity of free layovers between flights from the US to Europe or vice-versa. Who wouldn’t take a few extra days in an attractive destination? With the incredible range of things available to do in Iceland, it makes your visit worth every cent spent on this journey. However, many people may ask the question: when is the best time to visit Iceland?

Summer or winter? Autumn or spring? For many reasons that are difficult questions to answer as each season has its perks depending on what do you want to do and how do you want to travel. If you’re backpacking in Iceland your expectations might be different than if you’re passing through quickly on your layover.

I was lucky enough to visit Iceland twice over the past couple of years. Once during the winter and recently in the summer and each time my experience was totally different. Here are some pros and cons of visiting Iceland when it’s cold and when it’s warm.

Best Time to Visit Iceland?

When to Visit Iceland - Summer or Winter

Iceland in Winter: pros & cons

Winter in Iceland is snow and ice. Prepare to be freezing, despite wearing a ton of layers of clothing and you probably want to purchase some thermal underwear, woolen socks and waterproof jacket. Trust me, you will need it. While in Reykjavik it might be around 40 degrees F, the moment you get out of the city the temperature dropped a lot.

Especially between late November and February you might get stuck somewhere in the middle of the country as the roads are often close and storm alerts keep happening on a regular basis. Iceland in March is warmer but still very cold.

However, Christmas and Iceland in December is a magical experience and could be enjoyable. Icelanders feast with many dishes that seem very strange to foreigners, what makes the whole celebration even more amusing.

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  • Aurora Borealis is probably the biggest attraction and also an important reason for going to Iceland in the winter. A brightly hued fog creeps across the night sky, shape-shifts into a solid green and red swirl stretching out from the horizon. I’m sorry to possibly destroy your dreams, but the Northern Lights aren’t guaranteed. In fact, even after visiting both: Iceland and Finland I still haven’t seen them as it was always too cloudy.
  • If you are looking for a more active addition to your trip, definitely consider booking a tour like snorkeling in Silfra fissure. The crack between the North American and Eurasian continental plates is one of a kind attraction as you’re swimming in an ice cold water. Imagine doing some Iceland snorkeling among the pile of snow? I did it last year and it was awesome!


  • If you’re always cold you might turn into an ice cube. Iceland isn’t the warmest country even during the summer, so the temperatures might challenging for some. I was struggling a bit myself, so I purchased hand warmers.
  • Renting a car in Iceland is a way to go for many visitors. But apart from high prices, driving on icy roads can prove to be difficult. Unless you’re an experienced driver you might be in trouble during Icelandic winter.
  • Days in mid-winter have only 4 or 5 hours of sunlight, what doesn’t have to be a problem unless… you’re a photographer looking for a good light. These fluctuations are even more extreme in the northern part of the country.Iceland waterfalls

Iceland in Summer: pros & cons

The things to look forward to during the Icelandic summer are the long summer days, better weather and everything being more green and lush. The downsides are more crowds, higher prices, and difficulties finding reasonably priced accommodation in certain areas.


  • There are certain tours that you can take only during the Icelandic summer. One of them is a hike inside an active (yes, you read correctly!) volcano.
  • Ever wanted to visit Antarctica, but couldn’t really afford it? What if I told you that Iceland has a mini version of Antarctica? This magical place is called Jokulsaron lagoon and it looks precious during the summer when the glacier melts.Coming up: recent trip to Iceland
  • One of a method of cutting costs of your trip to Iceland would be camping. While unless you’re a penguin I’d not recommend this in the winter, camping is extremely popular during the summer months.


  • Iceland can get way more crowded during the summer, due to the high amount of visitors heading to Europe. While it won’t get as packed as Croatia, certain places are definitely not isolated.
  • One of the things I skipped on my trip to Iceland in the winter was a glacier hike. While I was able to do the hike in the summer, I couldn’t do the coolest part of this trip which was a visit to an ice cave. The ice melts too much during the summer what makes the possible visit too dangerous.

    Have you been to Iceland? When did you visit? What do you think the best time to visit Iceland is?


Melanie Gibson

Tuesday 26th of June 2018

I would love this blog. It's so informative. It provides the complete and useful information about the best time to visit Iceland. Now I can decide that when should I visit Iceland.


Tuesday 23rd of January 2018

Summer all the way.... went there last July and perfect weather at 12 to 15 degrees. Sunny and brief shower one day. Iceland is windy especially if you hike to dc3 crash site so I would hate to do that in the winter. Also 23 hr of daylight was a savior as we could do longer day trips like glacier lagoon. Yes it's crowded but distance yourself from tours and you will be ok. Prices are high but that's normal. Pack lunches and snacks as you on the go anyways.

Manuela Stoica

Friday 11th of August 2017

Thanks for a well-structured writing, Anna!

I’m surprised you emphasise how cold it is in winter as some bloggers mention it’s not as cold in Iceland in winter as in some parts of Northern America or Europe. But the point about the icy roads is a very good one!

Would you suggest to trade shorter days with fewer tourists for longer but crowded days? I’ve found some great sources on what to do in Iceland in so called off-season and the information was rather compelling.

If you had another chance to visit Iceland for a week, what time of the year would you choose?


Saturday 12th of August 2017

I think these days it's hard to talk about off-season in Iceland. Activities are different during the winter and summer, so it really depends on what do you want but it's definitely easier to travel during warmer months because roads are more accessible.

A Wrap Up of Iceland. - Holiday From Where

Tuesday 3rd of January 2017

[…] in an earlier post here. Anna from Annaeverywhere actually has a much more in depth pros and cons article here on summer verse winter. Just in case the cold is not your […]

Keri | Ladies What Travel

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

Useful post - thanks Anna! I've been thinking about visiting Iceland and wasn't sure when would be best. Interesting to hear its busier in Summer, I guess I just presumed because of the northern lights it would be busier in Winter!


Tuesday 30th of August 2016

People don't like cold weather it seems ;)

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