Iceland does not have exactly a perfect season to visit. While the island is temperate in summer and quite cold in winter, the weather can be unpredictable. That being said, travellers who decide the best time to go there should consider what they hope to do and see. Do you want to ride with Fabio-style manes on the tundra? Choose the summer months. Are you looking to groove at night at one of the biggest music festivals in Europe? You can head to Iceland Airwaves in November, which usually hosts an impressive mix of established and up-and-coming artists. Trying to save a few dollars? Bargain hunters may want to consider the end of September when the weather is hot, but tourists will flee. Here, we have assembled top-tops during each season.
Visiting Iceland in winter
For those who want to face the cold winds and long nights, winter is the coming month. Temperatures can range from 24 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and daylight lasts between four and five hours, but these conditions make nights difficult. Those who want to experience some of Mother Nature’s most pristine landscapes can also leave Reykjavik to watch a snow-covered volcano or an icy waterfall. Typically considered the low season, hotels and airlines offer some of the best deals during the winter due to reduced demand.
Things to do
The bright and dark nights of winter make it easier to see the northern lights. Some holidaymakers spend several days driving through the countryside, admiring the volcanic terrain during the day and observing the green and shiny sky – a combination of oxygen and nitrogen – at night. While the lights can be seen from several cities, Iceland’s Keflavik, which has also been a strategic military location, has hotels that provide a wake-up call for those who do not want to miss a midnight light show. Hotel Keflavik also offers a breathtaking view from its terraces.
Between mid-January and February, Thorrablot celebrates Nordic culture and the god Thor, including a feast of traditional foods that could make you feel a little rambunctious (boiled lamb’s head, rotten shark and ram’s testicles). Several social clubs across Iceland celebrate the patriotic event, but Viking Village in Hafnarfjörður – about six miles south of Reykjavik – is known for its Viking waiters in old world costumes. The restaurant even has a stone seat that you can use by holding a metal shield (photo op, anyone?). For families looking to entertain the youngest, the Hafnarfjörður hotel has a playroom suitable for children.
Food and Pleasure Festival
Iceland may not be known for its gourmet cuisine, but Reykjavik has several high-end restaurants that serve innovative and refined seafood dishes. In early March, the Food and Fun Festival imports American and European chefs to partner with local restaurants, create new menus, compete for prizes and impress palates around the world. During the festival, you can stay at the Borg Hotel in Reykjavik, known for its glamorous Art Deco style restaurant.
The Orcas roam Iceland all year round, but it is during the winter months that they get close enough to ships and even bridges. Unpredictable weather can make it difficult to visit whales, but an aquatic adventure can be an excellent addition to a winter trip. Grundarfjördur, located in the northern part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland, is known as an excellent place to observe whales.