Weather in Iceland is not as cold as you might think, but it can change very quickly. The country is located close to the Arctic Circle and has both the Arctic and the Atlantic forces pushing in on it. It is more temperate than you would think. However, there are some icy months when traveling around the country becomes more challenging.
Winters in Iceland have an average of around 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees F). Compared to other countries close to the same latitude, these temperatures are nothing. However, during the winter months, storms can seem to come out of nowhere and present perilously dangerous travel scenarios.
The other aspect of the general weather and climate in Iceland is the long nights during the winter months. It is so close to the Arctic Circle that certain cold seasons also mean dark seasons, giving travelers only a small window to tour within.
In contrast, the summer months see up to 21 hours of daylight each day! The temperatures stay mild and refreshing, and the long days mean lots of time to hike or drive from one place to another.
To prepare you for the weather, we have laid out a short guide. It covers what to expect from each month of the year.
Average Temperature: -3ºC to 2ºC (27ºF to 35ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 4.5 to 7
Although January is not the best month to travel around Iceland, it is one of the most famous months to see the Northern Lights. It is also one of the coldest months of the year, yet still quite manageable for anyone from a Northern or deep Southern climate. Keep all of this in mind when you consider what to pack for your trip this month. Furry coats, thick wool hats, and gloves are all necessary.
Many times, tourists like to rent cars and travel around the Golden Circle in Iceland. If this is your intention, evaluate whether you are prepared to drive in frosty, icy weather conditions. Especially if you encounter any winter storms, the drive can be treacherous. If you do not feel ready to take that on, consider going with a guided tour and sit back and relax. Whatever you do, make sure to pack sunglasses since the sun never raises much higher than the horizon during January.
Average Temperature: -3ºC to 3ºC (26ºF-34ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 7 to 10
As you can see, if you compare January and February, even though there is a marked increase in the number of daylight hours, there is not much of one reflected in the temperature. February is a month of transition in Iceland, meaning it is one of the most unpredictable months weather-wise. Winter storms come on quickly and bring snow, rain, sleet, and ice with them.
Bringing layers is an essential aspect of travel in Iceland during February. Heavier coats for nighttime, gloves and a hat, and thinner long-sleeves for periods of sunshine. Since February still has extended periods of dark, it is one of the best months to see the Northern Lights. Since road conditions can be extremely icy, check out the current road conditions by visiting road.is. You can also opt for a tour if it makes you feel safer.
Average Temperature: -2ºC to 3.3ºC (28ºF to 38ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 10 to 13
March begins to receive more regular amounts of daylight relative to the majority of the world. From the beginning to the end of the month, the number of sunlight increases rapidly. It is arguably the best month to travel to Iceland since you enjoy the snowy views of the country while experiencing more tolerable temperatures.
In March, you can still see the Northern Lights since there isn’t quite enough sunlight to dilute the views. Variety in the gear you pack becomes even more critical. In March, there is a possibility you will experience the entire gamut of weather possibilities in a single day! Skiing is at its top form during this month since it is still snowy but mild in temperature.
Average Temperature: 1ºC to 7ºC (34ºF to 45ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 13 to 16
Iceland is reported to have four seasons, but keep in mind that these look a little different than they might in other parts of the world. If there were a month that could be associated with spring, though, April would be that month. The average temperatures finally stay above freezing while still not skyrocketing.
The ironic aspect of this spring-time month is that it also holds the celebrated First Day of Summer around the third week of April. No matter the temperature, Icelanders turn out in the summer gear, even if their undergarments are made with sturdy wool.
There is still snow involved in April weather patterns most years, so don’t think that you have escaped the potential of driving in it if you arrive in April. To see the Northern lights, it might be necessary to go farther into the Highlands. April is still considered part of the tourist off-season, though, so save money by traveling in this more mild month.
Average Temperature: 4ºC to 10ºC (40ºF-50ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 16-20 hours
May is the month when there is a noticeable change in the daylight hours, from longer, darker nights to daylight hours that last almost the entire day. This month is also the most pronounced in the transition towards summer. The vegetation starts to produce leaves and becomes green again.
Seeing consistent temperatures in the double digits is another reason for Icelanders to celebrate. Have you heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers?” In Iceland, the rainy season tends to begin in May, so make sure you pack waterproof material and a quality rain jacket.
Average Temperature: 9ºC to 15ºC (48ºF to 59ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 20-21
The best recommendation we can give you to travel in the middle months of June and July is to pack a sleeping mask. These are the months that feature the famous midnight sun, and you can freely travel around the country for hours and hours with daylight left for viewing.
June is also the month when you see the pictures of brilliant color contrasts, lush greens against sky blue backgrounds, and black or red mountains. June can still be rainy, so keep that waterproof gear on hand to stay ahead of the weather. June is also a peak tourist season. Expect to see higher prices and more traffic.
Average Temperature: 10ºC to 15ºC (50ºF-59ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 16 to 19
July is known as one of the hottest months of the year. It can get up to 80º Fahrenheit in some years! However, this is not common, and you should still plan on packing layers for the potential contrasting temperatures from beginning to the end of each day.
July sometimes sees some intense wind gusts from the North sweeping over the country. Waterproof materials are no longer as necessary, but windproof jackets are advised. It is difficult to view the Northern Lights during this month and those surrounding it since you never see much night.
Average Temperature: 8ºC to 13ºC (46ºF to 55ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 14 to 18
August is another month of swift change in Iceland. The daylight hours begin to swing back down as the globe starts to tilt once more. Depending on what you care to do in Iceland, changes whether August would be the best month to travel for you.
The North and the Eastern sides of Iceland can be quite warm during the month, and it is the last month when the temperatures could be called warm for the rest of the year.
August is said to be one of the best months for visitors interested in trekking and backpacking. The reason is because of the warmer temperatures paired with fewer daylight hours. The combo means you might get a chance to see the Northern Lights while still having plenty of sunny hours to walk. The nights do start to get chilly, though, so if you are overnighting, make sure and be prepared.
Average Temperature: 5ºC to 10ºC (41ºF to 50ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 11-14 hours
The natural heat provided by the upswing of the Gulf from South America gives Iceland an extended summer compared to other Northern countries. Even though the light fades quickly from the sky, you still get to appreciate some warmish weather.
The weather in September gets rainy and sometimes brings snow again. The winds can whip across the country, so make sure as much of your gear as possible is water- and windproof. Fall colors in September make the country even more spectacular to behold!
Average Temperature: 2ºC to 7ºC (36ºF to 44ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 8 to 11
In October, both the daylight hours and the temperatures begin to dive. Heavy rain follows this change, so prepare your gear accordingly. Layers are more critical again during this month since the weather can be all over the place.
October is a high-density tourist month because of the fall colors and beautiful displays put on by the Northern Lights. Plan your trip out well to maximize the amount of daylight you put to use on your journey. Seeing snow isn’t likely during this month, but there is a chance.
Average Temperature: -1ºC to 3ºC (30ºF to 38ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 5 to 8 hours
November is one of the most unpredictable months of the year in terms of the weather in Iceland. The country seems to have difficulty deciding whether it wants to be in autumn or winter and can swing wildly back and forth. Bring plenty of warm clothes, windproof, and waterproof, so you are prepared for anything it throws at you.
November begins to see patterns of snow and ice come back into play. Be careful on the roads if you decide not to do a guided tour. Check the road conditions each morning before heading off.
Average Temperature: -3ºC to 2ºC (27ºF to 36ºF)
Amount of Daylight Hours: 4 to 5 hours
December finds you back into the almost perpetual night. It is the darkest month of the entire year. The nighttime can be quite beautiful, but also shockingly precarious due to the extreme snowfalls they get. If you decide to drive during the night, check to make sure you won’t be caught in a terrific snowstorm.
Since Reykjavik is farther South, it is an excellent time to stay around the capital. It has milder weather and still allows tourists to see the Northern Lights and explore nearby ice caves.
Whatever month you decide to visit Iceland, you can be assured that you will experience the allure and magic the country offers. From stunning displays of the auroras to seeing the midnight sun, Iceland is set apart in weather and everything else when compared to any other country.