Land of Fire and Ice: The Best Times for an Iceland Vacation
Home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world, as well as notable glaciers, it's no wonder that Iceland is known as the Land of Fire and Ice. But the contrasts don't stop there. Tucked just south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland has a surprisingly mild climate that makes just about any time of year a good time to visit.
Vacation in the Midnight Sun
Long summer days last all day long when you visit Iceland between June and August. In mid-June, stay up until midnight to watch the sunset and watch again as it comes up less than three hours later. The sun stays close to the horizon, rising only 49 degrees from the horizon at midday, creating an all-day play of twilight color.
Daytime temperatures in the mid- to upper 50s make an ideal time to pack a picnic and ferry over to the island of Videy or sight see in Reykjavik's charming Harbour District. May through August is also Iceland's dry season, although there's a 52 to 61 percent of rainfall during those months. Pack some light jackets. Not only do things cool off to the mid-40s after dark, but weather can turn cold quickly.
Iceland in the Off Season
Windy, chilly weather mandates bundling up during much of the year in Iceland, but there's plenty to do if your family doesn't mind cold weather.
Spring: Puffins appear along the coast and flowers begin to bloom. Daytime temperatures kick up to the mid-40s, but dip down to near freezing at night. Daylight lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. in March, but days stretch from 3:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. by the end of May. Festival season kicks off with Beer Day on March 1, the First Day of Summer in late April and the Rite of Spring Festival in May.
Autumn is the ideal time to save money in Iceland. Prices drop drastically after mid-September. Weather ranges from 29 to 50 degrees F, and torrential rains can fall with little warning. Witness — or even take part in — a sheep roundup known as Rettir. Enjoy Icelandic twists on lamb dishes in local restaurants and fresh lamb products for sale in the supermarkets. Daylight lasts from 6 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. in early September, but decreases from 11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. by late November.
Winter: If your family consists of night owls, you won't mind 11:30 a.m. sunrises and sunsets by 4. The long winter nights make ideal times for seeing the northern lights, which are at their peak from September through April. There's plenty to do indoors in Reykjavik to escape the dark and cold, including engaging museums and an indoor flea market.
- Frommers: Iceland, When to Go
- Time and Date: Reykjavik, Iceland — Sunrise, Sunset and Daylength
- Google Travel Guide: Reykjavik
- City Historical Museum Reykjavik: Videy
- Oyster: The Best Time to Visit Iceland; A Guide for Every Season
- Lonely Planet: Old Harbour
- Frommer's: Iceland Calendar of Events
- Northern Lights Iceland: Best Times
Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.