Planning a fun trip to Iceland, you might wonder: when’s the not-so-great time to go?

Picking the right time to visit Iceland is super important. It’s awesome all year, but its seasons change a lot. Some times are trickier than others, depending on what you want to do.

But don’t worry! In this post, I’ll help you figure out all the stuff you need to know to make your trip the best it can be.

Understanding Iceland’s Climate

Iceland’s climate is characterized by its unpredictability. The island experiences a subarctic climate with mild winters and cool summers. However, weather patterns can change rapidly, and extreme conditions are not uncommon.

Peak Tourist Season in Iceland

The peak tourist season in Iceland typically coincides with the summer months, from June to August. During this time, the weather is relatively mild, and the days are long, allowing visitors to explore the island extensively. However, with the increase in tourist numbers comes higher prices and crowded attractions.

Several factors contribute to determining the worst time to visit Iceland:

Worst time for Weather Conditions

Iceland’s weather can be highly unpredictable, with frequent rain, wind, and even snow, regardless of the season. Visiting during periods of harsh weather can limit outdoor activities and sightseeing opportunities.

Worst time to visit iceland
Worst time to visit iceland

Worst time for Daylight Hours

Iceland experiences extreme fluctuations in daylight hours throughout the year. In winter, daylight can be as short as a few hours, limiting the time available for exploration. Conversely, during the summer months, the sun barely sets, providing ample daylight for adventure.

worst time for Crowds and Prices

Peak tourist season brings large crowds to popular attractions, resulting in long queues and limited accommodation availability. Additionally, prices for accommodations, tours, and activities tend to be higher during this time.

The Culprits: Peak Season in Greece

  • High Summer Blues (July & August):
    • Imagine this: Sun blazing down, lines snaking around ancient ruins, and beaches resembling sardine cans. This is Greece in the peak summer months. While the weather is undeniably glorious, the crowds and inflated prices can be overwhelming.
  • Holidays and Festivals:
    • Easter, a major celebration in Greece, coincides with peak season, further pushing prices and crowds to their limits. Similarly, popular festivals like the Athens Epidaurus Festival (June-August) attract large audiences, impacting availability and affordability.

The Not-So-Secret Gems: The Shoulder Seasons

  • Spring’s Embrace (April-May & September-October):
    • Spring paints Greece in vibrant hues, with wildflowers blooming and temperatures pleasantly warm. Tourist numbers haven’t reached their peak yet, and you’ll find better deals on flights and accommodation.
    • Autumn offers a similar reprieve. The scorching sun mellows, and the Aegean Sea remains invitingly warm. Prices dip further, and the crowds are noticeably thinner.

Insider Tips for Shoulder Season Travel:

  • Research shoulder season weather patterns: Spring can bring occasional showers, while early autumn might have strong winds on some islands. Pack accordingly.
  • Book early, especially for popular destinations: While shoulder seasons are less crowded, some iconic places like Santorini and Mykonos attract visitors year-round. Plan and book your stay in advance.
  • Embrace flexibility: Ferry schedules might be less frequent outside peak season. Be flexible with your itinerary and consider island hopping within a region.

Beyond the Islands: Mainland Magic Awaits

  • Mainland Greece in Spring & Fall:
    • Mainland Greece, with its historical treasures like Delphi and Olympia, is a fantastic alternative to the islands during shoulder seasons. Explore ancient ruins bathed in comfortable spring sunshine or enjoy the golden hues of autumn foliage.

Bonus Tip: Consider Location Variations

  • Island Nuances: Research specific islands you plan to visit. Some islands, like Kos and Rhodes, cater more to summer crowds, while others, like Naxos and Milos, maintain a more relaxed atmosphere year-round.

The Winter Months: November to February

The winter months in Iceland, from November to February, are characterized by cold temperatures, short daylight hours, and unpredictable weather. While the landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland, many outdoor activities are limited due to the conditions.

Early Spring: March to April

March to April marks the transition from winter to spring in Iceland. While the weather begins to improve, it can still be quite unpredictable, with the possibility of snowfall and chilly temperatures. Outdoor activities may be limited during this period.

Late Spring: May to June

May to June sees increasing tourist numbers as the weather improves. The days become longer, allowing for more exploration, and the landscape starts to bloom with vibrant colors. However, crowds begin to swell, especially at popular attractions.

Summer: July to August

July to August is considered the high tourist season in Iceland. The weather is at its mildest, with long daylight hours allowing for extended exploration. The midnight sun phenomenon occurs during this time, providing unique opportunities for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

Early Autumn: September to October

September to October marks the transition from summer to autumn in Iceland. Tourist numbers start to decrease, making it an ideal time to visit for those seeking fewer crowds. The weather remains relatively mild, although temperatures begin to drop gradually.

Late Autumn: October to November

October to November sees the onset of winter in Iceland. The weather deteriorates, with increased rainfall and wind. Daylight hours decrease rapidly, limiting the time available for outdoor activities. Tourist numbers continue to decline as the winter months approach.

For Pleasant Weather and Midnight Sun:

  • June – August (Summer): This is the peak season, boasting long daylight hours with the midnight sun phenomenon in June. Expect comfortable temperatures (around 50-55°F) and vibrant green landscapes. However, this also translates to larger crowds and higher prices.

For Northern Lights and Fewer Crowds:

  • September – March (Winter): Witness the awe-inspiring aurora borealis dance across the night sky during these months. While temperatures plummet (think below freezing), you’ll encounter fewer crowds and potentially lower prices. Be prepared for shorter daylight hours and potentially challenging weather conditions.

Finding the Balance: Shoulder Seasons

  • May & September (Shoulder Months)
  • These offer a compromise between the two extremes. You’ll experience milder temperatures, some daylight variation (though not midnight sun), and potentially encounter fewer crowds and lower prices compared to peak summer. However, weather can be unpredictable, so pack accordingly.

Here’s a quick breakdown to help you decide:

  • Warm weather, long days, midnight sun: June – August (be prepared for crowds and prices)
  • Northern Lights, fewer crowds: September – March (colder weather, shorter daylight hours)
  • Balance of weather, crowds, and prices: May & September (pack for unpredictable weather)

Additional factors to consider:

  • Specific activities: Hiking might be best in summer, while glacier exploration is possible year-round.
  • Festivals and events: Research events happening during your desired travel window.
  • Personal preferences: Do you prefer sunshine or the chance to see the Northern Lights?

Iceland’s dramatic landscapes and unique offerings cater to a variety of travel styles and budgets. Here’s a breakdown of some popular places to stay, depending on your preferences:

Reykjavík: The Bustling Capital City

  • Ideal for: City exploration, museums, cultural experiences, nightlife
  • Accommodation options: Range from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels.

Also Read: The Worst Time To Visit Greece

Reykjavík offers a vibrant energy, with colorful buildings lining charming streets. It’s a great base for exploring museums, enjoying the local cafe culture, and venturing out on day trips to nearby attractions like the Golden Circle.

South Iceland: Nature’s Playground

  • Ideal for: Golden Circle sightseeing, waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches
  • Accommodation options: Cozy guesthouses, hotels, and unique stays like converted farmhouses.
  • South Iceland is a land of glaciers, cascading waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, and black sand beaches like Reynisfjara. You can explore the Golden Circle, a popular route encompassing Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area.

West Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice

  • Ideal for: Snæfellsjökull National Park, geothermal wonders, volcanic landscapes, wildlife watching
  • Accommodation options: Small hotels, guesthouses, and cottages.
  • West Iceland boasts Snæfellsjökull National Park, nicknamed “Iceland in Miniature” for its diverse landscapes. Explore volcanic craters, geothermal hot springs like Deildartunguhver, and charming fishing villages like Borgarfjörður.

North Iceland: Off the Beaten Path

  • Ideal for: Myvatn Lake nature, geothermal activity, Akureyri town, Lake Mývatn area
  • Accommodation options: Hotels, guesthouses, and cabins.
  • North Iceland offers a unique perspective. Explore the geothermal wonders surrounding Lake Mývatn, visit the powerful Dettifoss waterfall (Europe’s most powerful), and enjoy the laid-back charm of Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city.

East Iceland: Fjords and Remote Beauty

  • Ideal for: Dramatic fjords, hiking, wildlife watching, geothermal pools
  • Accommodation options: Limited options, mostly guesthouses and smaller hotels.
  • East Iceland is a haven for those seeking remoteness. Hike amidst dramatic fjord landscapes, discover geothermal hot springs like the Mývatn Nature Baths, and go wildlife watching for puffins and reindeer.

The Highlands: Untamed Adventure

  • Ideal for: Experienced hikers, backpackers, seeking remoteness
  • Accommodation options: Mountain huts along designated trails.
  • The Icelandic Highlands are a true wilderness experience. Only accessible during the summer months (roughly July and August due to snow), this region offers challenging hikes and breathtaking scenery.


  • Book your accommodation well in advance, especially during peak season (summer months).
  • Consider your travel style and budget when choosing your location and accommodation type.
  • Research accessibility, especially if you’re planning to stay in remote areas.

By considering these factors and your travel preferences, you can find the perfect place to stay and experience the magic of Iceland!


While Iceland offers breathtaking scenery year-round, certain times may be less favorable for visitors due to weather conditions, daylight hours, and crowds. Understanding these factors can help travelers plan their trip accordingly to make the most of their experience.


  1. Is it possible to see the Northern Lights in Iceland during the summer?
    • No, the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are typically only visible during the winter months when the nights are longer and darker.
  2. Are there any festivals or events worth visiting Iceland for during the off-peak season?
    • Yes, Iceland hosts several cultural festivals and events throughout the year, including the Reykjavik Arts Festival and the Icelandic Beer Festival.
  3. What are the driving conditions like in Iceland during the winter?
    • Driving conditions can be challenging during the winter due to snow, ice, and limited daylight hours. It’s essential to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle and be prepared for changing weather conditions.
  4. Is it possible to visit Iceland on a budget during the peak tourist season?
    • While Iceland can be expensive, there are ways to minimize costs, such as staying in hostels, cooking your meals, and booking tours in advance.
  5. What are some alternative activities to outdoor sightseeing during inclement weather in Iceland?
    • Iceland offers a variety of indoor attractions, including museums, galleries, and geothermal pools, which can be enjoyed regardless of the weather.

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