Weather in Iceland: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Iceland's weather by season

TripSavvy

If you're planning to visit Iceland, the most popular travel times are during the summer months of May through August when you can enjoy lots of daylight hours. December is also popular for the winter holidays and seeing the Northern Lights, although it will be quite dark during that time and you will see very little—if any—sunlight at all.

Iceland, near the Arctic Circle, actually has a cold, temperate climate due to the North Atlantic Current that carries Gulf Stream warm water north. That means that even though winters are cold, Iceland generally experiences higher average temperatures than other places in the world located at a similar latitude.

Iceland's climate includes conditions typical for a Nordic country, but there are are some variations between different parts of the island: The south coast tends to be warmer, wetter, and windier than the north, and snowfall in winter is more common in the north than in the south. Known as the Land of Ice and Fire due to its many volcanoes, Iceland is always subject to the possibility of volcanic activity.

Iceland's temperatures reach extremes at times. In 1939, the island nation recorded a high of 86.9 degrees Fahrenheit (30.5 degrees Celsius) on the southeastern coast, and Grímsstaðir in the northeast of Iceland dipped way down to minus 36.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 38 degrees Celsius) in 1918. Reykjavik, Iceland's capital and largest city, reached 76.6 degrees Fahrenheit (24.8 degrees Celsius) in 2004 and minus 12.1 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 24.5 degrees Celsius) in 1918.

Fast Climate Facts

  • Hottest Month: July (57 F / 14 C)
  • Coldest Month: January and February (36 F / 2 C)
  • Wettest Month: September (4.6 inches)

Spring in Iceland

Spring might be the best time of year to visit Iceland—aside from the busy tourist season of summer—because of its crisp weather, normal daylight hours (compared to North America), and significantly cheaper pricing for accommodations, flights, and travel.

Spring first arrives in April, bringing with it warmer temperatures and the first signs of green grass and flowers. Travelers can fish, go whale and bird watching, golf, horseback ride through the thawing landscape, or even visit an off-season ski lodge to watch the snow melt off the mountains.

What to Pack: Temperature averages range from 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) in early April to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) in early June, so you'll still need to pack warmer clothing, especially for the slightly colder evenings.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • March: 38 F (3 C) / 30 F (minus 1 C)
  • April: 43 F (6 C) / 34 F (1 C)
  • May: 48 F (9 C) / 40 F (4 C)

Summer in Iceland

Summer is the height of tourist season in Iceland, and in midsummer—during the entire months of June and July—daylight takes over during a time known as the Midnight Sun, when there is virtually no nighttime darkness.

There are plenty of outdoor activities like horseback riding, hiking, and even swimming, but many theatres, operas, and symphony performances are suspended during this busy time of the year when Icelanders take their summer vacations.

What to Pack: It never really gets hot in Iceland due to the Gulf Stream bringing cooler air into the country throughout the nightless summer, so bring a light jacket even in the warmest season.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • June: 54 F (12 C) / 46 F (8 C)
  • July: 57 F (14 C) / 49 F (9 C)
  • August: 55 F (13 C) / 47 F (8 C)

Fall in Iceland

As September comes around, the tourist season abruptly ends and many museums outside of Reykjavik close down until the following summer. However, there's still plenty to do in the fall.

Keep in mind that because the Gulf Stream brings milder air from the Atlantic Ocean in contact with colder Arctic air, the skies are frequently overcast with driving wind and rain and abrupt weather shifts—you might just experience four seasons in one day! Be sure to plan ahead so you can stay safe.

October through December is also the rainy season in Iceland, making outdoor adventures harder to find. Still, with the cultural events like plays, musicals, and orchestra performances resuming in the off-season, there's plenty to keep you entertained throughout the fall.

What to Pack: You'll need to pack a variety of clothes for fall, given the diversity of weather. No matter what, it is the wettest season in Iceland, so proper waterproof clothing, especially a coat and boots, are musts.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • September: 50 F (10 C) / 42 F (6 C) 
  • October: 44 F (7 C) / 36 F (2 C)
  • November: 39 F (4 C) / 30 F (minus 1 C)

Winter in Iceland

Prices for airfare are drastically lower in the winter season due to a decrease in tourists traveling to the country, but keep in mind that Christmas and holiday travel will still be slightly more expensive than other non-peak travel days.

In midwinter, there is also a period of no sunlight and darkness prevails during a phenomenon known as the Polar Nights, which is a perfect time to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

Thanks again to the Gulf Stream air, winters are typically milder than elsewhere in the world. In fact, New York's winter is much colder even though it's technically further south on the globe.

What to Pack: Pack warm layers, including sweaters, multiple base layers, and a heavy coat or jacket. Sturdy, warm footwear is a must as well.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • December: 36 F (2 C) / 29 F (minus 1 C)
  • January: 36 F (2 C) / 28 F (minus 2 C)
  • February: 36 F (3 C) / 28 F (minus 2 C)

Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours

Month Avg. High  Avg. Low Avg. Rainfall Avg. Sunlight
January 36 F (2 C) 28 F (minus 2 C) 4 inches 5 hours
February 36 F (2 C) 28 F (minus 2 C) 4.3 inches 8 hours
March 38 F (3 C) 30 F (minus 1 C) 3.7 inches 12 hours
April 43 F (6 C) 34 F (1 C) 2.9 inches 16 hours
May 48 F (9 C) 40 F (4 C) 2.3 inches 18 hours
June 54 F (12 C) 46 F (8 C) 2.1 inches 21 hours
July 57 F (14 C) 49 F (9 C) 2.7 inches 19 hours
August 55 F (13 C) 47 F (8 C) 3.5 inches 16 hours
September 50 F (10 C) 42 F (6 C) 4.6 inches 13 hours
October 44 F (7 C) 36 F (2 C) 4.5 inches 9 hours
November 39 F (4 C) 30 F (minus 1 C) 4.2 inches 6 hours
December 36 F (2 C) 29 F (minus 2 C) 4.1 inches 4 hours

Northern Lights in Iceland

Winter may be the coldest time to visit Iceland, but one of the biggest draws during this time of year is the chance to see the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. The darkest months of December, January, and February are the best time to visit for this natural phenomenon, but the season lasts from October to April. You'll need to get away from Reykjavik to see them, and several different tour companies offer Northern Lights packages. If you are planning to visit Iceland in the winter to see the Lights, look at the lunar calendar before finalizing your travel plans, because visiting Iceland during a new moon will give you a better chance of seeing them.

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