November in Iceland: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Icelandic mountains and sea view
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Iceland during the wintertime may sound a little scary on paper: spontaneous snow storms (sometimes blizzards), hazardous road conditions, the beginning of the country's dark season, and the very reason why traditional woolen sweaters are so popular. But when you really think about it, the weather in Iceland is always predictable and the local powers at be have weather related road closures down to an art (as long as you obey the road closures). Visiting during November brings along a whole lot of good, as long as you can brave the cooler temperatures.

Before jumping on a plane, there are a number of things to keep in mind so your trip runs as smoothly as possible. But first thing's first: If you plan on renting a car, make sure that it has four-wheel drive. You're going to thank yourself the first time you hit a spontaneous snowstorm in unfamiliar territory.

Iceland Weather in November

As the month of November rolls on, the temperatures get lower. If you want to catch the slightly warmer weather, visit as early in the month as possible. The highest temperature of the month is usually on Nov. 1. The average highest temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit while the average low is 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

As with most other places around the world, the farther north you travel, the colder it's going to be. Considering Iceland straddles the Arctic Circle in the north, you can expect the climate to get a bit harsher as you drive around the northern coast. The wind in Iceland is always something you'll want to consider. While it doesn't necessarily get worse in the winter, mixing in snow, sleet, and hail can make it seem like a different kind of inconvenience all together. The wind and overall weather is a little milder inland, which is something to keep in mind if you plan on hiking along tall ledges on the coast.

  • Rainfall: 3 inches on average
  • Daylight hours: Varies between 5 hours (Nov. 30) and 8 hours (Nov. 1)
  • Sea temperature: 44 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Windiness: 14 mph
  • Humidity: 80 percent

What to Pack

The key to success in Iceland is dressing in layers—lots of layers. In November, the rainfall is pretty low compared to other months, but precipitation will come in fast and you don't want to be caught off-guard. Here are a few things to make sure you have in your suitcase:

  • Wool sweater
  • Thermal underwear
  • Water resistant pants (if you plan on hiking)
  • Waterproof boots
  • Waterproof gloves or mittens
  • Scarf
  • Raincoat
  • Wool base layer
  • Waterproof bags for valuables
  • Extra socks
  • Swimsuit (for the hot springs)

November Events in Iceland

November is not necessarily the month you want to visit Iceland if local festivals and events are top of mind. That being said, there are a few music-focused happenings and performances you can find happening around the country each November:

  • Iceland Airwaves: This 20-year-old music festival in downtown Reykjavik is Iceland's longest-standing festival. Local and international musicians perform in venues all over the city.
  • Iceland Noir: A fairly new festival celebrating all things crime fiction with interviews and panels. Note: the next festival will be in November 2020.
  • Everybody's Spectacular: This contemporary performance festival brings artists from around the world to Reykjavik for five days of dance, theater, and more.

November Travel Tips

  • Crowds are smaller in November. If you don't mind the fewer hours of sunlight, visiting Iceland in November will reward you with far fewer tourists at the country's many natural sights.
  • Some museums and other attractions close during the winter. There are a few that will open up on request, so just make sure to do some research on museums and other cultural sites before you go.
  • Hotels will be a bit cheaper. Visiting Iceland in November places you firmly in the "off season," meaning you can take advantage of lower lodging rates in many places.
  • The weather really is unpredictable. It's been mentioned earlier, but it's something to take seriously.
  • Road closures are common and happen after nearly every snowstorm. Keep this in mind as you plan your road trip route.
  • The Central Highlands are shut down during the wintertime. The roads are perilous and not safe to drive during the snowier months.

To learn more about if Iceland in November is the trip you want to take, check out our guide on the best time to visit.