The Best Time to Travel to Iceland and Rent a Campervan
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When Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
Many people might be wondering when the best time to visit Iceland is. Weather plays a big part in Icelander‘s lives, and over a lifetime the population here has learned to live with the extreme weather conditions that the small island experiences, so when planning a trip it‘s important to know what you‘re in for at any given time of year.
Each of the four seasons has its pros and cons, so in truth, there is no ´best´ time to travel in Iceland. But read on to discover the Icelandic seasons and decide which time is best for you.
Autumn (September - October)
- Shoulder Season Camper Prices
- Good for: Hiking, Northern Lights, Picking Wild Berries, Whale Watching.
From the end of August, as the Summer fades into Autumn, a riot of color explodes across the entire country, the landscapes transforming as they‘re enveloped in rusty hues of red, yellow, and orange.
The weather can be quite unpredictable at this time of year; the roads glisten under frequent showers, cleared away into sunshine by strong winds that can also whip up fierce storms. But don‘t let that put you off - the weather changes so rapidly in Iceland that you‘ll likely see a lot of good days as well.
The onset of Autumn also means that you can go picking wild berries in the countryside, and you‘ll be able to find blueberries and crowberries in many locations across Iceland.
It‘s also the time when the Northern Lights make their spectacular return to the skies over Iceland, and it‘s one of the best opportunities to spot them. Even though the winter nights are darker for longer, it‘s during September and October when the skies are at their clearest. The beautiful combination of autumn colors in the day and rain and dark nights gives you a well-rounded experience of Icelandic weather.
Winter (November – Early March)
- Low-Season Campervan Prices
- Good for: Northern Lights, Winter Sports, New Year's Eve, Ice Caves
The dramatic snow-covered scenery in Iceland‘s winter time is like nowhere else – darkness sweeps across the country, the sun only hanging in the sky for 3-4 hours before dipping back beneath the horizon. And while many might be daunted by the Icelandic winter, there is absolutely nothing like checking out the behemoth glaciers of the south in their element, and exploring the ice caves beneath Vatnajökull is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The longer hours of darkness also mean that there is a lot more time to see the northern lights, and while they‘re amazing in the autumn and spring, there‘s nothing quite like seeing them shimmer and dance over a tranquil snow-covered lava field or a waterfall encased in ice. Driving the camper through the magical snow-covered landscapes is an inspiring adventure in itself. And yes we do fit all our campers with studded winter tires during the winter season.
The winter in Iceland is when the weather is at its most volatile; blizzards and fierce winds can overwhelm the country, hiding roads beneath snow and sheets of ice. But despite what many think, there isn‘t usually snow cover for the whole season. Rain can sweep in and melt away the snow, revealing a stark contrast of colors throughout the landscapes.
Nature is right at the forefront during this time, and even the best of plans can get thrown out the window when the weather turns, so it‘s very important to stay flexible and have a backup.
The good news is that it isn‘t all dark – Reykjavik during the Christmas period is a treat, and the locals enjoy the city underneath thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, the cozy bars downtown spilling over with mulled wine and specialty Christmas beers. New Year's Eve in Reykjavik is also amazing, with the entire population getting their hands on some fireworks to let off all at once over the city when the clock strikes midnight.
For more tips and information about renting a camper in the winter, check out this article.
Spring (Late march – May)
- Shoulder Season Campervan Prices
- Good for: Puffins and Whale Watching, Hiking, Longer days for better exploring.
During the short Spring that Iceland experiences, the sun starts to linger for longer in the sky, warming the country and helping to melt the snow that covered Iceland in the winter. As the green slowly creeps back across the land and flowers begin to return, so too do the sea birds (including the puffins), flocking to the country in droves to nest on the cliffs along the coastline. In our opinion, this is one of the best times to visit Iceland.
Fields of lavender-colored lupine burst across the fields, injecting color back into the world and framing Iceland's mountainous landscapes beautifully. Those snow-capped peaks help highlight and contrast the countryside as it approaches the summer. There are also fewer crowds at the famous attractions, such as Gullfoss, the Blue Lagoon, and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
However as always, the weather can be unpredictable, and there is always the possibility of snow even as late as May. Despite that, Spring is one of the best times of year to visit Iceland; the longer days mean more daylight to explore, and when it does get dark there is still a good chance to see the northern lights until late April.
Also, during the spring months, there is a great atmosphere in the country, with the whole population waking up after the long winter and getting excited for the oncoming summer and the return of the sun.
Summer (June – August)
- Peak Season Campervan Prices
- Good for: 4x4 Highland Adventures, Puffins, The Laugavegur Trail, Festivals, the Midnight Sun, all campsites are open in Iceland
Summertime in Iceland is without a doubt the most popular time to visit the country. The long days mean that there is endless time for exploring, and the golden light that falls across the country highlights incredible details in the mountains, glaciers, and lava fields. The midnight sun can be seen around the Summer Solstice, which falls somewhere close to the 21st of June.
The summer is also when the highland roads slowly open, allowing access to the Icelandic Highland. It‘s here where you will truly find some of the most volatile and raw nature that Iceland has on offer, and renting a 4x4 camper to tackle some of the challenging mountain roads is a trip you will never forget. This fact alone makes July and August one of the best times to go to Iceland.
Even though the country is more crowded during the summer, it never gets dark meaning that you can reverse your clock and opt to visit the big attractions early in the morning or late at night, avoiding the crowds. But this is Iceland - so don‘t expect beautiful sunny days for your entire trip!
Warm and sunny days can reach up to 25°C, but there are still days of rain and also intense winds. However, there are barely any road closures during this season, and access to the entire country is readily available. Reykjavik also comes alive during these months, turning into a bustling cosmopolitan city that never sleeps, and you can find several great festivals and cultural events to attend during your time here.
How to Choose When to Visit Iceland?
With all the above information, it can be hard to choose when to visit Iceland. Should you opt for the classic trip in June and July, or wait for the winter months? Of course, the best time to travel to Iceland is subjective.
We suggest for first-time visitors looking to do a campervan trip in Iceland, come in either the spring or autumn. The summer months are wonderful, but often very busy. In Spring and Autumn, you'll get a good dose of Iceland's dramatic weather (an attraction in itself!), as well as being free to visit the country's magnificent attractions around the ring road.
The best part about travel during these seasons is that you'll also have a good chance to see the aurora borealis at night. Picture yourself watching the dancing green northern lights from the comfort of hot springs, or after a long day touring the Golden Circle. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Does Iceland Have Daylight Savings Time?
Daylight savings time in Iceland is not observed - meaning the clock never changes. Iceland follows Greenwich Mean Time - the same timezone that Britain uses during the winter.
Which Season Are the Most Music Festivals in Iceland?
If you're traveling to Iceland and are looking into visiting some local music festivals, then your best bet is to visit in the summer. This is when the Secret Solstice Festival is on in Reykjavik, one of the highlights of the summer. There are also plenty of smaller, local festivals around the country as Icelanders look for any excuse to spend time outside in the fairer weather.
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