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Summary: The Best Time to Visit Iceland

Iceland is one of the most photogenic countries on the planet. It boasts majestic fjords, verdant valleys, and, of course, the breathtaking Northern Lights. When is the best time to visit Iceland if you want to capture the most magic?

  • Highlands: July-September for open roads and access.
  • Northern Lights: Best from mid-October to March; November recommended.
  • Less Crowded: November-April, excluding the December holiday season.
  • On a Budget: Mid-April to May for deals and fewer tourists.
  • Both Northern Lights & Highlands: Early September, though not guaranteed.
  • September combines many attractions with favorable conditions.

While some attractions and sights are available year-round, others are seasonal. For example, when it comes to the aurora borealis, timing is everything. If you’re only looking for smaller crowds and shorter lines, however, you’ll have more luck during the low season.

Keep reading to discover the best times of the year to visit Iceland, then begin planning your perfect Nordic adventure!

When Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland to See the Highlands?

The Highlands of Iceland consists of the country’s interior. Lovers of nature enjoy hiking through this volcanic landscape. You’ll see volcanoes, glaciers, and glaciers sitting atop volcanoes!

If you have your heart set on exploring landmarks such as Eldgjá or the Fagrifoss waterfall, you will need to time your trip correctly. This region is snow-covered for nine months of the year!

A cozy camper van drives through a scenic valley in Iceland

Likewise, glaciers tend to melt due to a process locals call “jökulhlaup.” This can lead to significant flooding. When the puddles freeze over, they can burst, making the landscape unsafe for visitors.

As a result, you can only get close to these oasis-like sights during July, August, and September. The roads are only open during Icelandic summer, and the innermost roads begin closing one by one as early as September 15th. If you time your trip well, you can be one of the very few tourists to drive a cozy camper through most of the highland region!

Popular local hikes include Laugavegur, Fimmvörðuháls, and old Kjalvegur.

What are the Best Times to Visit Iceland to See the Northern Lights?

Even a perfectly timed trip does not guarantee a clear view of the stunning aurora borealis in Iceland. Even a few stray clouds can hamper your plans. With that said, a glimpse of the Northern lights is a life-changing experience, and we think it’s worthwhile to try! Still, we tell visitors to have other travel goals in mind, just in case the conditions are not in your favor during your visit.

With that said, renting a camper offers you an additional layer of flexibility during your visit. You gain the ability to move from place to place in search of the perfect view. If you have your heart set on catching the northern lights, you’ll be grateful for the freedom to seek them out!

You are most likely to see the lights if you visit between the middle of October and the end of March. It’s the darkest time of year, which increases your odds of visibility.

You’ll want to be far from the city. Visitors tend to have more luck catching the lights from the countryside. If you rent one of our panoramic roof Highland campers, it’s easy and comfortable to drive to a more remote region and experience the magic.

Consider visiting in November. This is the best month to enjoy the lights and favorite winter weather activities, such as ice cave visits. If possible, keep an eye on the weather to confirm things look good before your trip. Last-minute travel in Iceland is tricky, but often worth it!

What Are the Best Times to Visit Iceland for Smaller Crowds?

If you want to avoid crowds of tourists, aim to make it to Iceland before the tourist season in the Spring. The low season in Iceland spans from November through April, with the exception of the holiday tourist season in December.

Be aware that experiencing thinner crowds might require a few sacrifices. You’ll see more roads closed, and you can expect a maximum of six hours of daylight. Visitors will also face some exceptionally low temperatures during this time of the year.

With that said, if you’re interested in cold-weather recreation, you’re in luck! It’s a wonderful time of year to enjoy skiing and snowmobiling. We also love sightseeing by car in a heated camper van. Don’t forget to visit the breathtaking ice caves! Visitors love taking in the majestic landscape while it’s capped in stunning, bright snow.

The Best Time to Visit Iceland for Both the Northern Lights and the Highlands

The Northern Lights and the Icelandic Highlands are two incredibly popular reasons to plan a vacation in the Land of Fire and Ice.

As you’ve already learned by reading this far, the Northern Lights are most visible (and impressive) between mid-October and the end of March. The best times for visiting the Highlands, meanwhile, are July, August, and early September.

Those peak seasons clearly don’t cross over. However, as lifelong residents who want to give visitors like you the best experience possible, we’ll share a little inside info. There is a short window where you may be able to both visit the Highlands and experience the beauty of the Northern Lights.

Before we go any further, please keep in mind this isn’t a guarantee. The weather and many other factors might mean some F-roads close earlier than expected. Those factors can also make it harder to see the Northern Lights.

So, when is the best time of year to visit Iceland and potentially experience the Northern Lights as well as see the Highlands? Let’s turn the calendar to the first half of September.

This is your golden window: It’s a time before the F-roads generally start to close, although many are at least sometimes open through the end of the month. While this time is outside of peak Northern Lights viewing season, Aurora Borealis is still visible in September.

You can increase your chances of getting a good view as you move away from the city and larger towns in your 4×4 camper. In this situation, access to the Highlands can mean less light pollution and a better opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

What Is the Best Time of Year To Visit Iceland While Keeping On a Budget?

For the best budget based Iceland trip, we recommend visiting us in the Spring and doing the Ring Road tour in any one of our vans. The best month in that time frame is mid-April through May, as everything is cheaper at this time. Plus, you’ll experience smaller crowds during that period.

The weather can be great too – at least by our standards, with highs around 10-12°C (for clarity’s sake that’s right around 50-54°F).

A panoramic view of a waterfall in Iceland.

In Iceland, Every Season Has Its Charm

Certain times of year are especially exciting in Iceland, but our country offers something for everyone year-round. We know that many of our adventurers want an opportunity to visit the Highlands in a 4×4 premium camper or take in the Northern Lights – that is often the inspiration for an Iceland vacation.

However, as born-and-raised Icelanders, we know that every season here has its charm. What highlights can you expect? Depending on what you’re looking for, every season can be the best time to visit Iceland:

Visiting Iceland in Winter

  • You’ll enjoy part of the peak Northern Lights season, which begins in mid-October and ends in late March.
  • Fewer tourists (outside of the winter holidays in late December and early January) make it easier to move around the country.
  • Snowsports and winter outdoor recreation opportunities are at their peak, from driving your camper across beautiful snow-covered landscapes to skiing, snowmobiling, ice cave visits and more!

Visiting Iceland in Spring

  • Rising, although still a little cold, temperatures and increasing daylight make it easier to enjoy more of every day in Iceland.
  • Love nature and wild animals? As spring moves forward, you’ll start to see more birds (like those adorable puffins, among many others) and other creatures across the landscape.
  • Those cool temperatures can make it the perfect time to visit a hot spring.

Visiting Iceland in Summer

  • The F-roads are open, so you can travel across the Highlands in a 4×4 camper with luxurious amenities. Take advantage of the long hours of daylight to travel to your heart’s content!
  • Summer means plenty of festivals and fun! Although it’s one of the peak times for tourists, summer also means that the most businesses, events, and experiences are in full swing.
  • Hiking and plenty of other outdoor activities are most enjoyable in the summer weather. It’s warm, but summer rarely reaches the kind of heat that makes you desperate for air conditioning. That’s a great balance!

Visiting Iceland in Fall

  • Northern Lights season starts in September. If you time it just right and have a little luck on your side, you may be able to visit the Highlands and marvel at the splendor of the Northern Lights.
  • Festivals and many other activities continue into various points in the fall, letting you enjoy both nature and the rich culture of our country.
  • Peak tourist season reaches the end of its cycle, so there’s less traffic and more time to enjoy everything Iceland has to offer. From the fall foliage to the dramatic lighting from the sun low in the sky, it’s a beautiful and unique time.

Iceland: Best Time to Visit to See It All

Our final recommendation is to aim to visit Iceland in the month of September. Not only will you be able to visit the elusive Highlands, but your odds of catching the northern lights are very high! The temperatures are milder than in the deep winter, too. You’ll even enjoy over twelve hours of daylight, giving you more time to take in the majestic beauty of the countryside.

Whenever you visit, consider traveling with the coziest camper rental in Iceland! Dates are booking quickly, especially during the most desirable months. Book your camper now and experience the majesty for yourself!

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