Gray Line Iceland - So, How's the weather in Iceland?

Posted by on 25 Jan 2021

The Unpredictable Weather in Iceland: A Comprehensive Guide

Iceland, a beautiful and enigmatic country located in the North Atlantic Ocean, is known for its stunning landscapes, geothermal hot spots, and equally awe-inspiring weather. The weather in Iceland plays a significant role in the daily lives of locals and tourists alike, often dictating plans and activities. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of the Icelandic climate and provide you with tips on what to expect in terms of weather in Reykjavik and other parts of the country, month by month. 

The Ever-Changing Weather in Iceland

Iceland's location near the Arctic Circle makes its climate unpredictable, with seasons that do not necessarily follow the calendar. The country's early settlers divided the year into two seasons, summer and winter, each lasting six months. Although the modern Icelandic calendar recognizes four seasons, the first day of summer, usually in April, remains a public holiday celebrated with various festivities.

So, what causes such unpredictable weather in Iceland? The answer lies in the country's geography and location. The Gulf Stream brings warm ocean currents from the south, while cold Arctic air from the north influences the weather. The meeting of these two forces creates an ever-changing and often unstable climate.

Now, let's dive into the month-by-month guide on what to expect from the weather in Iceland.

January: Embracing the Cold and Darkness

  • Average Temperature: 0°C/32°F

January is typically the coldest month in Iceland, with temperatures hovering around freezing. The wind chill, snow, and ice make it feel even colder. With only 5-6 hours of daylight and a few twilight hours, January offers ample opportunities for Northern Lights sightings and enjoying Reykjavik's vibrant nightlife.

Despite the cold, locals are well-prepared for the weather in Iceland, employing the "penguin walk" to avoid slipping on icy surfaces. If you plan to visit in January, make sure to pack warm clothing, waterproof outer layers, and shoes with good grip.

February: Slowly Gaining Daylight

  • Average Temperature: 0°C/32°F

February's weather in Iceland remains similar to January, with plenty of snow, wind, and freezing temperatures. However, the days slowly grow longer, offering 8-9 hours of daylight. This month brings a mix of snow, sleet, rain, and occasional sunshine. It is still a prime time for Northern Lights sightings, so keep your eyes peeled for the dancing auroras in the night sky.

March: An Unpredictable Mix of Winter and Spring

  • Average Temperature: 1°C/34°F

March is a month of contrasts, with one day feeling like winter and the next hinting at spring's arrival. Snow is still prevalent, but sleet becomes more common as average temperatures inch above freezing. March is also a great time to hit the ski slopes near Reykjavik, with enough snow to provide a smooth skiing experience.

Aurora hunters will be pleased to know that, along with September, March is considered one of the best months for Northern Lights sightings due to increased activity around the equinox. With 10-11 hours of daylight, staying up a bit later may be necessary to catch a glimpse of the elusive lights.

April: The Arrival of Summer (on the Calendar)

  • Average Temperature: 3°C/37°F

While the calendar may declare the arrival of summer in April, spring has barely begun in Iceland. Trees and flowers are late bloomers compared to other countries in the northern hemisphere. However, days continue to lengthen, offering 13-14 hours of daylight, and temperatures may occasionally reach double digits.

Mid-April sees the nights becoming too short and bright for Northern Lights sightings. Instead, migratory birds, including the beloved puffin, return to Iceland after wintering in warmer climes.

May: The Magic of Spring

  • Average Temperature: 6.5°C/44°F

In May, the weather in Iceland finally starts to feel like spring. The sun is up for 18 hours a day, and nighttime never gets completely dark, providing ample opportunities for golden-hour selfies. May is typically the driest month in Iceland, with minimal rain and rare snowfall in Reykjavik.

The arrival of spring also marks the awakening of Iceland's flora, with flowers blooming and trees sprouting fresh green leaves. May is a magical time to explore the country's distinct landscapes.

June: Embracing the Midnight Sun

  • Average Temperature: 10°C/50°F

June is considered the first "real" month of summer in Iceland, as it marks the start of school holidays. The midnight sun takes center stage during this month, with the sun never fully setting and providing 20-21 hours of daylight. Although the average temperature may be only 10°C/50°F, the sun's warmth makes it feel much hotter.

Icelanders make the most of the favorable weather by taking half-days off work to enjoy outdoor activities, knowing that summer days can be rare and fleeting. June is also the second driest month of the year, making it ideal for exploring the great outdoors.

July: Summer Vacation and Warmth

  • Average Temperature: 12°C/54°F

July is the month when most Icelanders take their summer vacations, embarking on camping trips or renting summerhouses to immerse themselves in nature. With approximately 18 hours of daylight and temperatures sometimes climbing above 20°C/68°F, July is typically the warmest and least windy month in Iceland.

Take advantage of the long days and pleasant weather by exploring Iceland's diverse landscapes, from geysers and waterfalls to glaciers and black sand beaches.

August: Festivals and the Return of Northern Lights

  • Average Temperature: 10°C/50°F

The first Monday in August is a national holiday in Iceland, and the ensuing three-day weekend hosts numerous festivals across the country. The largest of these, Þjóðhátíð, takes place in the Westman Islands, celebrating life with music, food, and cultural events.

August marks the gradual end of summer, with daylight hours decreasing to around 16 per day. However, this also means the return of the Northern Lights, which become visible again around mid-August. Be prepared for increased winds and rain, especially later in the month.

September: Welcoming Autumn and Stormy Weather

  • Average Temperature: 8°C/46°F

September is a month of transition in Iceland, as temperatures begin to drop and daylight hours reduce to 12-13 per day. Frosty nights may leave a dusting of snow on mountaintops, signaling the approach of winter.

This month is also known for "haustlaegð," or autumnal low-pressure weather systems, which bring strong winds and heavy rain. These systems are often remnants of tropical hurricanes that have drifted northward, making umbrellas virtually useless against sideways rain.

Despite the stormy weather, Northern Lights sightings are still possible on clear nights, and occasional snowy days add a touch of winter magic.

October: Autumn Colors and Shorter Days

  • Average Temperature: 6°C/43°F

October sees the weather in Iceland leaning towards winter, with nighttime temperatures dipping below freezing and storms remaining common. This month is the best time to witness Iceland's autumn colors, as birch shrubbery turns golden, orange, and red, contrasting beautifully with mossy lava fields.

With daylight hours dropping to around nine per day, the shorter days signal the impending arrival of winter.

November: The First Full Month of Winter

  • Average Temperature: 3°C/37°F

November marks the true beginning of winter in Iceland, with cold and icy conditions becoming more prevalent. Snow is less common in lower altitudes, but the limited daylight hours, which reduce to 5-6 per day, encourage Icelanders to brighten their surroundings with Christmas lights. As temperatures hover around 3°C/37°F, make sure to dress warmly and layer up to stay comfortable.

December: Darkness, Cold, and Christmas Cheer

  • Average Temperature: -1°C/30°F

December is a month of darkness, with only 4 hours of daylight in Reykjavik (and even less in the north). The average temperature drops below freezing, but proper wool undergarments and waterproof outer layers will help you stay warm and cozy.

Despite the cold, darkness, and unpredictable weather—which can range from -10°C with snow and ice to +5°C with wind and rain—Icelanders find solace in good company, delicious food, and festive cheer. And, of course, the ever-present possibility of a Northern Lights display to brighten the night sky.


The weather in Iceland is nothing if not unpredictable, making it essential to be prepared for anything when visiting this stunning country. As you plan your trip, consider the unique aspects of each month's climate and adjust your itinerary accordingly. Whether you're chasing the Northern Lights, marveling at the midnight sun, or exploring the diverse landscapes, Iceland's weather is sure to leave a lasting impression on your adventure.

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