Iceland in October might be heading into the freezing winter months, but that doesn’t mean the end to all the fun that can be had on the island. In this article, we discuss all you’ll need to know if you’re pondering whether to spend October in Iceland.
The island is brimming with events and festivals to natural wonders and special island attractions. You’ll find more than enough to have a jam-packed itinerary when visiting Iceland in October.
The Iceland Weather in October
Although teetering on the edge of winter, the temperature in Iceland in October is still not as cold. You’ll find the average temperature in October hovering between 2-7 degrees Celsius. But it’s the appearance of the infamous Icelandic winds and the rain that often makes October feel much colder than it is. In fact, October is known as one of the wettest months of the year, so you best be prepared when visiting Iceland in October.
The long summer days are also now a thing of the past. The Iceland daylight hours in October are radically decreasing, so you’ll be looking at up to 15 hours of darkness each day. Although this makes experiencing a midnight sun impossible, it basically guarantees visitors a chance at spotting the legendary Northern Lights of Iceland in October.
But even though some of the Iceland weather elements may make certain things a bit more challenging, there is still plenty to do on your trip to Iceland in October.
Things to Do in Iceland in October
One benefit of visiting Iceland in October is that the peak summer season is long gone, and so are the tourists. That means less overcrowding and much more reasonable prices. Although you’ll find most activities and attractions still open, many will start to adopt off-season operating hours. So do phone ahead to double-check before you get disappointed. But without any further ado, here are some of the best things to do in Iceland in October:
Visit the Waterfalls
Iceland is believed to have around 10,000 waterfalls scattered all over the island. And even though you are sure to come across many on your journeys, there are a few that are absolute must-sees. Please just keep in mind that when visiting Iceland in October, you may not be able to walk behind the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall due to ice. As you can imagine, ice makes the paths, steps, and walkways quite treacherous.
Some of the waterfalls you should definitely include on your October in Iceland itinerary are:
Take a Road Trip
This is probably one of the last months that you can still attempt to take some of the popular road trip routes that are usually closed during the winter months. These include the Ring Road and the Westfjords. Just keep in mind that whether sunshine or rain, summer or winter, certain routes in Iceland can only be accessed with a 4x4 vehicle. It’s always a good idea to first discuss your potential routes with your rental agency when renting a car in Reykjavík.
Also, keep a close eye on the Iceland road conditions, as these can change in the blink of an eye during October in Iceland. I bet you don’t want to be left stranded by sudden road closures. We believe that road trips are the best and most time-efficient way to explore the island. So, once you’ve booked your vehicle, you can decide on taking any (or a combination) of the following road trip routes:
Take a Dip in a Hot Spring
Things might be cooling down outside, but what better excuse to spend more time inside the hot water of the many natural hot springs that can be found all over Iceland? These hot springs are the result of all the volcanic activity on the island, heating up the underground water supply.
You can visit these hot springs in their natural settings or float around a geothermal pool that makes use of hot spring water. The latter usually comes with a few extra benefits, such as restrooms and spa facilities. Some of the most popular hot springs include:
Take a Stroll on a Black Sand Beach
Another product of all the volcanic activity on the island is its black sand beaches. Black sand beaches in Iceland are the result when fire literally meets ice on the Land of Fire and Ice. When hot lava flowing over the land meets the cold ocean, it cools down to form a black sediment. Over many, many years, this black sediment is ground down by the water and waves to finally form the black sand. Some of the most famous black sand beaches to visit when in Iceland in October are:
- Diamond Beach (where glistening pieces of glacier ice scattered over the beach look just like diamonds)
- Sólheimasandur (where you go for the beach and end up marveling at the plane wreck)
Visit a Museum
This is a good option to keep for those rainy October days in Iceland. As a country with such a rich history and great love for folklore, there are many museums of all sorts across the island. Some of the most notorious and not to be missed are:
- The National Museum of Iceland - All things Icelandic and historic
- Saga Museum – The more adventurous and storytelling Icelandic version of Madame Tussauds
- Icelandic Phallological Museum – Where you can find almost every penis from every creature roaming the island (including man)
- Reykjavik Maritime Museum – For all the boat lovers out there
- Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft – A celebration of a culture’s interesting beliefs and legendary folklore (don’t worry, past not present)
Watch Some Whales
When you arrive in Iceland in October, unfortunately, many of the migratory whale species would’ve already moved on. Except for a few lost whale souls, perhaps. But Iceland is well-known for its whale population, especially in Husavík that’s referred to as the whale capital of Iceland. So watching whales are not as seasonal as the Puffins in Iceland and whilst visiting Iceland in October you’ll still be lucky enough to spot a few of these species:
- Blue Whales
- Humpback Whales
- Beaked Whales
Go on a Glacier Tour
One of the perks of visiting Iceland in October when it’s colder is that all things glacier becomes more available. Although many glacier tours operate all year round, certain glacier caves, for example, cannot be visited during the summer months due to safety concerns (ice tends to melt in summer, remember?).
Have you ever wanted to feel the icy crunch of a glacier underneath your feet? Or maybe know what it feels like to literally walk through a tunnel of ice? Well, October may very well be the time that you can do that! As safety is of utmost importance, you will need to book a spot on a glacier tour that has a knowledgeable and well-experienced guide to lead the group through the icy realm. Some of the popular glacier tours include:
- Glacier Panorama Trail
- Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike
- Glacier Hike & Jokulsarlon Kayaking
- Glacier Adventure – Eco-friendly
Go Horse Riding
Horse riding in Iceland is quite the experience, as the country literally has its own breed of horse with unique features and traits. These horses may seem more pony than horse in size, but they are very hardy animals that can handle the extreme elements the island has to throw at them. Icelandic horses are also well-known for their friendly nature and the fact that they have mastered one gait more than the average horse.
This gait is called a tölt and with one hoof always on the ground, it is believed to be one of the smoothest rides you’ll ever experience. So smooth, in fact, that it has inspired a local activity called the beer tölt during which a rider is handed a pint and challenged to perform the gait without spilling a drop. You might not get to experience a beer tölt when horse riding around the island, but it will definitely be an experience to remember.
Go Snorkeling or Diving
It’s almost unbelievable that whilst roads start closing all over the island, you can still go snorkeling or diving. But be thankful that this is the case, since it affords you this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The chance to literally float between two continents! The Silfra Fissure in the Thingvellir National Park is a trench that’s formed by the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates pushing apart. This trench is filled with natural spring water and its underwater world is spectacular, to say the least.
Experience the Northern Lights Phenomenon
Most visitors want to know whether they’ll be able to see the Northern Lights on their trip. One of the biggest benefits of the dwindling daylight hours in October is that you are almost guaranteed to see the Aurora Borealis dance across the Iceland sky. Since these lights only come out to play during the right conditions, we would recommend taking a Northern Lights Tour. The locals know exactly when and where to go more than anyone else.
Take a Hike
Experiencing the breathtaking landscape of Iceland, especially Iceland in October with all its changing colors, is truly something to behold. And one of the best ways to do that is by taking a hike on one of the many trails that can be found around the island. The trails range in length and difficulty levels. Some of the popular hikes to take are:
- Fagradalsfjall Eruption Site
- The Mount Esja Trail
- Reykjadalur Hot Spring Hike
- The Hornstrandir Trek
DIY Iceland in October
We’ve merely scraped the surface of all that Iceland in October has to offer, so you’ll have more than enough to add to your trip itinerary. We do recommend that you rent a vehicle in Iceland to be able to visit some of the more remote areas and attractions and not be bound by a tour group’s time. We can’t wait to welcome you here on the island in October!