If you’re looking for a winter wonderland, there’s no better place to go than Iceland in November. In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about the weather, what to pack, and all the things to do and see on the island.
Good news, the summer tourist rush is a thing of the past in November! And whilst certain seasonal things such as the Iceland Puffins might no longer be on the itinerary, the Iceland winter season opens up a bunch of new experiences. The types of experiences that the summer crowd missed out on. Let’s see if Iceland in November is the right fit for you.
Weather in Iceland in November
November in Iceland is full-blown winter. Many describe November as a cold, dark, and wet month. That may put you off, but these conditions are precisely what create the perfect opportunities to see and do certain things in Iceland.
The key to visiting Iceland in November is to be prepared. Also, to always keep the local saying that “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland” in the back of your mind. In November, this includes cold, blizzards, rain, storms, but sunny days too. Just remember that daylight hours have now dwindled to roughly 39 hours the entire month.
The temperature in Iceland in November also now averages 1.1 degrees Celsius. The winter weather in Iceland and the rapidly changing conditions (four seasons, remember?) makes keeping your eyes on the road conditions in Iceland essential. You don’t want to head out excitedly only to find that you can’t reach your planned destination or activity due to road closures.
Also, have a chat with your rental agency about which vehicle will be more suitable for your needs, as there are certain areas on the island that can only be accessed via a 4x4 vehicle (whether weather conditions allow it or not).
What to Pack for Your Iceland in November Trip
Packing for Iceland in November will be easy if you use our nifty checklist below:
- Warm gloves
- Warm scarf
- Woolen socks
- A long winter jacket
- Wind and waterproof jacket
- Waterproof pants
- Waterproof hiking shoes (these are relevant whether you intend to go hiking or not)
- Thermal vests
- Thermal leggings
- Warm long pants (for when moving around the cities)
- T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts (for layering)
- Fleece and woolen sweaters. Pack a few and then buy a couple of authentic Iceland sweaters once you’ve arrived – trust us, you will not be sorry with those comfy and warm body hugs.
- A bathing suit (this may seem counterintuitive for a cold winter month, but it’s actually a wonderful time to visit the hot springs)
- A quick drying towel (you don’t want to be carrying cold, wet towels around)
- Flip-flops (mainly to use at the hot springs and any public ablution facilities)
- Electronics: adaptor, cables, chargers, power bank
- A vanity case with all your toiletries
- A backpack (suitable for day outings as well as hikes)
- Water bottle (you do not buy water in Iceland since the water quality of the island’s water is so high – simply top up)
Things to Do in Iceland in November
Now that you’ve got everything you need to do the packing, let’s start planning that itinerary! Here are some of the best things to do in Iceland in November:
Be in Awe of the Aurora Borealis
The best thing about having so much darkness in Iceland in November is undoubtedly the Northern Lights! Iceland in November is the main stage when it comes to this spectacular light show. But since we are talking about multicolored waves of light dancing around the sky, it goes without saying that trying to view this phenomenon from one of the major cities with all their bright lights is probably not going to have the desired result.
You will need to venture beyond the city borders and move into some of the more remote areas of Iceland. If you’re afraid that you’ll miss it for some or the other reason, go on an Icelandic Northern Lights tour. These are led by guides who know exactly which conditions are most favorable for the lights to manifest and where the best spots are to view them.
Take a (Glacier) Hike
There is no better time to explore the glaciers of Iceland than during the winter. These hikes can range from just a couple of hours to a half or full-day trek. The only way to do glacier hikes is via a glacier hiking tour. This is because these are led by extremely knowledgeable and experienced guides who have your safety as their utmost priority. The two most popular glaciers to hike in Iceland are Sólheimajökull Glacier and Vatnajökull Glacier.
Go on a Road Trip
Whilst certain roads and routes (especially those in the highlands and the Westfjords) of Iceland are closed in November, it doesn’t mean that the road tripping days are over. You can rent a car in Reykjavik and just by taking the Golden Circle Route alone, you’ll not only get to see a lot of the majestic beauty of the Iceland landscape, but also hit a few of the most popular island attractions along the way. These include:
Icelanders are notorious for their celebratory skills. Attending one of the many events the island has to offer remains one of the best things to do in Iceland in November. In fact, one of Iceland’s biggest annual festivals occurs in November.
The Iceland Airwaves Festival is an international music festival that spans over three days and three nights. This is not your usual music festival where you purchase a ticket and pitch up at the venue. This festival consists of shows in venues all over Reykjavík. That means that the festivities essentially take over the capital for a couple of days.
Take a Dip in a Hot Spring or Geothermal Pool
Due to the volcanic activity on the island, Iceland has a natural heating system when it comes to its underground water supply. The result is an island full of natural hot springs. Some of these hot springs in Iceland can still be experienced in all their original au natural glory. Others, however, have been used to form geothermal public pools.
These geothermal pools were not born from commercial greed where natural resources are exploited, but actually to ensure that everyone can enjoy the hot springs since certain ones are literally too hot for humans to use. So, in these instances, the hot spring is cooled down by integrating it with a cold water source (most often a river or lake in the area).
The hot springs are said to have healing properties due to the water being so mineral-rich. So, as an added bonus, you will find many of these pools that come with spa facilities. Some of the favorite hot springs include:
Explore a Lava Cave
One of the most unique things to do in Iceland in November is to visit a lava cave. These caves have literally been formed by lava burning tunnels whilst making its way through the island. It is an incredible concept to wrap one’s head around! And the best thing about exploring lava caves is that the weather in Iceland in November doesn’t impact them at all.
Explore an Ice Cave
Ice caves are yet another result of lava, with the only difference being that these are formed by the lava barreling its way through the ice. And afterward, it’s the legendary Iceland winds that further sculpt these icy crevices. This is also where the weather in Iceland in November counts in your favor, since the temperatures make it the safest time to discover this icy realm. Some of the must-visit ice caves include:
- Crystal Ice Cave
- Katla Ice Cave
- Langjökull Ice Cave
- Vatnajökull Ice Caves
- Skaftafell Ice Caves
Visit a Museum
This is also one of the best things to do in Iceland in November when the weather has turned a bit. A country with such a rich history and love for folklore is bound to have a few museums, and the island offers up an entire buffet of them. From interesting history to stories and legends – Iceland will have a museum to cater to those who are curious. Some of the best museums to visit are:
- National Museum of Iceland
- The Saga Museum
- The Icelandic Phallological Museum
- Viking World
- Reykjavik Art Museum
Too Much to Mention
There are so many things we haven’t even touched on such as Snorkeling and Diving in the Silfra Fissure, taking a Super Jeep tour, shopping at the local markets, whale watching, and much, much more. With so many things to do in Iceland in November, you don’t just need to prep for the weather – you need to prep for the experience of a lifetime!