The Icelandic Weather - Defining Seasons
Updated: May 26, 2019
Iceland is a Nordic country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. The nation has become a highly demanded touristic destination in the last decade. The rest of the world is now aware of the stunning landscapes, fiery volcanos, and massive glaciers. Not to mention all the activities available for any traveler in this magical land. It is clear to most of us that Iceland is astonishing but to have this incredible beauty, we need certain circumstances. Probably the most important one is the Icelandic climate.
Climate conditions will affect every single aspect of your vacation, both positively and negatively. It is then essential to know what to expect in each season: average temperature, daylight hours and precipitation. We should not forget the fact that Iceland is located close to the arctic circle. That is a hint of what the Icelandic weather is like. The island is so far up north that it can get frigid here and what we Icelanders call summer season might not be what you have in mind. Is that a bad thing? Of course not! This type of weather creates the perfect conditions to enjoy sceneries barely available nowhere else on the planet earth. That is reason enough to plan a road trip of a lifetime to Iceland.
How are the seasons like in Iceland?
I dare to say that in Iceland we only have two seasons: summer and winter, then we got the in-between. Which people usually call Fall or spring. Each season has its unique charm, advantages, and disadvantages. Generally speaking, the climate in Iceland is rainy, windy and very changeable. So do expect any of these elements to happen on any season. Now let’s look further into the matter:
The warmest season officially starts in June. Everything is in blossom, and the typical green pastures of Iceland are at its best! The highest temperature is approximately 11º degrees Celsius (51 F). Ok, I know what you are thinking “That’s not summer!”. Well, for the Icelandic standards, it is. Sometimes we have heat waves in the island so temperatures can be as high as 20 degrees Celsius (68 F). That feels like heaven!
During the summer months, we have something you might not have heard of: the midnight sun. Due to Iceland’s location close to the north pole, the sun lights strike the surface differently compared to other latitudes. We then have 24h summer day, literally. The sun does not set so at midnight you still have daylight. It is not as bright as it would be at 15:00, but it is light enough to do any activity in the outdoors. Never-ending days can affect your circadian rhythm so be sure to bring a high-quality eye mask to sleep deeply.
That might be a surprise to many: The Icelandic winters are not as cold as they should be. They are very mild. If you live in areas like Canada, the North of the USA or Northern Europe, you probably have harsher winters in your homeland. The average temperature of the winter is just above freezing: 2.2º Celsius (35 F) Unexpected, right?
The reason for this can be found in the Gulf Stream. That ocean current brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the coasts of Iceland. Though the temperatures are mild, the weather is still very changeable, and you need to pay attention to the wind. Wind blowing can make the air feel cooler, so the wind chill factor is usually different from the real temperature. And in Iceland wind can get very tough all year long but it is even tougher in winter. Precipitation comes in the form of snow, so activities such as snowmobiling or skiing are great at this time of the year.
Probably the coolest thing of the winter season (no pun intended) in the Northern Lights. We no longer have endless days like in summer. Days are shorter and darker, but that is precisely what the Aurora borealis need: Darkness. When the skies are clear, dark and there is solar activity, this magnificent mother nature’s show comes alive. Northern lights only appear in certain regions in the globe, and of them is Iceland. The downside? F-Roads are not open during the winter time. So make sure your itinerary does not include any of these roads are they are impassable.
It is a mix of these two seasons. Springtime has longer days as the summer comes closer and the temperature in Iceland slowly raises. On the other hand, fall gradually has shorter days the closer it is to the winter and temperatures drop. Do expect wind and rain in both seasons too. The landscape also changes. In spring the flowers blossom and the land becomes greener. During the fall, the beautiful red, orange and brown leaves are predominant in the countryside.
What is the Icelandic Weather Like?
Regardless of the season, you come to Iceland; it is crucial to check the weather forecast daily. Northern Iceland and Southern Iceland are also somewhat different when it comes to climate. The northern region has a harsher, colder climate. In this area is where we got the coldest temperature recorded in the country. On the other hand, the Southern part has milder conditions. The country is full of marvelous views all year long. There is not a “better time to visit Iceland” the best season is the one that offers what you are looking for