Best Time to Visit Iceland for a Road Trip

Iceland in late October

Been wondering about the best time to visit Iceland for a road trip? Well, Iceland is always a good idea any time of year if you ask me (I’d be happy just to be in Iceland doing absolutely nothing, to be honest), but some months are definitely better than others for a smooth and successful road trip. You need to have at least half decent weather and relatively long days to make the most of your visit.

I’ve been to Iceland four times. My husband and I did a road trip in three out of the four visits, in three different seasons (spring, summer, and autumn), so I like to think I know what I’m talking about. In this post, I will break down the pros and cons of doing an Iceland road trip in May, June, and October based on my first hand experience.

Iceland in May

Abandoned farmhouse.
An abandoned farmhouse near Höfn.

Our first Iceland road trip happened in May, starting in mid-May. Now that we’ve done a road trip in June and October as well, I can say with confidence that May is the best time to visit Iceland for a road trip, or at least, our favourite time.


  • The day is getting longer and longer every day so you can cover a lot in one day.
  • The weather is decent for the most part. No heavy rain or snow and the temperatures stay above freezing.
  • Smaller crowds in many major attractions. Trust me, Iceland is more enjoyable when you can have any attractions to yourself, or close to it.
  • You get the “spring is in the air” vibe, which I personally love because it brings out a lot of good feelings and sense of happiness, hope and optimism.
  • Puffins have arrived in their usual breeding grounds all over Iceland.
  • If you take an overnight flight to Iceland from North America, you might be able to see the Northern Lights from the plane! I know I did.


  • The landscapes still look mostly yellow and brown because winter just ended and the grass and moss only start to wake up from their dormancy.
  • Some roads, especially the ones in the highlands and northern Iceland might still be closed due to snow from the winter or because they’re not maintained until June and therefore not safe to drive on.
  • Some puffin breeding grounds might be closed for tourists to allow the birds to nest undisturbed.
  • Next to zero possibility for Northern Lights because the nights never get dark enough.

Iceland in June

Best time to visit Iceland: Iceland in June
Icelandic horses in the summer sun.

June is not the cheapest time to visit Iceland because it’s peak season and there are always large crowds of tourists in major attractions, especially in South Iceland. We decided to splurge anyway because we really wanted to see the Westfjords. Many roads in Westfjords only open in the summer. We wanted to see a lot of things there so it only made sense that we went in the summer.

We did manage to see two of the main attractions in South Iceland’s Golden Circle, Gullfoss waterfalls and Geyser, near the end of our trip but we went in the evening after hours (note: it never really gets dark in the summer) and there were only small crowds left, so keep that in mind.

Having said that, Westfjords is never crowded, even in the middle of summer. I’d say June is the perfect month to visit Westfjords.


  • There’s light for pretty much 24 hours of the day. You could stay up and drive all day and night if you’re so inclined, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Rest is important, especially when you’re driving.
  • There are seas of purple lupine flowers almost everywhere! It’s a sight that will take your breath away the first time you see it.
  • Many other flowers are also blooming, like poppies.
  • Puffin-viewing season is in full swing.
  • All attractions and roads are open.
  • Weather is generally good and even hot when a heatwave hits.
  • Mostly warm, t-shirt weather makes packing light an achievable goal.


  • High season. Popular attractions packed with tourists. Higher prices.
  • Annoying bugs in areas near water/boggy areas when it’s not windy. Don’t trust anyone who says there are no bugs in Iceland.
  • Birds are chirping non-stop because it’s daytime all the time. If you’re a light sleeper like me, pack a pair of earbuds or have a white noise app ready for bedtime.
  • Having to book accommodations and activities months in advance for the best price and availability.

Iceland in October

Best Time to Visit Iceland : Iceland in October
A foggy, winding road in northern Iceland in October.

We gambled on the weather by doing a road trip that started on Iceland’s official First Day of Winter, which typically falls on the third week of October. We got lucky. Locals we met in the northern part of Iceland kept telling us how lucky we were with the weather because they usually had already had their second blizzard by then. There was no snow on the ground when we were there. If you’re feeling lucky and confident in your winter driving skills, October road trip might be the thing for you!


  • Low season. Crowds are practically non-existent in areas outside South Iceland and Snaefellsnes peninsula in West Iceland. Lower prices.
  • Beautiful light. It’s almost like having the Golden Hour all day. If you’re into photography, you’ll love it.
  • You might be able to see the Northern Lights if the weather is good.
  • Lovely autumn colours. Yes, there are trees in Iceland! Not a lot, but they do exist.
  • Maybe it’s just me but food in Iceland just tastes better this time of year, especially fish dishes.
  • If you take an overnight flight to Iceland from North America, you might be able to see the Northern Lights from the plane like we did. Book a window seat!


  • The day is fairly short and getting shorter every day. There won’t be enough light for sightseeing until around 9 in the morning and it gets dark around 5 in the afternoon.
  • Weather is unpredictable at best. You need to make sure your rental car has winter tires on, just to be safe. We didn’t get snow, but we did get rain and thick fog that gave us next to zero visibility.
  • Because of the unpredictable weather, tours are always at risk of getting cancelled.
  • Some attractions are already closed for the season.
  • Puffins are gone for the year. They spend winters out in the sea.

Iceland in Winter

Best time to visit Iceland: Iceland in Winter
Snowy landscape by a fjord in northern Iceland.

I personally wouldn’t do a road trip around Iceland in the winter months, especially between December and February. Daylight hours are short; too short to see a lot in one day. Road closure is also common because of the unpredictable weather and it can overthrow your plans. I just don’t think I’d get my money’s worth.

If you really want to have the Icelandic winter experience, I’d suggest you have a home base in Reykjavik and take day trips or day tours from there. Also, be flexible. Don’t have a set plan or you might be disappointed.

If you decide to do your own driving, check the weather forecast and road xonditions before heading out. If the forecast is not good for driving, at least you are already in Reykjavik. Reykjavik is a very walkable and relatively small city with a lot of things to see and do. If you go with tour companies, the good ones will let you know if they have to cancel the tours that you booked due to inclement weather.

Best Time to Visit Iceland for Northern Lights

Best time to visit Iceland for Northern Lights
A glimpse of northern lights seen from an airplane window.

According to science, the best time to see the Northern Lights is around the equinoxes because that’s when geomagnetic storms — disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field — are strongest. Autumn equinox falls in the third week of September and Spring equinox the third week of March. If your main goal is to see the Northern Lights, use that as a guidance. But as long as the night is dark and the sky is clear, there is always the possibility for the Northern Lights to put on a show for you. Definitely not in the middle of summer (mid-May to mid-August)!

Hope this post helps you decide the best time for you to visit Iceland. Be sure to check out our customizable itinerary. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comment and I’ll try to answer the best I can.

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