Weather in Iceland
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Iceland is renowned for its highly mutable weather, which is different from hour to hour and place to place. It’s one of the warmest Arctic countries in the world, thanks to ocean currents that are part of the Gulf Stream. Prepare for cool summers and relatively mild winters, along with plenty of unexpected changes!
Climate in Iceland
Iceland is a small island in the middle of the Atlantic, meaning that its climate is heavily dependent on ocean currents. Its western and southern coasts are situated in the path of the warm waters of the Irminger Current, a branch of the Gulf Stream, making Iceland far milder than you would expect.
Iceland’s climate is commonly classified as a cold maritime climate, giving it cool and dry summers and cold winters, with a fairly limited annual temperature range (low of 21°F / -6°C and high of 51°F / 10°C). However, specific areas, such as those at higher altitudes or the more northerly ones, can have a greater range.
This means that Iceland has long, relatively mild winters and short cool summers. The Icelandic winter usually lasts between mid-October and mid-April, while the summer usually runs between June and late-August. In between the two main seasons is a short 1½-month Spring and a short 1½-month Autumn, where temperatures tend to be cool.
Iceland’s Weather at a Glance
- Coldest Months – January + December
- Hottest Months – July + August
- Wettest Months – March + October
- Driest Months – May + June
- Most Daylight – June + July
- Least Daylight – January + December
What is the Weather like in Iceland by Month?
Check out the information below for a detailed month-by-month overview of precipitation, wind speed, sunshine and clouds in Iceland.
Weather in January
January is Iceland’s coldest month with an average temperature of 21.2°F (-0.6°C). It’s also fairly wet with around 75mm of rainfall. January is also the second-best month to see the Northern Lights because it averages less than 6 hours of daylight.
Weather in February
February is one of Iceland’s coldest months with average temperatures of 32.7° F (0.4°C). Expect 71.8mm of rain and around 8-9 hours of daylight. It’s still a fantastic time of year to see the Northern Lights.
Weather in March
March remains fairly cold with an average temperature of 33.8°F (0.6°C). It’s also one of Iceland’s wettest months with an average rainfall of around 82mm. You can still see the Northern Lights in March, due to its 12 hours of daylight.
Weather in April
Iceland gets much warmer and dryer in April with average temperatures of 37.6°F (3.1°C) and just 58mm of rain. It’s also the last month that you can see the Northern Lights, although it’s more difficult thanks to the 15 hours of daylight.
Weather in May
May is fairly warm in Icelandic terms with an average temperature of 43.7°F (6.4°C). It’s also Iceland’s driest month with an average rainfall of just 43.8mm. The days are long, meaning that you are unlikely to see the Northern Lights, however, the more than 18 hours of daylight make it perfect for getting out and doing things.
Weather in June
June is one of Iceland’s warmest months with an average temperature of 48.5°F (9.2°C). It’s also pretty dry and receives just 50mm of rain. The days are also very long in June, with close to 21 hours of daylight, allowing you to explore the land of fire and ice under the midnight sun.
Weather in July
July is Iceland's hottest month with temperatures averaging a pleasant 51.4°F (10.8°C). It receives around 51mm of rainfall and gets close to 20 hours of daylight, allowing you to sightsee long into the night.
Weather in August
August is Iceland’s second warmest month with an average temperature of 50.8°F (10.5°C). It’s slightly wetter than June and July with around 68mm of rainfall, while its 16 hours of sunlight is perfect for exploring.
Weather in September
Temperatures drop quite a bit in September, averaging around 45.6°F (7.5°C). It remains fairly dry with around 66.5 mm of rain. Towards the end of the month, you may see the Northern Lights, because of the average 13 hours of daylight, however, the season really begins in October.
Weather in October
October is pretty cold with an average temperature of around 40.1°F (4.5°C). It’s also Iceland’s wettest month with around 85.6mm of rain. October is a good month to see the Northern Lights, thanks to its 10 hours of daylight.
Weather in November
November marks the start of Iceland’s winter with average temperatures of 33.9°F (1.1°C). It receives around 72.5 mm of rain and has just over 6 hours of daylight, making it excellent for Northern Lights watching.
Weather in December
December is Iceland’s second coldest month with an average temperature of 31.5°F (-0.3°C). It receives around 79mm of rainfall and is one of the best months to see the Northern Lights, thanks to its less than 5 hours of daylight.
The Seasons in Iceland
Winter in Iceland
The Icelandic winter lasts from late-October / early-November until the middle of April – giving visitors ample time to see all the icy natural wonders that it is so famous for. The temperatures are frigid, and snow is common, opening up a myriad of exciting winter sports, such as dog sledding and snowmobiling. It's also a great time to go sightseeing with – vast snow-covered glaciers, blue ice caves, frozen waterfalls, crystalline glacier lagoons, and snow-capped mountains being just a few of the incredible sights that you can see. Icelandic culture is also perfectly adapted to the winter – enjoy warming hot soup, piping hot cocoa and warming open fires, alongside the friendly locals. Winter is also the best time to see the dazzling colors of the Northern Lights illuminate the sky.
Spring and Autumn in Iceland
Spring and Autumn are short in Iceland, lasting between 1-1½ months in total. The Spring generally lasts from mid/late-April until the end of May and brings an explosion of life to the country as the winter ice thaws. Autumn tends to last from late August to the middle of October, bringing vibrant colors and a heap of opportunities to explore. Both seasons are excellent times to visit Iceland, as the prices are generally cheaper, and the attractions are less busy.
Summer in Iceland
Iceland’s summers are generally dry with just 10-11 days of rain per month between May and August. This means it is an excellent time for outdoor enthusiasts, who want to explore all the wonders that the land of fire and ice hides. The Highlands lose their snow – allowing you to hike, trek and backpack in places such as Thorsmork or the famous Laugavegur Trail. The rivers swell with meltwaters, perfect for kayaking, rafting, and other watersports, and the countryside abounds with beautiful flowers and rolling green meadows.
The Weather in Different Parts of Iceland
Iceland’s weather can vary from hour to hour and place to place. Here is what the weather is generally like in Reykjavik and the rest of Iceland.
The Weather in Reykjavik
Reykjavik’s climate is in-keeping with the rest of the country, with long mild winters (given its latitude) and short cool summers. July is Reykjavik’s hottest month with an average temperature of 52°F (11°C), while January is the coldest month with an average temperature of 32°F (0°C). January is also the wettest month in Reykjavik with a moderate 50mm of rain, while April, June, and July are the driest months with just 20mm of rainfall.
The Weather in the Rest of Iceland
The south coast generally sees more rainfall than the rest of the country, while both the south and the west coasts are slightly warmer than other regions. Places in the North of the country such as Akureyri are cooler than other parts of the country but see much less rain. The Highlands are the coldest place in Iceland and are unreachable for much of the year. Roads in the Highlands are only open for around three months in the summer and generally experience much more wind chill then the rest of the country.
What can you do in Iceland if the weather is bad?
As stated, Iceland is renowned for its ever-changing weather, so if the weather is bad in the morning, it will probably be a lot better in the afternoon. Icelanders are used to bad weather and will often brave conditions that other people won’t – so your first option is to dress up warm and be like a local! If that doesn’t appeal to you, then there are plenty of inside activities that can be enjoyed while the weather is bad. Reykjavik is especially good in this regard, with a plethora of fascinating interactive museums and exhibits in the city.
However, if you want to be a true Icelander, then the only thing to do is head out to one of the country’s many geothermal baths. What could be better than sitting in a naturally heated bath with snow falling overhead!
Where to find the weather forecast in Iceland
Iceland’s weather forecast is famously sporadic, making it very difficult to predict exactly what it will be like until just before you arrive.
We recommend using the information on this page and checking the five/two-day forecast just before you arrive in Iceland.
The best place to find the weather forecast in Iceland is the Icelandic Met Office, which provides official local weather forecasts. They also provide aurora forecasts and information about cloud cover and wind speed. The website is easier to use on a computer than a phone and the information is commonly displayed at gas stations on the Ring Road.
If you are driving around Iceland, then SafeTravel Iceland is a useful resource as is Road.is. They both provide information on current conditions, along with warnings and hazards. Road.is is especially useful if you are driving – offering tips, real-time information, weather, and details about road closures. Both sites are an absolute must for anyone driving in winter when the conditions can be dangerous.