When to Visit Iceland – Summer vs. Winter Travel

Monday, 8th March 2021

Eric Shadbolt

iceland photographers lined up on diamond beach jokulsarlon rth

You might not think it, but Iceland is an extraordinary place to visit all year round. Depending on what you want to see and do, each season has its own distinct appeal.

We’ve rounded up 10 great places to visit in Iceland and what you can expect from each season. We’ve even recommended whether to visit in summer or winter for the best experience. Of course, the best way to is to judge for yourself and visit this fascinating island on multiple occasions…

1. Strokkur (at Geysir)

The geothermal hotspot Geysir is one of the stops on Iceland’s Golden Circle. The sight is home to several bubbling pools and the ancient geyser, named Geysir, for which the phenomena is named – but the erupting plume of water that you’ll see today is known as Strokkur. This is a great attraction to see whatever the season, but be mindful in the winter as the days draw shorter that visibility and opening hours may be reduced.

Our favourite way to visit the Golden Circle? Take inspiration from our Essential Iceland itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… SUMMER

2. Jokulsarlon

Found on the South East coast of Iceland, Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is one of the most magical places in the world. In summer, it is a photographer’s paradise as icebergs calve off the Breidamerkurjokull glacier tongue into one of Iceland’s deepest lakes before drifting out sea. Smaller chunks of ice are then washed back onto the adjacent black sand beach like precious gems, hence the nickname, ‘Diamond Beach’. Our favourite time to get up close to these multi-coloured icebergs is May or September when there are fewer visitors. In the winter, the dark skies act as a dramatic canvas for the northern lights as you stand in an amphibious craft or observe them from the shore.

Discover it for yourself on our National Parks & Natural Wonders itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… early or late SUMMER

3. Kirkjufell on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

During aurora season, between September and early April, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is an incredible place to look out for the northern lights as they dance above the conical peak of Kirkjufell. Located on the northern side of the peninsula just outside the town of Grundarfjordur, this is probably the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Late winter into early spring is also the perfect time to combine aurora hunting with orca watching, taking a boat trip into the bay from Grundarfjordur.

Of course, in summer, there is more time for exploring the saga-soaked landscapes around the peninsula including iconic Snaefellsjokull best viewed from the south shore near the village of Hellnar. While in autumn, the landscape turns into shades of orange, red and gold.

Visit this area in the west on our Orcas and Aurora small group tour.

Be sure to visit in… WINTER

4. Seljalandsfoss

Arguably the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland, Seljalandsfoss cascades over a former sea-cliff and during the summer basks in a late evening glow. The cliff has a cavernous opening at ground level where a footpath leads behind the falls. Be prepared to get a little wet from the spray and tread carefully, but the view through the tumbling water across the valley is worth it! The path is closed during winter due to the risk of falling ice, but Seljalandsfoss remains an alluring spectacle.

Explore Iceland’s south coast yourself with our Summer Nights at Ranga itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… SUMMER

5. Thingvellir National Park

Another of the attractions that makes up Iceland’s Golden Circle, Thingvellir can definitely be visited year round. It’s a haven for birds and wildflowers, and offers visitors the rare opportunity to walk between two continents. Late August through early October and late March through early May are a great time to take advantage of the longer days and milder weather and enjoy the hiking trails available throughout the park – Thingvellir is essentially an expanse of land waiting to be explored! If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, visit in Winter, so you can envision icicled White Walkers walking across the snowy land.

Take an in-depth exploration of this area on our Golden Circle Self Drive itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… early or late WINTER

6. Gullfoss

Located in the canyon of the Hvita river in the south west, Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic and spectacular waterfalls. The third natural wonder of the Golden Circle, in the summer it is often adorned by shimmering rainbows, but in winter this powerful two-tier waterfall freezes over. It is said to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, and in the winter months particularly, it is a captivating sight.

Ideal for a winter short break, visit Gullfoss on our Northern Lights, Glaciers and Waterfalls itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… WINTER

7. Lake Myvatn

Lake Myvatn and the surrounding area is simply beguiling. From the abundant wildfowl that grace its shores in spring and summer to the pungent mud pools at Namaskard, it is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Stroll around the craggy lava-scape of Dimmuborgir, marvel at the moss-covered pseudo-craters and take a dip in the geothermal waters of the Nature Baths.

Explore the geothermal oddities of Lake Myvatn on our Northern Highlights itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… SUMMER

8. Landmannalaugur

Landmannalaugur, or the ‘People’s Pools’ in Iceland’s Highlands is a remote and incredibly beautiful region. Throughout the summer, hikers hit the trails through the majestic rhyolite mountains pausing to bathe in natural hot springs. The Laugavegur trail is one of the most notable routes in the area, connecting Landmannalaugur and Thorsmork, and ending at Skogafoss waterfall.

In winter, only specialised Superjeeps can reach the highlands, if you are looking to escape the crowds and enjoy the ultimate serenity of the mountains and valleys – an expertly guided winter adventure might be for you!

Embark on an adventurous self drive such as our Highlands and Lowlands itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… SUMMER

9. Skogafoss

Skogafoss is located on Iceland’s south coast and thunders 60m down in a solid curtain of meltwater from two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. In the summer months, we recommend climbing the 370 steps to the top of the waterfall to be rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of south Iceland’s coastline. If you are lucky, you may also be greeted by a double rainbow on sunny days. Skogafoss turns into a true winter wonderland during the colder months, the slopes turn icy and white with snow. The prospect of the northern lights dancing over the frozen waterfall make staying nearby an appealing prospect.

Discover more of the natural wonders in store in South West Iceland on our Journey to the Centre of the Earth itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… SUMMER

10. Route 1

Taking the ring road in Iceland is the best way to travel around the country. The route takes you past many of Iceland’s great attractions but also offers options for detours around the island so you can explore hidden gems. In the summer you will be graced with more daylight hours and be able to explore the Icelandic highlights. In the winter months you will need to plan around reduced daylight hours and visibility, and look at driving a 4WD. If you aren’t confident driving around yourself, there are many group tour options available.

Circumnavigate Iceland’s ring road for yourself on our Around Iceland itinerary.

Be sure to visit in… SUMMER


Feeling inspired?

Find out more about the best time to visit Iceland with our seasonal guide or view our range of Iceland holidays from self drives to small-group escorted trips, hiking adventures to northern lights escapes.

For help and advice on planning your holiday, send an enquiry or speak to one of our Travel Specialists, who will be happy to share their first-hand experience and offer recommendations.

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