Iceland Weather and Climate
With just over 100,000 square kilometers of land area, Iceland is the second largest of all European island states after the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The main island of Iceland, which geologically belongs to Europe and North America, is just below the Arctic Circle.
From a geographical point of view, Iceland is part of Northern Europe, although the island is located on both the Eurasian and North American continental plates. The very water-rich island state between Greenland (in the northwest) and Norway and the Faroe Islands (in the east and southeast) is criss-crossed by over 30 active volcanic systems.
The highest point in Iceland is the Hvannadalshnúkur at 2110 meters, while the Dettifoss is the most energetic waterfall in Europe.
The sparsely populated country with around 330,000 inhabitants is characterized by fjords, glaciers, various rivers and lakes. The capital and seat of government is Reykjavík, the northernmost capital in the world.
Climate in Iceland
The climate on Iceland is influenced by the rather cool current from Greenland on the northeast and southwest coast of the island and the rather mild Irminger Current on the southern coast. The oceanic-cool climate is comparatively humid, precipitation (rain or snow) can occur at any time of the year. Summer in Iceland is comparatively cool and with a daytime temperature of around 13 degrees in July and August it is more similar to the German autumn.
Warm periods with values above 20 degrees are humorously referred to in Iceland as the “summer of the century” and are accordingly rare. From November to March, the daytime average temperatures are around freezing point, at night, especially inland and in the highlands, values of minus 10 to minus 25 degrees can be reached. Snow falls less often in the south of the island than in the north, and temperatures are usually higher.
There is a saying: “If you are dissatisfied with the weather in Iceland, just close your eyes for 10 minutes!” The weather in Iceland is considered to be moody and very changeable. We have already experienced it several times ourselves and can basically confirm this pointed motto.
When is the best time to travel to Iceland?
Winter in Iceland usually lasts from the beginning of November to the end of April, with snowfalls not uncommon even in May. This travel time is particularly recommended for tours by snowmobile or a superjeep, but even as normal tourists, Reykjavík and the Golden Circle develop a magical atmosphere in the snow.
Some side streets are now impassable, but the hot thermal springs are now particularly popular. However, we clearly recommend summer on the island as the best travel time for Iceland. The so-called midnight sun ensures endless days; nature is now in full bloom from mid- June to August.
The months of June, July and August are also the absolute best time to travel for whale watching tours. In general, this period is also the high season for Iceland, many sights are now well visited. The September is much quieter, but still can convince with mostly good weather conditions.
Optimal travel time for the regions
In the following overview you can see the best travel time depending on the region (Iceland).
|Place||Best travel time|
|Reykjavík||May, June, July and August|
|Reykjavik||June, July, August and September|
Temperatures, precipitation, sunshine in Reykjavík (Iceland)
|Daytime temperature||2 ° C||3 ° C||3 ° C||6 ° C||9 ° C||12 ° C||13 ° C||13 ° C||10 ° C||7 ° C||3 ° C||2 ° C|
|Night temperature||-3 ° C||-2 ° C||-2 ° C||0 ° C||4 ° C||7 ° C||8 ° C||8 ° C||5 ° C||2 ° C||-1 ° C||-3 ° C|
|Water temperature||6 ° C||6 ° C||6 ° C||7 ° C||8 ° C||9 ° C||11 ° C||11 ° C||10 ° C||8 ° C||8 ° C||7 ° C|
|Precipitation in mm||89||64||62||56||42||42||50||56||67||94||78||79|
|Hours of sunshine||1||2||4||5||6||5||6||5||4||3||1||0|
The annual average temperature in Reykjavik is 4.4 ° C. For comparison: Munich reaches an average of 8.6 ° C, in Berlin it is 9.6 ° C. The warmest month is July (10.8 ° C), coldest month of January with mean values of -0.6 ° C. The maximum water temperature in Reykjavik is 11 ° C. It’s too cold to bathe.
The annual precipitation is 779 mm on 149 days with precipitation. For comparison: In Munich, 967 mm, in Berlin 570 mm, precipitation is measured annually. There is no rainy season, i.e. months with more than 175 mm of precipitation. Snow is possible in all but June, July and August.
As our climate table shows, May is the sunniest month with an average of 6.2 hours of sunshine per day. On average over the year the sun shines 3.5 hours a day. For comparison: In Munich and Berlin, the sun shines an average of 4.7 hours per day throughout the year.
Northern lights / northern lights and other sights
All tours start in the capital Reykjavík, which with its Nordic architectural style and the charming harbor area is already well worth seeing. The Golden Circle Route is part of the standard program of every Iceland trip and covers the main attractions such as Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.
The Blue Lagoon is also very easy to reach from the capital. The country’s exciting attractions include the Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Dettifoss waterfalls and the Mývatn mosquito lake.
In winter there is a chance to see the Northern Lights on Iceland (Aurora Borealis). The best conditions prevail on largely cloud-free, dark nights from late September to mid-March. The time between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. is very promising. A forecast of the northern lights is only possible for a short time, however, we therefore recommend a tour with experienced providers such as Gateway to Iceland.