Essential Guide to Spring in Iceland
The notion of springtime is not a completely clear-cut one in Iceland. In a way there are only really two seasons in Iceland - winter and summer. Perhaps this is because both seasons are quite so intense when it comes to climate and conditions. When winter bites it brings snow and ice, fierce storms and long hours of darkness. While in summer the country basks in almost 24 hours of sunlight.
To add to the confusion Iceland celebrates a national holiday marking the first day of summer in late April. Right in the middle of what many people would consider springtime. So for the sake of clarity in this article we are going to consider spring as March, April and May. Read on for your essential guide to the wonderful season of spring in Iceland.
The Iceland weather in spring
When it comes to weather in springtime it doesn’t really make sense to talk about the spring as a whole. The weather can and does vary wildly between March and May. Instead we will take a month my month look at the general climate and conditions. The weather in Iceland always plays a huge role in your vacation plans. It will dictate what kind of activities you get up to as well as the road trips you choose to take.
March weather conditions in Iceland
March is very much a wintery month in Iceland. There are still pretty long hours of darkness with only 9-10 daylight hours a day. The temperature will likely hover around zero degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit). So it is still pretty icy with the added element of the wind chill factor. Those Arctic breezes are very bracing indeed!
Snow will likely still be falling in many areas of the country. And even if you are not caught in a flurry or two there will be plenty of snow on the ground. There are long hours of darkness in March. Because of this you should have a very good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
April weather in Iceland
April in Iceland feels decidedly more spring like as the month progresses. The days get longer quite swiftly with around 14 hours of daylight by the end of the month. With the sunlight comes a little more warmth (just a little mind). And as the ground slowly starts to thaw the spring melt begins. All that ice and snow starts to melt and find its way into the rivers and streams. The waterways swell and Iceland’s beautiful waterfalls are at their most powerful and impressive.
April is still quite cool though. Average temperatures are at around 6 degrees Celsius (that’s 42 Fahrenheit). There could still be flurries of snow to play in. And there will be plenty of coverage in North Iceland and up on higher ground. At the start of the month you could still see the Northern Lights quite well. But as the month progresses those chances will decrease. By the end of the month the sky will be too light for the Aurora to be very visible.
May weather conditions in Iceland
May is a very much a changeable month. The temperature is erratic and can range from around 3-14 degrees Celsius (37-57 Fahrenheit). So by booking a May trip to Iceland you are very much taking a gamble. You could get optimum summer like conditions with clear skies and nearly 17 hours of daylight. Or you could find wintery weather with snow and ice. Both are fun though so it is well worth the roll of the dice.
That being said this is nearly the summer season in Iceland. This means that you are very much more likely to enjoy brighter weather. When conditions are good they are really good in May. With sunlight shining late into the night and spectacular hours of sunset and sunrise. The spring flowers will be blooming and the countryside will be at its most lush and green. As the spring melt continues the waterfalls will also be thundering. All in all May is a great month to travel to Iceland.
Is spring a good time to visit Iceland?
The high season in Iceland is over the summer months of June, July and August. This is when the Midnight Sun shines in the sky offering optimum sightseeing time. Visitors favour this time of year as the weather is much more settled. This brings the chance to see all of Iceland’s natural wonders under blue skies. Winter also has its many charms. And of course there are a whole host of winter activities in Iceland to enjoy. It just depends on what you hope to get out of your trip.
Spring straddles these two main seasons so offers a real breadth of possibilities. As this time of year is considered a shoulder season it is also a much more budget friendly time to visit. Costs of hiring a camper van as well as hotels and campsite fees will all be lower. There will also be fewer other visitors enjoying Iceland travels. So you will have more space at the popular sights such as the Golden Circle or the Blue Lagoon.
Spring in Iceland – Things to do
There is a wealth of things to do during the spring time in Iceland. Around the beginning of the season you will be able to make the most of the winter conditions. Skiing and snowboarding as well as ice caving and exploring glaciers. Hunting for the Northern Lights is also very possible in early spring. For more on all of this visit our article on the top winter activities in Iceland.
As things start to thaw out a little all sorts of other activities are possible too. This is the absolute best time of year for seeing Iceland’s waterfalls at their nost mighty. So planning a road trip to take in some of these spectacular torrents is a great idea.
When the weather is settled boats trips to see Iceland’s wildlife are a lot of fun. Whale watching tours are often combined with puffin spotting. At this time of year the costal cliffs are alive with puffin activity as they come to raise their young.
So if you plan your visit at the right moment you could enjoy both winter and summer activities. Hot springs and hiking in Iceland are a combination that always works well together. And both of these can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Iceland road trips in spring
If you are visiting Iceland in very early spring then you should treat it very much like winter. So for road trips it is best to stick to shorter routes. At just two hours from Reykjavik taking a road trip tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is ideal. You could also choose a leisurely tour of the Golden Circle stopping to camp at the Pingvellir National Park. You might also head along Iceland’s South Coast towards the glaciers of the Vatnajökull National Park.
Late spring is a great time for road travel in Iceland. The days are getting longer so more ambitious drives are very much on the agenda. The South Coast route is a great place to start. But if you have the time and the weather is settled you might choose to drive the full Ring Road.
Iceland in spring – the Do’s and Don’ts
Despite travelling in the spring season in Iceland it is a very good idea to pack for winter conditions. Just in case! The weather is so changeable and the temperature in Iceland fluctuates so much with the wind chill factor. You should come prepared with microfiber layers and technical wind and waterproof gear. Good socks, gloves and hats are vital, as are sturdy walking shoes. You will be spending a good portion of your time outdoors so you will want to have come prepared.
Spring is one of the best times of year for visiting the waterfalls in Iceland. But be warned that when they are in full flow the spray can be absolutely drenching. Even if it’s a fine day you will need to wear a full waterproof jacket and trousers. Especially if you’d like to get up close and stay dry. Camera equipment is particularly vulnerable so make sure you keep it safely tucked away unless it is fully waterproof.
If you are hiring a camper van or motorhome do note that some campsites close outside of the high season. Do a little research to make sure that your route is covered. Stock up on food and drink at the grocery stores you pass. And keep your tank topped up with gas. If you are caught in a storm or need to drive on to the next town you’ll be fully stocked. Spring is a great time of year for a road trip but you should take a little more care in your planning.