Iceland in Fall is Fabulous
Taking a trip to Iceland is special at any time of year and every season has its own unique charms. But there is something about Iceland in fall that adds a whole other dimension to its beauty. Those autumnal colours lighting up the sky and the landscape in golden and mahogany hues. The calmer and more laidback pace as the season shifts from the busy summer into winter. That lull before the winter festivals pick up the pace again. Not to mention the thrilling possibility of seeing the Northern lights dance across the sky. Add to that fewer visitors and lower prices and you have all the ingredients for an amazing trip.
Exploring Iceland in the fall months is a firm favourite and there are multiple reasons why. In this article we will take a look at all the benefits of travel at this time of year. We will take you through the highlights of things to do and places to visit. As well as all those need-to-know essentials on weather, driving and what to pack.
When exactly is fall in Iceland?
Iceland actually has a very short fall season. You will find it sandwiched between a long summer and a somewhat longer winter season. For the purposes of this article we will call fall September and October. However winter can and often does kick in quite sharply around the tail end of October. Once the snows begin many of the roads in Iceland start to close and the country moves swiftly into winter. This can happen as early as mid-October. So on those years the fall season is cut even shorter!
What is the weather like at this time of year?
As mentioned the winter can kick in quite early. But this also works the other way around. At the start of the fall season in September there are often very mild and summery days to enjoy. So it really depends on the luck of the draw.
In general though the temperatures in September and October average out at between 2 and 10 degrees Celsius. Quite a broad range but this is because of the rapid shift from summer into winter. The rainfall at this time of year can often be quite high too. This means that it is not ideal for tent camping.
It is however a great time of year for hiring a motorhome or campervan. You will have that added protection from the elements. The weather in Iceland can get wild. So it is always nice to have more than a thin sheet of canvas between you and it!
In fall the beautiful autumnal colours make sightseeing all the more spectacular. As well as wind and rain clear crisp days are frequent. When it comes to the weather in Iceland it is also known to be very changeable. So storms can blow in quickly but they can dissipate just as swiftly. In the end it all comes down to luck… and some pretty decent all-weather gear!
Driving in Iceland in fall
Fall is one of our favourite times of year for a self-guided road trip in Iceland. Pretty much the whole of the country is open for exploring. You can happily drive the full ring road route and explore the Westfjords too. Depending on the year some of the roads could begin to close around mid-late October. This depends on when the first snows arrive. It is possible that the highland routes might not be accessible. There are also certain passes in the Westfjords that will likely close at some point in October.
If you would like to explore these routes then a little planning will help. All you need to do is start your trip in September. You can then factor in visiting these wilder more remote places earlier in your trip. Keep in mind that it can get stormy in Iceland at any time of year. Roads can close with little warning so you must always be alert when driving in Iceland. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and obey any signage about road closures. There is always a good reason for it!
If you are planning on driving Iceland in October then a 4x4 camper van could be for you. This is certainly the case if you are hoping to drive across the highlands. It is also advisable if you plan on driving the full Ring Road later in October. Exploring the eastern stretches of the country in late October would also be preferable by 4x4 camper. However September is generally a different story and a regular motorhome hire will be just fine for most trips. If you stick to South Iceland and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula then a regular motorhome will be perfect.
Things to do in Iceland in fall
One of the best things about travelling in Iceland at this time of year is the sheer breadth of options. There is just so much to do in fall. The reason for this is that many summer activities are still on the table. While Iceland's winter activities are just getting started. So you really do get the best of both worlds! The cherry on top is that the great outdoors is further beatified by the autumn colours. Believe us, if you’re into Instagram then Iceland in fall might just jam your feed!
Top fall activities in Iceland
Around 10% of Iceland’s landmass is made up of glacier coverage. These icy giants are incredible to see. And experiencing them up close is one of the joys of a trip to Iceland. In fall you have lots of options open to you.
Over at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in east Iceland you can take boat trips to see the glacier. These trips run in summer and into the fall season but are not an option during winter. Around October you can also take glacier-hiking tours across the surface of the ice. You could even try your hand at glacier ice climbing or explore by snowmobile. Another incredible way of experiencing the glacier is via a tunnel or cave beneath the ice.
Day Hiking Expeditions
By the late fall season most multi-day hikes are not an option. There are however multiple day hikes to enjoy. You should come well prepared with good hiking boots, all-weather gear and daypacks. You should also set off early to make the most of the light and pay close attention to the weather forecasts. You will be rewarded with many breath-taking sights as you make your way through Iceland’s incredible wilderness. For some day hike options and tips visit our article – Top Trails for Hiking in Iceland.
Whale Watching Boat Trips
The waters around Iceland are frequented by many species of whale including humpbacks and blue whales. Many whale watching boat trips head out into the bays in both the north and south of the country. The whales begin to leave by late fall but around the start and middle you have a very good chance of seeing them. As long as the sea is calm enough to set sail the boat trips will run.
Serious photographers often choose to visit Iceland in fall specifically to make the most of the scenery and light. The golden foliage of autumn makes compositions all the more spectacular. As the sunrise and sunset draw closer together the golden hours are also extended. On a fine day that low level sunlight sets of shots of waterfalls and glaciers to amazing effect. For more on this visit The Ultimate Guide to Iceland Photography.
Spotting the Northern Lights
Yet another awesome thing about visiting Iceland in fall is that you might just get to see the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis is only visible in a dark night sky. So those visiting in the summer months just won’t get the chance. But as the days shorten in mid-late September and then on into October your chances increase. For the best chance of seeing them head to a location free from artificial light. Campsites close to or within Iceland's national parks are perfect.
Icelandic Horse Riding Tours
A lovely way to see the landscapes at a different pace is to take a horse riding tour. Icelandic horses are famed for being tough, intelligent and friendly. They need to be to contend with some very wild weather conditions! There are many centres around south Iceland especially offering guided horse treks. Even nervous kids will be won over by these friendly beasts. And little legs won’t get tired of walking. This makes it an excellent activity for family travel in Iceland.