What’s Great About Iceland in October?
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
October is a really excellent all-rounder when it comes to visiting Iceland. It is one of the shoulder season months where the season crosses over from summer to winter. This means that visitors to Iceland in October often get the best of both worlds. There are still plenty of daylight hours for road trips and sightseeing and lots of summer activities to enjoy. At the same time, things are just beginning to shift into winter mode. So activities such as ice caving and glacier hiking are just getting going too.
As well as plenty of daylight hours there is a good amount of darkness in October. This means that the likelihood of spotting the Northern Lights is quite high. And seeing the Aurora is a travel bucket-list-worthy activity if ever there were one. As well as the beauty of the Northern Lights October brings with it the wonderful colors of fall. The landscapes are lit up with orange and gold foliage and the sunsets add to the vibrancy of the colours. It is absolutely a favorite time of year for photographers in Iceland.
One final big plus about visiting Iceland in October is budget-based. Everyone knows that prices on this remote island can be somewhat expensive. But if you visit outside of the high season you will find the pricing a little lower. Expenses like accommodation, camper and car rental and campsite charge all ring in a little lower than in summer. There won’t be the summer crowds around the busier places like Reykjavik and the Golden Circle either. All in all, October is a great month to visit Iceland. In this article, we will take you through some of the best things to do in Iceland in October. We will also look in more detail at the daylight hours, the weather and what to pack.
Things to do in Iceland in October
Take a road trip
October is a good time of year for a road trip as long as you can stay flexible. There are a decent amount of daylight hours for cruising around and enjoying the views. And also plenty of hours of darkness for sleeping well if you are camping. If you are hiring a campervan or motorhome you might be more comfortable sticking to shorter drives though. If the weather turns stormy it can really hinder your progress. But if you drive shorter distances this shouldn’t cause you too much stress.
Good options for a short road trip include driving the Golden Circle or heading west to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Alternatively, you might choose to explore the south coast with its lava fields, glaciers, and incredible waterfalls. If you would like to drive the full Ring Road route it is still possible. You will just need plenty of time and some luck with the weather. You’ll be much better off setting off in early October too. By late October there is often quite a bit of snow falling and most of the F roads shut for winter.
Go Icelandic horse riding
A great way to experience the beautiful landscapes of Iceland is to go on a horse riding tour. Seeing the countryside from the saddle is a real back to basics experience that is both relaxing and fun. Icelandic horses are known as hardy creatures with good touches of humor. So they are very much approachable even for nervous first-time riders or kids. Day tours can be booked right around the country.
Take a whale watching tour
Whales frequent the waters around Iceland year-round. But they are definitely much higher numbers from around April to early October. As winter kicks in though fewer whale watching boat trips will run. The seas are far too dangerous and the weather too wild. They do often still run in September and October though. If the weather allows of course!
Hike in the national parks
There are only three national parks in Iceland. This might not sound like a lot but combined they take up a great deal of land and ice cover. Entering the national parks is free and there are miles and miles of hiking trails to explore. October is a good month for hiking as long as you come prepared for all-weather hiking. The days are still sufficiently long for some decent day hikes. The multi-day hikes are not advised at this time of year though.
Hit the hot springs
Iceland’s hot springs really come into their own when the temperature starts to dip. There’s little more exhilarating than stripping off in the chilly air and hopping into a thermally heated hot spring. We’ve all heard of the Blue Lagoon but there are many more thermal pools and hot springs around Iceland. In fact, there are even thermal rivers running through the hills and valleys. In fact, taking a dip in a hot spring is ideal for soaking tired feet and muscles. So it partners very well with a hike.
Hunt for the Northern Lights
With its decent hours of darkness, October is a good month for spotting the Northern Lights. You can join all manner of Aurora hunting tours in Iceland. From group bus trips and private jeep tours to Northern Lights tours on the ocean (weather permitting of course). If you are hiring your own motorhome or camper van and camping out you can easily look for them independently. The campsites in Iceland are usually a good distance from any significant light pollution. So you may be able to simply look out of the camper window and see them dancing across the sky. Download the Aurora Forecast App and for more tips visit our article on ‘Finding the Northern Lights in Iceland’.
Explore a glacier
October sees the crossover from summer to more wintery temperatures. This means that visitors can usually glacier hike at this time of year. If you are traveling in southwest Iceland you can also still enjoy boat trips across the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Events in October
October is quite a quiet month on the Iceland social calendar. The summer festivities are over and the winter festivals haven’t quite gotten started. Having said that it is still a good time to be out and about in the towns and cities. Reykjavik hosts an international film festival that runs into the first week of October. There are all sorts of activities to enjoy and film showings in some very interesting venues. In addition to this, the first week of October sees the lighting up of the Imagine Peace Tower. This memorial to John Lennon shoots a bright column of light up into the night sky.
October weather conditions in Iceland
Here we get to one of the potential downsides of visiting in October… The weather in Iceland is notorious and much like in the UK people spend a lot of time discussing it. This is mainly down to the fact that it is very changeable. It is not unusual to experience several seasons in one day. And it has to be said that October can be a little guilty of this. Records show that there is marginally more rainfall in this month than in most others.
Temperatures are pretty unpredictable too. The average temperature around Reykjavik in October is 4-5 degrees Celsius. It can drop below zero but equally, it can be as mild as 15 degrees Celsius. It really is hard to predict. So visit with an open mind and plenty of wet weather gear. It is usual for the snows to begin in earnest towards the end of the month. So visits earlier in the month are more likely to be milder.
Hours of daylight in October in Iceland
This is the month where things really do shift into winter conditions. And that is true of the daylight hours too. At the beginning of the month, the sun will rise at approximately 7.30 am and set by 7 pm. However, by the close of the month, things will feel very different. The sunrise won’t light up the sky until after 9 am and will set again by 5 pm. This means there are between eight and thirteen hours of sunlight a day in October. The upside of this ratio is that there are a good amount of daylight hours for sightseeing. And it also means that there is a really good chance of seeing the Northern Lights during those long hours of darkness.
What to pack to Iceland
Talking of the Northern Lights if you would like to get serious about photographing them you will need some kit. A decent camera and a tripod for long exposures will reward you with some great shots. Alongside your camera pack a portable or in-vehicle charger for your mobile phone. You will need this for road trips and hiking to stay safe out in the wilds.
When it comes to clothes good sturdy boots are a must. Sightseeing will see you walking across lots of uneven terrains. Good and well worn-in hiking boots are very important if you are planning any day hikes too. Make sure to bring hiking socks as well as other warm socks, hats, and gloves. In addition layer up with microfiber tops and bring the head to toe waterproofs that are also windproof. As long as you are prepared you will have a whale of a time!