Iceland is a beautiful Nordic country that is stunning at any time of the year. It’s one of those countries that deserve a place in your bucket-list and you should consider visiting it once in your lifetime. This tiny country has so much to offer, that you shouldn’t miss. But to leverage your stay and make the most of your trip, visit Iceland in October. Continue reading to find out why it is the BEST time of year to visit Iceland. There are tons of activities, tours and festivals to choose from. Questions about weather, packing, driving conditions, what’s special in Iceland in October, tours, budget everything covered and answered in this post.
Visiting Iceland in October: Why it is the best time of year to go to Iceland?
This picture was taken in Reykjavik – just a few days apart and you can see the contrasting weather.
We did our fair share of research before deciding to book our tickets for Iceland and we are so glad we traveled there in October. We were able to enjoy all the “seasons” in a day, if this was a thing. But we did and we wouldn’t change our plans, if given another chance.
The beauty of visiting Iceland in October is in experiencing variety in the weather conditions. We had experienced sun, rain, flurries and rainbow on the same day in October. October is considered as a transition month – where days are still warm and long and winter has not set in yet. The summers are the busiest months in Iceland and they are – July- August. And winter months, with heavy snow-fall occurs in November-February. In October, you get to experience the best of both worlds – summer and winter.
Here is a little snapshot of how weather looks like in Iceland in all months of the year and its pros and cons.
Why October is the best time to travel to Iceland?
October is the best month to visit Iceland for many reasons. Let me list them out for you!
- October is Off season in Iceland
- Days off in October for your Iceland Trip
- Better deals on flights, hotels and travel packages to Iceland
- Almost most of the tours in Iceland in October are still operating
- Festivals in Reykjavik and generally in Iceland.
October is Off Season in Iceland
As far as tourist’s traffic goes, October is the least busy month in Iceland. The summer rush of tourists are all gone. Things are on the quieter side, before the winter season kicks in. We were amazed to see how we could get our pictures taken, without being photo-bombed. Streets in Reykjavik are usually empty and an ideal time to get some great shots taken.
It is the same for the Icelandic landscape. Get that amazing shot under the Skogarfoss falls, without having to wait for people to step away from your frame.
Days off in October for your Iceland Trip
If you are looking for a quick trip to Iceland –like 3-5 days and do not have much paid time off left from work, then try clubbing your weekend with a statutory holiday. Like Thanksgiving in Canada and Columbus Day in the USA in October. You will have definitely find options to fly out in the evening to maximize your time in Iceland for your short trip using either WowAir or IcelandAir.
Better deals on flights, hotels and travel packages to Iceland
As October is an off-season in Iceland, rest assured to score some great deals for flights, hotels and other vacation packages. When we were looking to book our flights in April of this year, we found that tickets were priced well for September and October. IcelandAir comes out flight deals every three months or so for its North American flyers (US & Canada). And we decided to book flights and hotel together for the two of us for October. WowAir also has some great deals for this time of the year.
For hotels, we chose to stay in downtown Reykjavik. Our room was charged for less then $90 USD or $105 CAD for one night for 2 people. The hotel was located in the heart of the city – great access to bus tours, restaurants and sight-seeing spots like Hallgrímskirkja Church. The hotel room was spacious and came with an attached kitchen, fridge and a TV. You could probably secure a room for less, with a detached bathroom. Ours had an attached bathroom.
You can also find great deals for hostels and airbnbs in Iceland in October. Get your accommodation deals right here
Iceland Tours in October
Most of the tours in Iceland are still in operation in October. Classic day tours like the Golden Circle and South Iceland tours were operating as normal when we were in Iceland. We saw rainbows over the waterfalls, experienced some light flurries and snow on our way and also enjoyed some sunshine at the glacier walk. Access to Snæfellsnes peninsula in West-Iceland via road is also possible in October from Reykjavik.
Multi-day tours to North Iceland are also possible in October. North Iceland’s most stunning sights, such as Lake Myvatn, the waterfalls Dettifoss and Godafoss, etc are open for visitors.
Northern lights tour are offered in winter in Iceland, including October. These tours depart from Reykjavik between 08:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Other winter tours like ice caves, snowmobile and super jeep tours, and glacier lagoon hike tours are also offered.
Food and photography tours are also operating as normal.
To explore Reykjavik, we actually decided to walk around the town. And the weather was manageable to enjoy the city on foot, with less crowd on the roads. It did rain occasionally, so a water proof jacket and shoes are a must (no umbrellas, please and here’s why). It is super windy in Reykjavik and Iceland in general. So water-proof and wind-proof jackets are a must, actually. When we went to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja Church tower, it was very windy. The church tower were operating on winter hours – from 09:30 am to 04:30 pm.
Blue Lagoon also operates with their winter schedule, with their first entry at 08:00 am and goes up to 09:00 pm
Day time tours start as early as 08:00 am and northern lights tour pick up, start as late as 10:00 pm at night.
Full list of Iceland tours by budget and season here
Festivals in Iceland in October
Although a slow tourist season, Iceland has great line –up of festivals in October. During our visit, we were able to participate in a few of them.
- RIFF (Reykjavik International Film Festival) – RIFF opened its doors on September 28 for movie lovers and the festival continued to the first week of October (8th October). RIFF was located in downtown Reykjavik. Films from over 40 countries were showcased in this year’s Film Festival.
- Imagine Peace Tower – The Imagine peace tower is an impressive light tower which is lit every year from October 09 to December 09. This tower was built and dedicated to John Lennon by his widow Yoko Ona. The day the tower is lit is on John Lennon’s birthday, which is October 09th and the day he died – December 09 – the lights are turned off. This impressive beam of light shines through the night sky, with “imagine peace” written in 24 different languages at the base of the light tower.
- Music concerts, shows at Harpa Concert Hall – In October, you can gear up for some music fests and concerts all month long at the Harpa Concert Hall. One of the biggest music festivals in Iceland – Air Waves – is scheduled for early November every year and so you will definitely feel the buzz in the air in October.
What is special in Iceland in October?
Iceland in October will leave you speechless with its many natural phenomenon.
Northern Lights in Iceland
When we were planning out trip to Iceland, we wanted to experience the Northern Lights. So this was a huge item on our bucket list. Northern Lights are visible in Iceland from September to April. We skipped September and decided to book in October (for further surety of chasing Northern Lights) and without being frozen in the winter or having to cancel plans due to road conditions. And we are glad we did that.
We booked a tour to chase northern lights, just outside of Reykjavik. Our tour bus picked us up at 10:00 pm and in about 50 minutes, we were able to see the magical green lights in the sky. The show continued for 2-3 hours and during this time, we saw shooting stars as well. Aren’t we lucky?
As it was almost midnight, there was a chill in the air and it was definitely colder then the day time hours, so dress well.
Our Northern Lights tour was canceled on our scheduled day as it was cloudy. But we were able to take it the next day for free. To leverage your time here for Northern Lights, make sure you book the tour in your first day or so. It is weather dependent, so in case you don’t see it the first day, you can at least experience them the next scheduled day.
Sheep on the roads
During summers, Icelandic countryside is filled with sheep – like everywhere. It makes driving a pain – both for cars and tourist buses. You might also experience traffic delays due to it. In October, the sheep traffic is not crazy. It is manageable without travel interruption.
Also, it is not very cold and so you can see and play with these friendly- fluffy sheep, which is a bonus.
Good day light for photos in Iceland
As October is the cross-over month in Iceland, you will get decent day light to travel and take pictures. Day light hours start at 07:30 am (approx) and it is bright and nice until sunsets at 06:50 pm. This allows you to get great pictures of the Iceland’s natural gems.
As days are still long and bright, you can spend more time in exploring Iceland, rather then wait, thus making the most of your time there.
Experience all seasons in a day
In October, you can experience all seasons in Iceland, sometimes all of them in a day. One fine morning, we were greeted with warm sunshine and we walked the streets of Reykjavik with coffee in hand. Then embarked on our scheduled tour of the South Coast of Iceland.
Half way through the journey, it snowed a little – so all the black and was now covered in white. By the time, we reached Skogarfoss, the snow has stopped, and it did rained a bit while we were there. And before we left, we saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky!
You wont see snow in summers for sure (although it will rain a bit), and during winters the days are short and not too bright. So yea, visit in October to experience all of it and northern lights (don’t let that go)
Warm water, sprinkled with snow
One of life’s luxury is to soak in warm water (full of minerals) while there is a slight drizzle or even white flurries outside. In no spa or any other place can you experience this, but you can in Iceland in October (sorry if its sound corny, but it’s true)
One of Iceland’s tourist magnets are its outdoor pools near geothermal activity. Think of Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon or the Seljavallalaug. They are built near geothermal bodies, so the water here is warm and is filled with essential minerals that are good for your skin. Keeping you warm, whilst it windy or rainy outside.
When we were in Iceland, we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at the Secret Lagoon, soaking in warm water, while it was drizzling in light snow and rain. It was magical. Try it!
Experience Fall in Iceland (or Autumn in Iceland)
Fall in Iceland can be experienced in October as well. One of the stunning things about Iceland are its ever changing landscape. When we explored the countryside, it was filled with fall foliage every where, making it a photographer’s paradise. We enjoyed the Faxi waterfalls and the fields near the stunning towns and villages of Iceland.
Take this image from Vik, for example. It is gorgeous especially with the red church from the hill lock. And it is not busy here, so feel free to pose
Thingellier National Park is another spot where you will fall in love with Iceland’s autumn colors. This place is like out of a movie scene (think: Game of Thrones) – stunning!
There are shades of red, orange and brown colors everywhere during autumn in Iceland. On your way to the tourist sites, you will also notice that the lava fields are covered in green mosses with a slight drizzle of snow here and there.
Things to know before your visit to Iceland in October
Before you book that trip, there a few quick tips for a smooth trip to Iceland in October
Weather in Iceland in October
October is a cross-over and a transition month in Iceland. As for the weather, you can expect temperatures to be as low as 2 degrees Celsius (36 F) and a high temperature of around 7 degrees Celsius (45 F).
With each passing day, the day light will be shorter and shorter. Sun rises at 07:36 am at the start of the month, which are the early weeks of October. As we go further along the way, sun rises after 08:00 from the 20th of October to up to 09:00 am towards the end of the month.
We were in Iceland in the first few weeks of October and enjoyed an early morning sky, filled with pinkish hue.
Similarly the sun sets at 7:00 pm at the start of the month. And as we progress, the days are shorter and shorter with the sun setting at 05:16 pm towards the end of the month in October.
October is also the wettest month in Iceland. It is usually light drizzle leading to pouring rains especially in the middle of the month and end. It is windy too at the same time, so water proof-windproof clothing as usual are your uniforms. But as always, the rain amount depends on which part of Iceland you are visiting. Reykjavik was definitely rainier then the southern country side.
Remember most of Europe experiences rain around this time of the year. We were in Paris, a week before Iceland and it rained there. Same thing in Budapest last year. If you are in Seattle or Vancouver, you know it!
Does it snow in Iceland in October?
October is considered a winter month in Iceland. But it is not really that cold, but definitely windy. And Iceland is the third windiest place on earth and the only most habitable windy place on earth. So you know what I mean. It will be windy – at any time of the year.
Heavy snow in October (like a winter wonderland) would be an exception; but it could happen for a brief period of time and then clear up. (As weather is unpredictable in Iceland). But it is very rare. Historically, Iceland in October is more of a rain and wind weather.
Driving in Iceland in October
It is a dream to drive on the Ring road in Iceland and be mesmerized by the amazing view from your car seat. Most of the tourists’ attractions in Iceland are accessible via road in October. If you plan on driving in Iceland in October, be cautious of the weather and road conditions. Due to drop in temperatures and high probability of rain, the roads are slippery. Add the possibility of light snow and strong winds and a combination of these factors, makes driving a challenge during October.
You are better off to forgo driving in Iceland in winter, if you are not used to the hazardous winter conditions like slippery roads, low visibility, etc. Keep in mind most roads in Iceland have to pass through gravel tracks leading to the natural sightseeing places.
Car Rental in Iceland
If you are comfortable driving in Iceland with these weather and road conditions, then car rental is definitely an option to consider. Here are some helpful tips
- Choose an all wheel vehicle (4 wheel drive)
- Check the weather forecasts (temperature, visibility, sunset, etc.)
- Check road conditions from local news (road block due to avalanches in some areas)
- Get car insurance (CDW – collision damage waiver, gravel and ash insurance)
- Wear seat belts and ensure there is enough gas and food in your vehicle.
Take Tours in Iceland in October
If you don’t want to drive in Iceland, no problem. Tours are a great way to explore Iceland when weather conditions are tricky. This also takes off the burden in preparing your vehicle, road maps, weather forecasts and what not. Leave to the tour operators, stay warm and toasty inside a tour bus or van (if taking a private tour) and enjoy what Iceland has to offer.
Take a look at the all the exciting tours that Iceland has to offer here.
Packing for Iceland in October
Now that I got you all excited about visiting Iceland in October, here are a few tips for packing. Iceland at any time of the year is windy. So wind proof clothes are a must. If you are visiting waterfalls (which I am sure you will be) – water proof clothes are equally important. You will be visiting Iceland at the wettest time of the year, so you can definitely carry a poncho or good water proof shoes and clothing. Umbrellas are almost useless here, due to the wind.
Make sure your day –packs and your backpacks are water proof as well. Same goes for your camera and other equipment and gear protection.
- 1 windproof- water proof jacket
- 1-2 light sweater/s
- 1-2 thermal wear (top & bottom)
- 1-2 waterproof pant/s
- Warm scarf for any time of day or in-flight
- Warm socks
- Sturdy waterproof shoes or boots
- Beanie or hat
- Good Moisturizer
- Hair ties (for girls – it is windy)
- No Umbrellas, may be poncho if you like
I hope you found this post helpful in deciding when to travel to Iceland. We had an amazing time in October in Iceland and we wouldn’t change our plans. Hope you get to Iceland soon and enjoy your visit as much as we did.
Here are additional readings for Iceland
- Iceland Itinerary Ideas
- Travel Tips for Iceland – an extensive guide
- Everything you need to know about Iceland Guided Tours
- Traveling to Iceland and need a Visa? Get the scoop on Schengen Visa here
Last Update: December 04 2018
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