Iceland in May: Best time to visit to beat the summer rush
It’s no secret that Iceland is a popular destination. In recent years, the number of visitors has increased exponentially. With so many people flocking to this Nordic nation, you might be wondering when the best time to visit is. And we’re here to share our insights and experiences on visiting Iceland in May!
May is considered to be one of the best months to visit Iceland because the weather is so pleasant.
During this time of year, there are longer daylight hours and wonderful summer activities without an expensive price tag. We will share all the travel tips to help you plan your May Iceland itinerary!
Visiting Iceland in May: Travel Tips + Things to do in Iceland in May
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
We have explored Iceland in different seasons, and still feel that a crossover month or the shoulder season is the best time to visit.
May is off-season, and huge crowds of people are unexpected in this month.
It is considered a spring season – sort of a transition month.
But when you are in Iceland in May, you will know it is more of a summer month – long daylight hours, no snow, warmer temperatures, and no winter-related activities and tours.
But because the summers have not kicked in yet – you can take advantage of fewer crowds, better accommodation, car rental deals, and more.
Summer months are from June, and the period from July to August is the busiest in Iceland. This is when hotels and car rentals are expensive.
Here is a little snapshot of what the weather looks like in Iceland in all months of the year and its pros and cons.
Snapshot: Iceland Seasons
What season is Iceland in May – Experience warmer days in Iceland
Iceland experiences all 4 seasons, and May is a spring month.
During this month, you can expect cities, and natural sites to be clear of snow and the weather to be warm for sightseeing and exploring outdoors.
All the natural sites and excursions are open such as hikes, ATV rides, classic tours, food tours, and more!
Although the days are longer, Iceland will still be windy, and slightly chilly when you move away from the capital city.
Iceland May Weather and Temperatures
- Average Temperature (Low) 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 F)
- Average Temperature (High) 10 degrees Celsius (50 F)
- Rain in Iceland – There is very little rain in Iceland in May, making it one of the dry months. The occasional rain and snow are very light, and only show up in the mountains
Reasons to visit Iceland in May
May and generally spring months are one of the best months to visit Iceland for many reasons. Let me list them for you!
- May is an offseason in Iceland with better deals on flights, hotels, and travel packages
- Planning a trip with a long weekend or 5 days in Iceland (tips)
- All the summer activities and excursions can be done in May without the hassle
- Perfect for a road trip in Iceland
- Festivals in Iceland in May
May is Off-Season in Iceland with better deals on flights, hotels, and travel packages
We all know that Iceland isn’t the cheapest place to visit. But did you know that prices are actually lower in the shoulder season?
That’s right. May is an off-season – which is good news for you – if you are planning a trip. Because hotels and car rentals are decently priced, and not super expensive.
During my trip, I was able to book a spacious hotel at around $100 USD per night in the heart of downtown Reykjavik – which was great!
The same apart-hotel was around $175 to $200 USD in the prime summer months.
I stayed at the Guesthouse Sunna and it was super easy to walk around and get to places including day tours to venture outside the capital city.
Being an off-season, you will find ample options for accommodation and restaurants at a decent price.
And not only hotels, but you can also surely score a great flight deal or a stopover package to Keflavik.
IcelandAir comes out with flight deals every three months or so for its North American flyers (US & Canada), so keep an eye out for that.
The same goes for flights from/to Europe.
Plus getting in and out of the airport will be a breeze, and so will finding parking space in popular attractions sites.
Many tour operators also run special offers on excursions before the peak season, so it is perfect to take advantage of before the madness of the summer months kicks in!
Planning a trip with a long weekend or more (tips)
May isn’t the first choice when people are planning their trip to Iceland. Many either prefer winter for cold-related activities or July/summer months when kids are off school.
But…..we recommend taking a second look at the month of May. Prices in May vs summer will be a huge difference – so you will be saving money when visiting this month.
Secondly, Iceland as a country is not huge. If you are planning to drive on the Ring Road, you can do so in 3-5 days.
The same is true if you are using day tours to explore. You can easily visit Iceland on a three-day weekend from the US or Canada.
Our very first trip to Iceland was for 3 days over a Thanksgiving Day long weekend. If you can squeeze in another day or two – even better. Here are sample itineraries for spending 5 days in Iceland.
So the month of May is great to explore Iceland in warm weather without the rush and prices of the summer months!
Iceland Tours in May
All of the summer tours, excursions, and cruises are open in May. Of course, you can’t miss out on the classic day tours like the Golden Circle and the south coast if this is your first time in Iceland.
As the temperatures are warm, you can venture outdoors and soak in everything that Iceland has to offer – walk behind waterfalls, and black sand beaches, experience midnight summer days, and more.
Multi-day tours to North Iceland are also open in May. You can check off stunning attractions such as Lake Myvatn, the waterfalls Dettifoss and Godafoss, or go on whale watching.
Whale or puffin watching season is in full swing in the month of May. You can join them from Akureyri – and choose from a full-day or half-day tour (via cruise boat).
Don’t miss the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland – May is perfect to drive there, go on a short hike, or more!
Take a look at all the exciting tours that Iceland has to offer
- Classic Golden Circle Tour – One of the most popular tours is the Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik. On this route, you can visit the Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and the stunning Gullfoss waterfalls. Click to view this tour
- South Coast Tour: In this excursion, you can check off waterfalls like Skogafoss, and Seljalandsfoss with a stop at the village of Vik and the black sand beach of Reynisfjara. Here is the South Coast of Iceland tour
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Full-Day Tour from Reykjavik – Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is an easy day trip idea from the capital city. You can check off Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Diamond Beach, and more. Plus when the weather conditions are favorable you can also reserve a spot on a cruise boat. Book this tour here
- Ice Cave tour options – In May you can join ice cave tours in two places in Iceland. These are man-made ice caves that are accessible all year round. You can book a tour from Reykjavik – Langjökull Glacier Ice Cave Walking Tour and Katla Ice Cave tour
- Whale watching tours: Whale and puffin-watching tours are open in Iceland in May. Book them as a full-day or half-day excursion. Book this tour, when leaving from Reykjavik and this one from Akureyri
All the geothermal spas in Iceland are open, from the Blue Lagoon to Sky Lagoon and the Myvatn Nature Baths. We recommend booking a slot in the morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler!
Full list of Iceland tours by budget and season here
Other winter tours like ice caves, snowmobile, super jeep tours, and glacier lagoon hike tours are also offered.
Experience the best of summer conditions
Summer months = longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures, no snow, and maybe camping, this is what you can expect in Iceland in May, but without a lot of crowds.
But there is more – you can also experience the unique midnight summer in Iceland as early as May.
Midnight summer is when the sun remains visible even at night, providing endless hours of daylight.
For nature lovers, this is a perfect time to explore the country’s incredible landscapes.
In May, the weather is also milder than in other months, making it more comfortable to hike and camp. And with the longer days, there’s plenty of time to pack in all sorts of activities.
Festivals in Iceland in May
Iceland has a cool list of events and festivals that you can enjoy in May. Here is what you can expect
- International Day of the Icelandic Horse: Held on May 1 every year, this event celebrates the Icelandic Horse. You can participate by joining informative sessions (like open-house days) conducted in stables. And once done you can also meet cute horses!
- Reykjavik Arts Festival: This festival kicks off in the middle of May, and showcases a variety of national and international fine arts from dance, to theatre, and design. Reykjavik is decorated in festive lights and there are events (paid) that you can check out.
- I never went south: Hosted in Isafjordur, I never went south is a popular rock music festival that takes place during the Easter weekend (if Easter falls in April then the festival will be hosted in Iceland in April)
- Saga Festival: Saga is a music festival that is held annually in Stokkseyri. This fest features 60+ musicians from the villages of Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri showcasing their talent!
- Gardabaer Jazz Festival: Another music festival – this one is for jazz lovers. Entry is free and it kicks off in Gardabaer in the evening!
Things to do in Iceland in May: What to expect in May in Iceland
Leaving aside snow, and super cold temperatures (and northern lights) Iceland in May will delight you with all the amazing activities that this country is known for!
Here is what you must not miss,
Visit the attractions on the Golden Circle route
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland, and for good reason. The route takes in some of the country’s most iconic sites, including the Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and the stunning Gullfoss waterfalls.
Þingvellir is renowned for its beautiful scenery and rich history; it was here that the world’s first parliament was established in 930 AD.
Geysir is home to a number of active geysers, including the famous Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes.
Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls, with a two-tiered cascade that tumbles 32 metres into a crevice in the earth.
Whether you’re looking to admire Iceland’s natural beauty or learn about its fascinating history, the Golden Circle is sure to impress.
Go chasing waterfalls near Reykjavik
Super close to Reykjavik is the bucket list waterfalls on Iceland’s south coast.
Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are two of the most popular falls, and both are easily accessible from Reykjavik. You can also book a full-day tour here.
Seljalandsfoss can be seen from the main road, and Skogafoss is just a short walk from the parking lot.
Be sure to wear waterproof clothing so that you can walk behind the waterfalls, or enjoy a hike!
The small village of Vik in south Iceland is home to Reynisfjara black sand beach and you can see basalt columns here, or go shopping for traditional souvenirs.
Enjoy Iceland Ring Road trip highlights (good road conditions and daylight hours)
There’s something special about Iceland that keeps drawing people back. Maybe it’s the raw, untamed beauty of the landscape.
Or the way that, despite its small size, the country seems to offer an endless variety of things to see and do.
Whatever the reason, Iceland is an increasingly popular destination for summer road trips.
In May, you can rent a car or campervan for cheaper and experience the best sites on the Ring Road.
The Ring Road is a circular route that encircles Iceland. The route takes you past some of Iceland’s most iconic sights, including glaciers, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and geothermal springs.
You’ll also have a chance to see some of the country’s wildlife, including puffins, and whales.
Plus, you’ll get to experience Icelandic culture firsthand, whether it’s enjoying a traditional meal or soaking in a geothermal hot spring.
You can drive non-stop for 24+ hours to complete the route, but take it slow – stop and stay overnight in small towns, enjoy hikes or just take a break!
In May, roads are all accessible so you must extend your Iceland road trip itinerary by venturing inland and beyond!
Go on whale watching tours | Whale watching in Iceland
May is perfect to go whale watching. The whale watching season in Iceland is from April to September.
The country’s long coastline and rich marine life make it a hot spot for whale sightings, and there are plenty of tour operators offering boat trips.
Whale-watching tours are conducted in 2-4 hour excursions and you can book them from Reykjavik and Akureyri. Because it is like a half-day tour, you can either join them in the morning or afternoon.
Note: If you were unable to sight any whales on the day of the excursion, then you can rejoin the tour on the next available day for free.
Meet puffins in Iceland
Every summer, thousands of tourists flock to Iceland in hopes of seeing one of the country’s most iconic animals: the puffin. These charming birds can be found in many areas around the country, but the best place to see them is on the island of Látrabjarg.
The cliffs of Látrabjarg are home to a large colony of puffins, and visitors can get an up-close look at these fascinating creatures.
Puffins are super cute, with brightly colored beaks and feathers. They are excellent swimmers and spend most of their time at sea, only coming ashore to mate and raise their young.
They are curious birds, and they are not afraid to approach humans. This makes them a favorite among birdwatchers, who come from all over the world to see these unique animals in their natural habitat.
Seal watching in Iceland
From whales, and puffins to seals, you can see it all in Iceland.
Seals can be seen in Iceland all year round (in specific places/beaches), but April and May are particularly good months for seal watching, as that is when the seal pups are born.
People come from all over the world to watch seals in Iceland at Ytri-Tunga (Snaefellsnes peninsula) and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
These sites are protected by law, so it is important to be respectful when viewing them.
If you keep your distance and don’t disturb their habitat, you are sure to have a memorable experience watching these amazing animals.
Soak in the healing waters
The geothermal waters of Iceland have been used for centuries to relax and rejuvenate the body.
From the Blue Lagoon, and Sky Lagoon to Husafell Canyon Baths and other popular geothermal spas are open in May, and some are late into the evenings (thanks to the midnight sun).
As Icelandic hot pools and spas are a must-do activity for many, we recommend booking your entry slots ahead of time to suit your trip schedule.
Join man-made ice cave tours in May
Although May is too late for enjoying ice cave tours on a natural site, there are two spots where you can go ice-caving all year long.
And trust us touring an ice cave is one of the most unique and unforgettable experiences that Iceland has to offer. Thankfully you don’t have to visit in the dead of winter months to join these tours.
Vatnajökull National Park, for example, is home to some of the most popular and accessible ice caves in Iceland and they offer excursions (half-day to full-day tours) led by an expert guide.
Katla Ice Cave tour is another excursion to book in May. Find more details here
Go diving and snorkeling in Iceland
It’s well known that Iceland is a land of fire and ice, with steaming lava fields and glaciers covering much of the country. But what many people don’t know is that Iceland is also home to some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world.
The crystal-clear waters of the North Atlantic are teeming with marine life, and the dramatic volcanic coastline provides a stunning backdrop for underwater adventures.
One of the best places for snorkeling is near Reykjavik. Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Thingvellir National Park, Silfra is the only place in the world where you can snorkel between tectonic plates.
The water is crystal clear, thanks to the glaciers that feed into it, and the underwater visibility is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
When you book a tour on the South Coast, you can also add a Silfra snorkeling experience. This is something that can be done all year round, and its waters are also cold….year round….
So in May with warmer temperatures during the day, it is worth checking it off your Iceland bucket list!
Here is the Silfra fissure snorkeling excursion to book
Enjoy fishing in May
May is an excellent month to fish in Iceland. The country has excellent river fishing, as well as opportunities to fish in the ocean.
There are different seasons for fishing in this Nordic nation. The main brown trout and arctic char season starts in May and ends in mid-September.
All fishing in Iceland is private and fishing times are decided by landowners. To get the best results on your fishing trip, we recommend booking a guided fishing tour in advance.
Things to know before your visit to Iceland in May
Now that you are all excited about visiting Iceland in May, let’s get you ready with some practical information and travel tips,
Weather in Iceland in May
May is a spring month in Iceland. But as the warmer temperatures are here it also marks the beginning of Iceland’s summer season.
As compared to winter or April, you will be blessed with longer daylight hours. However, it’s not so warm that you’ll be uncomfortably hot.
You can expect the temperature to be as low as 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 F) and a high temperature of around 10 degrees Celsius (50 F).
With each passing day, the daylight hours will be longer and longer. Sunrises at 05:00 am in May, and the sunsets at 11:00 pm or later – giving you the golden glow of the midnight sun.
Towards the end of May, you may only have 4 hours of darkness/nighttime.
There is also little to no rain in Iceland in May.
We still recommend a waterproof jacket and comfortable shoes with you at all times of the month, especially as you will be venturing into the natural sites where windy conditions are possible.
Driving in Iceland in May – Can you drive around Iceland in May
Most of Iceland’s major roads will be open during the month of May. However, some of the country’s smaller and more remote roads may still be closed due to snow or ice. Be sure to check the status of your intended route before setting out.
May is technically a shoulder season, so there may be fewer services available than during peak tourist season. This includes everything from gas stations to restaurants to hotels.
Campervan & Car Rentals in Iceland
Although not a busy season, we do recommend reserving your car rental prior to your trip to Iceland. By doing so you can score a discount online.
Campervans or motorhomes can be rented around this time. However, keep in mind that many campsites still operate on a winter schedule in May.
It is possible that not a lot of sites may be open though around this time. Typically, June to August are the prime months for camping!
Take Tours in Iceland in May
If you don’t want to drive in Iceland, no problem.
Small group tours are a great way to explore Iceland. In the off-season months, all tours are operating as usual.
We recommend booking tours early as sometimes they need at least a minimum number of participants to confirm the excursion.
I traveled to Iceland in May solo, and some tours require at least 2 people to confirm the booking. If that’s the case I recommend reaching out to the operator so that they can help out.
What to pack for Iceland in May
Last quick tip – remember to pack the right gear for your trip. Don’t leave your warm clothing as the temperatures are warmer……………so here is the packing list.
Packing list: What to pack for a May Iceland trip
- 1 windproof- waterproof jacket – Here is my favorite – buy it here
- 1-2 light sweater/s – This will be useful for layering and for use indoors
- 1 waterproof pant/s – They are handy when hiking near waterfalls. Shop waterproof pants here
- Accessories – Warm scarf, a cute beanie or two
- Warm socks – Try these thermal socks available for both women and men
- Sturdy waterproof shoes or boots such as this one
Note: Make sure your daypacks and backpacks are waterproof, along with a rain cover for your camera gear.
Is May a Good Time to Visit Iceland?
May is a great month to visit Iceland. So the answer is yes— but with a few caveats.
The weather is usually milder than it is in other months, making it a great time to visit if you want to avoid the coldest temperatures.
Additionally, many of the country’s attractions are open during this time of year, so you’ll have plenty to see and do during your trip.
Although the weather in May is milder than in some other months, it can still be unpredictable. Be sure to pack warm clothes that you can layer, as well as rain gear, no matter what time of year you visit Iceland.
Additionally, remember that because Iceland is located in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are longer this time of year—which means that if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the midnight sun.
So that’s a wrap! We hope you found this post useful in planning your trip to Iceland!
Other posts from our Iceland Travel Guide
- Iceland Itinerary – 3 days in Iceland Itinerary | 8 day Iceland itinerary
- Iceland Tip Planning – Travel Tips for Iceland – an extensive guide
- Iceland Tours – Everything you need to know about Iceland Guided Tours
- Iceland Winter Tours – Read about the top Iceland Winter Tours or Guide to visiting in October
- Reyjkavik Budget Guide – Get the list of things that you can do in Reykjavik for free