Iceland in September: The Ultimate Fall Travel Guide

The amount of hype that has surrounded Iceland travel has left me completely engrossed in the landscape, culture, and attitude of the country. Iceland is a fascinating place with gorgeous scenery, diverse activities, and a uniquely hospitable culture.

For these reasons and many more, I made the decision to travel to Iceland. After much deliberation, I discovered that, for my needs, September was the ideal month to visit. Now, all that remained was to answer a few burning questions:

  • How do I pack for a trip to Iceland in September?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to Iceland travel in September?
  • What can I do in Iceland in September besides hunt down the Northern Lights?

After a good bit of Internet research, I made some solid discoveries. Now, I am ready to hop on the next Iceland flight and have a wonderful fall adventure!

Weather in Iceland in September

The Icelandic weather in September was by far the most difficult sell for me. I am a spring child, not meant for the cold. However, the price of toting around a thick wool sweater was the explosion of autumnal colors in beautiful Iceland.

With the number of parks and landscapes that Iceland has, the country is an amalgamation of vibrant green, burning red, flaming orange, and golden yellow.

The weather in Iceland in September comes with an increased chance of already ever-present rain, as the temperature declines from the late summer comfort.The average high temperature in September is 11°C (51.8°F), and the average low is 6°C (42.8°F). The temperature varies by roughly ten degrees in either direction through the course of the day.

Luckily for most, the temperature range makes snowfall extremely unlikely. Unless snow arrives unseasonably early, the roads in Iceland should remain completely open for travel and operational.

What to Pack for Iceland in September

Keeping the above weather in mind, I prepared a list of different items that were essential to pack. The climate of Iceland can be a bit unpredictable and uncomfortable in September. For this reason, I was advised to dress in layers, to adjust to the chilly, spring air.

A pair of functional, comfortable shoes for hiking and exploring is non-negotiable. If you are wanting to see all of the hidden gems that Iceland has to offer, you’ll require the right shoes for the job.

It is unlikely that there will be snow in September, unless encountering the towering mountains in places such as Landmannalaugar. However, it can still get nippy, so a jacket is also needed for Iceland travel in September.

I would advise a coat that has an optional fluffy and fleece-like inside that is detachable to adjust to the weather. Extra points if you can find one that is waterproof with a windbreaker-like material, as the wind and rain can quickly put a damper on your day.

I would be remiss if I did not also suggest that you wear fleece leggings and thicker socks (give wool a try). Additionally, when layering don’t forget a hat, scarf and gloves to keep you comfortable against the sometimes-harsh Icelandic weather.

Getting Wet

Iceland is also well known for its geothermal waters, so I would highly suggest bringing along a swimsuit and cover-up to take advantage of everything the beautiful country has to offer. If you’re doing the Ring Road, in addition to the Blue Lagoon, we also suggest the Myvatn Nature Baths, and have developed a pros and cons list to compare and contrast the two.

One final takeaway for clothing to pack for Iceland in September is waterproof everything. This is not only due to the wind and rain as a likely power duo, but also because Iceland has many incredible hikes that take place near waterfalls, beaches, and rivers. These bodies of water will not be frozen in September, so getting wet is a definite probability.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Iceland in September

There are some definite advantages and disadvantages present in visiting Iceland in the fall, specifically September. While the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages, we would be remiss if we failed to point them out.

Disadvantages of Traveling to Iceland in September

The Icelandic weather is notorious for its unpredictability. It should always be expected to deal with windy and horizontal rains, regardless of the season of travel.

While I thoroughly enjoy a nice cup of coffee while listening to the rain bouncing off the roof, most of the best Iceland activities require you to be exposed to the elements. This means running the risk of some incredibly waterlogged and chilly days.

During summer months, from May to August, the sun only sets for three or so hours each day. Effectively, in the summer the sunlight in Iceland is bright enough to perform most activities around the clock. In comparison, mid-winter has about five hours of daylight. In September, darkness returns to Iceland, making the light needed to explore a more limited commodity than in the summer time.

Additionally, visiting Iceland in September will be too late in the season for several attractions, including tours of inactive volcanoes, most caving excursions, glacier walking, ice caves and more. It is generally, however, more difficult to reach the inner, remote areas of Iceland in autumn, though, due to the risk of icy roads.

Advantages of Traveling in Iceland in September

For all the disadvantages listed above, there are far more advantages to traveling to Iceland in September. There is less traffic (at least in Reykjavik during rush hours), as most Icelanders return to work. Additionally, September starts the off-season for tourism, meaning the tourist numbers on the road and in attractions begins to thin out.

Also, being the start of the Iceland travel off-season, Iceland in September means less expensive travel. This makes it appealing to those on limited budgets, and our friends over at the Shoestrong subreddit.

To note, autumn starts a truly beautiful time in Iceland. It is also berry picking season. Blueberries, crowberries, red currants and more begin growing wild all through the country, and are ripe for the picking.

The temperatures remain nice, and the weather is generally more sunny and warm than late fall into the spring in Iceland. This means you may see snow, but also may have times where the temperature rises into the 70s (Fahrenheit) towards the middle of the day.

Northern Lights in Iceland in September

The Northern Lights have enchanted masses of tourists in northern regions of the world. They form as a product of solar wind flowing through atomic particles from the sun’s surface. These particles travel at very high speeds when approaching earth, but are them repelled by the gravitational field.

iceland airbnb

When these charged particles collide with gas molecules, energy is released in the form of visibly fluorescent light. Seeing the Northern Lights in September is tricky, and is entirely dependent on the lack of light through the night. One if the big draws for Iceland adventures in summertime is the abundance of daylight. A downside of this is the Northern Lights are virtually impossible to see most of the summer.

northern lights akureyri

However, once September hits, things change. In Iceland, the volume of light pollution is far lower than most places on earth. This allows for a more vivid viewpoint of the Northern Lights. In Iceland in September, the daylight hours start to decrease. With greater numbers of hours for astronomical, civil, and nautical twilight, the odds of the aurora borealis being seen are far greater.

Weather Reporting and Location, Location, Location

Icelandic weather reporting will include the opportunity of seeing the Northern Lights wherever you are in Iceland for the upcoming few days. For this reason, it’s important to keep an eye on these forecasts when traveling in this beautiful country.

One of the best tips for increased visibility of the Northern Lights in Iceland in September is location. Travel outside Reykjavik to severely cut down on even minimal light pollution potential that might obstruct your viewpoint. We have two great articles on this:

Festivals and Events in Iceland in September

There is so much to take advantage of in Iceland outside the return of the Northern Lights. Iceland is privileged with diverse experiences for its visitors and residents. In September, many of the attractions that were available in the summer time are still open. This includes waterfalls, lagoons, hot springs, rivers, beaches and more.

Additionally, September in Iceland opens up the opportunity for some wonderful local festivals, including:

  • The Night of Lights Festival
  • The Tene-Rif Music Festival
  • Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF)
  • Icelandic Oktoberfest
  • Bears on Ice
  • Rettir (sheep round-up)

The Night of Lights Festival

The Night of Lights Festival features local artists displaying works from galleries all over Iceland. Additionally, there are many talented musicians putting on performances, and an abundance of local fare.

There are also many classic cars on display, carnival rides and attractions, and a renowned fireworks display occurring at the end of the evening.

The Tene-Rif Music Festival

The Tene-Rif Music Festival is also in Iceland in September. This festival is mostly a karaoke party that takes place over the course of two days. It features many new and popular local Icelandic bands. If you prefer to sit back and enjoy the show, Iceland has a festival for that too.

Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF)

Reykjavík International Film Festival, or RIFF. This festival is also hosted in Iceland in September. It is Iceland’s largest film festival for the University of Iceland’s Oktoberfest. They show around a hundred films from varying genres from all over the country over the course of eleven days.

Icelandic Oktoberfest

Yes, I did mention Oktoberfest. Iceland has their version of this festival. The Icelandic Oktoberfest or Oktoberfest SHÍ started as a small group gathering amongst students studying German at the local university in Reykjavik.

Now, around 20,000 beers are consumed at the new-and-improved Oktoberfest each year. The festival lasts from Thursday to Saturday and is visited by thousands of locals and tourists.

Bears on Ice

There is also an event called Bears on Ice, which is an LGBTQL+ event in Iceland. There are three Pride-related festivals in Iceland. However, Bears on Ice is the only male-only event for the LGBTQL+ community.

Rettir (Icelandic Sheep Round-Up)

If you were on the lookout for a far more culturally-immersive opportunity, this is it. There is an experience in Iceland called “Rettir”. This occurs in the middle of September. It’s an annual sheep round-up that takes place nationwide.

The sheep are released by Icelandic farmers in the summer, and are free-roaming. You may have noticed this on your Ring Road journey. However, in the fall, the farmers must herd their sheep back.

Local farmers invite their friends and family (and sometimes lucky tourists) to partake in this activity. Shepherds on horseback with their trusted sheepdogs herd these sheep back to the sorting fold.

All farmers mark their sheep such that, at the sorting fold, they can be reclaimed. From here, the sheep are “stored” for the winter in their relevant farms. Think of it as a massive living lost and found.

Guided Tours in Iceland in September

Many tourists like to play it safe at least once or twice when visiting a new country. Iceland should be no different. Iceland in September is a wonderful time to take a few guided tours. After all, not everything is “a solo adventure off the beaten path”.

As previously mentioned, there are some guided tours that can only be experienced in the spring and summer in Iceland. However, the number of tours that are available in the fall in Iceland make the loss of some barely noticeable.

There are plenty of “off-season” tours available for tourists in Iceland in September. This includes aerial tours, hiking, horseback riding, and some glacier tours.

Note: be sure to check the website of the parks because sometimes these are closed due to weather. One hike that tends to remain open at this time is a glacial hiking tour to Sólheimajökull Glacier.

Golden Circle Tour in September

The Golden Circle tour takes participants on routes that include Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir National Park, amongst other attractions. These are the “Big Three” of the Golden Circle, and are quite impressive on their own.

  • Gullfoss is the second biggest glacier and includes a picturesque waterfall with a 105 foot drop. These falls produce vibrant rainbows in its spray.
  • Geysir is a famous multi-colored collection of hot springs residing in the Haukadalur Valley. Geysir rarely erupts now, instead it sprays water every 10-15 minutes. And yes, it is the reason that “geysers” are called geysers.
  • Thingvellir National Park hosts multiple guided tours to explore the many trails of the park. This is one of the only places in the world where you can view major tectonic plates drifting above sea level.

Also on the Golden Circle is the Silfra Fissure. Here, one can receive Scuba tours that allow you to dive between tectonic plates. More about this can be read in our post Diving Iceland’s Silfra Fissure.

Whale Watching Tours in September

Another great tour option in Iceland in September are the whale watching tours available in almost every water touched region of Iceland.

The whales of Iceland remain active through autumn. Those on tours have a great chance of seeing these gentle giants in the fall.

Speaking of the sea, there are fishing day tours available through September. On these tours, you can get firsthand experience catching wild trout and salmon in the local rivers. These tours are great for beginners.

Iceland in September is Wonderful

All in all, the variety of events to take part in, the culture to experience, and the multitude of tours to occupy your time make September the perfect time to visit Iceland.

The weather is just chilly enough to enjoy the outdoors without peeling the clothes off in a sweaty heap. However, it’s not cold enough to where you would shiver and be miserable. If you love beautiful landscapes, vibrant culture,  and wildlife, this is the time and place for you.

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