Iceland in October experiences a shift towards winter, with cooler temperatures and fewer daylight hours. However, this is also a great time to witness the spectacular autumn foliage, as well as the Northern Lights. While some popular attractions may begin to close for the season, there are still plenty of unique experiences to be had.
But is the weather too harsh? Here’s what you need to know about visiting Iceland in October.
About Iceland in the Fall
Iceland in the fall is a magical time to visit, with fewer crowds and stunning autumnal scenery. September sees the start of the Northern Lights season, while October offers beautiful fall foliage and whale watching opportunities. November marks the start of winter, but it’s still a great time to visit for those who don’t mind the cold.
One of the biggest draws of Iceland in the fall is the beautiful fall foliage. From the golden birch forests of Akureyri to the vibrant red and orange hues of Reykjavik’s city parks, visitors will be in awe of the stunning natural colors on display.
It’s also a great time to experience Iceland’s wildlife, with whale watching tours available in several locations and bird migrations passing through the country. And of course, for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, fall is the perfect time to visit as the skies grow darker and clearer.
With fewer crowds and a slower pace of life, fall is the perfect time to experience Iceland’s natural beauty at its finest.
For a deeper dive into the best time to visit Iceland, please see our comprehensive guide to the best time to visit Iceland.
Pros and Cons of Iceland in October
As with any month of the year, there are going to be advantages and potential disadvantages to exploring Iceland in October. Keep in mind, every month is wildly different for Icelandic adventures. October is no exception. Below are some of the pros and potential cons of Iceland in October.
Iceland in October: Pros
October is a great time to experience Iceland’s fall colors. The countryside is covered in vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds, making for some truly stunning scenery. It’s also a quieter time of year, so you can enjoy the natural beauty without as many crowds. The days are still relatively long, giving you plenty of daylight hours to explore.
In addition to the fall foliage, October is a great time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. The nights are getting longer and colder, creating ideal conditions for this natural phenomenon.
You can take a Northern Lights tour or go on your own to a dark spot outside the city to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis. Additionally, October is a good time to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and horseback riding before the winter weather sets in.
Iceland in October: Cons
Visiting Iceland in October also has some potential downsides to keep in mind. The weather can be quite unpredictable, with a mix of sunny days and rain, snow, or hail. It can also get quite windy, especially along the coast.
This can make outdoor activities uncomfortable or even dangerous. Additionally, as October falls within the shoulder season, some tourist services may have limited hours or be closed altogether. This can affect things like public transportation, guided tours, and restaurants.
Finally, while the fall colors are beautiful, they can make hiking trails slippery and muddy, making hiking more difficult and potentially hazardous.
Events in Iceland in October
There are plenty of events taking place throughout Iceland in the month of October. Here are just a few of the events in Iceland in October:
- Iceland Airwaves – One of Iceland’s biggest music festivals, featuring local and international artists, takes place in Reykjavik in early October.
- Reykjavik International Film Festival – A celebration of independent cinema from around the world, held annually in the capital city.
- The Northern Lights Season – October marks the beginning of the prime Northern Lights viewing season in Iceland.
- Arctic Circle Assembly – A conference focused on Arctic issues, held annually in Reykjavik in mid-October.
- Reykjavik Jazz Festival – A week-long celebration of jazz music, featuring both local and international performers.
- The Reykjavik International Literary Festival – A biennial event that brings together writers from Iceland and around the world for readings, lectures, and discussions.
- Reykjavik International Games – A multi-sport event held in Reykjavik featuring athletes from Iceland and around the world.
- Halloween – While not an official holiday in Iceland, Halloween is celebrated in many parts of the country with parties and other events.
Tips for Visiting Iceland in October
If you’re planning to visit Iceland in October, here are some tips to make the most of your trip. The weather in Iceland in October is cool and crisp, and the days are getting shorter. While the peak tourist season has passed, there are still plenty of things to see and do.
One of the top attractions in Iceland in October is the Northern Lights. As the nights get longer, the chances of seeing this natural phenomenon increase. To improve your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, head out to a dark spot away from city lights and check the forecast before going.
Another must-visit attraction is the Icelandic countryside. October is a great time to explore the stunning landscapes and natural wonders of Iceland without the crowds of the high season. From waterfalls to glaciers to geysers, there’s no shortage of amazing sights to see.
Be prepared for chilly weather by packing plenty of warm clothing, including layers, hats, gloves, and a good pair of boots. It’s also a good idea to rent a 4×4 vehicle for exploring the more remote parts of the country.
Finally, keep in mind that some popular tourist attractions and accommodations may have shorter hours or even be closed during the off-season. Be sure to check ahead of time and plan accordingly. With a little preparation, visiting Iceland in October can be a magical experience.
As always, if you’re looking to get up-to-date information on the unpredictable weather in Iceland, there is one primary source. That source is Vedur.is.
Visiting in September Instead
September marks the start of the off-season in Iceland, with fewer tourists and lower prices. However, the weather can still be unpredictable, with occasional storms and cooler temperatures.
While the Northern Lights season technically starts in September, they are not as visible as they are later in the year. Visitors in September can still enjoy the beautiful fall colors and the changing landscape as the country prepares for the winter months.
For a deeper dive, please see our full article on Iceland in September.
Visiting in November Instead
November is the start of Iceland’s winter season, and while it is colder, the scenery is beautiful with snow-capped mountains and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.
Visitors can also experience the unique Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð, or “Christmas book flood”, where locals exchange books as gifts before Christmas. November also marks the beginning of the holiday season, with Christmas markets and festivities starting towards the end of the month.
For a deeper dive, please see our full article on Iceland in November.
Our Final Thoughts
Overall, visiting Iceland in October can be a great option for those looking to avoid the crowds of the peak summer season and experience the beautiful autumn landscapes. However, travelers should be prepared for colder temperatures and potentially stormy weather.
To make the most of a trip to Iceland in October, it is important to pack warm clothing and plan activities and tours ahead of time. Additionally, visitors should be aware of the limited daylight hours and plan their itinerary accordingly.