Iceland: When is the best time to visit?

Expect fickle weather in Iceland

When is the best time to visit
Iceland - especially its waterfalls?

For starters, the tourist season is from late June through early September, and it's no surprise why. During this time, you get perpetual daylight (despite the fact only the island of Grímsey in the far north) crosses the Arctic Circle of 65 degrees North (or 66 degrees North if you buy into the ubiquitous outdoor clothing brand). You also get the warmest temperatures and perhaps the most stable weather (relatively speaking). Really the drawback in coming during peak tourist season are the crowds at major tourist attractions, swarming midges, paying through-the-nose prices on everything (Iceland is one of the most expensive places you could visit), and having trouble falling asleep even with eyepatches on!

When it comes to waterfalling, you really don't have a whole lot to worry about because most of them (with relatively few exceptions like Systrafoss) flow year-round. With Global Warming, hiking conditions may be attainable as early as April, but the uninhabited highland interior is generally not accessible until July when enough snow has melted to make roads less muddy and unbridged rivers crossable (but do so with extreme caution or else just take a tour!).

Even during the summer tourist season, high temperatures can be below freezing (we've had multiple days where highs not counting wind chill factor were 2 degrees Celsius!). However, the weather is quite fickle and the high can quickly rise to midge-friendly levels around the mid 20s to low 30s (Celsius) just a day or two later. And speaking of winds, it does indeed get blustery around the country, which can quickly bring the body core temperature down to hypothermic levels if you don't bring enough clothing to counteract that heat loss.

So why is the rest of the year off-peak? That's because the country experiences polar winter nights (i.e. nearly 24 hours of night time!), violently cold weather is more common, and services are neither available nor reliable due to lack of visitor demand. The flip side is you can see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), there are no crowds, and prices are cheaper (though Iceland is still ridiculously expensive).

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