It's hard to find anyone who has visited Iceland who didn't absolutely love it. Most of the visitors want to return - even those dedicated travelers who usually never visit the same place twice. However, you can hardly find anyone who wouldn’t complain about the prices.
Planning ahead is the best way to keep your budget reasonable if you have Iceland on your bucket list - and who doesn’t? We have some good news: you can maximize the fun and minimize your expenses if you choose the right month for your visit!
The cheapest time to visit Iceland
If you are looking for the best time to visit Iceland with regard to the price-to-value ratio, you should strongly consider coming during the off-season. If you do a simple search for flight tickets, car rental, and accommodation prices and make a comparison between the high and low seasons, you will see huge differences. Flight tickets during the off-season can be found from $99 one way from America and they are even cheaper from many cities in Europe, especially London.
Due to limited spaces, it can be pretty hard to find affordable accommodation in the high season in Iceland if you haven’t booked it at least a half a year in advance. In the low season, however, with less competition for the cheaper rooms, visitors have a wider selection of affordable accommodation options.
Why Spring is the best time to visit Iceland
The off season is basically from early Autumn to late Spring (September - May). During these months, January - May is probably the lowest in terms of the tourist crowds, which means these are the cheapest months to fly, rent a car and find accommodation in Iceland.
Comparing the cheapest months, April and May are by far the warmest, brightest, sunniest, and the driest months in Iceland, which makes these two months absolutely the best time to visit in view of the value for money.
The length of daylight ranges between 13 - 20 hours, which means your travel time is not so limited as it is in the other winter months, there is only 4-6 hours of daylight in January. From the middle of April, you can enjoy full brightness to midnight.
Iceland in Spring
Spring in Iceland is not like most people imagine spring to be. There are no flowers and the landscape doesn’t get any greener until the middle of May. The mountains are covered with snow for sure and fresh snow can fall in the cities as well, even in May. Temperatures normally range between -2 and +10 C (28 - 50 F).
However, the light is brighter and lasts longer as the sun goes higher, the days lengthen by 6.5 minutes every single day. Birds return to the land to build their nests and mate. Millions of cute puffins arrive along with countless other interesting species, their song and happy chitter fills the land. With the clearer skies, more sunshine and the birds singing happily, the island starts to awaken from its long winter dream; this is what we really call spring in Iceland, even though it can still be snowy and cold.
June counts as Summer but it is really the Spring
June is the month when the season really starts to warm up. Although officially it is Summer from 19th April in Iceland, it is only around the end of May that the whole island becomes vibrant green. From one week to the next endless lupin fields start blooming all over Iceland, painting the landscapes deep purple.
You can witness this breathtaking sight even in the middle of Reykjavík: tulips and narcissus bloom in the gardens of local people, and the Reykjavík Botanical Gardens resemble a vibrantly colored garden from a fairy tale.
During these weeks between the middle of May and June, the campsites are still not full but the country flourishes gloriously. The midnight sun peaks at the Summer Solstice on the 21st of June, bringing endless sunsets and sunrises with the most incredible colors and cloud formations.
June is, however, somewhat more expensive than April and May - but it brings twice as much color as the Spring.
What to do in Iceland in Spring
From the Northern lights to the midnight brightness
The nights are still dark enough in the first two weeks of April to see the Northern Lights but the chance of seeing them gets significantly shorter day by day. The Aurora season ends in the middle of April because by then the nights are too bright to see the lights against the sky, even late in the evening.
In late May the sun sets around 11:30 PM and rises before 3:30 AM. The sun doesn’t dip far below the horizon, which means it is completely bright all night long with beautiful, endless sunsets and sunrises!
These adorable, funny looking birds arrive around the middle of May after spending 8 months out on the open sea. They start to build their nests and dig their burrows into the sea cliffs around Iceland. Puffin watching tours are operated from Reykjavík and places along the South and East Coasts.
It is a known fact that natural ice caves collapse before summer and then form again in late Autumn. The ice cave season ends around the middle of April, depending on the temperatures. These incredibly unique natural phenomena are even more beautiful in full brightness when the sun rises higher overhead than when the sun is very low and not so bright in mid-winter.
The adorable Icelandic horses are direct descendants of the Viking’s horses. They are smaller, calmer and with fluffier hair than their equine relatives on other continents. Horseback riding in the incredible volcanic landscapes in the late-night sun is an absolutely unique experience, one which you will never forget.
Golden Circle and South Coast tours
Given that these are the least touristy months in Iceland, you can visit the most popular places and the most amazing natural baths without worrying about the crowds. Stunning waterfalls, black sand beaches, spectacular sea cliffs and sea stacks, sparkling glaciers and erupting geysers - all can be seen if you take just two tours.
Enjoy the geothermal paradise
The Secret Lagoon, Iceland’s largest natural geothermal lake, is located on the Golden Circle in the middle of a fiercely active geothermal area. You can see mud boiling and tiny geysers erupting a few meters from the safe bathing area. The water temperature is around 39 C (102 F). This is, for sure, a must-visit place!
Snowmobiling is always a great activity and in Iceland, it is possible all year round. There are even combined tours where you can travel to a natural ice cave by snowmobile! Can you imagine anything more exciting?
Walking into a lava cave is like getting closer to nature's beating heart. If you listen carefully the water drops falling inside the cave will whisper the story of the land’s birth. Exploring a lava cave is a truly amazing adventure!
Snorkeling or diving between the continents
There is a newly opened rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, located in Iceland. It is filled with meltwater from Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier, the clearest natural water on the planet. The visibility exceeds 100 meters (328 ft), have no doubt this is the best diving and snorkeling location in the world! The water is cold although it never freezes, making it possible to dive all year round wearing a drysuit. This is probably one of the most amazing adventures you can experience in Iceland!
Hiking and camping
The weather in May is suitable for adventurous people to go camping, they are, though, advised having a good four-season tent and very warm sleeping bags. The mountain roads and the most popular hiking trails in the Highlands open usually around the middle of June. Many hiking trails that are closer to the coasts and other roads can normally be hiked in April and May.