Iceland’s popularity has risen exponentially over the last few years. Many travellers have flocked to its shores to find out for themselves why this North Atlantic island has the wow factor. But those in the know avoid summer and winter, heading to Iceland in early autumn instead. Here’s why you should do the same.
Why You Should Visit Iceland In Early Autumn
The crowds of summer have thinned
If your heart’s set on visiting major sights like those on the Golden Circle circuit – Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir – or the popular south coast, then you definitely don’t want to be there in July and August. Escape the crowds by waiting until the European school holidays are over and most people have returned to work. By September, there are fewer visitors, and particularly if you visit the east and north of the country, you’ll be able to find a bit of space to yourself.
The weather’s still bearable
Actually, Iceland’s weather doesn’t reach the extreme lows of Central Europe even in winter. As any geographer will tell you, it’s the bonus of being surrounded by water. That’s not to say it will be warm and sunny. Iceland’s temperatures typically hover between 7 and 10°C in September, and a few degrees less than that by the time October sets in. But with the right clothes it’s not hard to stay cosy and, more importantly, dry while you’re getting your fix of its magical landscapes. Maximise your chances of dry weather by visiting in September rather than October. Statistically it’s slightly drier then, though it’s mostly drizzle regardless.
Autumn colour adds interest
When we think of autumn colours we usually think of New England, or continental Europe. One place we don’t usually associate with leaves turning red, orange and gold is Iceland, not least because the country doesn’t have an abundance of trees. Many of the classic shots of Iceland are stark landscapes. Lava fields and basalt cliffs are dramatic but grey. Add an injection of colour to that palette by visiting Iceland in early autumn. Your souvenir photographs will look better. Hallormsstaðarskógur, Iceland’s largest forest, half-an-hour’s drive south from Egilsstaðir in the east of the country, is a good place to start. Lake Mývatn, Thingvellir and Ásbyrgi Canyon near Husavik are also worth the trip.
You’ll have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights
It’s well known that summer’s the worst time for spotting the Northern Lights because of the many hours of daylight. Don’t let that convince you, therefore, that December is the best option. In actual fact, you’ll have a better chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis in September or October than you will in the depths of winter. If you opt for a location near water, it won’t be frozen yet. That means you’ll increase your chances of a reflected view. Of course, seeing the Northern Lights is hit and miss at the best of times. As well as strong Aurora activity, you’ll need clear skies, a dark location – and a lot of luck!