When to Go

Don't let its name fool you—Iceland is a year-round destination with a temperate ocean climate: cool summers and relatively mild winters. The warmest months—June, July, and August—are the most popular with visitors, but a growing number have been coming in winter for the promise of snowmobiling, snow-trekking vehicle tours, and a spectacular fireworks display on New Year's Eve. Although swimming in the perpetually frigid ocean isn't a possibility for most, inviting hot springs and naturally heated pools dimple the landscape. Icelanders from all walks of life—cabinet ministers on down—congregate for a soak or a swim any time of year.

In general, Iceland's weather is more unpredictable than most: in June, July, and August, sunny days alternate with spells of rain showers, crisp breezes, and occasional driving winds. From June through July, the sun barely sets. Unruly fall is beyond prediction: it can be a crisp time of berry picking and beautiful colors on the heaths, or of challenging gales, when lingering over coffee in a café may be the most appealing activity. In December the sun shines for only three hours a day. Winter temperatures can dip as low as −22°F (−30°C) in the highlands and northern Iceland; the coastal lowlands have wintertime average temperatures around 32°F (0°C)—and, ironically, winter cloudiness is usually warmer than winter sun. The spellbinding northern lights are seen most often on cold, clear nights from September to April.

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