If you’re someone who’s got both summer and winter activities on their Iceland bucket list, taking a trip to Iceland in October is a good idea. Especially if you need to plan a trip on a budget.
In this article, we will tell you exactly what you can expect from a trip to the island during our fall season. And, of course, all the various benefits of visiting Iceland in October.
Is October a Good Time to Visit Iceland?
We think October is a great time to visit Iceland for a variety of reasons, but that’s not to say that it will necessarily work for you. That’s why we’ve created this overview of pros and cons, so you can make up your own mind:
Since October falls in our “down” season here on the island, you won’t find our usual peak season crowds. This means you don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds at all the various activities and attractions across the island.
With no peak season crowds, you also won’t find any peak season prices. That means a much more affordable trip.
October is the perfect shoulder month to experience both summer and winter attractions and activities. In other words, you get the best of both worlds without having to pay exorbitant prices for it.
October is also a time that most roads and routes that annually close for the winter season in Iceland are still open. Since there is no better way to explore the island than via road trip, a visit to Iceland in October will allow you to do that.
When traveling to Iceland in October, you can experience the best of both worlds. With ample daylight hours, you can have a packed itinerary, and the darkness allows for the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.
Whilst the weather has definitely started to turn and temperatures have started to drop (it is fall, after all), you haven’t hit those freezing temperatures yet and will be spared some of the most extreme weather elements we get here on the island.
If you’re fond of wildlife, visiting the island at the beginning of October will allow you to see a plethora of different migratory whale species.
You’ll need to check the operating hours of attractions and activities before heading out during an October trip to Iceland. One of the downsides of the “down” season is that many attractions/activities do not operate according to their peak season hours. You’ll often find that some will only be open certain hours of the day or certain days of the week, so double-check before you end up in front of a “closed” sign.
Even though you’ll still have ample daylight hours during October in Iceland to do everything you want to do, it won’t be enough to experience another one of the island’s most unique natural phenomena – a Midnight Sun. So, if that’s on your Iceland bucket list, you will have to arrange for a trip at the height of summer.
In fall, the weather in Iceland starts to change, and temperatures begin to drop. However, you won't experience freezing temperatures or the extreme weather elements that occur on the island.
If you’re fond of wildlife, the downside to visiting Iceland in October is that you’ve just missed the famous Puffins. They make Iceland their home every year during their breeding season (from May to August in Iceland).
Driving in Iceland in October
As we already touched on, driving in Iceland in October is essentially still catching the calm before the storm. Many roads and routes across the island close during the winter each year.
When visiting the island during October, you will still find most of these roads open. This will be your last chance to properly road trip the country before the winter season hits. Some of the most popular road trip routes here on the island are:
If you are someone who is not used to driving in harsh weather with snow and ice on the road, driving in Iceland during October will also come with peace of mind. Road conditions are still pretty pristine, apart from the occasional rain and legendary Icelandic winds. This also means that you don’t need to concern yourself too much with snow tires or all sorts of other essential winter car gadgets.
Most roads are open during October in Iceland and road conditions are still good for a road trip. Still, we do suggest that you have a chat with your rental agent regarding your planned routes.
This is because there are some routes such as the F-roads in Iceland that can only legally be accessed via a 4x4 vehicle. And then there are some other roads that, even though it doesn’t outright require driving a 4x4, still come highly recommended when speaking to the locals.
Another reason for discussing your planned routes with your rental agent is so they can advise you on the type of insurance coverage you will need.
For example, if you intend to drive along the coast during your Iceland trip in October, it can become pretty windy, and you would be silly not to get SAAP cover (sand and ash protection). And if you are planning on taking a few “roads less traveled” during your trip to Iceland in October, then tire insurance is non-negotiable.
Weather in Iceland in October
Since October falls during the fall season (we couldn’t resist), you can expect a bit of “in-between” weather. The weather is definitely not as warm and mild as during the summer season, but it’s still a far cry from our winter weather. Here’s what you can expect:
How Cold is Iceland in October?
Whilst the temperature in Iceland in October has definitely dropped since the summer months, you still won’t need to deal with those harsh below-0 temperatures we get during the winter months. The average temperature in Iceland in October can range between 2-7 degrees Celsius.
There are certain misconceptions about Reykjavik in October being warmer than the rest of the country, but this is only slightly true. Although it definitely gets colder the more north you go, Reykjavik merely feels warmer than its outskirts because the buildings create a sort of shelter against the weather elements.
In reality, there is no difference between the Reykjavik weather in October and the October weather conditions you’ll find beyond the borders of the city. The exact same phenomenon can be felt in other bigger towns and cities across the country.
Iceland Daylight Hours in October
When you travel to Iceland in October, you’ll still find plenty of daylight hours to be productive in (roughly 12 hours each day). You can look forward to sunrises that range from 07:30 – 09:00 and sunsets ranging from 18:55 – 17:10, depending on when during October you plan on visiting.
Unfortunately, the daylight hours are not enough to experience a Midnight Sun, but, as you can see, this still leaves plenty of darkness to not mess with your sleeping patterns too much and makes it possible to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland in October.
Does it Snow in Iceland in October?
Although it is possible that you can experience some snow in Iceland in October, it’s not very likely. But the further north you go, the odds of snowfall increases.
Rainfall in Iceland During October
You are guaranteed to experience some rain when you travel to Iceland in October. In fact, October is perceived to be one of the wettest months of the year, but that doesn’t mean you’ll constantly have to contend with rainstorms. Precipitation stands at roughly 77 millimeters, compared to the general monthly average of 73 millimeters here on the island.
How Windy is it in Iceland in October?
The Iceland winds are pretty legendary and have been known to literally rip car doors off their hinges. And whilst these winds tend to calm down during the summer (to about 18 kilometers per hour), they tend to pick up again once we enter the fall season. So, you can expect wind speeds of about 27 kilometers per hour. But this is still not as rough as our winter average of 35 kilometers per hour.
What to Pack and Wear when Visiting Iceland in October
It can be confusing trying to pack for a trip to Iceland during one of the shoulder months. That’s why we’ve created a handy Iceland packing list that you can use as a guide. But keep the following in mind when visiting the island in October:
Bring a raincoat and don’t bother with umbrellas – they will simply blow away with the October wind speeds.
As one of the wettest months of the year, waterproof clothing and accessories are absolutely essential.
Waterproof hiking boots are not just for hiking in Iceland. They also come in handy when traversing the wet, muddy trails around the natural hot springs.
The t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts as well as sweaters should always be worn in layers. We have a local saying that states that “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland” and the temperature differences between the outdoors and the indoors can vary quite dramatically, so wearing layers will keep you prepared for any occasion.
To save on packing space and being multi-functional, have your hand luggage bag be a backpack that’s both suitable for hikes as well as day outings.
Best Things to Do in Iceland in October
With so many daylight hours at your disposal, you can have an absolutely jam-packed trip itinerary. If you’re still wondering which activities and attractions to include, the following come highly recommended:
October in Iceland is your last chance to enjoy this much-loved outdoor activity. And not only is camping in Iceland a great way to truly immerse yourself in the majestic landscape of the country, but it’s also a great way to cut down on accommodation costs and stretch that budget. Some of the most popular camping sites on the island include:
Take a Dip in a Hot Spring
Due to the volcanic activity here on the island heating up the underground water supply, you can find hot springs all over the country. Whilst some can still be enjoyed in their original and natural state, others are utilized in geothermal pools.
Not only is soaking in the hot water incredibly relaxing, but the hot spring water is incredibly high in minerals and credited with all sorts of healing properties, especially when it comes to dermatological issues.
If you’re in the mood for some much-needed R&R and pampering, the following hot springs in Iceland should definitely be on your island to-do list during your trip to Iceland in October:
Marvel at Our Interesting Rock Formations
The Land of Fire and Ice ensures a dynamic and ever-involving landscape that includes some pretty spectacular and interesting rock formations. Some of the most renowned rock formations (many of which have their own myths and legends attached to them) include Dyrholaey, Elephant Rock, and Hvitserkur Sea Stack. So, be sure to check them out during your trip to Iceland in October
See First-hand Where Geysers Originated From
Geysers are essentially little volcanoes erupting liters of water meters up in the air. And whilst any geyser is a pretty impressive sight, Iceland is home to the very first geyser ever discovered in Europe and the very reason we call geysers geysers. Cue Geysir! Although the original geyser, Geysir, is no longer active, you can still get quite a show from its sister, geyser, Stokkur.
Go Horseback Riding
Whilst exploring a country on horseback is generally an exciting experience, horseback riding in Iceland is extra special. That’s because the island actually boasts its own breed of horse called the Icelandic Horse. These horses are credited for their pony-like features, fluffy pelts, friendly natures, and the fact that they can perform an additional gait called the tölt.
Take a Boat Cruise at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Visiting the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is an incredible experience. But going on one of the boat tours is even more impressive. The boat tours will get you within arm’s reach of the glacier and up close and personal with the lazy seals basking in the sun whilst drifting on sheets of ice. These tours come highly recommended for a trip to Iceland in October.
Visit Our Museums
For a country as culturally in tune and rich in history as Iceland, it should come as no surprise that we have plenty of interesting museums all across the island. Do yourself a favor and take a couple of days to explore at least the following:
Act Like a Viking
No, don’t start pillaging a local store during your October trip to Iceland, but there are plenty of other opportunities here on the island to properly get into character as a Viking.
You can get dressed in traditional Viking garb including accessories (and weapons!) and have your portrait taken at Mink Studios. Or you can sail on a traditional Viking ship, or visit an authentic Viking Village and enjoy a real Viking feast.
Take a Stroll on a Black Sand Beach
Visit Some of Our Waterfalls
And you will certainly have your pick since we have over 10,000 of them here on the island! Many of our waterfalls are known for their unique features, so don’t think that after seeing one you’ve seen them all. The following are a few must-visit spots to add to your Iceland trip itinerary in October:
Shop ‘till You Drop
Every popular tourist destination has a famous shopping street, and Iceland is no different. Visit Laugavegur Street in the capital city of Reykjavik and shop till you drop during your October trip to Iceland!
Explore an Ice Cave
This is one of the winter activities that you can take advantage of when visiting at the end of October. Whilst most ice caves in Iceland are closed throughout the warm summer months (ice melts, remember?), they start opening again during the fall.
Admire Our Architecture
Iceland is a very historic country and is credited for being one of the most creative nations in the world. So, if you’re still wondering what to do in Iceland in October, admiring the architecture around the country is definitely something you should add to your to-do list. A few of the architectural wonders we have here on the island are:
Explore the Capital
We can’t think of a better way to explore the capital city than by stuffing your face with delicious local cuisine, and gulping down craft beer, whilst being given the inside scoop by a knowledgeable and experienced guide. That’s why The Reykjavik Food Walk is one of the must-do things to do in Reykjavik in October.
Take a Hike
With a majestic landscape, including three massive national parks in Iceland, taking a hike during your Iceland trip in October is not only possible but an absolute must. Irrespective of your experience or fitness level, you will be able to find a hiking trail suitable for you. Hiking trails in Iceland vary in difficulty levels as well as length (you can also choose from a variety of day hikes as well as multi-day hikes).
Go Whale Watching
One of Iceland’s biggest income streams is whale tours, and for good reason. Although you will always find whales along the Icelandic coast, you will find some special migratory species if you visit the island at the beginning of October.
Some of the species you might spot during your trip to Iceland in October include Minke Whales, Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, Orcas, and many more. One of the best places to go whale watching in Iceland is in Husavik (what is known as the whale capital of Iceland).
Traverse a Glacier
There are plenty of glaciers to be found all across the country, and Iceland is even credited for having the largest glacier in Europe, called Vatnajökull. Whilst all of this icy goodness is very impressive, nothing beats actually traversing across one. And in Iceland, there is a myriad of exciting ways you can do that, including hiking and snowmobiling.
Icelandic Festivals and Events in October
Icelanders don’t need an excuse to celebrate, so you’ll always find plenty of local festivals and events when visiting the island. The following are some festivals and events you can attend during your trip to Iceland in October:
The Iceland Airwaves is a very popular music festival in Iceland that’s held in Reykjavik and lasts for four days. The line-up usually includes both popular local and international acts from a variety of music genres. Just double-check if this is something you’re interested in since the event jumps between the end of October to the beginning of November.
The Lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower
The Imagine Peace Tower, erected by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon and as a reminder of what he stood for, is kept lit from October to December each year. The lighting of the Peace Tower in October usually comes with a lot of fanfare and is quite the experience.
Reykjavik International Film Festival
Whilst this festival occurs annually, it can switch between the end of September in Iceland to early October, so just double-check if you want to attend. The Reykjavik International Film Festival is held in Reykjavik and consists of 11 days of showcasing the most incredible cinematic talent from all over the world.
Iceland in October; the Best of Both Worlds
By visiting Iceland in October, you get to experience the best of both our summer and winter worlds here on the island. Needless to say, this ensures that you’ll find plenty of things to do in Iceland in October, and with almost 12 hours of daylight, you can really enjoy a jam-packed trip itinerary. So, what are you waiting for? Rent a car in Iceland and let’s get your Icelandic road trip adventure started!