September marks the very last month of summer. This makes it a good travel option for visitors as the peak-season tourist traffic and prices start to wind down, but the weather is still nice enough to take part in some summer activities. We reveal all the reasons why Iceland in September might just be the best time for you to plan your next trip.
Locals famously say that one can experience all four seasons in one day in Iceland, but technically September in Iceland is the month in which Icelandic summer gives way to fall. This means that there are LOTS to do and you won’t be met with peak-season traffic and tariffs to do it. But before you start packing, let’s give you the lowdown on what September in Iceland is like.
The Weather in Iceland in September
Even though summer is losing its battle against the approaching winter (especially if you’re planning to visit Iceland in late September), the temperature in Iceland in September is still quite mild at an average of 8.5 degrees Celsius.
To put this into perspective, the average for summer is 10.6. During September the infamous Icelandic winds are also still fairly calm and the odds of any snowfall are usually slim but not impossible.
Although this is the general weather when visiting Iceland in September, many remark that the weather in the cities feels different, as if the Reykjavik weather in September is warmer than in some of the other parts of Iceland.
But it’s purely because the city and its buildings offer a certain amount of shelter against the elements that it may sometimes appear to be warmer, less windy etc. than the more remote parts. The weather in Iceland always remains unpredictable, so here’s a packing list for Iceland in September that will help you come prepared.
Packing List for Iceland in September
If you’re feeling a bit lost about what to pack for this summer-to-fall transition period, use our handy list to ensure that you have everything you may need. Some of these things may seem pretty odd to those unfamiliar with Iceland weather and what it’s really like taking part in some of the activities available such as hiking and waterfall watching.
Trust us, it’s better to be prepared than trying to take beautiful pictures at Seljalandsfoss whilst completely drenched and shivering. These are the must-pack items and clothes for Iceland in September:
Warm headgear, scarf and gloves
A thick winter jacket (those parka or puffer jackets are ideal)
Waterproof clothes (at least a jacket, pants, and hiking shoes)
A sweater or two
Long sleeve shirts and t-shirts you can wear in layers
Long Pants to wear whilst out and about
A couple of thermal leggings to wear underneath your pants
Some comfy undies
Quite a few woollen socks
Flip flops and a bathing suit (the summer might be at an end, but the hot spring fun is not)
A quick dry towel (you don’t want to be dragging around wet towels on the rest of your travels after your hot spring dip)
A dry bag or one you can wash in the sink (you will be going on plenty of adventures that will leave you with either wet items or muddy items that you really don’t want to pack with the rest of your clean and dry things)
Water bottle (the quality of Iceland water is so high that you will never need to buy any water. Simply fill up your water bottle throughout your trip and activities)
A backpack (to carry with you on day outings or use for hikes)
A power bank, cables and adapter (this should be at the top of any traveller’s packing list to anywhere to be honest)
Things to Do in Iceland in September
When planning a trip to Iceland in September, you need to ensure that you know what items you want to tick off of your Icelandic bucket list since certain events and activities are seasonal.
For example, if you’ve always wanted to experience the Icelandic midnight sun, September is not the right time for you to visit. Here’s our top pick of things to do in Iceland in September. See if they match what’s on your to-do list and if you might even want to add a couple more items you didn’t know about:
Take a Road Trip
This remains one of the best ways to explore the island and September still allows you to do so since many routes and roads are closed during the winter months. There are plenty of popular road trip routes to take. Just keep in mind that some of these roads can only legally be accessed via a 4WD vehicle, so have a chat with your local rental company and ask them what are the best 4x4 rentals available in Iceland for the dates you’ll be traveling. Some of the most famous road trip routes include:
Spot the Northern Lights
This is yet another thing that many who visit Iceland during the peak summer months miss out on. Luckily those travelling to Iceland in September are more than likely to spot the Aurora Borealis. That is because the Iceland daylight hours in September are becoming shorter and shorter the more you head towards winter.
Just remember that this light phenomenon needs darkness, so if you want to see the Northern Lights of Iceland in all its September splendour, you’ll need to get away from the city lights and visit some of the more remote areas.
Go Whale Watching
Not only does September mark the end of summer, but it also marks the end of the whale watching season in Iceland. Although whales can be seen throughout the year, many migratory species are only seen during the period of April to September.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland in September that guarantees you a whale of a time (pun intended) then we highly suggest Húsavik be your first port of call. This town is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland. But if your plan was to stick around the capital, there are plenty of whale watching tours departing from Reykjavik.
Take a Hike
The island is full of hiking trails, many of which are in the national parks. It really doesn’t matter how experienced or fit you are, there are hiking trails for all walks of life (literally). Choose between a range of difficulty levels, one-day or multi-day hikes. Some will even take you right up close to some of the biggest natural attractions Iceland has to offer. The most popular trails amongst hikers are:
The Laugavegur Trek (Moderate trail, Duration of 4 days)
The Hornstrandir Trek (Moderate to Tough trail, Duration of 6 days)
The Askja Trek (Tough trail, Duration of 5 days)
The Glymur Waterfall Hike (Easy to Moderate trail, Duration of 4-6 hours)
The Fimmvörduháls Volcano Hike (Moderate to Tough trail, Duration of 6-7 hours)
The Snæfellsjokull Summit Hike (Moderate to Tough trail, Duration of 7-12 hours)
Pick Some Berries
Many won’t be aware of this, but Iceland has a wide variety of wild berries and if you visit Iceland in September you’ve chosen the perfect time for some wild berry picking. You’ll be out in nature and it won’t cost you anything. Look out for delicious berries such as Bilberries, Blueberries and Crowberries.
This is also something that you won’t find on many tourist brochures. If you are visiting Iceland in the first half of September, you’ll get to experience Rettir. This is when the sheep return to the farms from the highlands.
It might not sound so impressive, but the hustle and bustle of children howling down the mountains, farmers riding horses like cowboys from a western movie, drones recording the entire event and dogs all helping to get the herd home – it truly is something to behold.
Hop in a Hot Spring
We already mentioned this phenomenon earlier in our packing list section. One of the favourite things to do in Iceland in September is to take a dip in one of the natural hot springs that can be found all over the island. These hot springs are created by volcanic activity heating up the underground water supply.
There are plenty of natural hot springs today that are still exactly as they were found decades or even centuries ago, but then there are others that have been utilised to create man-made public pools and spas. Many swear by the healing powers (especially dermatologically) of the mineral-rich waters, even though we think the relaxation in beautiful surroundings is more than reason enough for a visit. Here are a few of the hot spring hot spots:
Join in the Festivities
There are quite a few festivals happening all over Iceland in September. Here are a few that you might want to pencil into your calendar:
RIFF (Reykjavik International Film Festival): This festival usually hits the screens in Iceland in late September and is known as the film industry event of the year. With both local and international talent being showcased, you never know who you might brush up against somewhere in the capital.
Oktoberfest: Yes, ironically this infamous beer festival is held in Iceland in September. It is held close to the university and lasts three days.
Reykjavik International Literary Festival: Yet another annual international event that brings renowned global names to town. But this time it’s writers coming out to connect with their readers. Another bonus is that all the festival events are free and in English.
Ljosanott: This 5-day festival is held in Reykjanesbaer on the Reykjanes Peninsula and is packed with all sorts of cultural events such as theatre performances, music concerts, art exhibitions, carnival rides and much, much more. This is especially a visitor favourite amongst families.
Go on a Volcano Tour
Iceland is not called the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing. The island is home to more than 300 volcanos and most are open to the public (either to view from a short distance or actually explore inside). These are some of the tours we highly recommend when you come to visit Iceland in September:
Go on a Glacier Tour
This is, of course, the other side of the spectrum of the Land of Fire and Ice. There are many ways that you can visit some of these spectacular Icelandic glaciers. These are a few of our favourites:
Where to Stay in Iceland in September
As you can see from our list there is no lack of things to do when visiting Iceland in September. If you are wondering where to stay in Iceland in September, you’ll need to plan according to your itinerary.
Many choose to stay in the capital of Reykjavik and simply rent a car to explore the outskirts. Others prefer moving around from one place to the other to discover their surroundings. Whichever is your preference, you can start planning a trip to Iceland in September - you won’t be disappointed.