Spring is always an optimistic time of year, with new beginnings and the promise of brighter days ahead. Spring in Iceland is particularly welcoming, especially after the long, dark days of winter slowly but surely fade away. As this season breaks ground, daylight hours lengthen and snow begins to thaw and recede.
This is just the start of what makes springtime a wonderful period to visit Iceland. While it can still be pretty cold with some wild weather, if luck is on your side, you could be enjoying the best of both worlds. With winter activities still available, lower prices and summer conditions beginning to kick in.
In this article, we will cover all you need to know about visiting Iceland in the spring, including every pro and con to help you make the most informed decision on when to travel. We’ll also be answering all of the following FAQs concerning Icelandic spring travel:
When exactly is spring in Iceland?
What’s the weather like at this time of year?
What are the road conditions like in Iceland in spring?
What are the top springtime activities?
When is spring in Iceland?
Being firmly situated in the Northern Hemisphere, the height of Iceland’s summer falls in August with winter taking hold around November. Most countries have a pretty clear-cut set of four seasons, but that’s not quite true for Iceland. This is because the traditional Norse calendar had just two seasons – winter and summer.
So historically speaking, spring and autumn weren’t really a thing in Nordic countries. Although that’s not the case these days, with most people considering spring and autumn as seasons in their own right, it does mean that the lines of seasonal changes here aren’t as clearly defined as in other places.
For many Icelandic people, spring officially commences with the first sighting of a Golden Plover bird. This is actually quite a big thing amongst the locals, as the bird is closely tracked and announced on the news when it finally arrives. The first Golden Plover usually touches down in late March.
Based on the Norse Calendar, the official first day of summer falls on the first Thursday after April 18th. Celebrated across the country with entertaining fairs and jubilant street parades, this is an exciting and special time for all. However, by these calendar markers, spring is rather a short season in Iceland, lasting only a mere month from late March to late April.
The weather in Iceland in spring
This being Iceland, of course, the weather doesn’t necessarily stick to the rules! Iceland’s weather is highly susceptible to change all year round, but this is especially the case during spring. Winter brings with it guaranteed snowfall, summer shows off more neutral weather, but spring can go either way.
That being said, the later you arrive in spring, the more chance there is of settled weather. A mid-April trip that crosses over into May is often a good bet. And you will also find that the weather in South Iceland is milder than in the North.
So let’s get down to the specifics and take a look at the average temperatures in Iceland in spring. You’ll find that in March, the temperatures are still pretty wintry. We’re talking around -1°C to 2°C (30-35 degrees Fahrenheit). Later in the season as we move through April and into May, the average temperature reaches 10°C (50°F).
The road conditions in Iceland in spring
Let’s take a look at the general road conditions at this time of year, as many of you may be planning on renting a car in Iceland for a road trip around the island. As previously mentioned, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, especially so in spring. But this doesn’t mean that a road trip isn’t a good option at this time of year.
With more chances of snowstorms, it is wise to plan shorter road trips with plenty of contingency. Itineraries structured around South Iceland are particularly safe plans, as you can comfortably road trip around the Golden Circle or along the southern Iceland Ring Road.
North Iceland road trips are also very much an option, although you might be better off flying to Akureyri since driving the Ring Road in one sweep could take some time.
Waiting for snowstorms to pass can hinder progress as well, so shorter trips make it much more viable if pressed for time. But believe us, there is plenty to see in every corner no matter the direction you’re headed.
Snow tires and F-Roads
If there is snow on the ground, then you will definitely need snow tires for your rental car. You should also be a confident driver if you are taking the wheel in Iceland. The road conditions are always pretty good on the main Ring Road, but the weather and the size of your vehicle can make driving more challenging.
It is also worth noting that Iceland’s F-roads all remain closed until the summer high season. This means that road trips to the Central Highlands and other F-Road destinations are not possible until late May or early June. If you do end up heading this way when roads open, remember you’ll need a 4 x 4 rental vehicle to explore the rough terrain fully.
Iceland’s top springtime activities
One of the most wonderful things about traveling to Iceland in spring is the breadth of activities available for you to take part in. You’ll be able to enjoy both the classic winter activities and summer fun, all wrapped into one!
Winter activities in Iceland
Those who enjoy winter sports can hit the ski slopes in both North and South Iceland, with plenty of daylight hours to do so. Skiing in Iceland is a popular and convenient activity with easy accessibility to gorgeous slopes from both Reykjavík and Akureyri.
Other wintry activities include snowmobiling and glacier hiking. At this time of year, you can also explore incredibly beautiful ice caves located within glaciers, a natural phenomenon that can only be visited in the colder months.
Seeing the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights is also a real possibility in spring. Although springtime comes with longer days, in March and April the nights are definitely long and dark enough to witness this magical light show. To be in with the best chance of seeing the Aurora, you should head into the countryside.
One option could be to join a dedicated Northern Lights tour with a guide. However, if you are on a road trip around Iceland, then you’ll have a good chance of seeing them anyway as you explore around.
Many of Iceland’s campsites are located well away from city lights, so keep glancing out of your car windows at night and you might well catch a glimpse of them!
Wildlife and sightseeing
Spring is a wonderful time of year for wildlife in Iceland, as puffins start to flock to the sea cliffs and whales return to shelter within bays. Taking a boat trip is a great way to see the returning wildlife in their natural habitat.
Visiting Iceland in the spring
With the lengthening daylight hours of spring, you’ll have plenty of time for sightseeing. Not to mention Iceland’s waterfalls will be in full flow and the landscapes will be emerging from their winter chill. The roads, the sights and the campsites will also be quieter than in summer, so you’ll enjoy all the sights of the season but with fewer crowds.
Add to this that the prices for many tourist services are significantly lower outside of summer, and it’s easy to see how spring is most definitely an excellent time of year to plan an Icelandic adventure.
Start by booking a rental car in Iceland today and allow your spring travels to take shape. This year you’ll have much more to look forward to than just watching the flowers bloom!