Part II of our Iceland series written by guest writer Tess Miller explores the best times for visiting Iceland. Tess lists the pros and cons of going to see the midnight sun during the summer months or the Northern lights during the winter season. Both are amazing natural phenomena so keep the timing of your trip at the forefront of planning.
At any given time, Iceland looks like a scene from a different planet. The landscapes, weather, and presence of the Northern lights contribute to creating a world all its own. However, the changing of the seasons results in drastic changes within the physical appearance of the country. Obviously, the snow makes it look completely different, but there are also so many different things to experience in the summer vs. the winter.
In the summer, hands-down one of the coolest things you get to experience is the midnight sun. I watched the sun begin to set at 11:26PM on my first night there. This allowed us to fit more into the day and have a flexible schedule because we could stay out until midnight or wake up at 3AM and start the day to avoid long lines and large crowds of tourists. Basically, it’s almost always light out, so your schedule is what you make it.
Even though it is “summer,” it’s still fairly cold by most people’s standards, so you should still plan on packing essential items like your jacket, gloves, and a hat. The country is lush, green, and beautiful, and the summer is a great time to rent a car because the road conditions are safe and driving is easier.
While you get the midnight sun during the summer, the winter months bring you the Northern lights! They say that September through April are the months where you can see them, but it's not an event you can strategically plan for and guarantee that you'll see. One of our tour guides said “someone could come for four days and see them every night, but someone else could come for two weeks and not see them at all.” You really just have to be in the right place at the right time. While everyone who travels to Iceland during this season has the goal of seeing the lights, prepare yourself mentally that to see them is a treat, and if you don't get to witness the show, try not to be disappointed. You'll just have to schedule a return trip!
The winter season also comes with all of the winter interests, which is something Iceland excels at. Activities like snowmobiling, dog sledding, and glacier hiking are both popular and thrilling. Hiking out to the explore the glacier caves has been one of the best experiences of my life; I felt like I was walking into an episode of Game of Thrones. The one downside to visiting in the winter is that while Iceland is cold in the summer, it is REALLY cold in the winter. I went in March and that was tough enough, so I can’t imagine going in January- always pack accordingly!
So, when will you go to Iceland?
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!