The Best Time to Visit Iceland for Cheap

Discover how to explore Iceland on a budget

|November 12, 2020
Sofie is a nomadic journalist who loves to write about people, places, and food. In her free time, she can be found twirling around in her dancing shoes.

Iceland is one of the most popular travel destinations for travelers with adventure-filled bucket lists, but the cost is a common concern. Lucky for you, we have created a handy guide on the best time to visit Iceland if you are on a budget and all the best activities you can do during this season!


group of friends at a street in reykjavik

The cheapest time to visit Iceland

If you are looking for the best time to visit Iceland while getting the best value possible, we recommend traveling during the off-season. 

The off-season begins in early Autumn and goes into late Spring (from September to May). There are far fewer tourists and crowds from January through May, which means flights, car rentals, and accommodation are at their cheapest.  

If you do a simple search for plane tickets, car rentals, and accommodation prices and compare the high and low seasons, you will see huge differences. If you plan ahead you can find tickets for as low as $99 one way from the United States and even less from European cities. 

Due to limited availability, it can be pretty hard to find affordable accommodation in the high season in Iceland. That’s especially true if you haven’t booked your hotels at least half a year in advance. With less competition for cheaper rooms, visitors have a wider selection of affordable accommodation options in the low season. 

woman with backpacks waiting for a car

So what is the best time of year to visit Iceland?

Comparing the cheapest months, April and May are by far the warmest, brightest, sunniest, and driest months in Iceland, which makes these two months the absolute best time to visit in terms of budget and weather. 

The length of daylight ranges between 13 to 20 hours a day, which means your travel time is not as limited as it is in the winter months. For example, there are only 4 to 6 hours of daylight in January. From the middle of April, you can enjoy sunlight until midnight. 

sunset near seljalandsfoss waterfall

Spring in Iceland

Spring in Iceland is not your typical spring. Until about mid-May the mountains are covered with snow and temperatures normally range between -2 and 10 C (28 and 50 F).  

From April onward the weather begins to get clearer and the sun brighter, as the days lengthen by 6.5 minutes each day. Countless bird species return to the island to nest and mate, including the famous Atlantic puffin, and the vibrant wildlife comes out to play.  

Toward the end of May the island landscapes begin to transform. From one week to the next, endless lupin fields start blooming all over Iceland, painting the landscapes deep shade of purple. 

couple sitting near rock cliffs in skaftafell national park

What to do in Iceland in Spring

Experience the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun

The best time to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights in the spring off-season is during the first two weeks of April. During this time, the nights are still dark enough to catch the aurora, but chances get significantly lower each day. The aurora season ends in the middle of April because by then the nights are too bright to see the dancing lights in the sky, even late in the evening.  

Northern Lights Watching Tour with Adventures.com

Even if you miss the Northern Lights, the spring and summer offer the Midnight Sun! In late May the sun sets around 11:30 pm and rises before 3:30 am. Even when it sets, the sun doesn’t dip far below the horizon, which means bright nights along with endless sunsets and sunrises! 

Enjoy Puffin Watching

These adorable, funny-looking birds begin returning to Iceland around the middle of May after spending eight months out on the open sea. They build nests and dig their burrows into the sea cliffs around Iceland, which makes this area the best spot for birdwatching. Puffin watching tours are operated from Reykjavík and sites along the South and East Coasts. 

daisy flowers near puffins in iceland

Explore Ice Caves

Ice caves are one of the most popular activities in Iceland. Each cave is distinct and changes its shape and formation from season to season. During the summer months, the natural caves will melt and then reform when they freeze in late autumn. Ice cave season ends around mid-April, depending on the temperatures so plan your trip accordingly. Luckily there are man-made caves and lava caves that are available year-round so even if you arrive after April you can still tour some amazing sites.

Ice Caving Tour on Langjökull Glacier with Adventures.com

Go Horseback Riding

Icelandic horses are the direct descendants of Viking’s horses and have a rich, interesting history. These fluffy animals might be smaller than their equine relatives but you’ll discover they are just as sturdy! Ride across gorgeous national parks and enjoy the fantastic scenery from atop an Icelandic horse.   

small group horseback riding near a canyon in iceland

Join Golden Circle and South Coast Tours

Given that these are the least touristy months in Iceland, you can visit the most popular spots and routes without worrying about the crowds. Experience stunning waterfalls, black sand beaches, spectacular sea cliffs, sea stacks, sparkling glaciers and erupting geysers of the Golden Circle and South Coast all in just two tours. 

Golden Circle, South Coast, Jokulsarlon & Ice Caving Tour with Adventures.com

Take a Dip in a Hot Spring

The Secret Lagoon is Iceland’s largest natural geothermal lake. Located on the Golden Circle in the middle of a fiercely active geothermal area, you can tour the Circle and stop for a relaxing dip along the way. Just a few meters from the bathing area you will witness tiny erupting geysers and boiling mud pots. The water temperature of the hot spring lingers between 38-40 C (100-104 F) all year round, so no matter the weather it’s always open for swimming. A Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Tour should definitely be on your bucket list! 

happy woman having a drink in secret lagoon in iceland

Try Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling is always a great activity and in Iceland and it is possible all year round. Zip across one of the country’s over 269 glaciers and experience the surrounding glacial views. Combination snowmobile tours offer you the opportunity to travel to a natural ice cave via snowmobile and explore below the surface of this ancient ice. Can you imagine anything more thrilling? 

snowmobiling on langjokull glacier in winter with a friend

Adventure through Lava Caves

Walking through a lava cave makes you feel like you’re entering the center of the earth. Explore the unique geology of these fascinating caves and discover how the area was formed. These ancient locations give you a new perspective on how old our earth really is. Touring a lava cave is truly an unforgettable adventure! 

group of friends posing at lava tunnel in reykjanes peninsula

Snorkel or Dive Between Continents

Silfra Fissure is one of the most magical spots in Iceland. Located in the famous Thingvellir National Park, this aquifer is one of the most famous diving spots in the world. The fissure sits between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, making it one of the only places in the world you can swim between two continents. Join our snorkeling or diving tour this spring, we even offer PADI Dry Suit Specialty Certification courses for those without diving experience.

The rift is filled with meltwater from Langjökull – Iceland’s second-largest glacier – the clearest natural water on the planet. With visibility of over 100 meters (328 feet), you will have an unparalleled view of the underwater world below. Although the water is cold, it never freezes so snorkeling and diving activities are available year-round. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! 

a man snorkeling and showing thumbs up in silfra

Hike the Icelandic Trails and Camp

May offers the most ideal weather for outdoor adventurers. While popular hiking trails in the Highlands typically don’t open until mid-June, hiking trails closer to the coast are usually open in April and May. Less-experienced hikers are advised to join a hiking tour during the off-season as conditions can sometimes be unpredictable. When it comes to hiking and camping in Iceland, equipment and clothing are everything. Campers are advised to pack a good four-season tent and warm sleeping bags. You can find everything you need to know about hiking in Iceland with our guide to hiking blog post here.  

a couple walking around jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in iceland

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