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Iceland in May

Find out more about the life In Iceland during May and what’s waiting for you here

|March 6, 2023
Konstancija is a writer who enjoys long walks and hikes in nature, "hunts" for second-hand goods, and is a frequent guest in public libraries where she loves to read and roam around stacks of books.

Many people associate May with the approaching warmth and sunny days. This makes it a great time to visit Iceland as you'll be able to enjoy the outdoor activities and appreciate Icelandic nature without having to be in too big of a crowd or overpay for your stay.

What to know before visiting Iceland in May

As much as it seems fun to prepare for the trip, it is also quite stressful, especially when you're unfamiliar with the weather conditions, never-heard-before customs, and the everyday life of that place. With this in mind, what should you know about May in Iceland to better prepare for your stay?

If you're contemplating whether or not May is a suitable time to visit Iceland, think no more. May is still considered a "shoulder season", so you'll avoid the big crowds during your trip and get better and more affordable deals on plane tickets and housing.

Svortuloft lighthouse in Snaefellsjokull National Park, Iceland

No matter where you are, May is considered the time when nature starts to wake up from its "sleep". And choosing to visit Iceland in May means you'll witness this by enjoying warmer days that are much longer, surrounded by greenery. It's also a perfect time to enjoy hot springs and local pools. Continue to read to learn more about what you can experience while being in Iceland and what you should be aware of.

Weather in Iceland in May

Iceland is known for its unpredictable weather, which poses the question of whether it's possible to be prepared for anything that Icelandic weather conditions throw at you. The answer is yes.

Temperature in Iceland in May

What is the temperature in Iceland during May? The temperature gradually rises at this point in the spring season. The highest average temperature reaches around 11° C, and the lowest average temperature is approximately 2° C. What's important to remember is that despite these promising temperatures, you should still dress in layers to avoid getting cold because of the strong wind or rain.

Daylight in Iceland in May

Considering how long the days during May in Iceland are, you shouldn't worry about not being able to do all the things you wanted to do while it's still bright outside. Why? Because at the beginning of the month, the sun rises at around 5 a.m. and sets around 10 p.m., leaving you with 17 hours of daylight. At the end of the month, this time becomes even longer: The sun rises at around 3:30 a.m. and gets down at 11:30 p.m., leaving you with 20 hours of daylight.

Driving in Iceland in May

One of the greatest ways to explore Iceland is by renting a car and seeing the top places at your own pace. But what are some things you should know about driving in Iceland before you hop into the car and head for the adventure? 

Even though the weather conditions are much better for driving in May compared to winter, it's still essential to check the information on roads to ensure it's safe to go a specific route. You can check the information on road safety by going to Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) or the Safetravel page. 

Driving in a foreign country could be a challenge itself, and poor weather conditions, as well as a set of strict rules that you have to follow, can make it an even more complex challenge. It's recommended to rent a 4WD car, especially if traveling to distant areas. When planning your trip, remember that off-road driving is strictly forbidden. This way, Icelanders prevent people from harming the environment.

The weather changes also impact the roads, so it's crucial to check whether the certain route you're planning on going isn't closed. Since May is already considered a warm month, the roads to South Coast, Golden Circle, or Snæfellsnes peninsula are already open. 

What are some extremely important things to consider when driving in Iceland? For you to avoid the high fines for breaking the laws while driving, here are the things you should bear in mind while being on Icelandic roads: 

Don't speed. The speed limit in populated areas is 30-50 km/h, on main roads - 90 km/h, and on gravel roads - 80 km/h;

Leave car lights on at all times. No matter what time of the day it is or which season of the year, the car headlights should be turned on all the time;

All passengers must wear seat belts. Kids who are under 12 years old are forbidden from sitting in the front passenger seat;

No drinking and driving. It's strictly forbidden to sit behind the wheel after consuming any alcohol or drugs;

Don't text and drive. It's prohibited to use a mobile phone while driving unless you have a hands-free system;

Don't stop in the middle of the road. It's extremely dangerous to stop in the middle of the road, so instead, find a place to safely park your car;

Fill up a gas tank. Make sure your gas tank is full if you're going to remote areas with fewer gas stations.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in May?

It's considered that the best time to see the Northern Lights is from September to March. The Northern Lights require a very dark sky, so considering that, in May, the daylight extends to 17-20 hours a day, it becomes harder to catch these lights. But there's a way you can still see the Aurora Borealis without actually having to chase it. You can do this by visiting the Northern Lights Center "Aurora Reykjavik" where you'll see and learn about the Northern Lights and get useful tips on capturing them.

What to wear in Iceland in May

Remember that comfort should always be a priority when packing for your trip to Iceland because of the country's unpredictable weather. Even in warmer months, such as May, you can still experience all kinds of weather: sun, rain, and perhaps even snow.

What to pack for Iceland in May

Layering is one of the main rules to remember when packing for your trip to Iceland. Knowing how the weather tends to change, it's best to dress in thin yet warm layers.

Trekking tour in Landmannalaugar trail, Iceland

When you're dressing to go out in Iceland, keep in mind the three-layer rule: First, put on the base layer, followed by the middle layer, and then the outer layer. For the base layer, it's best to wear thermal underwear (tops and leggings) or clothing made from wool to keep you warm. A hoodie or sweater should work just fine for the middle layer. The outer layer should be a water and wind-resistant jacket. 

The layering method works almost every season. During spring/summer time, the clothing should be thin yet warm. If you're planning on hiking, don't forget to bring water-resistant hiking boots, as sneakers are only suitable for getting around in the city center.

What are some of the other things you should also have in your backpack while on your trip? In sunny weather, don't forget to bring sunglasses and sunscreen with you. And if you're planning on going to hot springs (one of the must-include activities when visiting Iceland in May), don't forget your swimsuit.

Things to do in Iceland in May

If you're afraid that there will be no fun events or interesting activities because of the off-season in Iceland, know that May is one of the best times to visit the country. The weather is getting warmer, the days are longer, and springtime is full of various festivities you can attend.

What to do in Iceland in May

Iceland is famous for its beautiful nature. So if you love spending time outdoors, the country has many places and things to do while being surrounded by stunning scenery. Are you curious to find out what are some of the examples of the best activities you can enjoy and places to visit in Iceland during May?

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in southeastern region of Iceland

One of the ways you can get familiar with Iceland and its nature is by going on a trek or a hike. Whether it's a one-day hike or a whole week of checking various places around the country, it will surely open your eyes to some pretty spectacular places such as waterfalls, volcanoes, geothermal springs, glaciers, and much more. 

To experience the Icelandic wilderness to its fullest, you can also spend your time fishing or whale watching as these activities are quite common during springtime. Another thing you cannot miss out on during the spring in Iceland is going on a Puffin lookout. These cute little birds are best spotted in the South and West of Iceland.

Puffins can be seen in the South and West of Iceland

If you're a more adventurous person who needs action, why not try horseback riding? This way, you'll be able to explore Iceland in a fun way, getting to see the Golden Circle while being on an Icelandic (yes, it's a special breed) horse.

May events in Iceland

If you love being immersed in the culture by participating in various events, May is a perfect time to visit Iceland. You'll have the opportunity to see how Icelanders celebrate some well-known occasions and participate in a few fun and great festivals. What are some of these you shouldn't miss?

May Day (Labor Day)

One of the common public holidays celebrated worldwide is Labor Day which Icelanders call May Day. On May 1st, they gather to protest against certain injustices that might be happening in the country. This could be shifted towards small wages, a need for a shorter work time, long weekends, or any other problem that doesn't necessarily have to be related to work. These protests are entertaining to watch because of the number of people participating, carrying flags and banners, and being followed by a brass band.

Raflost Icelandic Festival of Electronic Arts

Raflost Icelandic Festival of Electronic Arts takes place in Iceland's capital Reykjavik, mainly introducing people to the electronic arts, teaching about its past, and showing its current endeavors. At this festival, you'll see all sorts of art forms: music, dance, and visuals that are created using information technology, science, and media. It's a great chance to see how certain industries shape the world of art.

DesignMarch Festival

Don't get confused by the festival's name; DesignMarch Festival actually takes place in May. It's a crucial place to be for those who love design, fashion, art, and architecture and want to know more about it through the eyes of Icelandic creators. During the four days of the design festival, you'll have the chance to hear some useful insights on architecture and design by listening to "DesignTalks," and participating in other exhibitions, events, and parties.

If you’re thinking about what Iceland is like in May, it’s a great time to go and explore it. You’ll get to witness how nature wakes up from its sleep while exploring Iceland and trying new things. Just make sure you book your day trips or multi-day tours in advance.

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