What to Do in Iceland in October

Glaciers, ice caves, Yoko Ono, and more on your October Trip to Iceland

Emma Friedlander

|August 28, 2019

Emma is a writer & editor from the United States. She's currently living in Europe to learn and write about her favorite places full time.


Iceland starts to slow down in October. The summer rush has come to a close, and big winter celebrations are still a couple of months away. If you’re looking for a peaceful and affordable time to visit the land of fire and ice, then October is your perfect getaway month!


During a visit to Iceland in October, you can experience the best of Iceland’s nature and culture. Walk across magnificent glaciers, chase the Northern Lights, and see Yoko Ono speak at the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavik.

Here’s your ultimate guide to visiting Iceland in October.

 

Things to Do in Iceland in October

Time to hit the autumn trails!

Hike the Glaciers

Although regular hiking trails are closed in October, you can hike the glaciers year-round. Don’t be intimidated by the icy landscape and fancy hiking equipment — travelers of all experience levels can hike Iceland’s glaciers.

Hiking tours of Solheimajokull Glacier in South Iceland are perfect for the whole family. The stunning blue ice cap is surrounded by Iceland’s most famous volcanoes. Strap on your crampons and get exploring!

If you’re visiting Vatnajokull National Park, make time for an incredible three-hour hike on Falljokull Glacier. You’ll walk past natural ice sculptures, crevasses, and ridges, all surrounded by the rocky oasis of Skaftafell Nature Area. 

You won't soon forget trekking across Iceland's incredible glaciers

Explore New Blue Ice Caves

While walking across Iceland’s mighty glaciers, make sure to explore the ice caves beneath the surface! Each winter, new and unique ice caves forms in Iceland’s glaciers. Join a  guided tour group to see these frozen mysteries.

Have an explosive ice caving experience with a tour of the Katla Volcano ice caves. These rare ice caves lie beneath the famous Katla Volcano. The blue ice cave walls are striped black, caused by ash from volcanic eruptions. 

You can also combine ice caves with snowmobiling for the ultimate winter adventure. Experience all the thrills of Iceland’s glaciers as you snowmobile across Langjokull (the second-largest glacier in Iceland) and wind your way through its mysterious blue caves. 

Our team dog Bilbo helped sniff out this new blue ice cave

Climb Up Glacier Walls

Are you ready to take your ice adventure to the next level? Then don’t just hike the glacier — climb it! Ice climbing is rock climbing’s cooler and more exciting cousin. This hike on Solheimajokull Glacier includes a guided climb up the glacier’s ice walls. 

Ice climbing may sound a little scary, but you’ll be in good hands with our expert guides. They provide all the necessary safety equipment and make sure you’re safe throughout the climb. 

Climbers report that ice climbing is a meditative, calming experience. When you reach the top of the ice wall, you’ll see stunning views across the glacier. 

Ice climbing - more accessible than you think!

Wander Through Thorsmork Valley

Many of Iceland’s hiking trails close for winter, but the iconic Thorsmork Valley Trail stays open through October. This highland trek takes you to Iceland’s greatest natural wonders: enormous glaciers, rocky mountains and volcanoes, wide volcanic craters, and bubbling hot springs. 

Some parts of the Thorsmork Trail are more difficult to hike than others. We recommend joining a guided hiking tour to get the most out of your experience. This Thorsmork volcano hiking tour makes stops at the iconic Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and Gígjökull Glacier.

 

The season's last hikes in the Highlands

Blue Lagoon and Geothermal Pools

If hot water is more your scene, then head to Iceland’s natural swimming pools, like the famous Blue Lagoon. The mineral-rich water has proven health benefits for the skin and body. 

Although the Blue Lagoon gets all the attention, Iceland is home to many other geothermal hot pools. If you’re in the Icelandic Highlands, take a soak between two glaciers at the Hveravellir Hot Springs, a natural sky-blue pool! Up north, you can relax at the otherworldly Myvatn Nature Baths.

A soak in the Blue Lagoon is the best way to relax on your trip

Take a Road Trip

Iceland is best explored from behind the wheel. The country’s main road, called the Ring Road or Route One, is considered one of the best road trips on Earth. Pick up a car rental in Reykjavik and travel the road to reach Iceland’s more secluded and unspoiled areas. 

This year, Iceland opened its first official tour route, the Arctic Coast Way. This road winds along Iceland’s North Coast to bring travelers to the country’s most authentic and unspoiled areas. 

Driving in Iceland in October requires extra caution because of the unpredictable weather. Be sure to rent a car with 4x4 drive and pay close attention to road conditions.

Take to Iceland's roads throughout the year for the trip of a lifetime

Things to See in Iceland in October

Northern Lights

There’s a lot to see in Iceland this time of year, but what we all know what we’re really here for. The Northern Lights are the star of the show in October. This is the first month when you have a higher chance of catching nature’s incredible light show.

Iceland is one of the only places in the world where you can see the Northern Lights from basically any point in the country, including downtown Reykjavik! In fact, Reykjavik is the only capital city on Earth where you can see the Northern Lights.  

To see the aurora borealis at its biggest and brightest, we recommend a guided Northern Lights tour. Expert aurora guides consult forecasts every night to find the best place to see the lights. Jump in the minibus and be whisked away to a Northern Lights hunting ground deep in nature. 

Hvítserkur Sea Stack in North Iceland glimmers under the Northern Lights

Incredible Whales

October is your last chance to take to the seas in search of Iceland’s greatest creatures. Whale watching tours depart from many of Iceland’s harbors. However, for the best chances of seeing these awesome animals, we recommend heading to Dalvik, the whale watching capital of Iceland.

RIB whale watching boat tours from Dalvik have a 98% success rate. You’re basically guaranteed to see graceful humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, or porpoises. Seeing Earth’s greatest creatures in person is an experience you’ll never forget.

See amazing humpback whales in Dalvik, the whale watching capital of Iceland

Events and Festivals in October

See Yoko Ono at the Imagine Peace Tower Lighting

The lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower is the crowning event of Reykjavik in October. In 2007, artist Yoko Ono opened the tower on Videy Island near Reykjavik in memory of John Lennon. The tower symbolizes world peace and has the words “Imagine Peace” written around it in 24 world languages.

Each year on October 9, Lennon’s birthday, Ono returns to Videy Island for the tower lighting. Beams of light shoot up 13,000 feet into the air and stay lit every night until December 8, the day Lennon died. Ono says she chose to build the tower in Iceland because of the country’s spiritual atmosphere and green energy. 

You can go to the Imagine Peace Tower lighting ceremony on the evening of October 9. The ceremony includes live music and a speech by Ono. Otherwise, be sure to take the ferry to Videy Island while you’re in Reykjavik in October to see this incredible work of public art. 

Yoko Ono's Peace Tower beams from October to December

Reykjavik International Film Festival

Iceland’s premier film festival starts in late September and continues into the first weekend of October. During this exciting event, cutting edge Icelandic and foreign films are screened day-in and day-out. Buy an all-access pass to see brand new feature films, short films, and documentaries. 

Make sure to see the short films nominated for the Golden Egg Award, a prize for up-and-coming filmmakers! 

Sequences Art Festival

The entire Reykjavik art scene comes together for this visual arts event. From October 10-11, Icelandic artists put on a collaborative art display throughout the city. The festival’s theme is “real-time” — expect to see performance art, audio art, and video. Find the program of events on the Sequences website

What to Know Before Visiting Iceland in October

Hint: The weather gets colder in October!

Weather in October

Ocean currents mean the weather in Iceland in October is warmer than you might think. The average daily highs are 45°F (7°C) while the average lows only go down to 36°F (2°C). 

Still, expect the Iceland weather in October to be as unpredictable as ever. Don’t be surprised to see clear skies, light rain, clouds, and strong winds all within one day. The dramatic weather patterns are all part of Iceland’s unique charm.

Daylight hours change rapidly throughout the month of October. At the beginning of the month, the sun will be up for 11 hours. By the end of the month, there will only be 8 hours of daylight.

What to Pack for Iceland in October

Since the weather can change on a whim, you’ll need to pack warm layers that you can easily take on and off. Waterproof clothing and shoes are key! This packing list is a good start:

  • Warm hat
  • Warm scarf
  • Parka or puffy jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots or hiking shoes
  • Thermal tops 
  • Thermal leggings or long underwear
  • Umbrella
  • Lots of wool socks 
  • Swimsuit and towel

 

Tours in Iceland in October

Golden Circle and Northern Lights Day Tour: Pack the best of autumn all into one day with this ultimate day tour of Iceland! This sightseeing tour takes you to the highlights of the Golden Circle, including Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Explore Langjokull Glacier on a snowmobile and end the day with a search for the Northern Lights. 

3-Day South Coast Tour: See South Iceland’s most fascinating sights on this three-day journey. You’ll explore Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, geysers, black sand beaches, and forests. We also spend a lot of time on the ice, with glacier hikes, ice caving, and a tour of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. In the evenings, you’ll chase the Northern Lights with an expert guide. 

5-Day Tour of South Coast, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Northern Lights: This fall tour combines Iceland’s best-known marvels with a few hidden gems. You’ll soak in hot springs, take in beautiful waterfalls, tour Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Golden Circle, and explore mighty glaciers. Four nights of Northern Lights searches means you’re four times more likely to spot them!

Planning the perfect October trip to Iceland? Check out our full list of winter activity tours to find your perfect adventure!