What to Do in Iceland in September

Hiking, Kayaking, Boat Tours & the Northern Lights

Emma Friedlander

|August 16, 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.


Can’t decide whether you should visit Iceland in summer or winter? September in Iceland offers the best of both worlds. As tourist season winds down, you can still do summer activities like hiking, kayaking, and boat tours. At the same time, Iceland gears up for winter adventures like ice caving and snowmobiling.


September is a great month to visit Iceland if you want to avoid crowds and sample a bit of everything. Best of all, the Northern Lights make their seasonal debut!

Here are our favorite things to do and see in Iceland in September.

What to Do in Iceland in September

Snowmobile Across the Glaciers

Revving up to go on a glacier

With winter in sight, but clear skies ahead, there’s no better time to explore Iceland’s winter sports. Feel the true size of Iceland’s glaciers as you dash across them in a snowmobile. No prior experience is needed for our snowmobiling tours, making for a great family adventure. 

Snowmobile lovers are especially fond of Langjokull Glacier, the second-largest glacier in Iceland. The ice is thick, the terrain is flat,  and the snow is unspoiled everything you need for a safe and thrilling adventure.

Hike the Glaciers

Glacier hiking - the ultimate bonding experience

If you prefer to explore the ice on your own two feet, glacier hiking is the sport for you. Even beginning hikers can explore the ridges, crevasses, and labyrinths of Iceland’s ice caps. 

The largest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajokull, has 30 outlet glaciers that are excellent for hiking. Also on the South Coast, Sólheimajökull Glacier is easy for beginners and has scenic views of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes.

Ride a White Water Jet Boat

Leavin' on a jet boat

Don’t miss your chance to explore Iceland’s waterways before they freeze over! Until mid-September, you can still experience the rush of the Hvita River’s rapid white waters. On a jet boat ride through the river, you’ll fly past Gullfoss Canyon, beautiful river deltas, and local wildlife.

The Hvita River is also very close to Gullfoss Waterfall and the Secret Lagoon. See all three for an action-packed day in Southwest Iceland.

Kayak in Calm Waters

Kayaking in Iceland

September is your last chance to kayak on Iceland’s peaceful lagoons and shorelines. 

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is the deepest lake in Iceland and a popular kayaking spot. The lagoon glitters with blue icebergs from the surrounding glaciers. Even beginner kayakers can paddle their way around the calm, crystal-clear waters. From Jokulsarlon, you can visit nearby Diamond Beach, one of Iceland’s most famous destinations. 

If you’re staying closer to Reykjavik, the capital city area also offers easy sea kayaking. The calm sea around Geldinganes Peninsula is a major draw for tourists and wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and seabirds!

Dip Into Geothermal Swimming Pools

Yes that's the Blue Lagoon

As temperatures grow colder in September, you can find relaxation in Iceland’s hot pools. The famous Blue Lagoon is open year-round and stays at a steady temperature of 100°F (38°C).

For geothermal pools that are more off-the-beaten path, visit the Myvatn Nature Baths in the North and the Secret Lagoon in the Southwest.

Drive the Ring Road

Iceland behind the wheel

In September, the weather is fine and the roads are mostly clear. Sounds like the perfect time to set out on the world’s best road trip! Iceland’s Ring Road (Route 1) loops around the entire country and makes for a memorable week. Go with a guide to make the most of your trip.

Best Things to See in Iceland in September

Vibrant Fall Colors

Seasons turn rapidly in Iceland. September is considered the only real autumn month before winter sets in. However, Mother Nature more than makes up for the short season with incredible fall colors. 

Head to Iceland’s birch forests to discover beautiful shades of red, gold, and green. Hikes through Thingvellir National Park or Heiðmörk Nature Reserve are the ultimate fall fantasy.

 

The Northern Lights

Summer’s long hours of daylight wane in September, inviting the aurora borealis to come out and play. September is your first good chance to spot the lights after the summer months. 

Your best bet for catching the lights is one of our Northern Lights tour. Each night, expert aurora guides head out with visitors to hunt down the lights. Anyone can check the weather and aurora forecasts, but it’s our guides who have the inside scoop of best places to see the Northern Lights!

Whale watching from Dalvik

Majestic Whales

Iceland’s puffins migrate south in September, but the whales are here to stay. The coastlines are home to humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, and porpoises. If it’s the right season, you may even catch a glimpse of a blue whale! 

Whale watching tours launch from Iceland’s harbors throughout the year. In September, the weather is clear for high visibility while chillier waters tend to attract more whales. 

If you’re staying in Reykjavik, you can hop on a whale watching tour from the Old Harbor. For even better chances of making a sighting, head north to Dalvik, the whale watching hub of Iceland.

Events and Festivals in September in Iceland

Réttir Sheep and Horse Roundup

See Iceland at its quirkiest at the annual horse and sheep roundup. Réttir is one of the oldest folk traditions in Iceland. Throughout September, farmers invite locals and tourists to help herd horses and sheep back to the farm after their summer grazing. Days are filled with walking and horse riding and followed by evenings of celebration. 

Horse roundups mostly happen in the North, while sheep get rounded up throughout the country. 

Reykjavik International Film Festival

Also known as RIFF, this film festival is the crowning event of Reykjavik’s culture season. Around 100 films from nearly 40 countries will be screened from September 26 to October 6. The festival pass grants access to feature films, short films, and documentaries. Find out which film wins the Golden Puffin Award this year! 

Extreme Chill Festival 

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Iceland’s experimental music festival. From September 12 through 14, musicians will gather in Reykjavik for the best concerts of the year. The festival aims to bring Icelandic and foreign artists together in celebration of music and visual arts. 

Reykjavik Jazz Festival 

Iceland’s second-oldest music festival is returning to Reykjavik September 5-9. Gather in the capital for a long weekend of modern jazz, with a focus on Nordic jazz and avant garde. Iceland’s best jazz musicians and renowned foreign guests will be jamming all weekend long. 

Things to Know Before Visiting Iceland in September

Weather in September

In September, the weather hangs between summer and winter. You can expect cool and comfortable temperatures with average daily highs of 41-50°F (5-10°C). At the same time, you should also be prepared for wind and rain as well. Snow is unlikely but possible. 

What to Pack for Iceland in September 

You need to be ready for everything in September: sun, rain, wind, and possibly snow. It’s crucial to pack layers that are warm, waterproof, and removable. This packing list is a good start when planning a trip to Iceland in September:

  • Thermals
  • Hat, scarf, and gloves
  • Waterproof pants and jacket
  • Waterproof hiking boots or hiking shoes 
  • Quality warm socks (bring more than you think you need!) 
  • Swimsuit for the hot pools
  • Sunglasses

Tours for September in Iceland

6-Day Tour around the Ring Road: Our award-winning tour around Iceland shows you everything the island has to offer. Our expert guides bring you to Iceland’s most incredible volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, hot springs, black sand beaches, whales, and more. The small group size ensures a unique and comfortable adventure. 

Golden Circle, Glacier Snowmobile and Northern Lights: Celebrate the coming of autumn with Iceland’s best winter activities! Darker nights and cooler weather allow you to explore glaciers, go snowmobiling, and see the Northern Lights. This day tour takes you around the iconic sights of the Golden Circle. Hunt for Aurora Borealis at night before you head to bed in Reykjavik. 

Thorsmork Volcano Hike: Set out on one of Iceland’s most incredible hiking trails. Thorsmork Valley in the Icelandic Highlands is said to have been formed when Thor’s horse set foot against the ground. This origin story is almost believable walking through Thorsmork, you’ll feel like you’re in the home of the gods. Gape at colossal volcanoes, craters, glaciers, and waterfalls. 

What do you have planned for your trip to Iceland in September? Tell us below!