October is a great time to visit Iceland. The weather is a bit cold, yet comfortable and the fall atmosphere is quite beautiful. Most outdoor activities can still be enjoyed comfortably, just with few extra layerings. Across Iceland, October weather conditions will be chilly with some precipitation, but pleasant. Snow is not that common unless you head to the northern parts of Iceland. That being said, you can, of course, experience snowy weather in other parts of the country, but it is less common in the southern part of the country. The beginning of October brings typical fall weather (think wind and waterproof jacket over a warm sweater) but as the end of the month rolls around, it can turn to downright nippy (heavy coat required).
Another reason to visit Iceland in October is that you’ll find fewer crowds, compared to July and August. Pleasant weather and shoulder season travel bargains make October an ideal time to visit most places across Iceland. Since the prices are reasonable, consider extending your trip to include several of the country’s top attractions to make the most out of your stay.
Weather in October in Iceland
October is a transition month for Iceland in terms of daylight and weather. The day length gets shorter and shorter, day by day. At the beginning of the month, daylight will be around 11 hours. However, by the end of it, daylight will be reduced to approximately 7,5 hours. There is, on average, 2 hours of sunshine per day in October, and the sunlight will gradually decrease in the coming months after.
Temperature: In October, the daily average temperature sits around 3°C. The lowest temperature expected is 2°C (36 F), and the highest is 6°C (45 F).
Precipitation: The average rainfall is approximately 18 mm (0.7 inches). As stated earlier, you might experience snow and icy roads in October, especially in the northern part of the island. Overall, you can experience all kinds of weather in only 24 hour period while traveling in Iceland in October. Expect fairly windy conditions with cloudy sky and light rain coming from all directions.
Driving in Iceland in October
Statistically speaking, snowy or icy roads in October are not that common, especially in the southern part of Iceland. However, weather in Iceland changes frequently, and we have seen harsh winter beginning as early as September. So there is always a risk involved, this time of the year, in regards to driving conditions and weather.
So the rule of thumb for driving in October is this: You should be okay with driving in Iceland in October if you have driving experience on narrow, potentially snowy or icy roads, in strong winds. You also need to check weather forecasts and monitor road conditions carefully, every day you intend to travel. If you, however, don’t have the driving skills needed or if you cannot judge the risk level of driving in harsh conditions, then you should stick to guided tours.
Attractions and things to do in October in Iceland
Here are the things you cannot miss if you visit Iceland in October:
From Reykjavík to Vik in Myrdal
You might be one of the many travelers that decide to head east of Reykjavik to gaze upon the spectacular sights of south Iceland. The final destination for many is Vik in Myrdal, famous for its nearby attractions. Driving from Reykjavik to Vik is pretty straight forward, follow highway 1 (the ring road). The driving distance is around 180km, and you will have plenty of attractions to explore along the way. The most popular being Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Eyjafjallajokull, Seljavallalaug pool, Dyrholaey, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Solheimajokull glacier and more.
Super Jeep tours into the highland
Another fun way to explore the magnificent nature is to opt into a Super Jeep tour that will take you deep into the highlands. These jeeps are capable of navigating the steepest and rockiest of terrains, deserts or beaches. Explore the colorful Landmannalaugar, a geothermal paradise in the southern highlands, or book a day tour to Þórsmörk Valley in the highlands of Iceland. A super jeep tour to Vatnajokull glacier is also highly recommended for those seeking adventures and spectacular views.
Hiking at Skaftafell national park
Although flanked by glaciers, Skaftafell is actually among the areas in Iceland that receive the least amount of snow. Precipitation usually comes with southerly wind directions that also bring relatively warm air from the ocean. So most of the time, the precipitation is rain rather than snow. As a result, most of the trails in the lowland areas of Skaftafell are clear of snow in October. For those planning on a short hike at Skaftafell, for 2-3 hours, it is recommended to walk the trail to Skaftafellsjökull glacier instead of walking the path that leads up to Svartifoss waterfall. Trail conditions leading to the glacier are much better this time of the year, and the blue color of the glacier will surely amaze you!
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is the broadest and deepest glacier lagoon in Iceland. It branches from Breidamerkurjokull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier. It is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, and no wonder as the beauty of this place will mesmerize all those who visit the lagoon. You can book an exciting boat tour on the lagoon where you will sail among the huge icebergs in the picturesque scenery of Jökulsárlón. These tours are available throughout October. You can also enjoy a so-called Zodiac tour where you go almost up to the glaciers.
Secret Lagoon and Laugarvatn Fontana
If you are worried that the Blue lagoon has become too crowded, you might want to consider other options. Not far from Reykjavik, near the Golden Circle route, you will have two other options, not as fancy as the Blue lagoon, but, however, less crowded and all together fun to visit and experience. The first option is the Secret lagoon, a natural hot spring, located in the small village of Fludir. The pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling. There are several geothermal spots in the area, one of them is located next to the pool and erupts, a tiny bit, every 5 minutes or so.
The second option is Laugarvatn Fontana. At Fontana, you can enjoy natural steam baths. Grids in the floor of the steam rooms allow guests to hear and smell the boiling natural hot spring right underneath, creating a natural and unique experience. You can also relax in the outdoor mineral baths that vary in depth, size and temperature. The pools and hot tub are perfect for both relaxation and recreation and are heated with natural water, streaming from the nearby lake. Completing the ensemble is the lake itself and the beach. Bathers can walk into the cool lake from a pier or walk on the warm black sand beach. A cool dip in between the hot steam rooms and sauna is a refreshing temperature shift for the healthy hearted.
If you like horses you should definitely book a horse riding tour in Iceland. The Icelandic horse has many unique characteristics that differ from other breeds and it is those differentiating characteristics that have made the Icelandic breed famous throughout the world, making the Icelandic horse center of the attention. There are many factors that distinguish them from other horses including physical and psychological aspects that have evolved throughout the centuries.
Northern lights in October in Iceland
The northern lights are a spectacular natural phenomenon that attracts many tourists and is considered one of the main reasons why travelers visit Iceland in winter. The chance of seeing the northern lights in October depends on several factors, including weather conditions, solar activity, length of your stay, location, and simply luck. October is the first month of the northern lights period that stretches from October until March. It’s fair to say that October is perhaps not the best month to witness the northern lights, as of December, January and February are more favorable.
Nevertheless, the northern lights are often visible in October as well. In most cases, chances of catching the Northern Lights are immediately improved outside populated areas, away from city lights. That being said, the Aurora can often be seen dancing over the capital and other towns.
There is plenty to do and see in Reykjavik in October. There are many hiking trails throughout the city that are fun to explore, especially when surrounded by the beautiful fall colors. Visiting one of the many local swimming pools in Reykjavik is another fun thing to do. The Imagine Peace Tower is lid up in October and can be explored close up. You can enjoy a walking tour in the downtown area or go whale watching at the Reykjavik harbor. The Pearl is yet another exciting place to visit, newly renovated and now includes a man-made ice cave on the inside. Last but not least, the downtown area offers great selections of restaurants, events, bars, and shops for an all day and all night experience.