Iceland In October: What To Expect & Why It’s The Best Time To Go

We didn’t really plan to visit Iceland in October. We thought it would be too cold for the kids and had planned to go to Iceland during the summer months, but when we found cheap flights to Iceland during the October half term holiday (yes, really!), we just had to book.

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik with northern lights

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik with northern lights

Did we make the right choice? Absolutely! There are so many reasons why Iceland in October is fabulous. Before we delve into what you need to know about visiting Iceland in October, here are just a few reasons why it is a great time of year to go:

  1. The flights to Iceland in October are relatively cheap, even during the school holidays because it’s not a traditional school holiday destination.
  2. You’re just entering into Northern Lights season so although seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in October cannot be guaranted, you will stand a better chance of seeing them than if you visit during the summer months.
  3. October is one of the least busy months in Iceland in terms of tourist numbers so you will encounter smaller crowds, even at the most popular waterfalls in Iceland like Seljalandsfoss.
  4. As a result of #3 above, the hotel prices and tour prices are cheaper in October.
  5. The weather in Iceland in October is fairly comfortable (if not a bit erratic). See below for more information on the Iceland weather in October.
  6. The sunrise is not too early meaning you don’t have to drag yourself out of bed insanely early to catch the sunrise. It was around 9am. The same is true of the sunset. It is not too late so you can catch beautiful sunsets and be home and warm.
  7. There was just enough snow and ice around to keep the kids happy but not so much to make it miserably cold. It is Iceland afterall and they expected ice!
Loving the ice in Iceland in October

Loving the ice in Iceland in October

Visiting Iceland in October

Weather in Iceland in October

The weather in Iceland in October is nothing short of unpredictable. We experienced four seasons in one day and went from glorious sunshine for the first half of our 6 day holiday in Iceland to overcast and rainy for the second half.

The average temperature for Iceland in October is between 2 degrees (36F) and 7 degrees (45F) Celsius but with the wind and rain that you can often encounter, it can feel a lot colder. That being said, there were a couple of days when we were enjoying fabulous sunshine, 15 degrees Celsius and exploring in a t-shirt and a fleece top.

Although we didn’t see snow falling in October, there was a dusting of snow, particularly at the Gerduberg Cliffs in the Snaefellsness Peninsula in the north west of Iceland. It was also incredibly windy on the day we arrived. We struggled to even stand up during big gusts of wind. If you are hiring a car, there are usually clauses about sheltering the car from wind damage. See more below on this.

Snow at the Gerduberg Cliffs in the Snaefellsness Peninsula

Snow at the Gerduberg Cliffs in the Snaefellsness Peninsula

What to wear in Iceland in October

Considering the rather erratic weather you can experience in Iceland in October, it is best to pack and layers. Believe it or not, there were days when we were wearing t-shirts.

What to pack for Iceland in October:

  • Warm waterproof and windproof jacket with hood (you do not want to be carrying an umbrella as it can get very windy). Waterproofs are essential if you want to get close to the waterfalls.
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Thermal socks
  • Thermal layers (top and bottom)
  • Fleece tops (they are warm and dry quickly if you need to wash them)
  • Snowboots
  • Hat and gloves. You will want waterproof gloves for the kids as they may insist on playing with the ice and snow!
  • Swimsuits (For the hot springs, geothermal pools or hot tubs at your accommodation)!!
Hot tubs at Horgsland cottages

Hot tubs at Horgsland cottages

Things to do in Iceland in October

Wondering what to do in Iceland in October? The great thing about visiting Iceland in October is that most of the things to do in Iceland that you would do in the summer are things that you can also do in October. And most of the things that you would do in the winter are things that you can do in October. It is a bit of a crossover month.

There are a few exceptions and it is easiser to name the exceptions than to list everything that you can do!

  • Puffins may not be around to spot in October.
  • Can’t visit certain Ice Caves in October as they may not be stable enough yet.
  • You may not be able to walk behind the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall due to ice (which makes it incredibly dangerous).
Seljalandsfoss path closed in winter

Seljalandsfoss path closed in winter

Best things to do in Iceland in October

Waterfalls

The waterfalls in Iceland are some of the best in the world. It is thought that there are over 10,000 of them and each one is unique. Most of them are easily accessible through October, particularly the ones that are located directly off the Golden Circle or the Ring Road.

You may find towards the end of October when the temperatures decrease that paths become slippery and some of the smaller waterfalls get iced up, but they are still a beautiful sight and should be top of your list of things to do in Iceland.

Skogafoss at sunrise

Skogafoss at sunrise

Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufellsfoss

Black sand beaches

Many of the beaches in Iceland have black sand. The black sand is formed from lava eruptions reaching the sea and cooling instantly. It really is a striking sight.

The most famous Black Sand Beach is Reynisfjara in the south of Iceland near Vik. Here you will also find black hexagonal basalt columns at the east end of the beach. The water in Iceland is very cold and in some places including Reynisfjara, it is very dangerous to swim in. It is even dangerous to get close to the waters’ edge because of sneaker waves.

Please do not underestimate how dangerous they can be. A few tourists have lost their lives here. This advice holds all year round, not just in October.

Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach) at sunset in October

Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach) at sunset in October

Kids enjoying the novelty of a black sand beach

Kids enjoying the novelty of a black sand beach

Warning sign at Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach)

Warning sign at Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach)

Diamond Beach is another black sand beach but this one is special because it is littered with chunks of ice that looks like diamonds (hence the name) and is spectacular. It’s located in the south of Iceland between Hof and Hofn and next to the famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Read here for more information on visiting Diamond Beach.

If you can get here around 9 am, you will beat the tour buses coming from Reykjavik and possibly catch the sunrise.

Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach

Learn about Iceland’s Heritage

Skogar Museum – one of the largest and most popular museums in Iceland with regional folkcraft exhibits and historical buildings, including traditional Icelandic Turf Houses. It is located right next to the famous Skogafoss Waterfall.

The Settlement Center – the center is dedicated to recreating Iceland’s earliest days including the settlement of Iceland by viking sailors from Scandinavia. It is located in Borgarnes which is about one hour north of Reykjavik.

Perlan Museum – fascinating exhibitions including a real ice cave and a Northern Lights planetarium show.

See also the Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik and the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik.

Whale watching

Whilst October is at the end of the peak whale watching season in Iceland (peak season is from April to October), there are still whale watching tours running. This is because there is a chance of seeing the stragglers among these migratory animals.

The advantage of taking a whale watching tour in October is that the boats are much less busy than during the winter months.

The species of whale you might expect to see in Iceland in October are:

  • Orcas
  • Blue Whales
  • Beaked Whales

You have more of a chance of seeing Humpback whales from Husavik than Reykjavik, although not guaranteed.

Hot Springs

You can’t come to Iceland and not have a dip in one of the many natural hot springs. Although the weather is cooling down a lot during October, it is really refreshing to brace the cold before jumping into the pool to warm up. Getting out again is another matter – but a fun experience nontheless!

Some hot springs are more commercial than others. You’ll no doubt of heard of the famous Blue Lagoon.

If the Blue Lagoon prices (and the fact that it is incredibly busy) put you off, then we highly recommend the Secret Lagoon as an alternative.

The Secret Lagoon is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Some tour buses stop here on a Golden Circle tour as it is close to the hugely popular Gullfoss waterfall, so try to get there early in the day and you might have the place almost to yourself in October!

The Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon

Swimming pools

An alternative to the hot springs are the public swimming pools. They are geothermally heated and have jacuzzis and saunas. It is really inexpensive compared to the Hot Springs and often not busy at all during the day in October. We can recommend two in particular.

Hvollsvollur

They have a lovely warm pool which is great for lap swimming, three hot tubs of varying temperatures, water slides and a couple of saunas.

Entry price: Adults – 1,000 Kr, Child (12-18) – 500 Kr, Child (0-12) – FREE

Hvollsvollur pool

Hvollsvollur pool | Photo Credit: Sundlaugar.Is

Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik

The Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik is enormous with and indoor pool in case you don’t feel like braving the cold. There are too many facilities to mention so check out their website. It really should be on your list of things to do in Reykjavik.

Entry price: Adults – 1,030 Kr, Child (6-17) – 160 Kr, Child (0-5) – FREE

Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik

Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik | Photo Credit: Sundlaugar.Is

Northern Lights

If you’re visiting Iceland in October, you should try to take a Northern Lights tour. You may be lucky and just see them yourself if you are staying out in the middle of nowhere, but if you want a better chance of seeing them, you can arrange to go on a tour. There are various types of tours including boat trips.

Driving in Iceland in October

The main roads (Ring Road or the Golden Circle) in Iceland in October are in great condition. They are paved and we heard that they are even geothermally heated which helps keep them clear of snow.

The Ring Road in Iceland in October

The Ring Road in Iceland in October

The main thing to know about driving in Iceland in October is that, due to the unpredictable weather, you may encounter snow, in which case you will probably feel safer hiring a 4×4 and you should have snow tyres. We recommend the Dacia Duster which has better mileage economy than most. If you are going to hire a car and do a self-drive tour, there are a few things you should know and we have detailed them in our renting a car in Iceland post.

We found that we didn’t need the 4×4 after all but it was nice and spacious and allowed us onto smaller tracks that we wouldn’t have been able to explore with a 2WD. One tip we have about hiring a car is that we actually felt better having a slightly older car with some damage. That way, any small damage we incurred would not have been so noticeable.

The Dacia Duster in Iceland

Our Dacia Duster rental car in Iceland

Daylight hours in Iceland in October

The days are short but not so short that you can’t get much done. At the beginning of October, you will get around 12 hours of daylight but this decreases to around 8 hours towards the end of October.

Where to stay in Iceland in October

We chose to stay at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura and then opted for self-catering accommodation as we explored the south of Iceland. We stayed at Horgsland Self-Catering cottages and The Garage.

Booking.com has a great range of accommodation in Iceland. Alternatively, Airbnb is great for finding cosy, self-catering accommodation in Iceland.

Why You Need to Visit Iceland in October

Why You Need To Visit Iceland In October

Humpback whale
The Secret Lagoon Iceland
Skogafoss at sunrise
Sunrise at Diamond Beach Iceland
Gerðuberg cliffs in winter
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