Updated: 6 days ago
One of the best things about Iceland is that there’s no such thing as “off-season”. Many activities are possible to do all year round, with the weather being the only factor. In some ways, it’s actually better to visit Iceland outside of the peak months of June to August. You can avoid the majority of the crowds and have more room to explore.
Here are some ideas for great things to do in Iceland in October. In many ways, there's something special about October in Iceland, so it’s an ideal time to visit.
What to do in Iceland in October
If you thought Iceland shuts down during the colder seasons, you thought it wrong! The country still offers plenty of activities to enjoy the fun of the fall!
1. Chase the Northern Lights
October is when the northern lights season in Iceland really kicks off. Since the northern lights cannot be seen over summer, this is one of the greatest benefits of visiting in autumn. Of course, an aurora display cannot be guaranteed, as many factors play into whether they appear. But if conditions are right, it’s one of the best things to do in Iceland in October.
If you wish to track down the Auroras Borealis, know that they can be seen from anywhere in the country, even if you’re in Reykjavík. They are best viewed, however, away from artificial lights, so drive to a rural area. If you want to stick close to the capital, head to Grótta lighthouse, only a short drive away. From here, you have a great view of the Atlantic and hopefully the aurora borealis.
2. Go Whale Watching
Whales are seen at all times of the year around Iceland, so if you wonder what to do in Iceland in October, it’s never the wrong time for a tour. Over twenty species have been spotted around the coastlines, and there’s no telling which you’ll see. Many of the country’s big harbors are home to companies running tours, including Reykjavík, Húsavík, and Akureyri.
Since you’ll be standing on a boat exposed to the elements for several hours, be sure to dress warmly. Thermal underlayers and insulated, waterproof clothing will come in handy for an October visit to Iceland.
3. Visit a Wild Hot Spring
Visiting wild hot springs is fun any time, but it’s a particularly enjoyable thing to do in Iceland in October. Since Iceland is extremely geothermally active, there are natural springs of various sizes throughout the country. To make it simple, here’s our guide to the best hot springs in Iceland. Two that are fairly close to the capital are Reykjadalur hot river and Seljavallalaug.
When visiting a wild spring in Iceland, be sure to check the temperature with your hand before climbing in. Since the springs are not maintained or attended to, the water may have become too hot to safely bathe in. Don’t forget your towel and swimming costume! Keeping warm while having a wilderness adventure is a top thing to do in Iceland in October.
4. Visit a Geothermal Spa
For a more luxurious hot water experience, head to one (or more) of Iceland’s famous geothermal spas. The Blue Lagoon spa is the most famous, but there are many others. The Secret Lagoon is located within the popular Golden Circle route. Sky Lagoon, located very close to Reykjavík, was newly opened in 2021 and features an incredible view of the bay.
Most of the geothermal spas in Iceland utilize water from nearby geothermal power plants. Aside from these, there are also geothermally-heated swimming pools in essentially every town in the country. These are much more affordable and still provide great relaxation after a day of adventure.
5. Drive the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is the most famous tourist route in Iceland, and as such, it has traffic at all times. However, you won’t find as many people on it from September onwards.
The Golden Circle route contains multiple natural features, enough to spend several days exploring. Generally, the road is completed in a day and three main stops are included. These are Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Þingvellir National Park. Each of these sites has a gift shop and café so you can recover along the way.
6. Drive the South Coast
If you have a few spare days, use them to drive along the south coast of Iceland. Regarded as the most beautiful and picturesque area of the country, you’ll want to stop all the time for pictures. Exploring the south coast is one of the top things to do in Iceland in October.
With waterfalls, glaciers, lava fields, and more, the south coast has all the variety of Iceland along it. You’ll find many campsites along the way, particularly at points of interest. If you have a week or more, extend your trip and drive around the whole Ring Road. This road—Route 1—circles the coastline of the whole country.
7. Take a Boat Tour on Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
If you’re wondering what to do in Iceland in October regarding excursions, head to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon lies about two-thirds along the south coast if you’re traveling from Reykjavík, and boat tours operate year-round. This lake is famous for its bright blue color and the pieces of glacial ice floating in it. You might spot a seal, too.
When it comes to exploring the waters of Jökulsárlón, you have two main options. You can take an Amphibian boat tour, which moves slowly around the lagoon. Or, you can take a Zodiac tour, in which you speed around the lagoon in a fast dingy.
8. Go Horse Riding
Iceland’s native horse breed has a reputation for being energetic but docile, smooth, and unique. If you want to have a go horse riding in Iceland yourself, many tour companies operate treks throughout the year. You’ll get to explore some of the most beautiful areas of the country on horseback, going places cars can’t reach.
9. Experience the Reykjavík International Film Festival
This globally renowned festival is a gem when it comes to things to do in Iceland in October. It takes place in Reykjavík, the capital city, and features both local and foreign films. One of the main venues is the Bíó Paradís, a former cinema in the heart of Reykjavík.
10. Visit the Newest Eruption Site
In March 2021, Iceland’s newest volcano, Fagradalsfjall, began erupting after weeks of earthquakes preceded its impending pressure release. The eruption lasted for over six months, finally pausing in mid-September. It’s believed the volcano is not finished, and so another eruption may occur at the site.
Visit the brand-new lava field for yourself and marvel at the shiny black lava that is still smoking in places. It is pretty much new activity on the bucket list of what to do in Iceland in October. It’s located in Geldingadalur valley, south of Reykjavík, and close to the Blue Lagoon. Wear a sturdy pair of shoes, as reaching the site involves a hike across rough terrain.
11. View the Imagine Peace Tower
The Imagine Peace Tower is located on the small island of Viðey, which is just above Reykjavík. Although ferries to Viðey do not run from October to mid-May, the tower’s light can be seen from the capital.
The tower was conceived by Yoko Ono, the wife of the late John Lennon, and placed on Viðey in 2007. Its intention is to continue to spread the message of peace that Lennon espoused and his wife continues to propagate. If you are a Beatles fan, this is among the best things to do in Iceland in October. The tower lights up on October 9th, the date of Lennon’s birthday, and stays lit until December 8th every year.
Enjoy Iceland’s fall season to the fullest!
If you want to avoid the busiest time of the year for Iceland’s tourism, you now knowthis may be the best month to visit Iceland. There are so many things to do in Iceland in October, you’ll struggle to fit in everything you want. Have the road trip of a lifetime in the midst of Iceland’s fall season.