Iceland in springtime is a joyful time of year. There are so many reasons why it’s a great season to visit. The country is just beginning to emerge from the darkness and cold of the long winter months. The ice and snow is melting and the days are getting longer. Sunshine fills the sky and the spring flowers start to unfurl their colourful petals. It is a time of new beginnings and a reminder that the long days of summer are just around the corner.
Spring time in Iceland is one of our favourite times of year to explore. It is what is known as a shoulder season in Iceland. The busiest months for tourism here are June, July and August. When the Midnight Sun shines late into the night and the milder weather makes it near perfect for sightseeing.
Winter in Iceland also has many charms but the shoulder season of spring offers the best of both worlds. Prices will be lower than in the high season. There will be fewer other tourists to share the island with. But at the same time the days are longer than in winter and the weather is much less harsh. Spring might just be one of the best times of year to visit Iceland.
When exactly is springtime in Iceland?
As a matter of fact springtime is not an entirely clear-cut concept in Iceland. Many Icelanders say that spring begins when they see their first Golden Plover bird. But then in late April there is a national holiday marking the Old Norse calendar’s first day of summer. This makes for a very short spring season indeed! So for the sake of this article we are going to discuss the Iceland springtime as March, April and May.
What is the weather like in spring?
The three months of spring in Iceland differ enormously from one another in terms of weather. So we will go ahead and break it down.
March weather in Iceland
March is still a very wintery month in Iceland with average temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit). This might not sound super cold but the wind chill factor is considerable and it will feel much colder.
In March there will still be lots of snow on the ground. It is also very likely that more will fall while you are there. There will be around 9-10 hours of daylight so the days are still pretty short too. So all in all quite wintery indeed! This has the added benefit that there are ample hours of darkness for spotting the Northern Lights throughout the month.
April weather in Iceland
Despite being the month that celebrates the first day of summer this is actually the most spring like in many ways. In April the days get quickly longer with 12-14 hours of daylight. The temperature rises quickly too with averages of around 6-7 Celsius (42-44 Fahrenheit).
There is still a lot of snow cover in the North and on higher ground. But the spring melt is officially on with snow melting fast in south Iceland especially. The melt means that the rivers swell and the waterfalls of Iceland are at their most powerful and impressive. You might see the Northern Lights up until around mid-April too. After that there will likely be too much light in the sky.
May weather in Iceland
You have probably heard that the weather in Iceland is on the unpredictable side. Well, May conditions usually a sound testament to this. The temperature and weather conditions can vary wildly. Most of the snow will have melted along Iceland’s south coast but there could still be flurries. The temperature ranges from about 3-14 degrees Celsius (37-57 Fahrenheit). Then you have that wind chill factor to contend with too.
Daylight hours hit around 17 hours a day by the end of the month. So this is the month for balancing the Midnight Sun with fewer other visitors at the big sights. Although come the latter third of May prices and visitor numbers will start to look a lot like summer.
What are the best spring road trips?
The spring months are a great time of year for a road trip in Iceland. If you are hiring a camper van or motorhome in spring you’ll have a great time. As with the weather report our road trip advice differs from month to month. It will also differ from year to year. As we know the weather doesn’t adhere strictly to the seasons here.
In general terms though you should treat an early spring road trip much like a winter one. Itineraries that stick to the milder Southern routes are advised. Keep it short and sweet and stay around Iceland's South Coast and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. There’s plenty to see in the south and you’ll stay away from the snowier reaches. Of course a leisurely jaunt around the Golden Circle is the perfect road trip at any time of year.
If you would like to drive the full Ring Road then later in the spring is advised. Of course people can and do travel the full Ring Road all year round. But in winter and early spring you are much more likely to have your trip paused or cut short. Snowstorms and road closures are frequent. So you will need to be able to factor in plenty of time just in case. If you are dreaming of a road trip through the Icelandic highlands you will have to wait until summer. These high and weather-beaten roads only begin opening in June.
What are the best things to do in spring?
Springtime in Iceland has a whole lot to offer the travel hungry. From the Northern Lights to the Midnight Sun and much more besides. If you visit in March you’ll be able to experience the country’s winter wonders. From ice caving and snowmobile rides to Northern Lights hunts. For more ideas check out our guide to Iceland winter activities.
Moving on from the winter freeze we have the great spring melt. The ultimate spring activity has to be experiencing the force of Iceland’s majestic waterfalls. So DO go chasing waterfalls! Hiring a campervan and joining the dots between these impressive torrents is a great way to plan a road trip.
This is also a lovely time of year for hiking in Iceland. Especially so in May when the spring flowers start to bloom and the daylight lasts late into the night. Popular hiking trails around the Pingvellir National Park in the south are perfect for this. All sorts of other activities can be enjoyed too. Soak away aches and pains by lounging in hot springs like the Blue Lagoon. Hop on a whale watching and bird spotting boat trip. In late spring the puffins start to gather on Iceland’s coastal cliffs so it’s perfect for bird enthusiasts.
Our top tips for spring travel in Iceland
Our number one tip for a spring trip to Iceland is to come well prepared for winter weather. There is nothing worse than being cold and wet on your holiday. In fact get the word spring break out of your head and just pack for a winter trip instead. The weather is wild in Iceland and you really don’t know what it could throw at you.
You will definitely need a good technical wind and waterproof jacket. Also essential are a pair of pull over waterproof trousers to wear over your regular pants. Footwear is another area of no compromise. Sturdy, warm and waterproof boots are essential. As are plenty of pairs of proper hiking socks. You will then want to layer up with microfibers and fleeces. Add to that warm hats and gloves and spare pairs for when they get wet.
Next up is your camera gear. You are very likely to get a little carried away with photographing the many incredible sights of Iceland. But be warned that those raging waterfalls give off a lot of spray as they thunder down. It can be almost like standing in a rainstorm. Cameras and camera phones can easily get ruined by the water spray. So either keep them tucked away when you’re up close or bring some fully waterproof camera gear.
Our final tip for a spring visit is to have a good think about what you want from your visit. As we have discussed springtime truly is a time of dramatic changes in Iceland. A visit to Iceland in March is likely to be an entirely different experience to one in May. If seeing the Northern Lights in high on your agenda then March is the time for you. But if you’re all about the long road trips and hiking into the night then May is ideal. If you’re not sure at all then roll the dice and travel in early April. There’ll be no knowing what you’re going to get!