Updated: Sep 4
May in Iceland essentially marks mid-spring on the island. It holds many benefits to visitors, especially if you’re working on a tight budget and consider yourself to be a nature lover.
So, if you’ve been pondering a trip to the island and don’t know whether visiting Iceland in May will be the right fit for you, read on. We’ll be giving you a detailed low-down on everything you should know about May in Iceland.
The Pros and Cons of Spending May in Iceland
As with most things in life, May in Iceland has its pros and cons. We’ve created this quick overview to help you decide whether traveling to Iceland in May might be a good option:
As a mid-spring month, the weather in Iceland treats visitors much kinder and temperatures are much higher than in the past few months.
Daylight hours have drastically increased from the mere 4 hours one has mid-winter. This allows for a jam-packed itinerary. Also, It is perfect for those who want to take part in some of the outdoor activities offered on the island.
Road conditions are not nearly as tricky to navigate as during the winter season in Iceland. Or even the beginning of spring, when snow and ice can still be found thawing.
May is a shoulder month. That means that even though the island is heading toward its summer season, it’s still not considered peak season. You won’t need to compete with peak season crowds for places to sleep, eat, or just view attractions.
No peak season crowds also mean no peak season prices, so a May holiday in Iceland will be less demanding on your budget.
May marks the arrival of some pretty esteemed guests here on the island; the Iceland Puffins. These penguin-like birds with colorful beaks make Iceland their breeding ground between May and August and are not to be missed. Most of the migratory whale species that also call the island home for a certain period each year will also have arrived by May.
Because it’s not peak season yet, operating hours may still not be quite back to normal. Public transport may operate less frequently, and attractions/activities may only be open on certain days and times each week. You’ll need to double-check before heading out.
Increased daylight hours do have perks that come along with them. However, these will make two of the island’s most renowned natural phenomena impossible to experience. The daylight hours are still too few to experience a Midnight Sun, but it’s already too much to experience the Northern Lights.
If you are planning on doing a road trip around Iceland, there are still a few roads/routes that will only be opened from June. Especially in the Westfjords and the Highlands. So, if you’ve got your heart set on these specific regions, you might be better off planning a summer trip to the island.
Weather in Iceland in May
The Iceland temperature in May ranges between 4-10 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in Iceland in May, hovering around the 6-degree mark. The spring weather in Iceland may not be the typical you are used to back home. Still, visitors in May need not worry about the harsh winter temperatures that can dip as low as -20 degrees.
You may also experience some rainfall and some wind. Yet, it won’t be in the form of a torrential downpour or wind speeds that will rip your car door right off its hinges. Some mistakenly believe that it’s somehow warmer in Reykjavík in May. But this is merely an illusion created by the buildings in Reykjavík, as well as the other cities and towns on the island.
The buildings form a sort of shelter against the external weather elements that makes it feel slightly warmer than it is on the outskirts of town. As we also mentioned, daylight hours have increased, and you can look forward to 18 hours of daylight in Iceland in early May and 20 hours in Iceland in late May!
Packing List for Iceland in May
Are you struggling to pack for a spring trip to a country called Iceland? Don’t worry. We’ve created this handy packing list that you can use as a guide:
Warm, waterproof jacket
Fleece/woolen sweater. Take our advice and only bring one or two, so you have enough room in your luggage to take a few authentic Icelandic woolen sweaters back with you.
Waterproof hiking boots. (Whether you’re planning on going hiking or not)
Warm, woolen socks
T-shirts & long-sleeved shirts
Casual pants. (For when you’re out and about in the city)
Warm hat (we highly recommend beanies)
Bathing suit. (For visiting the Iceland hot springs)
Quick-drying towel. (You do not want to be traveling around Iceland with wet stuff)
Flip-flops. (To use at the hot springs or public changing rooms)
Toiletries & medications. (Please just remember to double-check flight restrictions, so you don’t end up having to leave half your vanity behind at the airport)
Water bottle. (The water quality in Iceland is unbeatable, so you only need to top up wherever you go)
Backpack. (For day outings and hikes)
Electronic devices: cables, chargers, an adaptor, a power bank, etc.
Camping in Iceland in May
One of the biggest perks that spring on the island brings is that you can finally start camping again. And do so without feeling like you’re a contestant on a survival series! Camping is one of the best ways to cut down on accommodation costs. And even if you don’t like roughing it, it’s still a good option.
Just rent a campervan in Reykjavík so that you have your transport as well as your accommodation sorted out, and you can go camping in style! You can save even more money if you buy a Camping Card. A Camping Card will cost you just €159 and give an entire family of 2 adults and up to 4 children access to various campsites across the island for 28 nights!
If you take into account that the average price of camping is between $10-$20 per person per night, a Camping Card can result in massive savings. If you’re considering going camping, the following campsites come highly recommended:
Driving in Iceland in May
As we already mentioned, the road conditions in Iceland are no longer as tricky as during the colder months. The nice Iceland weather and extra daylight hours make it the perfect time to go road-tripping. You might just have to adjust your planned road trip route around the roads that are still closed and only open in June.
Also, keep in mind that there are certain roads/routes that can only be accessed with a 4x4 vehicle, such as the F-roads in Iceland. If you’re not sure whether your plans will require a 4x4, just have a chat with your rental agency beforehand. Some of the most popular road trip routes on the island are:
Things to Do in Iceland in May
There are plenty more attractions and activities to look forward to than just camping and road-tripping during May in Iceland. Here are a few other favorites you might want to add to your trip itinerary:
Take a hike
Literally Iceland is a hiker's paradise. With a diverse range of trails scattered across the island, there's something for everyone, from beginners to seasoned trekkers. Whether you're looking for a short day hike or a challenging multi-day trek, the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland await. Each trail offers a unique perspective of the country's stunning natural beauty, from cascading waterfalls to majestic glaciers.
Discover the capital city whilst stuffing your face with the Reykjavík Food Walk
Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, is not just about historical landmarks and scenic views. Dive into the culinary scene with the Reykjavík Food Walk. As you stroll through the city streets, you'll get to taste a variety of local delicacies, from traditional Icelandic dishes to modern-day favorites. It's a gastronomic adventure you won't want to miss!
Visit some of the Iceland waterfalls
Iceland is home to some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the world. Each waterfall, with its unique charm, offers a serene and mesmerizing experience. The thundering sounds of the cascading waters against the backdrop of Iceland's rugged landscapes create a magical atmosphere that's truly unforgettable.
Ride a snowmobile across an Iceland glacier
For thrill-seekers, nothing beats the adrenaline rush of snowmobiling across one of Iceland's vast glaciers. Feel the cold wind on your face as you zoom across the icy plains, taking in the panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. It's an exhilarating experience that combines adventure with nature's beauty.
Take a dip in one of the Iceland hot springs
After a day of exploring, relax and rejuvenate in one of Iceland's natural hot springs. These geothermal pools, set amidst stunning landscapes, offer a therapeutic experience. The warm waters, rich in minerals, are known for their healing properties, making it a perfect way to unwind.
Visit one of Iceland’s national parks, such as Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a testament to Iceland's geological and historical significance. With its vast lava fields, deep fissures, and clear freshwater streams, it's a haven for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike.
Go horse riding on one of the authentic Icelandic horses
Experience Iceland's landscapes on horseback. The Icelandic horse, with its unique gait known as the tölt, offers a smooth ride, making it perfect for both beginners and experienced riders. As you ride through the scenic trails, you'll get a closer look at Iceland's flora and fauna.
Snorkel or dive the Silfra Fissure
Dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Silfra Fissure, a rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. With visibility exceeding 100 meters, it's one of the best diving spots in the world. The glacial water, filtered through underground lava rocks, offers a surreal underwater experience
Become a Viking at Mink Studio
Ever wondered what it's like to be a Viking? At Mink Studio, you can step back in time and immerse yourself in the Viking era. Dress up in traditional Viking attire, learn about their history, and even participate in Viking-themed activities.
Visit one of the museums such as the Saga Museum or the Icelandic Phallological Museum
Iceland's rich history and culture are beautifully showcased in its museums. The Saga Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of the early Icelandic settlers, while the Icelandic Phallological Museum, with its unique collection, promises an intriguing experience.
Attend one of the local festivals or events, such as the Reykjavík Art Festival
Iceland's vibrant culture comes alive during its festivals and events. The Reykjavík Art Festival, for instance, celebrates the country's artistic heritage with a plethora of performances, exhibitions, and installations. It's a feast for the senses and a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
Helpful Tips When You’re Spending May in Iceland
The following tips will help you have a safe and memorable trip in May:
Always Wear Layers
The local saying here on the island says that “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland”, so you’ll always need to be prepared. Plus, there’s a big difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures. That’s why you always need to dress in layers. This way, you’ll always be able to put something on when you’re cold or take something off when it’s warmer.
Keep Your Waterproof Goodies Close By
Waterproof clothing and gear are not just for sudden rain (although it is quite handy). Hiking boots help a lot when you need to trudge through the muddy trails at natural hot springs. And a raincoat and other waterproof clothing are lifesavers when you’re standing at one of the waterfalls producing powerful mist and spray.
Keep an Eye on the Weather and Road Conditions
We already mentioned the saying about “four seasons in a day” and the only way to be prepared is to stay up to date. So, always check out the Iceland weather forecast, especially before heading out on your daily excursions.
Weather conditions as well as other unforeseen circumstances can also cause sudden road closures. To ensure that your road trip doesn’t end in an unexpected dead-end, you’ll also need to keep a close eye on the Iceland road conditions.
May You Have a Wonderful Time in Iceland in May!
It’s clear that May in Iceland holds a lot of perks! Whether it’s the weather, all the things to do and see and the number of daylight hours to do and see them in, or how much money you can save with a trip in May.
If you’ve made up your mind regarding visiting the island in May, we hope that you have a wonderful time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for the best campervan rentals in Iceland. Happy travels!